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?

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

38 Responses to Gun Review: Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Carbine

  1. avatarChainsawWieldingManiac says:

    Are there after-market stocks available? Sounds like the rifle could be fixed all the way by just dropping it into new furniture. Of course, I suppose you should just buy a 700 at that point… oh well.

  2. avatarWade says:

    You got rid of your first vanguard because the barrel was too thin to be threaded, so what’s your plan for tho sone?

  3. avatarEric says:

    Nick just a note, as someone who reviews cars as part of their job, Kia’s are no longer crappy cars. In fact anything that has come out in the last 18-24 months is not only outstanding, but near the top of it’s class in terms of build quality and quality of materials.

  4. avatarRalph says:

    A word to rifle manufacturers: WOOD. Look it up.

    • avatarDAWG says:

      @ Ralph, Vanguard has a Sporter in wood (grade A) and the Deluxe (grade AA)(looks like the Mark V’s) and a special note to author Nick Leghorn : Not all rifles increase accuracy with full floating. The Vanguard is designed to have pressure on front just like Mosin-Nagant. Adding or reducing this pressure can make tighter groupings. Ask someone who’s done Vanguard’s, they will say to try with AND without front pressure.

  5. avatarRight! says:

    I have a Stevens 200 and an old Savage 110 both with plastic stocks. The stocks are terrible, especialy the Stevens gray plastic. If you over tighten the action screws it pulls the stock down too tight and the plastic triggerguard interfers with the trigger sear! I had to file away portions of the trigger guard interior to fix the problem, but I digress, even with the Cruppy stocks both rifles print sub-MOA groups w/Factory ammo, so the Weatherby’s performance does not impress me at all.

    • The Stevens and Savage guns can punch the holes just as well, but the Weatherby is the complete package. Stevens’ offering just feels… Cheap. Like the current incarnation of the Rem 700. The same way you can tell the quality of an automobile by closing the car door you can tell the quality of a firearm by working the bolt. And the Weatherby is remarkably solid.

      Not saying the Stevens or the Savage are bad guns, they just don’t do it for me. Also, not a fan of the tang safety.

      • avatarSam says:

        What do you have against tang safeties?!

        I’ll give you that the Stevens stock flexes waaay too much and that the Savage stocks flex *a little*, but the best of the four (I have tried) is the Ruger M77 MkII stocks, not the paddle stock (which is cool in its own way).

  6. avatarBob H says:

    A 40″ long boltie! What will they think of next? Perhaps they should offer a Brown Bess reproduction with a polymer stock…

  7. avatarYuma says:

    Injection molded shloud be solid, but if you have a recoil pad on the back you might take a look under it and see if a hollow channel is down the center of the stock. Next being a Weatherby I’m thinking these had steel bars running under the composite for added strength. This feature may have been done away with when synthetic stock became common. I’ll say this, It’s your rifle. If you think you have the skills necessary to do this work and it works for you, go for it, but you might want to think about either starting with a replacement stock, or just simply shop around for a stock that fits you better that you like.References :

  8. avatarSTT says:

    Ase Utra 14×1 for Weatherby Vanguard Carbine.
    Ase Utra 14×1=14mm + Weatherby Vanguard Carbine= 14,2mm.
    No problem!

  9. avatargeorge lee says:

    what would you suggest to be a good bipod for the weatherby vanguard 2 in 30-06

  10. avatarRob says:

    “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.”

    You complain about that the barrel isn’t free floating and reduce your “scoring” of the rifle, yet the rifle still has 1 MOA. Also, you didn’t take the time to read (from the Weatherby website) why they specifically designed the barrel not to be free-floating.
    “Why are some Weatherby® rifles “free floated” and some are not?
    We have found through our testing that barrels having a smaller outside diameter than our #3 contour require upward pressure to help stabilize the barrel for increased accuracy. Our free floated barrels have enough rigidity in the barrel for them to be free floated.”

    • avatarTony B says:

      All 100% correct. Thanks for reiterating facts from Weatherby. I’m not busting chops here but, when writing a review, Mr Leghorn, research is highly recommended prior to writing an article.

  11. avatarjimmyjames says:

    Adjustable trigger? What ammo did you shoot? 1:12 twist? Forget 175 grain. You sight this gun as being so much better than the RAR yet there isn’t much review here. If you are a Weatherby fanboy just say so. I know lots of folks out in Montana, Wyoming are Weatherby fanboys too. Those folks swear by them. That’s OK too. There are self help groups for that. WFBA. LOL.

  12. avatartom morgan says:

    I’ve been looking for a used Vanguard but read that the bolt throw is 90′, is that right, the Browning xbolt has a 60′ throw and my Remington 700 a 70′ bolt throw and has little room left for the scope, Does the Vanguard mount a scope forward??

    tom

    • avatartonebone says:

      Tom,

      I mounted a SWFA 12 x 42 scope on my Weatherby V2 and had zero issues with the bolt. The eyepiece is 1.815″ in diameter, over the bolt, and there is still plenty of room for the bolt to act.

