Rifle Review: American Built Arms Howa Precision Rifle

(Authors note: Howa/Legacy Sports International did not work with American Built Arms on this project. American Built arms sourced a Howa barreled action and mated it with their Mod X chassis)

There is a growing trend of “chassis rifles” hitting the market. These rifles are predominantly used by military, police, and competition shooters, though recently hunters have started to use them as well. Several months ago I was provided a chassis style hunting rifle, the Howa Precision Rifle, made and assembled by American Built Arms.

Key Specs of the Howa Precision Rifle

  • The Howa Precision is chambered in .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor. I was provided a .308 for testing.
  • The Howa Precision Rifle mates a Howa Barreled Action with a Mod X Generation III chassis manufactured by American Built Arms.
  • The Mod X Generation III chassis is black anodized and feeds from an AICS style magazine. The Chassis has an 11.5″ free-float KeyMod forearm. The rifle comes equipped with the AB Arms Urban Sniper Stock.
  • The Howa Precision Rifle has a 22 inch, 1/10 twist, thin profile barrel.
  • The Howa Precision Rifle retails for around $1000.

American Built Arms Howa Precision Rifle

Field Testing

Field testing was done at the family ranch in the Highlands of Central New Mexico. Prior to testing, I switched out the pistol grip that came with the rifle for a BCM gunfighter grip, and added an ERGO Keymod Bipod Adapter. For accuracy testing I used my trusty Bushnell HDMR rifle scope. After attaching the scope, I proned out behind the rifle and started to make adjustments to the comb of the AB Arms Urban Sniper Stock. In order to make this stock work, I had to raise the comb to its highest position. At its apex, the comb wobbled a lot. This play is not good, especially when it comes to checking parallax. A piece of foam snugged under the comb mitigated the wobble. After removing the movement, I proned out behind the rifle, but found the butt stock dug into my upper chest muscle, right below my clavicle bone. For proper fitment in the prone position, a buttstock should be seated in the Clavipectoral Triangle, or the area where your clavicle bone, pectoralis major, and deltoid muscles meet.  Looking at the butt pad on the AB Arms Urban Sniper Stock, I realized that I could disassemble the butt stock and flip it over. This simple hack might void the warranty, but I found that it raised the butt pad up to the appropriate place in my shoulder.

Due to the design on the rifle, to get a proper sight picture, I had to raise the comb to it’s highest position. Unfortunately there was lots of play in the comb which hindered checking parallax. I slid a piece of foam under the comb to mitigate wobble.

 

Though the stock was not designed for it, one simple hack I discovered was that you could flip the butt stock around. This helps for proper placement in the shoulder pocket when shooting prone.

To properly mount a scope, you will need high, or extra high scope rings. You can also use a mounting solution typically used on an Ar-15 or Ar-10 rifle

Accuracy testing was done on a loaded bipod in the prone position. For testing, AB Arms provided 60 rounds of 308 Winchester Gorilla MATCH Ammunition. The Gorilla ammunition was loaded with 175 grain Sierra MatchKings. Prior to firing fancy match grade ammo, I like to get a rough zero, as well as copper up the bore with some cheap 147 grain M80. After 10 rounds of M80, I loaded up a magazine and fired several 3 shot groups. Average group size was 1 MOA at 100 yards. 5 shot groups averaged 1.25 to 1.5 MOA at 100 yards. After getting a solid zero, and shooting groups at 100 yards, it was time to start moving back.

Getting ready to zero the American Built Arms Howa Precision Rifle. Note the foam pad I used to mitigate play in the comb.

For testing I was provided Gorilla ammunition. The Ammunition was loaded with 175 grain Sierra MatchKings.

3 shot groups were typically 1 MOA at 100 yards.

5 shot groups were 1.25 to 1.5 MOA at 100 yards.

My target for this shoot was an 8×10 inch steel plate. I shot due south, and had 12-15 mile per hour full value wind. I shot at 200, 500 and 600 yards. Aside from fighting the stock, I had a 100% hit ratio out to 500 yards. Accuracy started to drop off at the 600 yard line. I could get 3 to 4 shots on the 8 x10 inch steel target, then the barrel would heat up, which would cause my groups to open up. I think that is perfectly fine for a hunting rifle. I could confidently harvest an antelope at 600 yards with this rifle.

Final firing position. 600 yards.

