Guns Rifles

Weatherby Sub-MOA

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There is nothing the least bit unusual about makers of firearms and ammunition claiming fine accuracy for their products. Read any of their catalogs or advertisements and accuracy will be declared in bold print. But if you insist on a clear definition of “accuracy,” you’ll likely get a chorus of hemming and hawing as incomprehensible as Bill Clinton’s famous definition of the word “is.” It all depends. We can find ourselves on mushy ground when we try to distinguish between degrees of accuracy (good versus acceptable), but for the record I consider a big-game hunting rifle that will put three shots from a cold barrel inside an inch-wide circle at 100 yards to be exceptional. Put five shots into that circle and you’ve got a gem. To be more exact, we’re not talking about a rifle that once accidentally happened to group three shots together, but one that does it every time.

So it should get everyone’s attention when a gunmaker guarantees that a hunting rifle will group three bullet holes in an area measuring 0.99 inches or less between the centers of the widest holes when shot at 100 yards. Weatherby is doing just this with its newly announced Sub-MOA Vanguard bolt rifle. (An MOA, or minute of angle, is one-sixtieth of a degree of arc. At a radius of 100 yards an MOA works out to be 1.0476 inches–about 1 1/16 inches–which is close enough to an inch that we can use them interchangeably without getting our knuckles rapped.)


This is the sort of claim that begs to be tested, and of the 13 calibers that Weatherby offers in Sub-MOA (.223 Rem. to .338 Win Mag.), I opted for .257 Wby. Mag. The reason is that it is primarily used for medium-size game such as pronghorn, or smaller varmint-size targets where the shots are usually long and demand fine accuracy.

Though the Weatherby guarantee stipulates only three-shot groups, Outdoor Life test protocol requires five-shot groups, so that’s how I did it. The first two shots of the test series measured 0.621 inches between centers, and that was as big as the group got. The next three shots, fired in fairly rapid order, bunched around the first hole in a little cluster measuring only 0.228 inches! This was with Weatherby factory ammo with 100-grain softpoint bullets.

The .257 Mag burns a lot of powder. After five fast shots the slender barrel (0.600 inches at the muzzle) was hot enough to sizzle spit. Even so, another five shots were fired immediately, resulting in a group measuring 1.129 inches. The barrel was then allowed to cool but was not cleaned, and the next group measured 0.948 inches. The next “hot barrel” group measured 1.321 inches.

Throughout the remainder of the test series, the first five shots from a cool barrel invariably measured under one MOA, and five more shots from the now sizzling barrel would be a quarter to a half inch larger. Though this testing procedure might be considered a bit harsh and even unfair to Weatherby, it amply demonstrated that its claim of a rifle that groups under an inch is fully justified and then some.

So what makes the rifle so accurate? The Vanguard action has a well-established reputation for solid accuracy, and Weatherby’s pillar-bedded fiberglass stock is one of the best in the business. More to the point, the Sub-MOA rifles earn that distinction the old-fashioned way–going back to Winchester’s 1 of 1,000 rifles that were selected by test firing. Every Vanguard rifle is range tested; those that deliver the very finest accuracy are set aside and labeled Sub-MOA.


[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

||| |—|—| | Manufacturer:| Weatherby| | Model:| Vanguard Sub-MOA| | Type:| Bolt-action rifle| | Caliber:| .257 Wby. Mag.| | Mag. Capacity:| 3 + 1| | Weight:| 7 lb. 13 oz.| | Finish:| Stainless| | Stock:| Synthetic| | Barrel Length:| 24 in.| | Rate of Twist:| 1 in 10 in.| | Overall Length:| 44 ½ in.| | Length of Pull:| 13 ½ in.| | Drop at Heel:| 1 â¿¿ in.| | Drop at Comb:| ¾ in.| | Trigger Pull:| 3 lb. 6 oz.| | Bore Finish:| 4 (out of 5)| | Retail:| $919| How It Shot

Rifle: Weatherby Sub-MOA

Average Group Size: 0.798 inches*

Ammo Used: Weatherby 100-grain Soft Point

*5 five-shot groups at 100 yd.