Versatile 243 Win. Bolt Actions: Howa’s 2N1 Versus Thompson
Howa’s Hogue-stock combo package gives wider appeal to the excellent M1500. Thompson Center’s Dimension platform tempts us to buy extra barrels to take different-size game.
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.
To test each rifle, we applied a simple accuracy test consisting of shooting from the 100-yard line at American Shooting Centers in Houston using a Caldwell Tack Driver rest for support. The days leading up to our tests were sunny and mild. But our tests days were rainy. Afraid that using paper targets would make archiving difficult, we acquired a supply of Caldwell Tip Top plastic-coated targets with 8-inch Bulls Eye. Impervious to water, they produced razor-sharp definition of each bullet hole. The targets measured 8- by 10- inches overall, and our shots matched the size of the holes that were pre-cut for saving in a three-ring binder. Velocities were recorded by an Oehler 35P Chronograph, which is back in production (Oehler-Research.com).
Our test ammunition consisted of three choices featuring three different types of bullets. First, we tried Winchester’s 80-grain Jacketed Soft Point, which despite new packaging is the same round used in the February 2013 test of 243 Winchester bolt-action rifles. In addition, we tried a second 80-grain round, this time from Black Hills Ammunition topped with Hornady’s GMX bullet. Gilding Metal eXpanding bullets are expanding monolithic bullets fashioned from the same material Hornady uses to jacket its bullet. The maker claims less fouling than solid copper and the GMX bullet features a grooved bearing surface. With so much luck in our last test firing lighter-weight bullets, we also tested with Black Hills 58-grain V-Max ammunition. Hornady V-Max bullets are lead-core jacketed bullets that feature a polymer tip.
For optics we decided to continue shooting with the 4-16x50mm Steiner Predator Extreme scope we enjoyed so much in our previous tests. Its clarity helped us cut through the somewhat dim, overcast light. From the 100-yard line, 8x was all the magnification we needed. The Howa rifle made no such claim, but Thompson Center guaranteed minute-of-angle accuracy. We wondered if either manufacturer was being modest.