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Howa Project

04 May 2017
@ 09:02 pm (GMT)

Andrew Murray

Well Gents,

It's arrived. I plan on making this thread a journey from taking an out of the box Howa and turning it into a tack driver using the methods Nathan's book series.

To start with I have taken a photo of the rifle. It's a Howa 1500 in .308 with a 24" heavy barrel. It is a pillar bedded Hogue stock. It also came with a picatinny rail as part of the deal. I purchased the rifle for $569 (Aus dollars, please not all prices quoted are AUD). Add delivery it went to $618.

Due to Aus firearm law, the interstate purchase had to be facilitated by a dealer in my home state @ $45.

More to come.


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18 May 2017
@ 03:16 pm (GMT)

Andrew Murray

Re: Howa Project
I'd ike to remove that last comment and chalk it up to operator error. The floor plate has a small cut out where the mag box sits. I was unable to see it properly until I had better light. The mag box wits within that well which is about 1mm deep nonetheless I manage to remove about 0.3mm from the bottom of the mag box which was done using 240 grit wet and dry paper on a flat surface.

Having said that. It's quite a tight fit and I don't think the mag box was sitting in this well when I picked up rifle as it was not in place when I took the rifle apart yesterday. The mag box just fell out of the stock.
20 May 2017
@ 07:06 pm (GMT)

Andrew Murray

Re: Howa Project
Stock Stabilisation

The stock was stabilised today. This image shows my attempt to gauge the depth the barrel sits in relation to the stock.

The small plasticine blob on the showed how far above the skeletal cross bar the bottom of the barrel was.

The next step was to mask the stock and gouge the material out of it.

Afterwards I had to have a break due to my 2yo daughter needing her midday nap. I reutrned a few hours later as the rifle is stored at my parents' house which about a 10 min drive away. My daughter does not sleep well at this house because her grandparents are just the most amazing people in the world and she cannot sleep while they are around; I took her home for her nap so that she would actually have one!!! Surely all you parents know what I mean!

Nonetheless the compound was pored and after a brief wait I strafed it with a butane torch for a nice flat finish. It is curing now and should be ready by breakfast time in the morning :)

Big thanks to Nathan for his advice and tips in the video series and accurising book.

03 Jun 2017
@ 01:54 pm (GMT)

Andrew Murray

Re: Howa Project
So the rifle has been bedded!

These photos were taken before the end of the job which why they look a bit rough but the finished product is a bit neater. It's not a pretty job by any means but I'm very happy with it over all :) Why not take photos of the final product you ask? Because I forgot to and now it's put back together and I don't want to pull it apart again lol.

I will take it out on Wednesday to shoot and post the groups here then.

crude overall weight of the rig is 4.9kg or 10.8 pounds. I would like to get a precise measurement but currently I do not have scales that will measure it.

The blue on the sling is electrical. I've modified the sling and that is holding some epoxy in place for the short term. I just couldn't get the length right so I though I'd just make it right, no point going to all that trouble if the sling doesn't work...
04 Jun 2017
@ 05:48 pm (GMT)

Jon Short

Re: Howa Project
Hi Andrew,

Looks pretty good to me pre final clean up. Good barrel Knox length bedded too. Brings back memories. Timber is much easier to dremal than plastic & rubber so I can relate. I ballsed my first attempt up as I didn't do the release agent correctly & had to re do it... one way to learn!!

Well done.

14 Jun 2017
@ 10:43 pm (GMT)

Andrew Murray

The Results!!
Well here they are lads and ladies.

The rifle manage to shoot 5 sub MOA groups today. The best was 3/8" (so roughly 0.375MOA all off bags, except the 5 shot group.

Ammo used was the PowerSHOK from Federal (150gr soft points) and OSA (the commercial division of ADI) Buffalo River with 135gr Speer hollow points.

Of course a million times thank you to Nathan for his unbelievable support, knowledge, patience and being an all round top bloke. And of course to Steph and Riley for their help behind the scenes and allowing Nathan the time for skype calls and emails and questions, goodness anyone with a family knows it's not easy to balance all of that!

I know it's not the best but when you take a rifle shooting 2MOA and get it down to less than 0.4MOA with factory ammo then you're clearly doing something right. If anyone reading this is deciding whether or not to invest in the book series then this has got to be the proof!


4 shot group (blew out to 31/32" on the 4th shot without it the group is 5/8") OSA ammo

3 Shot group at 7/8" PowerShok

5 shot group just on 1" although no ruler for comparison sorry. (Powershok)

And the best group of the day, 3 shots at 3/8" OSA ammo

Now on to ammo and technique development and this thing will really come into it's own.
15 Jun 2017
@ 04:18 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Howa Project
I recall years ago when I first bedded a rifle and shot my first bug-hole groups.
That hooked me for a lifetime! Good stuff Andrew, and yes it is time to begin reloading precision ammo your rifle will like, and working on refining your technique, and that is the fun part.

My first .308 rifle shot well for nearly 6,000 rounds of mild target loads and taking care to wait between shots so as not to heat the barrel too much.
I still have the rifle but with the thrid barrel.
15 Jun 2017
@ 09:29 am (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Howa Project
Yet another, now happy Howa owner!

Good work Andrew, now to jump into your technique, barrel care & reloading, again follow the steps (insert broken record comments here!.........).

Keep reloading CONSISTENT & as simple as possible which will allow you to understand/follow the results. Can't stress that enough, don't get caught up in any BS with your reloading, follow the principles as laid out in the reloading book.

