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Blackhorn Powder
Rifle Magazine
July - August 2002
Volume 34, Number 4
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 202
On the cover...
The Legacy Varminter Supreme .223 Remington is topped off with a Leupold Vari-X III 6.5-20X 40mm scope in Redfield bases. Photos by Stan Trzoniec.
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Varmint rifles seem to follow the same path year after year. Most are based on readily available short-action receivers with a heavy or bull barrel. Then they grab a sporter stock, enlarge the barrel channel and free float the whole affair - not too shabby, adequate at best, but still following the mould of a typical “varmint” rifle. Upon discovery of the addition to the Legacy rifle line at the SHOT Show, I had to take a second look. They call it the Varminter Supreme.

Presently the Varminter Supreme is available in two variations. The first combines a blued action with a nutmeg-colored laminated stock. For those who like durability, you can have a stainless action with a pepper-colored laminated stock. Cartridge choices include the .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington and .308 Winchester.

As the foundation for its rifle line, Legacy mated the Howa M-1500 action with a variety of different stocks including an Ultralight, Hunter, Lightning, JRS Classic, Thumbhole Sporter, Varminter Supreme and even a distinctive custom rifle that can be built to order, the Texas Safari. The Howa action has worn many hats over the years under the names of Smith & Wesson and Weatherby’s Vanguard.

Weatherby went full tilt with this action until production returned stateside. I have three Vanguards with Howa actions, including an early model with an outside bolt guide that resembles a “long extractor” often seen on other actions, a sporter weight VGX in .22-250 Remington that will shoot .5-inch groups all day with factory Winchester ammunition and a Classic complete with an oiled stock and 90-degree forend tip.

Present-day actions have seen some upgrades in overall design and enhanced operational features. The short action receiver itself is an investment casting finely finished before mating with the barrel. The forward recoil lug is part of the initial casting, not an add-on or washer type assembly. There is a gas escape hole on the left side and both receiver bridges are drilled and tapped for commercial scope bases. Turning the receiver over, one can see the extra details in the way the feed ramp has been engineered for flawless feeding and the manner in which the safety lever and trigger assembly fit perfectly.

The trigger assembly, like most today, is modular and attaches with one main screw to the receiver. The sample broke at 4 1/2 pounds without creep, but it is adjustable, so some final tweaking might be in order. The trigger itself is finished in the same shade of stainless as the action and is neither gaudy nor dazzling.

The bolt release is a simple affair and pivots downward to allow removal of the bolt from the receiver for maintenance or travel. The safety is mounted on the right side where twin detents provide positive positions in fire and safe modes. Forward is fire. The rear position is safe where the sear and trigger are blocked while allowing the convenience of full bolt operation.

Bolt construction is one piece without distracting lines sometimes associated with brazing the handle onto the bolt assembly. Twin lugs up front share the lockup. On the right lug, there is an antibind slot that matches a guide inside the receiver for smooth, no-wobble operation. There are three rather large relief cuts on the bolt that divert would-be harmful gases downward and out the magazine in the event of case failure. A smaller vent rearward of the front receiver bridge helps equalize pressure sideward.

The traditional extractor pivots on a pin halfway down its length. It is tensioned by a small spring and is very positive in operation. A plunger-type ejector is located about 12 o’clock when the bolt is locked down. The bolt stem is relieved for a normal scope eyepiece and is gracefully swept back for ease of operation. The bolt knob is devoid of any checkering. The shroud completes the assembly and includes a large extension so one can tell instantly if the rifle is cocked.

The hammer-forged barrel is heavy in configuration, starts out at 1.20 inches at the receiver and ends up at .830 inch on a 24-inch barrel. About 6 inches down the tube, Legacy has drilled and tapped some additional holes for mounting a longer scope with target-type bases. There is a witness mark to verify barrel alignment, and a recessed, target-styled crown protects the rifling at the muzzle. The magazine holds five rounds plus one in the chamber complete with a spacer for those short .223 Remington rounds. The action weighs 6.5 pounds; the whole rifle, sans ammunition, with scope, rings and bases checks in at 9.9 pounds. With the addition of a scope and related hardware the grand total comes to 10.5 pounds.

