Howa XL Lite Chassis Rifle
Rifle|January - February 2021
Shooting a New .223 Remington
Patrick Meitin

Howa’s lightweight .223 Remington chassis rifle is ideal for serious varmint and predator hunting off the beaten track. Japanese manufactured Howa sporting rifles have developed a reputation for quality craftsmanship at reasonable prices. This should come as no surprise. Japanese automobiles have dominated the market for decades. Today, many of the best sporting optics have roots in “The Land of the Rising Sun.” Howa Machinery, Ltd., has been producing military and civilian firearms since 1940, including World War II Type 99 Arisaka rifles and parts for Type 38 rifles. In the early 1970s, Howa produced AR-18 and AR-180 5.56mm rifles on license from Armalite of Costa Mesa, California. (The Japanese government eventually forced Howa to cease production.) In 1979, Howa’s Model 1500 appeared, followed by the 1500 Mini Action introduced in 2015. Weatherby’s Vanguard is built by Howa on 1500 actions, and Sako L61 and L579 rifles were Howa creations.

Japan’s adoption of strict industrial quality control following World War II and a culture steeped in meticulous craftsmanship, means every aspect of Howa rifles are carefully designed, machined and fitted to exacting tolerances. Howa’s advanced technical features include cold hammer-forged barrels constructed from pre-hardened steel, and innovations such as the HACT Trigger featuring a light, creep-free trigger pull with consistent let off, a three-position safety that allows unloading the rifle while on “safe” and machined receivers and forged bolts.

American importer and distributor Legacy Sports International guarantees all Howa centerfire rifles purchased after January 1, 2017, will produce sub-MOA or less three-shot/100-yard groups while shooting premium factory ammunition. That’s real confidence.

Howa’s XL Lite Chassis .223 Remington is built around a M1500 Mini Action held in a EXCL Lite Chassis stock. The glass-filled polymer stock makes for a lightweight package, weighing 7.5 pounds out of the box. It features a LUTH-AR click-adjustable buttstock and a Citadel Folding Chassis Adaptor. The Mil-spec adaptor is made to Mil-specs from anodized aluminum and allows placing the rifle in a more compact case for travel or storage. Rounds are fed from an AR-style, polymer 10-round magazine. The rifle is also chambered in 6.5 Grendel, 7.62x39mm and .350 Legend (16.25-inch barrel). The .223 Remington’s 20-inch barrel includes a 1:8 twist and is threaded for a brake/suppressor. The straight-taper barrel measures .755 inch just behind the thread protector. Howa calls it a lightheavy contour. It is well suited to the .223 Remington cartridge.

The rifle has a sleek profile, with an overall length of 40.5 to nearly 44 inches, depending on stock setting. The adjustable LUTH-AR buttstock allows a length of pull from about 12 to an excessive 15 inches, including the rubber recoil pad. The test rifle was equipped with a Citadel Folding Chassis Adaptor, allowing the rifle to be folded into a 31.5-inch package, but offering a tight, wiggle-free connection. The AR-style pistol grip is a rubberized Hogue design with finger grooves and textured side panels. Overall the grip is extremely comfortable and provides a sure grip, even while wearing slick gloves or when wet.

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