      I’m very happy with my Weatherby V2. 100 yard sub MOA. 5-shot groups that fit within the diameter of a quarter-dollar, no further than 5/8″ off target, using Hornady .30-06 150 grain InterBond. Slightly wider using Russian made, steel-case 165 grain, but still within 1 MOA.

    • avatarLee Miller says:

      If your Model 700 has a 70 degree bolt throw it is the only one in the world. It is two lug, therefore it is 90 degree.

  13. avatarChadd Fry says:

    What brand cheek riser did you use on this rifle? I have recently purchased this rifle and the comb height is my biggest and only complaint.

    • avatarWilliam says:

      Chadd,

      I have the S2 in 7mm Rem Mag with a SWFA 10x scope. I ended up using pieces of foam from some copper tube insulation then threw some tape over it. Just to make it less shiny to match the other black rubber pieces I scuffed it up with some sand paper. I’m very happy with the cheek height now. Eventually I’ll get a better riser, but, this works for now.

  14. avatarTony B says:

    You mention in your last paragraph to free float “that puppy”.

    Weatherby does not free-float their #2 barrels [found on most their more affordable rifles, including the VS2] and advises owners not to free-float them. The way the rifle is designed, its Sub-MOA guarantee will only be affective, if upward pressure from the end of the forearm stock is kept in place. Free-floating MAY cause accuracy issues.

  15. avatarLee Miller says:

    It’s too bad that the three position safety is “a little complex for my taste”. What is so hard about forward and backward? I can only imagine the struggle with a Model 70 safety. As far as threading the barrel for a silencer goes, that’s just dumb. Name another hunting rifle in this price class with a threaded barrel. Many things you missed or chose to overlook: The bolt and handle are ONE piece forged steel. The bottom metal is one piece with floorplate. The receiver is forged and machined with integral recoil lug. I suspect that with any other name on it you wouldn’t be so quick to nitpick.

  16. avatarRod Boggess says:

    Lee Miller, my thoughts mirror yours!

    I would imagine that there is a long list of model 70 owners that could tell you what happens to a Winchester when you remove the pressure point from the stock on “The Rifleman’s Rifle”. Free floating is not the cure all to accuracy!

    I have 3 of the S2′s and like em all. My favorite started life as a carbine 243 but was sent to Jess Ocumpaugh and has been rebored to 358 Winchester. The other two are a 24 inch 243 and a 22 inch 223 and after developing hand loads they all three shoot 1/2 moa!

    I wish I had a nickel for every extractor that I have replaced in Remington”s 3 rings of steel bolt! Many guys upgrade their Remington 700 and install a robust extractor such as the S2 series sports right out of the box.

    I will take a Roy S2 over a Remington every time!

  17. avatarGlen Rounds says:

    Mr. Leghorn,
    I own a Remington Model 700 chambered in .30-06 and like it very much… but I must admit that I tend to agree with a fair many of the other reviewer’s comments in regard to Weatherby’s Series 2 rifles. I feel you have “dropped the ball” on this one. What other rifle of this degree of quality with a guarantee of .99 MOA or less are you going to find at this price range. I think David Petzal hits the nail on the head pretty squarely with his review of this rifle… For the money, this may be the best “economy” rifle one can buy. Also as others have commented on the free-floating barrel issue…(I knew you were wrong on this issue as soon as I read your comments)… this unfortunately casts a shadow of doubt in your reader’s minds in regard to other reviews. Research and study before writing an article on a firearm. Also I dislike Remington’s 2 position safety and wish it were a 3 position. A safety that locks the bolt prevents the bolt from becoming inadvertently opened by objects one encounters in the field… I have had it happen to me, but was fortunate enough to know it happened. Some find an open bolt along with an empty chamber due to a lost cartridge. When its time to shoot just push it all the way forward. Winchester’s safety is poorly designed as a “field functional” safety IMO… it doesn’t tend to work with the natural mechanics of a person’s thumb. Tang safeties are fantastic if done properly. And on a final note…Remington’s ejector’s are weak in comparison to Weatherby’s.

  18. avatarEddie Sanders says:

    I am having a feeding issue with my new Vanguard 2 30-06 could you provide any advice rearding this problem before I resort to sending it back to Weatherby. Otherwise I have to send it to California to be repaired. When I called Weatherby and spoke to a customer service rep gave him the serial number and told him my trouble he chuckled and said someone would get back to me they never did I had to call a second time. I bought it at Cabela’s and the guy in charge of the gun counter was no help at all. I thank you for any help you can offer. Eddie

    • avatarTony B says:

      Eddie Sanders, the issue may be that the magazine leaf-spring hasn’t enough upward tension on it. Easy home fix.

      Take a good look at the bolt-face. Could be that.

