Weatherby’s Vanguard Sporter Bolt Action Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

October 18th, 2004




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 life.

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:

Look at the Leupold scopes online at:

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.

 Jeff Quinn


To locate a dealer where you can buy this gun, go to:


Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

All content © 2004 All rights reserved.

Click pictures for a larger version.


The Vanguard Sporter - Weatherby quality at an affordable price.





The Vanguard Sporter includes many features that make a Weatherby a Weatherby (top to bottom): walnut stock with cut checkering, Monte Carlo cheek piece, angled rosewood forend tip, an branded rubber butt pad.



As you would expect from a Weatherby rifle, the Vanguard Sporter does not include iron sights. For scope mounting, author used Weatherby's excellent two-piece mounts.



Leupold's VX-1 variable scope offers the legendary Leupold quality at a very competitive price.