Weatherby Vanguard: Bolt Action on a Budget


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

September 28th, 2008




It has been almost four years since I last reviewed the Weatherby Vanguard bolt action rifle. The Vanguard has for many years been a fine choice for a hunting rifle, whether in heavy-barreled varmint hunting form, or the lighter, handier version for carrying afield in pursuit of big game. The Vanguard has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy, and is much easier on the wallet than the Weatherby Mark V. For many years, the Vanguard stood in the shadow of the Mark V, but hunters and shooters have realized that the Vanguard is not just a “poor man’s Weatherby”, but is a dandy rifle in its own right. While priced at less than half the cost of a comparable Mark V, the Vanguard still shoots like a Weatherby, and compares favorably with other rifles in its price range. Which brings us to the reason for reviewing the Vanguard once again. Weatherby has recently drastically lowered the price on their synthetic/blued Vanguard to only $399 US at the time of this writing. I usually do not list manufacturer’s prices in my reviews, as prices do change and Gunblast reviews stay posted for many years. However, in this case, the price reduction is the meat of this review, as Weatherby has done nothing to change the Vanguard, they simply lowered the price.

The blued/synthetic Vanguard shown here is chambered for the .270 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) cartridge, which is a very flat-shooting cartridge suitable for just about all North American big game. The 130 grain Winchester Ballistic Silvertip bullet clocked 3184 feet-per-second twelve feet from the muzzle of the Vanguard’s twenty-four inch barrel.

For accuracy testing, I mounted a Sightron Big Sky 4.5 to 14 power scope using steel Weaver Grand Slam rings and Weaver aluminum bases. The Sightron is a very good choice on a rifle that shoots as flat as does this .270 WSM Vanguard. The Sightron Big Sky has very clear optics, an adjustable objective lens, repeatable positive adjustments, and a 42mm objective. The Sightron is an excellent scope, and the price won’t break the bank. Accuracy of the Vanguard was excellent, with the rifle consistently clustering three shots into less than three-quarters of an inch using the Winchester factory ammo, which was the only type available to me at the time of the accuracy testing. I tried no handloads in the rifle.

The Vanguard’s black synthetic stock is shaped perfectly for comfortable shooting, and the comb positions the eye just right for scope use. The Vanguard wears no open sights. The stock has checkering molded in for a positive grip, and sling swivel studs are factory installed. The barrel and receiver are blued steel, with a finish somewhere between a matte and a polished finish, which looks very good and is also very practical on a hunting rifle. The safety is a two-position unit to the right of the bolt shroud, and operates easily but with positive detents. The trigger pull is very good, and can be slightly adjusted for a better pull weight. The Vanguard’s trigger pull measured three and three-quarters pounds as delivered, and I lowered it a half pound before accuracy testing. The bolt on the Vanguard operated smoothly, as expected, and cartridges fed effortlessly from the three-round magazine. The magazine is of the drop-plate design to allow quick unloading without cycling the cartridges through the action.

The Vanguard is a full-sized rifle, yet handles very well. It weighed in at seven pounds, ten ounces, and balanced perfectly for quick handling. Offering good looks, reliability, excellent accuracy, and the Weatherby name, the Vanguard is now within the budget of more hunters than ever before. With the plethora of excellent hunting rifles available today, shooters and hunters never had it so good. With Weatherby lowering the price on their Vanguard rifle, they are placing the trusted Weatherby name among the low-priced hunting rifle choices, while sacrificing nothing in terms of quality and accuracy.

Jeff Quinn



Sightron 4.5-14x42mm Big Sky scope.



Winchester's 130-grain Ballistic Tip factory load proved to be very accurate in the Vanguard.



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Click pictures for a larger version.


Weatherby's Vanguard rifle.



Trigger can be adjusted easily.



Bottom of the receiver sports a robust recoil lug.





Metal trigger guard & floorplate unit.



Two-position safety.







Synthetic stock features molded-in checkering.