As you may already know, I’m a fan of the Howa Ranchland Compact rifle. I tested the .308 model last year and was offered the chance to take a look at another one with their new Actuator trigger system. While I was at it, I tested out the new detachable magazine assembly they built. I decided to go for broke and got the camo package with their Nighteater scope from Nikko Sterling.
Yep, they made it better!
Since I had the .308, I asked for one of my all-time favorite deer calibers, the 7mm.08. A few boxes of ammo from the fine folks at Hornady had me set for this test.
Let’s start with the trigger system. Since Savage arms revolutionized having a good trigger at any price point, all the companies have been coming out with new, improved trigger systems. Howa’s trigger is just what you’d expect from a company that makes a darn good rifle. The new Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger system (HACT) that eliminates trigger creep and lightens trigger pull. The HACT system fits all Howa M-1500 rifles that were previously equipped with Howa’s three position safety trigger group.
The HACT assembly is a completely redesigned trigger and sear unit that actually creates a two-stage trigger. This allows the shooter to take up trigger creep before squeezing through to touch off the round. HACT allows for a lighter let-off of between 2.5 and 3.8 lbs,eliminating trigger jerk – or pulling off the shot because the trigger pull is too heavy. The actual factory setting of these triggers is 3 pounds.
My test rifle did indeed break at 3 pounds and there was no hint of trigger jerk. I had a smile on my face from the first pull. I really like it when a company’s product does just what they say it will.
The detachable magazine system can be ordered as an add on and it doesn’t take much to install it. There are two magazines available, a 5 round and a 10 round. For me, the 5 round was plenty and perfect for hunting. The ten rounder would be the ticket for target shooting or working over a prairie dog colony in the .223 model. Both fed flawlessly and were made of high density resin plastics. One of the issues with bolt guns is getting them to feed well with the mag. No sweat. Again, I love it when a product works as advertised.
The scope was clear and the side focus was nice. It came in 2x10x42mm and was color matched in King’s Desert camo. While there is no desert in my home state of Michigan, the pattern filled in quite well. I’m thinking of using the rifle for some long-range coyote dusting very soon.
Howa nailed it yet again. My test gun was sweet and looked awesome. I can find nothing wrong with this package except for two small gripes, one of which had nothing to do with the gun itself. One, the overmolded stock does loose a touch of the grippy feel from the camo pattern. Not even really noticeable unless you compare them side by side. The other was the gun seemed to loose accuracy after a few rounds. The problem was not the rifle, but the ammo. Don’t get me wrong, it was on when it was on… But the first Hornady ammo I used was their hot-loaded Superformance loads. I noticed that it would start to wander after a 5-7 rounds of this. I’d clean it and we’d be back to zero. A switch to a regular load and no more issues. Did the rifle need the hot load? Nope. But if you want to use them, remember to clean the gun every few shots.
So what do I think? I think you should buy one! I said the last time I talked about the Howa Ranchland Compact that I was going to get another and guess what, I’m going to get another one yet. I think I need a .223 bolt action for varmint hunting. What do you think?