June 18, 2013

Howa Hogue Youth 2N1Combo No. HWR66204+ 243 Win., $641

(GunReports.com) — Gun Tests magazine recently tested compact two new 243 rifles in the April 2013 issue. Here’s an excerpt of that report, used with permission:

Lost in the current frenzy to hoard any and all Modern Sporting Rifles are fresh innovations being applied to bolt-action rifles. Not only are new manufacturing techniques making “minute-of-angle” bolt guns less expensive but more versatile, too. In this test we will evaluate two bolt action rifles chambered for 243 Winchester that offer something extra. The $641 Howa/Hogue Youth 2N1 rifles come with two different stocks so that the same Howa M1500 action will accommodate more than one shooter. Both stocks are manufactured by Hogue, using the OverMolded technique.

Thompson Center Arms’s $679 Dimension rifle offers the ability to accept different-caliber barrels so that the same rifle, or as the manufacturer prefers “platform,” can be used to hunt a wider variety of game. The Dimension bolt-action platform can be fit with any one of four groups of Locking Optimized Components (LOC) listed as series A, B, C, and D. The A series accommodates 223 Remington and 204 Ruger ammunition. Series C Dimension rifles can swap barrels for 270 Winchester and 30-06 Springfield, while the Series D includes 7mm Remington Magnum and 300 Winchester Magnum. Our Series B Dimension rifle offered the most versatility, able to accept alternate barrels for 22-250 Remington, 7mm-08 Remington, and 308 Winchester as well 243 Win. Thompson Center claims a 1-minute-of-angle accuracy guarantee no matter which caliber is chosen.

Howa Hogue Youth 2N1Combo

No. HWR66204+ 243 Win., $641

The Japanese-made Howa rifle actions are not necessarily a best-kept secret. Reportedly, they are to be found inside the stocks of a number of other brands. In this case, the M1500 action is a standard affair with a four-round magazine above a hinged floorplate. There was a three-position safety so you can work the bolt to empty the chamber with the trigger locked in place. With the safety fully rearward, the bolt would lock in its down position. All metal parts were blued, and some unplanned rough handling proved that the bluing was not just good looking but hearty and difficult to mar.

Courtesy of Gun Tests magazine

Courtesy of Gun Tests magazine

Picture a rifle that was trouble free, capable of delivering MOA accuracy with a variety of ammunition and adaptable to any size shooter. That's what you've got with the 2N1.

Both the trigger guard and the supplied scope mounts were aluminum. Otherwise, the Howa featured heavy steel construction. Both of our test rifles weighed approximately 7 pounds, despite the Howa’s barrel being 2 inches shorter and wearing its youth-sized stock. In addition, the bolt handle was shaved as it left the stock and the knob was hollowed out. The free-floated barrel tapered from about 1.2 inches in diameter at the action to about 0.6 inch diameter at the muzzle. Its crown was recessed. The polished machine lines running perpendicular to the bore were a nice cosmetic touch. We liked the Howa’s clean, no-nonsense look.

Our 2N1 combo model arrived with the smaller of the two Hogue stocks in place. Black in color and referred to as being a “Youth” size, we didn’t feel it was so small that a lot of adults wouldn’t be able to use it. The length of pull was about 12.5 inches, but the height of the buttstock, unlike many youth models, was not greatly reduced from the full-sized stock (by about 0.55 inch). The result was that the comb was not too low nor the contact area so thin that it stabbed the shoulder. In fact, the buttpad was as wide as 1.6 inches across. In addition, the forend was full width, offering a pleasingly broad profile for shooting offhand or for resting on support. Both stocks were fit with a soft-rubber buttpad measuring about 1 inch thick with a lightly knurled surface and a slightly accentuated profile at the toe.

The Hogue OverMolded stock consisted of a rigid fiberglass-reinforced skeleton fit precisely to the action and bonded both chemically and mechanically to a rubber coating that was molded over and shaped to the desired profile. The result was a stock that is impervious to oils and solvents and will not harden with age. The surface of the stock is rubbery so that grip is enhanced at all points. Grip is further enhanced with a pebble finish at the pistol grip and in a traditional pattern along the forend. Additional benefits, in our view, were superior sound deadening and shock absorption.

Courtesy of Gun Tests magazine

Courtesy of Gun Tests magazine

The Hogue EX-03 knife is a great field companion. It melds a steel action to a polymer body. Hogue OverMolded stocks begin with a fiberglass-reinforced structure suited specifically to the rifle action. Then a special elastomer is molded to shape and attached both mechanically and chemically to form the finished stock. OverMolded technology from Hogue, Inc. continues to reach beyond rifle stocks and handgun grips. The pebble finish on the knife and stocks is a Hogue trademark.

Changing stocks on the Howa was very easy. A number T15 Torx wrench removed two screws. One screw sat behind the trigger guard and the other appeared forward of the magazine floorplate. The trigger guard was removed and then the action. There was also a heavy steel box that comes free from between the stock and the bottom of the chamber. It was open slightly on one end to provide spring tension as it fit beneath the feeding point. Its upper opening was tapered. This was listed as the magazine. Reassembly was not much more difficult than lining up the holes for the Torx screws.

At the range we found the Howa was a model of consistency, averaging a 1.0-inch group for all shots fired. Both the Winchester 80-grain soft points and the Black Hills 58-grain rounds produced 0.7-inch groups, but the Black Hills rounds topped with the Hornady GMX bullets were more consistent. Our test staff credited the Howa’s consistency to the trigger. Touted as a two-stage design, the actual sensation experienced by the shooter was much closer to being that of a single-action break. The HACT (Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger) began with a short, free swing of the trigger followed by a brief sense of compression and crisp let-off. A trigger-adjustment screw was indicated in the parts list, but no instructions for the user were included in the owner’s manual.

Our Team Said: The HACT trigger would be a welcome addition to any production rifle. In fact, everything about the Howa rifle was consistent, predictable and easy to operate. The bolt action worked smoothly whether we were feeding rounds or pulling it free from the action. We never had to jiggle, force, or try to accomplish any action related to shooting or maintenance a second time. Members of our staff just north of 6 feet tall had little difficulty shooting with the shorter stock. Given the shock-absorbing properties of the OverMolded design, the larger O.D. Green “adult” stock was particularly comfortable. But hunters of any size may choose the shorter stock if heavy clothing changes the LOP.

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