After 5 hours on the range and 60 rounds of 180 grain Gorilla Ammunition I came to the following conclusions:

  • The Howa Precision Rifle, even though it has a thin profile barrel, is a tad on the heavy side. It would be perfect for static hunting from a blind, or near a hog feeder.
  • The Howa Precision Rifle in its stock configuration is perfect for shooting off of a bench.
  • If you shoot in the prone, or in a field expedient position you might want to check the stock fit and possibly consider changing it if the stock doesn’t work for you.
  • Since the top scope mount/rail and handguard are all  attached together, I was worried about group shifts when loading into a bipod. I shot several groups with a reverse load, and several with a heavy forward load. I did not observe a shift in my groups.
  • Group sizes were 1 MOA with 3 shots. 5 shot groups would be in the 1.25 to 1.5 MOA range. In my experience, this is typical for thin profile barrels.
  • The Howa Precision Rifle is optimized for hunting feral hogs at night. The rail lends itself to attaching thermal or night vision clip on devices as well as IR lights and lasers.
  • You will need high rings, or a mount typically used to mount optics on an Ar-15/Ar-10 to successfully attach a scope.

The American Built Arms Howa Precision Rifle is a pretty nice rifle. If I owned one, the first thing I would do is swap out the stock. Here is the Howa Precision Rifle with an MDT stock.

Closing 

What would I do to optimize this platform? I would attach a stock from Modular Driven Technologies and a better grip.  After upgrading the stock and grip, I would cut the barrel down to 18 inches and have it threaded for a muzzle brake. For a 30 caliber hunting rifle, you can get decent velocity out of an 18 inch barrel, and with the exception of the rifles I use for antelope hunting, I like my hunting rifles as compact as possible. In my opinion, the American Built Arms Howa Precision Rifle is a tad on the heavy side for a 12 to 15 mile backpack hunt in the rugged mountains of the Western United States, but it would be perfect for sitting in a deer stand, or a quick 3 to 5 mile hike. The American Built Arms Howa Precision Rifle would also be good for hunting feral hogs at night. The long handguard facilitates the use of clip on night vision, IR lasers, and illumination. With the provided ammunition, I found this rifle to be a 1 MOA rifle at 100 yards. I think I could have tightened up the groups with some handloads, but 1 MOA is pretty standard for a hunting rifle, especially one with a lightweight barrel.

A big thanks to Grizzly Targets. Be sure to check out our YouTube Channel, TFBTV. As always tips, questions, comments, and jokes are welcome in the comments below.





Thomas Gomez

Thomas Gomez currently resides in the mountains of central New Mexico. He has an M.B.A, an Ar-15/M16/M4 armorer certification from Specialized Armament Warehouse as well as a Glock armorer certification. Aside from writing for The Firearm Blog he works as a Clinical Analyst for a large Hospital. He spends his free time farming, ranching, hiking, fly-fishing and hunting in the beautiful forests and prairies of New Mexico. He can be reached at LOADTHATBIPOD@gmail.com


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  • Dougscamo

    “the American Built Arms Howa Precision Rifle is a tad on the heavy side for a 12 to 15 mile backpack hunt in the rugged mountains of the Western United States,”….heck, Thomas, I’M A TAD BIT ON THE HEAVY SIDE FOR THAT!
    Great review….no rubber-stamping of manufacturer’s description of performance….

    • Thomas Gomez

      Ha ha! Thanks for the comment!

      I hope this finds you well!

    • Markbo

      Indeed. Thumbs up. MOA or worse from a rifle of this type is not at all impressive

      • Ragged Hole

        Right! So confused…

        • Thomas Gomez

          About the name? I agree with you.

  • ro

    did I miss the cost in the article…or is it assumed I can’t afford it?

    • Thomas Gomez

      Good morning. It retails for around $1000. I have updated the article.

  • Ragged Hole

    Really well done article. I was wondering if you got a chance to shoot any groups outside of the Gorilla ammo? The 1″-1.5″ MOA groups are pretty pedestrian for a bolt gun and even a well built AR. I get the intention of the article might not be geared to precise target shooting but even with factory loads @ 100yds this should be shooting sub MOA.

    • Thomas Gomez

      I shot a plethora of factory ammo and found the rifle to be a 1 to 1.5 moa rifle. That is typical for a thin profile, 22 inch barrel. You are correct. A well built Ar with good ammo should hold 1 to 1.5 MOA. Hope this finds you well. Sorry for the delay…I was out in the bush shooting things.