Weatherby's Newest Vanguard: The Series 2 And The .257 Weatherby Magnum Review
Another departure from the old Vanguard is its accuracy. The old Vanguard used to be guaranteed to hold a 1.5-inch three-shot group and included in the box was a factory test target to prove it. Any rifles that shot MOA or less were placed in upgraded stocks and sold as “MOA” rifles. To attest to their accuracy, the floorplate bore a highly stylized “MOA” logo. This particular version sold for significantly more than the standard Vanguard.
Now, ALL of the Series 2 rifles are guaranteed to shoot minute-of-angle groups when using Weatherby or other premium ammunition. Since Weatherby factory .257 Magnum ammunition is currently retailing at a little more than $3.00 per round, I elected to try the Series 2 with several different handloads. After perusing the Nosler reloading manual and Jungle Jim Scott’s article on the .257 Weatherby (PS September, 2011), I put together five different loads utilizing the Nosler 100-grain Ballistic Tip, Federal magnum primers, and Weatherby brass to get an idea of what the rifle might like.
After a few shots to get the scope dialed in, I was glad that I had brought a couple of other rifles along. The .257 Weatherby Magnum generates a lot of barrel heat in a short amount of time. Three-round groups were going to be the norm, with at least twenty minutes between groups to let the barrel cool while I cleaned it with solvent and patches.
The first, purely arbitrary load of 64-grains of IMR 4350 yielded a group of 1.2 inches: Not MOA, but not bad for a barrel that was essentially being broken in. The second group, using 68-grains of IMR 4831 produced a semi-disappointing 1.5-inch group. The “MOA” sticker that I had removed from the bottom of the barrel was beginning to taunt me now.
Group three was much better: .97 inches, with two of the shots overlapping, so a load of something around 71-grains of Reloader 25 was beginning to look promising.
The next group, using 74-grains of Reloader 25 put three shots in a neat cluster with each shot touching its two neighbors. Overall, the group looks a whole lot like a silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head. Measuring from the outside edges of the two widest-spaced holes and dividing by two gives a measurement of .20 inches.
The fifth and last group was fired with 67-grains of Reloader 22. The result was a neat group measuring .630 inches.
That basic test pointed me toward Reloader 22 and 25 as good candidates for experimentation. I assumed that the miniscule group fired with 74-grains of Reloader 25 was a fluke, and it would seem to be since I have yet to duplicate it. However, it still remains the best choice for this rifle, easily turning in sub-MOA groups as long as I’m doing my part.
Reloader 22 remains a viable choice as well. 65 to 67-grain loads with the Nosler bullet all stayed well within MOA, so if the store is out of Reloader 25, I can always substitute Reloader 22.
This was my first Weatherby cartridge to work with and only my second belted-magnum, but I found it as easy to reload for as any other rifle cartridge. Case life has been reasonable so far, which is good since the price suggests that somewhere out there, a master craftsman is fabricating these things one by one out of a special alloy that probably includes platinum as an ingredient. As for getting an increase in velocity over the .25-06, well…
Both the old and new Vanguard’s share a 24-inch barrel and it seems that most reloading manuals stipulate a 26-inch tube for their testing, so I didn’t really expect to achieve the same results. I was hopeful of pushing that 100-grain bullet a little faster though.
As it is, the load using 74.0 grains of Reloader 25 achieves an average of 3,420 ft/sec, so I did pick up 100 ft/sec over the .25-06 with the same bullet. Speed comes at a cost, though. To achieve that 100 ft/sec, what amounts to a mere 3% increase requires a hefty 40% increase in powder. The effect that will have on barrel life is predictable, but not really a factor with this or any hunting rifle.
Overall, I’m extremely pleased with Weatherby’s newest Vanguard. The changes that Weatherby has made are positive and they have been done at little cost. The list price on my rifle was $435.00, a mere $36.00 increase over what I paid for my old rifle…and that was three years ago. Having the rifle chambered in .257 Weatherby Magnum is a bonus. True, it’s not that much faster, but to my eye it’s a lot sexier looking as I sit here comparing it side by side with the .25-06.
And the need for speed?
Well, I’m pretty much satiated...for now.
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