A little over fifty years ago, Roy Weatherby
changed the look of sporting rifles in the USA. His rifles
featured a radical stock design by the standards of those days.
The stock was built for comfort and accuracy. The Monte Carlo
comb sloped forward, causing the rifle to recoil away from,
instead of into, the shooter’s cheek bone. The forend was
designed to provide a solid grasp while shooting the big
Weatherby magnum cartridges that he had designed a decade
before. The early rifles were conversions on existing Mauser
bolt guns, but when Weatherby introduced the Mark V, he finally
had a rifle that was built specifically for firing the Weatherby
Weatherby cartridges are built for speed.
With each cartridge introduced, Roy Weatherby succeeded in
besting the velocities of other cartridges within each caliber.
Weatherby pushed the limits of cartridge design with the powders
and bullets available at that time, and today, the Weatherby
cartridges remain at the top of the heap in performance. The
Mark V rifle was well-accepted by those with pockets deep enough
to afford one. The Mark V is still produced today, and is
recognized as one of the strongest bolt action rifles ever
designed, and is the choice of many hunters who need the utmost
in power, and have the desire to own a premium rifle.
Introduced over four decades ago, the
Weatherby Vanguard rifle has also proven to be very successful.
In 1970, it was a Weatherby that was much more affordable to
most of us than was the Mark V, and it remains so today. I have
reviewed the Weatherby Vanguard here before; once
in 2004, and again in 2008.
The Vanguard differs from the Mark V primarily in its bolt
design, stock material, finish, and available chamberings. While
the Vanguard is available chambered for several of the Weatherby
magnum cartridges, the really heavy stuff is only chambered in
the Mark V. The Vanguard is and has always been a very good
rifle, reinforcing Weatherby’s reputation for strength,
reliability, and accuracy.
Now, Weatherby has introduced the newest
generation of Vanguard rifles; the Vanguard Series 2. The Series
2 rifles retain the best features of the Vanguard, with several
improvements. The synthetic stock of the S2 now wears softer,
more tactile "Griptonite" inserts in the pistol grip
and forend, for a better grasp of the rifle in all weather
conditions. The pistol grip also has a palm swell for a more
comfortable grasp. The barrels of the S2 rifles are twenty-four
inches in length, to squeeze more performance from magnum
cartridges, compared to a shorter barrel. The S2 is offered in
either a matte-blued finish, or in stainless steel. The bottom
metal is still, thankfully, made of metal. The one-piece trigger
guard and floorplate on the test rifle is a black matte
aluminum, and matches the finish of the barreled action
perfectly. The new trigger is a two-stage match-grade unit,
offering a very crisp, precise trigger pull without sacrificing
safety. The trigger pull on the test rifle released crisply at
just barely over three pounds, as delivered, and I adjusted it
slightly down to a bit over two and three-quarters pounds.
Perfect. The manual safety on the Series 2 is a three-position
unit, instead of the two-position unit on the original Vanguard
rifles. The rear position blocks the trigger and locks the bolt
in place. The mid position still blocks the trigger, but allows
the bolt to be operated for loading and unloading, and the
fully-forward position allows the rifle to fire when the trigger
is pressed. The entire line of Series 2 Vanguard rifles now has
Weatherby’s Sub-MOA guarantee, which guarantees that the rifle
with shoot sub-minute-of-angle (.99 inch) or less at 100 yards
using premium ammunition in the standard chamberings and
Weatherby ammunition in the Weatherby magnum chamberings.
The rifle shown here is chambered for the 257
Weatherby cartridge. Twenty-fives are some of my favorite rifle
cartridges. I dearly love the 25-06, which is really a
non-belted magnum, but the 257 Weatherby does everything that
the 25-06 does, with more speed and a flatter trajectory. With
any given bullet weight, the 257 Weatherby gains between 200 and
400 feet-per-second (fps) over the same bullet from the 25-06.
Doing so requires about eighteen percent more powder, but the
results are well worth it. Like the 25-06, the 257 Weatherby
excels at bridging the gap between a dedicated varmint rifle and
a long-range deer and antelope cartridge, and performs very well
at both tasks. 75 grain class bullets are ideal for long range
predator and varmint hunting, really reaching out and doing a
fine job. The 117 to 120 grain bullets are superb for long range
hunting of medium-sized game such as whitetail and pronghorn,
and the 100 grain bullets do well at both tasks. The 25 WSSM
cartridge claimed to offer magnum performance in a short action,
but fell far short of the performance of the 257 Weatherby. The
25 WSSM barely bested the 25-06 using the same bullets, and
required much higher pressures to do so. The 257 Weatherby
greatly exceeds the velocities of the 25 WSSM, and does so at
much lower pressures.
