We test the carbon fiber Howa Model 1500 HS

Japanese Howa Machinery has been making shotguns for decades, and the Howa Model 1500 H.

S Carbon Fiber is one of their newest and most famous production lines: the Model 1500. They manufactured Arisaka rifles in the early 1940s and there is a long list of manufactures they have worked with since then, including Weatherby, Mossberg and Smith & Wesson. Howa introduced the Model 1500 in 1979, and it has its own place in the gun world. The 1500 is known for accuracy and affordability. The Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber is at the top of the non-structural rifle spectrum. It features a carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel, and an HS Precision stock with an integrated mattress block.

The stock Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber finish provides excellent grip. The screw centered in the port side can be seen under the receiver. Tyler Friel

My feeling about 1500 is deeply renewed – going back to my youth. I can still remember marking along my dad bought one in .223 with a hundred rounds of ammunition loaded with 55-grain Hornady V-max bullets. Our rifle was destined to be a wolf, and it put a lot of fur on our stretchers. Later, Howa owned another 1500 for a few years—a used heavy-barreled .308 rifle that was one of the most accurate rifles I’ve ever owned. I wish I had never sold it.

In the age of futuristic-looking structured rifles, the Model 1500 HS Carbon has the look of a more traditional precision rifle. It’s simple, handsome, and I can’t wait to hit the range.

HOWO Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber Specifications

Howa 1500 Carbon

  • caliber: .308 Winchester
  • Eligibility: 5 + 1
  • Weight: 7 pounds, 8 ounces
  • total length: 43 7/8 inch
  • receiver: Steel Model 1500 Receiver
  • Bolt: 2-lug, M16 style extractor
  • barrel: 24″, 1/10″ twist, carbon-wrapped, stainless steel
  • mask: Threaded, 5/8-inch x 24, stainless thread protector
  • optics installation: One piece, Picatinny style rail, 20 M.0.A.
  • stock: HS Precision, with aluminum bedding block
  • safety: 3 position with locking bolt
  • Effects: HACT 2-stage, 2 lbs., 14 oz (calculated)

Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber Anatomy

a job

The heart of the Howa Model 1500 HS carbon fiber is its work. It’s strikingly similar to Weatherby Vanguard’s work, which makes sense: The plane was inspired by the 1500, and Howa still makes it. It is a simple and reliable two-lug push-feed operation with a 90-degree bolt throw. It uses two heavy-duty action screws and has a noticeably thicker tang to give the rear action screw plenty of grip.

The bolt features a large M16 extractor located at 10 o’clock on the bolt face, and a push-button ejector located just over 60 degrees clockwise. Unlike Remington-style extractors that sit inside the sunken bolt face, the Model 1500 extractor is externally visible and serviceable. The bolt also features three gas pressure vents. In the event of primer blowing or case failure, excess pressure directed at the bolt is intended to bleed through these holes. The Weatherby Vanguard has these holes, too, but they are located on the side of the bolt when closed: the vents on the 1500 point downward toward the magazine when the bolt is closed.

HACT two-stage actuator in Howa Model 1500
The HACT two-stage trigger is simple and foolproof to operate with a single Allen screw. Tyler Friel

The Howa Model 1500’s action is simple and robust, and features a push-pull vent on the left side of the front of the receiver. The bolt is removed by pressing a button along the port side of the receiver, just forward of the tang. The three-position safety lever locks the latch when fully in the rear. The safety process is stiff, and the folded metal tab safety lever is fine, but could use some fine-tuning.

stock

As its name suggests, the Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber features an HS Precision composite stock. Inventory is not a single item. Instead, it has carbon fiber, Kevlar, fiberglass, and aluminum components. Its most important feature is the one-piece full motion aluminum bedding block. The barrel is free-floating and the stock features two barrel-mounted bolts on either side of the recoil handle. These are used to center the barrel in the barrel channel. If the barrel is not perfectly centered, the bolts can be adjusted to move it to the center of the barrel channel, then tightened to lock it in place.

The stock design is simple and convenient. It has a straight comb, a comfortable grip, and a wide, flat front end. It has two standard rotary studs up front, one on the stern, and can accommodate a bipod in the front. It’s obviously a graded stock, so the fit isn’t quite what you’d expect from a custom rifle. It looks good, although there is additional space in the rear of the tang and around the trigger guard and metal under-stock.

My sample is HS Precision Gray and they are well finished. Featuring a Bell & Carlson’s Spider Web Dripping Finish in Matte Black on Gray, this paint doubles as a premium non-sticky texture.

Bedding block inside stock HS Precision
The stock HS Precision features a full motion aluminum mattress block. Tyler Friel

barrel

The Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber features a stainless steel barrel wrapped in carbon. Which I got is .308 Win. It is 24 inches long and threaded in a 5/8″ x 24″ step for a muzzle brake or damper. The barrel is pretty solid, and I didn’t notice a significant shift in point of impact when using the suppressor—the drop is about 3 inches. I often see the point of interest drop dramatically with sport-weight hunting rifle barrels due to the weight of the damper—sometimes as low as 8 or 10 inches. The barrel has a 1 in 10 inch turn rating and should be able to handle any bullet you will find commonly loaded in .308.

