I recently had the pleasure of testing out Howa’s new HCR, or Howa Chassis Rifle. The Howa HCR is built using a Howa 1500 Heavy Barreled action and an Accurate Mag aluminum rifle chassis. For testing I received a model chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. Testing the Howa Chassis Rifle consisted of several hours of dry fire and familiarization, as well as 8 hours on the range.
Key Specifications of the Howa Chassis Rifle include:
- Howa 1500 20” & 24” Heavy Barreled options
- Black 6061-T6 ACCURATE MAG aluminum Chassis with Free-Float M-LOK fore end
- LUTH-AR Carbine MBA-3 butt stock with LOP Adjustment from 12.5” to 16.75”
- Adjustable Comb
- ERGO MSR Grip
- 10 RD ACCURATE Mag / Detachable All Steel Mag– Teflon Coated
- 2 Stage H.A.C.T. Trigger
- 3 Position Safety
- The Howa Chassis Rifle is chambered in .223/5.56, .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor and 7.62/.308 Winchester. The Firearm Blog was provided a 6.5 Creedmoor for testing.
- The Howa Chassis Rifle has an MSRP of $1299.
After picking up the Howa Chassis Rifle from my FFL, I unpackaged it, attached a bipod, and started an inspection from muzzle crown to stock. The machine work and anodizing on the chassis were excellent. The barrel and receiver were in perfect condition and the Howa 1500 action was smooth. The trigger pull measured in at 2 lbs., and the trigger was crisp and clean. The action screws were torqued above 45 in/lbs, and the castle nut holding the receiver extension was secure. The Howa Chassis Rifle does not include a scope rail. The rail I attached for testing was the Tally Short Action Howa 1500 20 MOA rail. After attaching the Tally Scope mount I attached a First Focal Plane, Bushnell HDMR 3.5 x 21 riflescope, rolled out my shooting mat, and proned out behind the Rifle.
Two issues that I noticed immediately were the lack of recoil pad on the LUTH-AR stock and the grip angle of the ERGO MSR grip. The butt stock end-plate of the LUTH-AR had a simple piece of hard plastic. Though adjustable, the rigid texture and the design of the butt stock end plate is not, in my opinion, suitable for extended time on the range in the prone position. To accommodate my personal preference, I removed the plastic butt section and modified a Limbsaver pad to replace it. Although the angle of the ERGO MSR grip is perfect for an Ar-15, I dislike it for a precision rifle. When prone with precision rifles, I like to keep my wrist as straight as possible to facilitate a rearward pull from my distal phalange. The ERGO MSR grip was replaced with a BCM GUNFIGHTER grip. In addition to the grip and the butt pad I added a WieBad Mini Stock Pad to the adjustable comb of the LUTH-AR stock.
Field testing was done at the family ranch in the Highlands of Central New Mexico. Having recently taken Accuracy 1st’s LONG RANGE 2 class in Clarendon Texas, I was primed and excited to reinforce my recent long range training. All shots were taken due south. Barometric Pressure was around 24 inHg, humidity was 21%, and the average temperature for the shoot was 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Density altitude hovered around 6750 feet and I had constant full value wind of 8 – 10 mph. For this shoot I did not have a spotter and the ground was muddy, making it extremely difficult to observe splash. My target for the shoot was the 18 Inch AR500 Steel Gong from Grizzly Targets.
For the test, Hornady was kind of enough to send me both some Hornady 140 grain ELD MATCH and some 143 grain ELDX Precision Hunter. Though I did test both rounds, I ultimately chose the Hornady 140 grain ELD MATCH due to the slightly higher ballistic coefficient of the round and the smaller group sizes I attained during sight in. Ballistic calculations were done using the Applied Ballistic application designed by Bryan Litz. During testing I fired 10 rounds through a MagnetoSpeed chronograph to measure velocity, and attained the following results. The numbers demonstrate an extreme spread of 72 feet per second, with an average velocity of 2,636 feet per second. For long range work past 1000 yards I like to see a spread of no more than 20 fps.
10 Shot string. Hornady 6.5 CREEDMOOR 140 grain ELD MATCH. Lot # 3163713. Air temperature was 52 degrees Fahrenheit
After zeroing the Howa Chassis Rifle and attaining the appropriate chronographic data, I drove to my first shooting position. The first shooting positioned measured 836 yards away from the Grizzly Target. At 836 yards, I held 5.3 mils high and adjusted .9 mils for wind. I squeezed the trigger and observed a solid impact on the Grizzly target. Cycling the bolt, I held the same holds, squeezed the trigger, and observed another solid hit through my Horus H59 reticle. One more shot, one more hit, and it was time to move back.
I drove to the “thousand yard line,” rolled out my shooting mat, set up my rifle, consulted my Kestrel 4000, and got to work. For 1000 yards I would need to hold 7.1 mils high and 1.1 mils to compensate for wind. After getting on target and holding the appropriate mils in my Horus H59 reticle, I gently squeezed the trigger and observed an impact. Cycling the bolt, I squeezed off another shot and was not surprised to observe another hit. A 1000 yard shot with a .308 can be a little bit challenging depending on your twist rate and bullet selection. This particular shooting session was the second time I had ever fired the 6.5 Creedmoor round, and I was simply stunned at how easy it was to put rounds on target at 1000 yards. I cycled the bolt one more time, squeezed off another shot, and observed another hit. Time to move back.
Feeling ambitious, I used my GPS unit and drove exactly 1 mile away from the Grizzly target. I rolled out my shooting mat, set up my rifle, consulted my ballistic calculator, and squeezed off another shot. No impact. At 1760 yards, the lack of spotter and the muddy ground made it impossible to observe splash. I fired off one more round, failed to hit the target, and decided that the mile shot would have to wait until after SHOT show.
I drove back towards the target and set up my final shooting position for the day. At 1120 yards, I held 8.5 mils high and 1.3 mils to account for wind. My first 3 rounds were hits, my 4th was over the target, probably due to a round that had a higher velocity coming out of my barrel, and my 5th landed left of the target, probably due to wind or some shooter-induced cant. After consulting a video that I had recorded through my spotting scope, I held on the right side of the target and fired several more strings. I had an estimated hit ratio between 70 – 80%. Shooting at 1120 yards I would have preferred a spotter and some more consistent ammunition. With the sun setting I decided to pack up, check on the cows, and head home.
In the video below you can see my first 5 shots at 1120 yards. I could barely see my hits, and I had to watch this video to see what my rounds were doing. After this string, I held on the right edge of the target and had a higher hit percentage. In the video you can see some awesome trace! The shooting starts at the 32 second mark. I was pretty happy with a first round hit at 1120 yards.
With the rising popularity of Precision Rifle competitions, and long range shooting in general, companies are clamoring to get modular precision rifles into the hands of their customers. I think that Legacy Sports/Howa did an amazing job with the Howa Chassis Rifle. The rifle was very accurate and the trigger is excellent. The 6.5 Creedmoor round, though potent, had a mild recoil. The overall execution of the Howa Chassis Rifle is top notch and, aside from a few personal modifications, these rifles are good to go. I would have liked to push the round a lot farther, but the lack of spotter and inconsistencies with the ammunition made that challenging. Fellow writer Tom R and I will head out to the ranch in late Spring to do some 1 mile shots. For our 1 mile shots, I will use a Howa 1500 chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and more consistent ammunition. I am looking forward to it.
A big thanks to Hornady and Grizzly Targets, as well as Legacy Sports International. For those going to SHOT show, Legacy Sports International will be at booth #3036.