Howa Axiom .308 Winchester Bolt Action Precision Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 17th, 2007




I like rifles, especially very accurate ones that are made for making that one carefully aimed, precise shot. There are many rifles on the market that are designed for making a precise, long range shot, and they are marketed in different ways. Legacy Sports, the importer of the Howa, is marketing this Axiom rifle as a Varminter, and it is also chambered for several other cartridges, but in .308 Winchester, it is very well suited to the role of making a long range, precision shot at any type of target.

Howa rifles are made in Japan, and have been for many years now. They have also achieved a well-earned reputation for accuracy. In addition to the Axiom, Howa rifles are offered in several other configurations. The action is of the push-feed variety, has a ninety degree bolt lift, and the magazine holds five cartridges in the .308 rifle featured here. The specs call for four in the magazine plus one, but the sample rifle held five in the magazine easily without binding.

I first saw the prototype Howa Axiom at the 2007 SHOT Show, and have been awaiting a production gun ever since. They are now in full production of the black rifles, and the camo version will soon follow. The Axiom is available with either a synthetic stock, or an identical stock made of aluminum. I prefer the synthetic, as it is lighter, but it is always good to have a choice. What differentiates the Axiom from other Howa bolt guns is the stock. It is made by Knoxx Industries, and is what really makes this baby special.  One outstanding feature of the stock is the adjustable length of the buttstock. This is particularly a good feature on a police sniper rifle, as many times a ballistic vest or other gear makes a shorter stock necessary. Even if used in a hunting situation, a heavy coat, or the shooter’s position makes an adjustable stock a nice feature. The Axiom stock is instantly adjustable without tools, much like the stock on an AR-15 rifle. It is simple to use, and works very well, adjusting the length-of-pull from 12.5 to 15.5 inches, and the overall length from approximately 39 to 42 inches, with a twenty-inch barrel, as supplied on the test gun.  The Axiom stock has a forward-mounted sling swivel stud, and another at the rear, which can be moved from the center to either side, if the shooter desires. The other delightful feature of the stock is that it has a built-in recoil reducer that actually works, maybe even better than advertised.  Upon firing, the barreled action and forestock travel rearward against spring pressure. The spring is contained within the comfortable pistol grip, and instantly returns the gun to battery.  With the elevated cheek rest, pistol grip, and recoil reducer, this is by far the most comfortable to shoot .308 that I have ever fired. Even after several hours of shooting the Axiom from the bench, there was no fatigue at all. The .308 is not a punishing cartridge to fire, but after several dozen rounds, it can start to beat the shoulder a bit. This seems odd, but I never even once felt the Axiom bump by shoulder at all. The stock also wears a Limbsaver recoil pad, but the recoil reducer within the stock works much better than I had anticipated that it would.  The design of the forestock has a rather radical profile, and entirely free-floats the barrel. The forestock is also well ventilated, which really helped barrel cooling, as I was shooting in temperatures which exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The barrel is of a heavy profile, has a one-in-twelve inch twist, measures 1.176 inches at the receiver, and tapers to .845 inch at the muzzle, which has a recessed target crown.  For scope mounting, I used a Howa Picatinny rail with Weaver Grand Slam steel rings to mount the Leupold 6.5 to 20 power target scope. This is a most-trusted scope, and I use it often to prove a rifle’s potential accuracy.

For accuracy testing, I settled the Axiom into the rest, and tried a variety of ammunition, from military surplus ball, to factory match ammo, hunting loads, and a couple of favorite handloads. All shot very well, and the Axiom proved capable of fine accuracy with a few loads. Even the military ball ammo, which was Lake City surplus from the early 1980s, grouped under one and one-half inches for every group fired. A couple of loads would group around one-half inch or better, and they are pictured here. No ammo tried was disappointing. I fired the Axiom a lot more than I usually do with most test rifles, simply because it was so comfortable to shoot.  Functioning of the Howa was perfect throughout the tests. Fatigue nor pain never set in. The stock shape is very comfortable, and the design of every feature of the rifle is very well thought out. I would like to see the rifle offered with a ten-shot detachable box magazine, but that is really not a big deal, just another feature that would prove useful to certain shooters, like law enforcement agencies and such. The trigger pull measured three and one-quarter pounds as delivered, but the Howa trigger is pretty easy to adjust, and you can drop about one pound off of that pull weight if needed. I would like to see a pull weight of around one and one-half pounds myself, but I am spoiled, I guess.

I really like the Howa Axiom. It is different from its competition, and better in many ways. With the synthetic stock, it weighs in at nine pounds and six ounces, which is lighter than most rifles of the type. It is very comfortable to carry, and to shoot all day long.

Check out the Howa rifles online at:

To look at the entire line of Leupold optics, go to:

Jeff Quinn

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Howa Axiom .308 Winchester Bolt Action Precision Rifle.





Adjustable buttstock allows quick and easy tailoring to individual shooters and conditions.





Sliding safety is located behind the bolt on the right side.







When Jeff really wants to prove the accuracy of a rifle, he reaches for his Leupold 6.5-20x target scope.





The Howa Axiom .308 proved to be exceptionally accurate with a wide variety of ammunition ranging from military surplus to factory hunting loads to handloads.