Howa 1500 MDT ACC Chassis in 6.5 Creedmoor - test & review

Stable from the bench but the long straight pistol grip requires a little more lift from the surface

Stable from the bench but the long straight pistol grip requires a little more lift from the surface - Credit: Archant

Chris Parkin explores the 6.5 Creedmoor version of the Howa 1500 MDT ACC Chassis rifle in this test & review

Howa 1500 in MDT ACC Chassis, 6.5 Creedmoor

Howa 1500 in MDT ACC Chassis, 6.5 Creedmoor - Credit: Archant

Howa 1500 MDT ACC Chassis in 6.5 Creedmoor - brief overview

Pros: A versatile setup allowing you to build the rifle how you want it: Lots of accessory space and an inherently good barrel delivering excellent performance on target.

Cons: A little more primary extraction might have smoothed reloads; Short adjustment locking screws are easily dropped ; Prone to spotting

Verdict: Howa have stayed on their chosen path and continue to offer a rifle specified almost exactly to your needs at factory prices with good availability. Each is a demonstration of the ranges’ impressive versatility.

Threaded 5/8 UNEF for moderator or brake

Threaded 5/8 UNEF for moderator or brake - Credit: Archant

Howa 1500 MDT ACC Chassis in 6.5 Creedmoor - in-depth test and review

Howa have always struck a great compromise, offering simple, reliable twin-lug bolt-action rifles in not just a range of calibres, but barrel types and in a huge variety of stock designs. Entering the precision world and paired to the MDT ACC chassis, this Howa is embracing the latest ergonomic layout suited to multi-positional tactical shooting in competition.

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This rifle’s 26”/660mm barrel shows a 5/8” UNEF muzzle thread for a brake or moderator with heavy 20.5mm barrel for target work. It’s fully free-floated in the chassis’ forend, offering copious M-Lok accessory positions over its 300mm length.

This flows gently into the magazine well, which is central to the action bedding area. A sturdy barricade stop is also featured with grippy anchoring ridges for added stability. The mag well accepts AICS-compatible units.

A 10-round, centre-feed polymer unit is supplied with the rifle with clear sidewalls allowing you to see where you are in terms of remaining ammo.This loads from the front into the steel feed lips with a rear ambidextrous release catch swung at the front of the similarly machined aluminium trigger guard which surrounds the two-stage HACT trigger. This breaks crisply at 1,400gr and is adjustable when removed from the stock. It has a gently curved serrated blade and is perfectly up to the job. It’s coupled to an upper three-position safety catch to the right side of the bolt shroud, with fire forward, centre safe with bolt operation, and rear safe and bolt locked, all operable with the firing hand thumb in relative silence.

Fully floating barrel with plentiful M-Lock accessory mounting positions

Fully floating barrel with plentiful M-Lock accessory mounting positions - Credit: Archant

High-tech geometry

The entire stock is machined with endless facets for both styling and ergonomics, with a simple matt black hard anodising to finish it off. The underslung grip position offers the buyer a choice of any AR15-compatible unit, yet the vertical grip supplied on this build offers linear adjustment to control reach from the throat to the trigger blade for optimum comfort, a feature I really liked even if the grip itself is not to my taste.

The vertical grips suit multi-positional shooting but are not quite as suited to prone or benchrest; it’s a personal choice and a more traditional sloping grip is, I’m told, actually a little cheaper. The straight ones tend to foul on a supporting surface forcing you to lift the rifle higher than you would with a slopped grip. Each to their own – Howa and Highland can make it happen though!

Further back, the stock shows masses of intricately machined weight savings with a vertically adjustable cheekpiece and recoil pad for length of pull. Both offer a rotating wheel to finetune thier position through 30mm of travel, with twin small locking knobs to fix them in place. These are a bit fiddly and easily lost on short threads so be careful, especially on the cheekpiece as they foul the base of the comb at its lowest setting.

Howa’s usual 90-degree twin lug bolt and three position safety

Howa’s usual 90-degree twin lug bolt and three position safety - Credit: Archant

Ergonomics

The comb is fairly wide at 40mm with a gentle upper curve. It has no lateral adjustability and as seen on the identical unit on the Mauser/ORYX (reviewed on p60), not my preferred shape; slimmer and taller suit my cheekbones better thereby avoiding head-roll. The bolt removal catch is on the left of the action and the bolt can be removed with the cheekpiece in most positions without removal.

Right at the back you get a medium firm homogenous recoil pad, textured for secure grip that happily remains in position. This also has 30mm length of pull adjustment from a similar mechanism and 15mm up adjustment with 50mm downward travel as well, the latter being particularly handy for the more varied seated and kneeling poses sometimes required to attain a solid shooting position when in a PRS-type competition.

All this adjustability, along with a stiff forend, comes with quite a weight penalty along the long heavy barrel, but PRS guys like adding more weight to the forend’s M-lock to further solidify stability and this all seems well specified for the task at hand – just don’t go too wide, it might not fit through some barricades!

Howa feature their usual twin-lug, push-feed bolt with a 90° lift, a 75mm long handle for plentiful leverage for minimum disturbance when cycling the 103mm stroke length of the action. Sprung ejection is plentiful, although primary extraction of fired cases on occasion need a bit of a tug, more than just a slide rearward to dislodge it from the chamber. This is ammunition dependant of course, but is a minor factor in several of the Howas I have used over the years, with feisty factory ammo creating more hard extractions that handloads.

