As a kid, I read a lot. I still do. Back
then, it was mostly books and magazines related to guns and
shooting. It still is. I remember going to hardware stores
and getting a copy of every gun catalog that they had
available. It did not matter that I could not afford even a
box of ammunition for a center fire rifle, I still grabbed
the catalogs. Federal Cartridge Company used to give
out pocket sized ballistic charts, and I carried one with me
at all times, in case that I would be called upon to extol
the virtues of one cartridge or another, I would be ready.
Most of the gun catalogs were full sized, but some were
sized just right to fit inside of a text book or Sunday
School lesson quarterly.
I remember well looking carefully over the
pictures and specifications of every rifle made. Back in the
late 1960s and early 1970s, many rifles were of the Classic
design, with rather straight stock profiles and subdued
lines. Weatherby rifles were different. The stocks
wore high Monte Carlo combs with built-in cheek pieces, and
the lines of the metal flowed smoothly. The stock was built
of well-figured walnut or fancy exotic woods. The barrels
were tapered, and usually wore no open sights. They were the
epitome of a high performance, high velocity, long range
deer killer supreme, and were the subject of many daydreams.
As I matured to the ripe old age of fifteen,
I went to work to earn money for my first deer rifle. There
were many choices available, and I studied each one,
including the Weatherby. Back then, you could even get a
Weatherby rifle in lieu of interest from the Bank of
Boulder. You sent them the equivalent of about a
year’s part-time wages, and they sent you a brand new
Weatherby, and then when you were an old man, they sent all
of your money back. That seemed like a great plan, except
for the sending them the money part. The Weatherby would
have to wait. I bought a Remington 788 instead, and
it was a good rifle that served me well.
Getting married and starting a family seemed
like the thing to do as I reached the age of nineteen, and
the ensuing years found me wasting good money on things such
as food, shelter, transportation, and utilities. I would
still manage to purchase a gun now and then, but always
found the elusive Weatherby out of reach. I bought and used
good, affordable guns. The same with my scope choices. I
tried to buy good sturdy scopes, usually from a K-Mart
or by mail order, but nothing that carried one of the
premium labels, and many of them were useless junk.
Now, with the kid grown and the house paid
for, I can buy most any gun that I want, within reason.
I certainly am not rich, and don’t fall into John
Kerry’s definition of the evil, wealthy top one
percent. I most likely would not even make the top fifty
percent, but the good Lord has blessed us, and it does not
take as many man hours of work to buy a new gun as it once
did. Still that doesn’t mean that I visit gun shows with
an entourage of gun bearers to carry the load of goods that
I purchase. I am still careful to seek out a good value, but
try to buy guns of good quality. Life is too short to buy
junk, and too long to suffer with an inaccurate rifle.
While speaking with my good buddy Jason
Cloessner at Lipsey’s a few days ago, we
stumbled upon the subject of good quality affordable rifles,
with the emphasis on quality. I know that many hunters are
busy trying to pay the mortgage and raise kids, and while a
thousand dollar rifle would be nice, it is not very
realistic. He suggested that I have a close look at the new Weatherby
Vanguard Sporter. I have seen the Vanguard rifles
before, and they left me uninterested. The ones that I had
seen at Wal Mart were pretty plain, with the black
plastic stock. They looked okay, but nothing special. The
Deluxe Sporter, Jason insisted, is different. This got me to
thinking about putting together a high quality, yet
affordable hunting rig. Something that would bring home the
venison, but offer also a degree of
pride-of-ownership. Something that was more than just a
hunting tool. Something that the average Gunblast reader
could easily afford, without sacrificing quality.