Effects

One thing I really appreciate about the Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber is that it has a two-stage trigger. Perhaps from my years shooting a service rifle, but I am a sucker for two-stage triggers. The HACT (Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger) is a self-contained actuator assembly attached to the receiver via a single Allen screw and bolstered by an overlap into a slit at the bottom of the receiver.

My Model 1500 trigger is very good overall. It’s smooth during the first stage, and a very tactile pause in the second. HACT has a very clear and pure penetration during that second phase. Mine breaks down at 2 pounds, 14 ounces, which is a good weight – not too heavy and not too light.

Howa M1500 face bolt
The 1500 features an M16 extractor and a push-button ejector Tyler Friel

Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber Handling and Shooting

For testing, I mounted a carbon fiber Howa Model 1500 HS with a Nightforce NX8 2.5-20×50 scope, and Magpul MOE bipod. The rifle is very comfortable to handle, and the extended front end helps release bags, baffles and other supports—even with the bipod installed. It’s a bokeh to shoot, and the stock design and recoil plate make long days at the range a treat. I was simultaneously testing four budget hunting rifles in .308, and the Model 1500 was more attractive to shoot than any of them.

Feeling and Function

The action of the Model 1500 is smooth, and it has a light lift. It has 90 degree screws and a standard screw knob. Once loaded, the rifle loads well, but the cartridges will sometimes stop in the chamber if you drop them in the receiver. It’s best to pick up individual rounds in the magazine. Some rifles have magazines that line up and feed the bulk single cartridges, but not these. You will likely run into problems if you are trying to drop individual rounds into the 1500 receiver in a hurry.

Straight comb on carbon fiber stock Howa Model 1500 HS
The straight comb on the stock HS Precision is smooth and looks good, but not great for long optics. Tyler Friel

The stock is a more traditional, sporty-style design. I really like the clean lines and streamlined look of the straight comb, but it’s too low-key. Given the height of the 20 MOA rail, and how often a scope with a 30mm or 34mm tube would need to sit above the bore, an adjustable or raised comb would make better cheek welding and consistent head positioning possible.

This 1500 model works flawlessly and powerfully expels spent cases. I noticed that the ejector flipped the boxes around hard enough to mark the rear of the receiver—not an uncommon problem. If you’re afraid your “new” rifle will be ripped off, you might have trouble with it, but it’s not a point of contention for me. I appreciate the full five-round magazine capacity—many .308s will only hold four.

Howa M1500 عمل work
The 1500 doesn’t easily feed loose rounds, but it does take out cases with power—sometimes they reach the rear of the receiver. Tyler Friel

Accuracy

I had high expectations for the accuracy of the Howa Model 1500 HS carbon fiber. My old, well-used .308 1500 was exceptionally accurate—and it wasn’t even the bed. I was a bit stunned by the accuracy of this rifle. I’ve tried everything I can think of to make sure the user error wasn’t at fault. To be precise, I scored 25 5-shot groups at 100 yards through the Model 1500 HS Carbon with 11 different .308 loads. For an accurate compilation, I averaged my top 10 registered clusters.

Average Top 10 Recorded 5-shot Groups at 100 yards: 1,428″

The Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon shot Barnes Vor-Tx 168-grain TTSX, Hornady 168-grain ELDM and Federal Premium 185-grain Berger Gold Medal OTM are loaded with similar accuracy—an average of 1.684 inches. The most accurate ammunition I tested with this rifle was the 168-grain Norma Golden Target load—which averaged 1,314 inches.

read the following: My gun is better than yours and always will be

The rifle has some erratic groups in the mix with most loads, and during testing, I checked and rechecked the scope base and rings. I also checked and re-torqueded the action screws and tried adjusting the set screws centering on the barrel. I cleaned the gun about every 25 to 50 rounds.

Barrel Centering Screws on Howa M1500 HS Carbon
Screws mounted on either side of the recoil handle are used to center the barrel into the barrel channel on the carbon fiber Howa Model 1500 HS. Tyler Friel

Where the carbon fiber Howa 1500 HS excels

The Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber is a great looking, well-balanced rifle. The shape and finish of the stock are good, and the carbon-coated barrel is a nice addition. It is very comfortable and stable for shooting, and I really like the full bedding block. The two-stage trigger is excellent for the stock production trigger. It is unique in a field full of single-stage actuators.

Where the carbon fiber Howa Model 1500 HS falls short

Overall accuracy is the biggest flaw in the rifle I tested. Although it is perfectly suited to almost anyone’s fishing needs, I expected better – especially for its price. It contains all the correct parts, but in this case, it is not collected as it should.

Final Thoughts on the Carbon Fiber Howa Model 1500 HS

The Howa Model 1500 HS Carbon Fiber is a well-executed, advanced 1500 model. It’s a rifle reminiscent of the days before chassis rifles, when sport-style stocks were king. Chassis rifles have their benefits, but there is nothing quite like the feel of a traditional stock. The 1500 HS Carbon has a great feel, good parts and features, and it’s cuddly to shoot pent-up. I expected better accuracy with factory ammo than mine, but it will probably improve with manual loading.

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