The full-size extractor claw on the bolt face can handle the load, it’s just a shame there isn’t a little bit more camming force from the base of the bolt handle impinging on the rear action bridge as the handle is lifted. This would allow for smoother bolt operation but you can’t win them all.

A ten round AICS compatible magazine was supplied

A ten round AICS compatible magazine was supplied - Credit: Archant

It’s to be noted the feed for each round from the magazine into chamber was so slick that on occasion I thought I had missed a pickup. This wasn’t the case, function here was perfect and shows the precision with which the magazine and feed lips are aligned to the feed ramp within the gun. You cannot afford a dead man’s click in a competition, there just isn’t time.

So, on to the paper, a pleasant break in the winds and a low winter sun allowed me onto the 200m range to run through some ammunition and the Howa found commonly available match ammunition very acceptable. Both 140 and 147gr Hornady Match ammo using ELD-M bullets remained within a 50mm at 200m with a slight muzzle velocity increase over the shorter 24”/610mm barrel on another Creedmoor using the same ammo, same day at -1°C.

Threading and moderator fit was smooth with no undesirable rattle harmonics if they came loose. The closer pitch of the UNEF thread is beneficial here, just like the similar 1mm metric pitches.

The rifle handled recoil smoothly with or without moderator, yet I suspect likely buyers will use a muzzle brake on such a gun to almost negate even the lightest recoil in a quest to see bullet impact.

The 5x5 shot groups averaged sub-MOA in almost perfect conditions. Hornady TAP ammo, using the same 147 ELD-M, showed 2714 fps on the chronograph, compared to the 2705 generated by its Match brother using the same bullet.

This is just the luck of the draw but it may surprise many to see the lighter 140gr ELD-M actually attained a slower 2702 fps average. All were very close and there was hardly a hair in it on target, from single groups or even working on 25-shot strings but a great demonstration of the general ease with which the gun will use factory ammunition.

Changeovers were fast and intuitive with trigger the well placed release catch

Changeovers were fast and intuitive with trigger the well placed release catch - Credit: Archant

Competition shooters

Competition shooters are likely to move on to handloading, where, generally speaking, all the off-target shots that don’t quite drop in place will start to do so! The best group was from the 147 Match ammo, but any of the three choices would make most buyers happy. I was pleasantly surprised with all sub-MOA groups shot from the bench with bipod and rear bag.

Snow all over the gun warranted a good wipe down with an oily cloth to the steel surfaces and I did notice one or two orange spots starting to form quickly on the blacked barrel, but these wiped away without marks, just a reminder this is not a coated gun and needs attention paid to it, unlike a higher-cost Cerakoted unit.

The barrelled action is held in the stock with twin screws adjacent to the mag well and it’s worth using a torque wrench on these and monitoring performance as the flat-bottomed Howas don’t quite bed the same way as a Remington footprint; they have the front screw in the bottom of the tapered lug so a little more critical in my experience with some action stress applied.

Although not to my tastes, I can’t help but like the 1500 in the ACC chassis, as performance is excellent at a surprisingly low cost. The option to specify and modify it to your tastes can make the gun very much your own and that long barrel does offer a few extra feet per second over its shorter peers, 40 fps on average if that matters to you?

Picatinny rails are easily available for scope mounting and are screwed in four places with an extension for greater scope space on the large target units. Although unlikely in the target world, don’t be too tempted to mount optics too low, as the 90° bolt lift and long handle could potentially catch the ocular bell.

All Hornady ammo shot well but the 157 ELD-M snatched the best group

All Hornady ammo shot well but the 157 ELD-M snatched the best group - Credit: Archant

Specifications

Barrel: Blued Heavy barrel, 20.5mm muzzle diameter

Barrel length: 660mm/26”

Overall length: 1180mm/46.5” (14” @ L.O.P)

Weight: 5.1kg/11.24lbs (rifle only)

The longer barrel generates full velocities

The longer barrel generates full velocities - Credit: Archant

Muzzle thread: 5/8”x24

Stock: MDT Aluminium Chassis

Length of pull: 343mm/13.5” to -373mm/14.7”

Trigger: 2- stage HACT breaking at 1400gr

Safety Catch: 3- stage with bolt lock

Magazine: AICS- compatible, 10- round, detachable

RRP: £1,600

Intricate machining seen on the stock with versatile adjustability

Intricate machining seen on the stock with versatile adjustability - Credit: Archant

Accessories

SigSauer Tango 4 Riflescope:, £849

Tier One Unimount:, £294

The 40mm wide adjustable cheekpiece is broader than I prefer

The 40mm wide adjustable cheekpiece is broader than I prefer - Credit: Archant

Contacts

www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk

Tel: 01858 880 491

Ammunition used

Hornady 140 and 147gr ELD-M in “Match” and “TAP” format

Edgar Brothers

Tel: 01625 613177

Primary extraction was a little weak on hot ammo but otherwise perfectly functional

Primary extraction was a little weak on hot ammo but otherwise perfectly functional - Credit: Archant

Lots of accessory space and a barricade stop

Lots of accessory space and a barricade stop - Credit: Archant

The best 0.43 moa 5 shot group rose slightly to 0.75 moa - based on an average for 25 shots (5 simil

The best 0.43 moa 5 shot group rose slightly to 0.75 moa - based on an average for 25 shots (5 similar groups) - Credit: Archant