  19. avatarJimmy R says:

    Mr. Leghorn review reinforced my belief that this S2 is a great gun for the money. However his comments on the floating, the safety and the cheek position did not make sense to me, and in my previous extensive research nobody mentioned these supposed flaws. As I read the comments, his flawed critic was eviscerated and showed a cavalier approach to gun review.
    His concern for the lack of a threading for a silencer is ridiculous. A silencer is used by the military and police to throw off the enemy as to the origine of the shot and to cut down on the flash. Why would a hunter or a shooter be concerned about a silencer. In my 44 years of shooting I never felt the need for a silencer or even a flash hider for my hunting guns. In fact I don’t recall seeing one on civilian guns. When I am killing a deer, being concerned about his hearing loss is a bit of an overkill. (a so called silencer does not silence, it reduces the sound but the blast is still very loud). Also a silencer adds weight at the wrong place of the gun. An ear cover is much more comfortable than lugging a heavy sound suppressor on the tip of a gun through the woods. While one person can always thread his gun if he is so inclined, using the lack of thread as a reason for denigrating a gun is very poor. Mr. Leghorn is absolutely biased against Weatherby.

    • avatarTony B says:

      Excellent retort. I have found that reviews from this website are always lacking. Lacking in research, lacking in explanation, etc.

      They recently did a review on the Benelli Super Nova 12 gauge shotgun and somehow completely missed the innovative-fact that the shotgun will shoot every size shell made. From 3.5″ magnums down to the 1.5″ stubbies, and everything in-between. How on Earth did the writer miss that tidbit?

      Chuck Hawks is one of my go-to reviewers. Not this site, not for some time now. Although, going back to read reviews of the original review is a sort of a sport for me now. Real shooters correcting what seems to be writers that never shoot.

      • avatarGlen says:

        Great post, as a lot of the others are too as you’ve mentioned. I too find Chuck Hawks and David Petzal to provide their readers with some of the most accurate, honest and real-world evaluations.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      ” As I read the comments, his flawed critic was eviscerated and showed a cavalier approach to gun review. His concern for the lack of a threading for a silencer is ridiculous.”

      You devoted far more time to objecting to his threaded barrel comment than he did in actually making it.

      “A silencer is used by the military and police to throw off the enemy as to the origine of the shot and to cut down on the flash.”

      That is a very outdated idea at this point. They haven’t traditionally been used by civilians because they haven’t been traditionally available to civilians. Now that they are, more and more people are finding that they like being able to use them, for whatever purpose they feel necessary.

      “An ear cover is much more comfortable than lugging a heavy sound suppressor on the tip of a gun through the woods.”

      Good silencers aren’t heavy. I’d rather not wear a set of earmuffs for a full day of deer hunting in preparation for the one or two shots I might (or might not) take. I like to hear what’s going on around me, and have the shot muffled. Of the two solutions, only one allows me to do both of those things.

      “…using the lack of thread as a reason for denigrating a gun is very poor. Mr. Leghorn is absolutely biased against Weatherby.”

      Yep, and that bias is clearly shown by the fact that he gave the rifle an overall score of 4.5 out of a possible 5 stars.

      • avatarTony B says:

        Are you Mr. Legghorn’s wife? Mother?

        One might wonder, is all this ‘fending-off’ of the opinions of others, based on a relationship rather than just allowing people to have opposing opinions in the first place.

        Does Mr. Legghorn need your ‘help’? It doesn’t seem so.

        • avatarMatt in FL says:

          I am neither of those things. My “fending off” as you put it would have been the same regardless of the source. If the comment had simply said that he doubted the review’s accuracy, or that he didn’t like the style, or that he thought the concerns Nick expressed were overblown, I’d probably have not said anything. But when it jumped into the hyperbole of him being “absolutely biased against Weatherby,” it was nonsensical enough to prompt me to respond. So I did. I’m not sure why you seem to have taken my disagreement so personally.

  20. avatarFix Yourself says:

    You discredited yourself in the first paragraph, unless your rating is 10 stars for perfection. “The problem is that their first attempt sucked (relative to what they were capable of doing — I still gave it four stars)”.

  21. I got a V2 Hog Reaper in 7mm08 last year for my son to hunt with..
    It’s essentially the same rifle, 20″ barrel, etc. but with some hog skulls added to the stock..
    kind of goofy but he likes it…

    I questioned the non free floating stock but after a discussion with Weatherby I decided to shoot it and see how it grouped.
    I was getting .3″ center to center groups with Barnes 120g TTSX out of the first box.
    So, the gun is a shooter…

    I am testing a 20″ Carbine in 308 that they cut down to 16″ and threaded as a test for the suppressor ready market. It’s a nice little rifle. It is a 1/10 twist and ran subsonic 308 ammo very well.
    I am going to test for various standard 308 ammo soon.

    I don’t like two stage triggers typically but once you get to the second stage it breaks clean and fairly light. Not a Jewell but not crap either. Will be testing a Timney in it soon.

    Nice little rifles

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