Gun Review: Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Carbine

Weatherby is known the world around as a maker of extremely fine firearms, especially of the hunting variety. But those firearms are generally pretty expensive, so Weatherby came out with their “Vanguard” line of rifles not too long ago priced to meet the demand of the shooter on a budget. The problem is that their first attempt sucked (relative to what they were capable of doing — I still gave it four stars). Enter the Series 2, the next incarnation of the Vanguard that supposedly fixes all the problems. But does it?

There were three main problems with the original Vanguard rifle: the trigger was creepier than Uncle Joey, the stock looked and felt like it was designed by Kia (i.e. terrible and cheap), and the accuracy was more or less “meh.” It was a budget rifle all right, but Weatherby had sacrificed almost everything that makes their guns great to get down to the right price point.

The series 2 is somewhere around $100 – $150 more than its older brother, but that money appears to be money well spent. Even just looking at it, it appears to be made of higher quality stuff.

For comparison, here’s what the old version looked like. The stock is a single piece of injection molded polymer (plastic) that warped and bent with every movement. The new stock is a two-tone affair, the main chassis being a more durable polymer with the areas one would normally grip a firearm covered in a softer and more grippy material. It looks nicer, feels better, and doesn’t warp as much.

There is, however, a problem. One of the main complaints I had with the stock on the original version was that it wasn’t “free floating.” That is, the stock contacted the barrel. This becomes a problem when you’re trying to make precision shots, as it usually has an adverse effect on the barrel harmonics and can apply pressure on the barrel moving it slightly off center. In other words, bad mojo. The Series 2 fixed a number of issues with the stock, but it still isn’t free floating.

This rifle also falls into line with another pet peeve among the writers here. The comb of the stock appears to be designed to line your eyes up with the top of the barrel, but the observant reader will note that there are no iron sights. This rifle was designed to be fired using a scope, but the way the stock is designed means you either need to be happy with an inadequate cheek weld or get yourself a cheek riser to get your eye on the right level. I don’t get why companies can’t just make the comb of the stocks a little bit higher so I don’t need the riser. I’m starting to think they’re colluding with the accessory companies to drive sales of risers…

Moving on, the trigger is also completely redesigned. On the original you had a single stage trigger, but the Series 2 sports a rather snappy two stage affair. The vast majority of the creep has been removed, leaving behind what feels on the range like a very crisp break. Sitting here on my couch I can still feel a tiny bit of creep, but not nearly as much as there was in the original. In short, check the box next to “fix the trigger.”

Which just leaves the accuracy. Weatherby used to break out their Vanguard line into the standard affairs and their “Sub-MOA” offerings that guaranteed 3 rounds in less than a 1 inch circle at 100 yards. Their regular line could do the job as well but thanks to the remarkably crappy stocks, they didn’t guarantee it. The new Vanguard Series 2 rifles, on the other hand, are all guaranteed to be 1 MoA or better out of the box.

On the range, the claim seems about right. I was able to score two rounds touching, then one low but still within an inch before the rounds started drifting. Sorry about the crappy picture — when the range time is free you don’t complain about the inability to retrieve your targets. (Special thanks to Bracken Range in San Antonio, TX for the range time!)

So, it looks like this is indeed a good improvement over the previous design. In addition to the above changes, they also moved away from the high gloss blued finish of the old version towards a bead-blasted matte blue finish on the new gun, reducing the visibility of the firearm and also (in my opinion) making it look a lot slicker.

There is one thing I didn’t like: the safety. The previous incarnation had a standard two position safety, but this version has three — fire, safe with the ability to work the action, and safe with the action locked. It’s a little complex for my taste, and the slightly more flimsy design of the safety selector lever leaves me pining for the older design.

All in all, what we have here is a definite improvement over the original Vanguard. With a better trigger, a better stock and guaranteed accuracy out of the box, this really does make it THE rifle for the shooter on a budget. MSRP is still a tad high compared to some of the other offerings, but its right about on par with the Remington 700 and just feels like the quality is much higher than its Freedom Group-owned counterpart.

Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Carbine

Specifications
Caliber: .308 Winchester (7.62×51 NATO)
Barrel: 20″, 1:12 twist
Size: 40″ overall length
Weight: 7 lbs.
Operation: Bolt action
Finish: Matte blue
(Rifle DOES NOT come with bipod, scope or mounts)
Capacity: 5+1
MSRP: $599

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Remember: ratings are based on the merits of the firearm compared to other similarly priced and marketed firearms. So five stars here is nowhere near five stars on an Accuracy International.

Accuracy: * * * * *
Guaranteed 1 MoA accuracy is nothing to sneeze at. And if you get a better stock the sky is the limit.

Ergonomics: * * * *
An improvement over the previous version for sure. The action and trigger are (as usual) impeccable, but now the stock is right up there too. This would have been five stars if they had raised the comb a little bit.

Ergonomics Firing: * * * *
Everything feels right. The trigger feels great, the stock is all grippy and stuff, and the safety (while flimsy looking) feels pretty solid. Again, the comb of the stock is the main issue with the remaining star.

Reliability: * * * * *
There aren’t many things to go wrong with a bolt action.

Customization: * * * * *
Swivel studs are nice and in place, there are TONS of aftermarket stocks, and the receiver is drilled for scope mounts.

Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
Raise the comb of the stock and free float that puppy and you have yourself a five star gun. But, until then, you’re going to have to be happy with four point five stars. Threading the barrel for a silencer wouldn’t hurt, either. Something to improve for the next SHOT show, perhaps?