Great result, have fun!
15 Jun 2017
@ 12:48 pm (GMT)

Sebastian Shand

Re: Howa Project
Great stuff Andrew looks like it'll shoot very well with a good hand load.
i bought my wife a howa 308 and chris Murphy fitted a carbon fibre stock and bedded it and now with my hand loads it will shoot .3inch groups any day of the week.
15 Jun 2017
@ 02:52 pm (GMT)

Andrew Murray

Re: Howa Project
Cheers guys,

I'm really quite happy with it. The worst group before accurising was 6cm.

They really have come in quite a lot.

I"m 100% stoked and grateful for the encouragement and support to go against the flow and take the time to do things the right way rather than the easy way.

17 Jun 2017
@ 06:46 pm (GMT)

Andrew Murray

Re: Howa Project
Hey all, final update for this thread.

I got the same OSA (Outdoor Sporting Agencies) ammo: Buffalo River with the Sierra 135gr Hollow Points.

Range was 100yds and wind was non-existant. Shooting from a bench with bags as rests.

Managed this group: 0.098Mil or 0.338MOA, you can see the fouling shot to the right.

Then this one: this was the final group. There was some fiddling with the scope but this group is right on centre and 1 mil high (approx 4 inches). This group was 0.093Mil or 0.319MOA

In all seriousness if you're thinking of getting the books, do it, if you think it's all too much, let me encourage you to take the plunge and learn so very much with great support from Nathan along the way.

This isn't a $5000+ rifle with $2000+ bench rests, it's a Howa that had a bit of TLC and shoots like a dream.

Jump in and get it done.
18 Jun 2017
@ 10:15 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Howa Project
Great work Andrew, those are excellent groups, fantastic.

For others, some key points.

Andrew was pretty much new to centerfire rifles when he started this. He had a limited budget to work with. He started with the books first, then went rifle shopping. He bought a rifle based on the information he had read in book 1 (Rifles), a rifle that I would describe as a raw unfinished product.

To begin with, Andrew went over the basic set up, observations and initial group testing (Book 3 Accurizing). The barrel seemed OK, not too much fouling. But accuracy was poor. Andrew did his very best to employ the technique from book 5 (Shooting), but still accuracy was poor. This posed the age old problem when observing poor accuracy- "Is it me or is it the rifle?".

Now, a person could if they chose to, start straight out with bedding. But the more alterations we make at the beginning, the more we run into warranty issues if there is a major flaw. Sometimes it can be very difficult to draw a line. There is no point bedding a rifle with a dud barrel, but how the heck do you tell. Well, in the case of the Howa, the Vanguard and also the Ruger M77, 2.5 to 3" groups are not uncommon out of the box. In other words, it is really hard to make a call. So in this instance, all we can do is visually study the bore as best as we can and if it looks to be behaving (as per the book instructions / rate of fouling), then we might as well proceed with bedding.

The Remington base model rifles can be a bit harder to discern. Without bedding and prior to the break in, 2.5 to 3" groups are commonI generally aim for about 1.5" out of the box after the break in. The main factor is again to observe the bore. Those who want to jump straight into bedding before testing can do so but again, your bedding must be top notch. If you perform a good bedding job but then find that the barrel is a dud then so be it, you still have your Remington action. The same can be said of the Howa / Vgd.

The very worst situation is when we proceed to give the rifle a bedding job but without understanding the finer aspects such as minimizing stress during bedding, critical contact points and critical relief points. If we are not careful, we may just make the rifle worse and then conclude that we have bought a dud. Note that this is very common at both an amateur and professional level. Fortunately re-bedding is no major drama. The main problem, is learning to discern whether your job has been successful (see 1 'O'clock test, book 1 Rifles, Inspect bedding).

Once Andrew got into the bedding phase, he put a great deal of focus into this as his foundation. I wanted him to go as slowly as he could bare and make sure he had performed each step to the letter. This took him several days which is about what I would expect. Do a bit, then walk away, come back to it later as time allows. Andrew went through the steps very carefully right through to the very end of the job. The action needed multiple fits and dams were made large and secure. I advised using just one bungee (at the trigger well) with an extra plasticine ref point at the stock forend tip to prevent the action tipping in the mortice. This was done to ensure minimal stress (stock or action flexing) during bedding.

This was of course Andrew's first bedding job so there was a lot to take in. When we have a lot on our plate, it is important to break the work down into smaller bite sized steps.

The results are as you see them. Andrew has a rifle that is capable of excellent accuracy. He can now clearly observe his own shooting technique as a separate variable and see that he is doing fine. When Andrew starts hand loading (Book 4) in the near future, he will again be able to observe cause and effect without having the rifle or himself as negative variables.

Throughout all of this, I dare say that Andrew was shooting at a range where others had far more expensive LR rifles. One could come away after initial tests (poor groups) and feel very bad. Times like this, you have to dig deep and stay the course. The thing is, I don't think simply getting a cheap rifle to out shoot expensive rifles is the sole reward. The true gold is knowing how and why. Andrew is now becoming like many of our guys, his own expert. By slowing right down and starting with the fundamentals, he has actually hit the fast forwards button.

No amount of fancy blue-tooth kit will make up for this hands on experience. And as for fancy high end rifles, not all are what they are cracked up to be. Many are now cost cut designs housed in fancy wood stocks. Only yesterday I had yet another inquiry from a shooter with a high end rifle that he described as shooting like his 12 gauge. Again- the questions are how and why.

Whether a guy wants to shoot to 300 yards or 600 yards, there must be some level of accuracy. Many rifles simply do not shoot well out of the box. The steps Andrew took are not for long range shooters only. These are the basic steps to obtaining good hunting rifle accuracy and proficiency.

20 Jun 2017
@ 05:24 pm (GMT)

Jon Short

Re: Howa Project
Awesome Andrew & Nathan.

I can relate to what Andrew has worked through (as a Howa owner) & Nathans comments.

Great to see such good results & look foward to seeing the hand load groups/results.


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