Jason agreed to ship out a Vanguard Sporter,
as I set out to select a quality scope. I knew what to
order. I had seen the new VX-1 line from Leupold, but
had not tested one. The VX-1 replaced Leupold’s Vari-X-I
line. The VX-1 is a very affordable scope, without fancy
bells and whistles, but internally it is still a Leupold. It
has Leupold glass, coated optics, a matte finish, and a
sleek profile. It is built in the USA, and guaranteed for
Picking up the Vanguard at my dealer’s
shop, I opened the box to find a very good looking, well
finished rifle. It wears a cut-checkered walnut stock with a
rosewood fore end tip. The butt is finished with a good
rubber recoil pad, and it has that trademark Weatherby Monte
Carlo cheek piece. Some shooters do not like a Monte Carlo,
but I do. I like a high cheek piece to get the eye up and in
line with the scope. The Monte Carlo does this without
making the butt of the rifle too high to properly fit the
shoulder. It is a very comfortable design to shoot
accurately and quickly from field positions. A Monte Carlo
lets the gun recoil away from the shooters cheek bone.
The Vanguard Sporter is a handsome rifle, with a satin
finish to the wood and metal. It wears no open sights, but
it does have sling swivel studs installed, as should every
hunting rifle. Weatherby even provides the sling swivels
with the rifle. This Vanguard is aesthetically far above the
synthetic stocked versions that I had previously handled.
The Vanguard Sporter looks like a Weatherby.
The Sporter sent to me is chambered for the
.30-06 cartridge, and carries five rounds in its magazine,
which has a hinged floorplate. The action is of push feed
design, and has a one-piece ninety degree bolt. It has an
enclosed bolt face with a spring loaded plunger type
ejector. The twenty-four inch barrel is of a tapered
profile, measuring .615 of an inch at the muzzle, and is
bedded with a pressure point just aft of the fore end tip.
I mounted the Leupold 3 to 9 power scope in
Weatherby two-piece mounts. The Weatherby mount is a very
good design, incorporating the rings and base into one unit
that is split horizontally, resulting in great flexibility
in ring spacing, while allowing a very solid mounting of the
scope. The Leupold scope has a forty millimeter objective
lens, and the power ring adjusts smoothly and easily. I was
very impressed with the focal range and optical clarity of
the VX-1. It would focus as close as nine feet away and out
to infinity. The reticle was of the duplex design, and the
adjustments are the proven Leupold friction type. Some
believe that a scope must have click adjustments to work.
That is nonsense. Leupold built its name on the friction
type turret, and while the more expensive Leupolds have
click type adjustments, the friction type works just as
accurately and reliably. Best of all, this 3 to 9 VX-1 sells
for around two hundred bucks. Many hunters think that they
cannot afford a Leupold, but the VX-1 has changed that. It
brings reliable quality at an affordable price.
Shooting the Vanguard Sporter with a variety
of handloads and with two types of factory ammunition,
the rifle lived up to its name, and guarantee. Weatherby
guarantees the Vanguard to group three shots into one and
one-half inches or less at one hundred yards. This Vanguard
did so with every load tested. Most handloads grouped right
at the one-inch mark, with a couple doing slightly better. Remington
150 grain Core-Lokt ammunition grouped into one and
one-quarter inches at one hundred yards. This is very good
factory ammunition for whitetail deer hunting. It is readily
available and very affordable, and the Core-Lokt performs
very well at .30-06 velocities.
The Vanguard proved exceptionally
comfortable to shoot. The stock design worked well to lessen
the felt recoil. The Vanguard Sporter balances well, and
feels like a real rifle. It weighs exactly eight pounds,
with the scope and mount adding another twelve ounces, and
balances right at the front of the bolt. The gun comes up
quickly, and the Monte Carlo cheek piece places the eye
right where it belongs.
The Vanguard Sporter has a suggested retail
price of $582 as I type this, but usually can be found for
less. If your dealer does not have one in stock, have him to
call Lipsey’s Dealer Hotline at 1-800-666-1333.
To find a dealer near you check out the Dealer Finder at: www.lipseys.com.
Look at the Leupold scopes online at: www.leupold.com.
With the Weatherby Vanguard Sporter and a
Leupold VX-1, a hunter can go afield with confidence in his
equipment and pride of ownership, carrying an accurate
rifle that can fit into most any budget. You no longer have
to settle for less. You can have a Weatherby, and a Leupold.