The 257 Weatherby also has one of the
flattest trajectories of any commercial cartridge available. It
is the flattest-shooting of all the Weatherby cartridges. Using
the Barnes TTSX 80 grain bullet load, sighted to be dead on at
300 yards, the bullet is only 1.8 inches above line-of-sight at
100 yards, and only 6.4 inches low at 400. This flat trajectory
is very forgiving in the field, as it makes little difference in
point of impact if the hunter estimates the yardage at 220, and
it turns out to really be 320. That bullet leaves the muzzle of
a 257 Weatherby rifle in excess of 3850 fps. Weatherby lists the
velocity at 3870, and it did better than that out of the test
rifle. More on that later. The TTSX is a Barnes Triple Shock
solid copper homogenous bullet with a polymer tip to increase
the ballistic coefficient of the bullet. Even at the light
weight of only 80 grains, the bullet is built for medium-sized
game such as deer and antelope. The Barnes will not behave like
a lightweight varmint bullet, coming apart on impact. It holds
together, and typically retains almost all of its weight when
recovered. At the speeds generated by the 257 Weatherby, bullets
have to be built tough. A bullet that gives optimal performance
from a 257 Roberts will fail when pushed several hundred feet
per second faster, and I like the insurance that the Barnes
bullets provide that the bullet will not fail, if I do my part.
Weatherby has nine different loads for the 257 Weatherby, with
bullet weights ranging from 80 to 120 grains. All are built for
game hunting, with the exception of the 87 grain varmint load.
The 257 Weatherby might be a bit much for all-day prairie dog
shooting, but for long range predator hunting, it is hard to
find a cartridge that will equal its flat-shooting, hard-hitting
attributes. For whitetail deer, my favorite cartridge has for
many years been the 25-06, and the 257 Weatherby is all that the
25-06 is, and more. Anyway, when this new 257 Weatherby Vanguard
Series 2 arrived, I was anxious to start pulling the trigger.
Deciding how to scope this rifle posed a
challenge, as the 257 Weatherby cannot be neatly pegged into
just one role. While it is an ideal deer cartridge for shooting
from 30 yards to 400, it is also very useful for long range
varmint and target shooting, so I decided to mount two different
scopes to try out. Not at the same time. First up was a 3.5 to
10 power Leupold VX-3 with the Boone
& Crockett ballistic reticle. This is probably the best
choice of the two chosen for general hunting, but at extended
ranges, I like more magnification for better target definition.
For that, I mounted a Trijicon AccuPoint 5 to 20 power
illuminated reticle tactical scope. The AccuPoint has a
fiber-optic lighted reticle with variable intensity, and also
tritium for reticle illumination in low light situations. The
AccuPoint is always “ON”, and never needs batteries. It has
a mil-dot ranging reticle, clear optics, and precise adjustment.
I mounted the scopes alternately using a Trijicon
Picatinny-compliant two-piece base. The Vanguard uses bases that
fit a Remington Model 700, so anywhere that sells scope mounts
should have one or more in stock. The AccuPoint was mounted
using Trijicon rings, and the Leupold mounted using Burris
Signature rings. Either is a good choice for long range hunting,
and the Leupold is also good for work close up, but since the
257 Weatherby excels at long range, the Trijicon will probably
spend a lot of time atop this Series 2 Vanguard.
For shooting the new Weatherby, I had two
different factory loads available to me, along with a variety of
bullets and powders for handloading. Starting with the factory
loads, both loads performed very well, with each beating
Weatherby’s one MOA accuracy guarantee by a wide margin, as
can be seen in the pictures. The 100 grain spitzer soft-point
bullet was clocked at 3410 feet-per-second (fps) average ten
feet from the muzzle of the Vanguard’s barrel. The 80 grain
TTSX, my favorite of the factory loads for whitetail-class
animals, averaged a screaming 3949 fps at the same distance. All
velocity testing was done at an elevation of 541 feet above sea
level, with the temperature hovering around the 70 degree
Fahrenheit mark, on a breezy sunny day with the shooter, rifle,
and ammunition in the shade. Accuracy testing was done using a Target
Shooting, Inc. Model 1000 rifle rest, with the Trijicon set
at twenty power magnification. Handloads were assembled on a Dillon
550B press, using RCBS dies. My favorite handload consisted
of the Barnes TSX copper hollowpoint bullet loaded over 68.2
grains of Hodgdon Hybrid 100 V powder and a Federal 210 primer.
This load is not in the Hodgdon database, and has not been
pressure tested, but was accurate, reliable, and showed no
excessive pressure signs in the test rifle. It works very well
for me, but use at your own risk, as it is not data that
is published by any reliable source. This load will group under
one-half MOA at 100 yards from the test gun, and the bullet
clocked an average of 3673 fps ten feet from the muzzle. Hybrid
100 V powder is relatively new on the market, but consistently
gives higher velocities in cartridges in the 25-06, 270, 280,
and 257 Weatherby class, in my experience.
The Weatherby Series 2 Vanguard is a great
improvement on an already-proven rifle with a four-decade track
record. It is reliable, accurate, affordable, and worthy to wear
the Weatherby brand.
Check out the entire line of Weatherby
firearms, ammunition, and accessories online at www.weatherby.com.
For the location of a Weatherby dealer near
you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.
To order the Vanguard online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.
NOTE: All load data posted on this
web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor
GunBlast.com assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data.
The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under
conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the
potential user of this data. Always use data from respected loading
manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated
in the source manual.