After returning home, I gave the new Vanguard a good going-over just to see what changes had been made.
The stock is still polymer, now in a lightly textured gray with black “Griptonite” inserts on the pistol grip and fore-end which provide a somewhat tacky feel, a distinct improvement over the old Vanguard’s slick, molded-in checkering. The pistol grip also features a slight palm swell, which combined with the pronounced Weatherby Monte Carlo buttstock, makes for a comfortable rifle overall. Capping the butt is a 3/4 inch, Weatherby-branded recoil pad, probably not necessary with the .257, but I’m sure it would be much appreciated by those choosing the .300 Weatherby Magnum.
The stock has no metal bedding inserts in the action area, nor any bedding material at all. Inserting the barreled action into the stock sans the action screws, there were no discernable wiggles or gaps. The fit seemed so precise that I smoked the action and recoil lug with a carbide smoker and put the barreled action back into the stock just to see where it was making contact. Sure enough, everything is touching just like it should. Molding technology has certainly progressed over the last few years.
Forward of the recoil lug recess, the fore-end is hollow with molded-in reinforcement ribs right up to the tip, where it becomes solid once more, providing a 1/2-inch pad for the barrel to rest on. That is correct: Just like its earlier brethren, the Series 2 does not feature a free-floating barrel either. Tightening the screws made no difference in the fit of barreled action and stock and I could detect no evidence of flexing as everything was tightened down.
The action and barrel are still classic Howa, as you would expect since they manufacture the Vanguard for Weatherby. The action is a classic push-feed with two locking lugs, a polished and fluted bolt body, and safety on the right side where it is integral with the trigger assembly. There are a few changes over the earlier Vanguard, however. The safety has been updated to a three-position design that allows unloading the rifle while the safety is engaged, a feature long overdue. As well, all Series 2 rifles now feature an attractive bead-blasted matte finish on the barrel and action that matches the matte surface of my Burris scope almost perfectly. The trigger guard is coated in a black finish that isn’t quite a matte, nor is it really a gloss either. However, it doesn’t look out of place.
The biggest change in the Series 2 is its trigger. The earlier Vanguard featured an adjustable trigger that could be tuned to a reliable 2 3/4 lbs, but in my rifle wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. After a few trips to the range, I replaced it with a Timney unit.
The Series 2 is touted as having an entirely new and much better trigger. Out of the box, the trigger pull measured 2 3/4 pounds and was much smoother than the earlier Vanguard. In operation, the trigger is practically a two-stage design although it works exactly the opposite of what I am used to in a service rifle trigger. The first stage is rather long and is so light as to be immeasurable. The second stage is smooth and breaks like the proverbial glass rod. The literature that came with the rifle doesn’t describe how the trigger works, but I have to speculate if it is similar in concept to the Savage AccuTrigger. Although instead of having a two-piece trigger as in the Savage, the Vanguard’s trigger might have been designed so that the first stage has to be fully taken up before the sear will release, thereby allowing a lower trigger weight.
A little fiddling with the adjustment screw produced a pull weight of 2 1/2 pounds, the minimum weight specified in the owner’s manual. Although it is a good trigger, the funky-feeling two-stage was just a little too foreign for me. Since I already had a Timney on the early Vanguard, I swapped it out for the Series 2 trigger. The Timney is a three-position design like the Series 2 trigger, so I still retain the feature of unloading with the safety on.
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