The stock is profiled and inletted by Boyd’s Gunstock Industries (25376 403rd Avenue, Mitchell SD 57301) and is available for the Howa action and a host of others, including the legendary Mauser, Remington Model 700, Ruger Model 77 and the Winchester Model 70. Boyd’s 32-page catalog is well worth sending for and also includes entries for shotguns, military arms, replacement stocks, wood blanks for the do-it-yourselfer, plus tools, finishes and recoil pads. Made in finished, unfinished or semi-inletted for the custom folks, this particular stock is also offered direct in both pepper and nutmeg laminate. Even though Legacy does not offer a left-handed model with the Howa action, Boyd’s has a thumbhole stock that is available for southpaws in a number of popular actions.

Whoever designed this stock knew exactly what he was doing. For the varmint shooter who might use this rifle offhand (braced against the side of a tree or boulder, for instance) or prone (over a log, backpack or with a Harris bipod), it speaks comfort through and through.

Varmint hunters like to pursue their sport in all kinds of weather, and for keeping a zero on a rifle, a laminate stock is hard to beat. Layers upon layers of birch are secured by space-age epoxy, cured, profiled and polished into a stock that will outlast you, your grandchildren and their heirs.

A close look shows the vents around the sides and underneath the forearm. The vents allow cooling around all sides of the barrel even when in the stock. Being wood it’s difficult to dissipate heat, and Boyd’s innovation surely is a step in the right direction in an effort to keep the air flowing around this heavy barrel. The beavertail forearm is hand filling, and with an overall width of 2.25 inches, it cradles nicely in the hand or when resting on a handy surface while in the prone position.


Farther back, the stock tapers inward at the receiver. The pistol grip contains a Wundhammer swell for right-hand shooters (Boyd’s doesn’t list anything for southpaws yet.) that, in concert with a moderate fluting of the stock just forward of the rollover, positions the hand just right for extended shooting sessions. While the pistol grip might be too rakish for some shooters, it has been very tastefully done and should appeal to the majority of small game hunters. The pistol grip is slightly rounded, minus a pistol-grip cap.

The cheekpiece contains a rollover comb that adds just the right bit of distinction to the whole stock. Again, done in a very conservative manner, it only adds to the high-tech, modern look of the stock. It has a moderate castoff for right-hand shooters, a classic rubber buttpad complete with a black spacer and sling swivel studs.

Aside from a bit of roughness from within the vents (which in all probability is due to the cutters and stacks of laminations but can be cleaned up in short order with the aid of a fingernail file), stock inletting is good. Incredibly smooth and precise, there is evidence of handwork inside to touch up any of the rough edges associated with this type of laminated stock. The action drops in without any hesitation, and the barrel is free floated.

A Leupold Vari-X III in 6.5-20x 40mm was mounted in its medium-height rings with a matte finish. Redfield bases (Howa actions are compatible with the same bases that you’d use on the Remington Model 700) held it all to the rifle.

The .223 Remington is a great match for a rifle like the Legacy Varminter. Introduced to American shooters in the early beginnings of 1964, it was only a month later that this round became the official cartridge of the military, known as the 5.56mm Ball Cartridge M193. The net increase in velocity is 100 to 300 fps over the popular .222 Remington with similar bullet weights.

At the bench, the Legacy remained in position on the front rest thanks to the wide forend. The pistol grip laid perfectly in my right hand while my left hand adjusted the rear rest to center the crosshairs downrange. With the scope set for 16x, the whole outfit was settled in at 100 yards.

Federal’s 40-grain hollowpoint varmint load started off the volley with a group that measured 1.25 inches for three rounds. At just over 3,600 fps, this is certainly a contender for longer range, smaller varmints. Winchester’s 53-grain hollowpoint brought groups down to an inch even with velocity approaching 3,300 fps. Hornady 55-grain Spire Points clocked 3,233 fps and punched three little holes that never went past the .5-inch mark.

Thereafter nothing went over an inch. Remington’s popular 55-grain hollowpoint Power Lokt hit one-inch at 3,116 fps with Federal’s 55-grain boat-tail hollowpoint going under an inch at 3,140 fps. Following up the pack, Remington’s 62-grain Match hollowpoint planted still another .5-inch group at just under 3,000 fps. Finally, a good reduced load with the Sierra 45-grain bullet over 8.0 grains of SR-4759 registered a .25-inch group at 50 yards with a velocity of 1,778 fps. That’s a great load for eastern squirrel hunters who want to take their pet varmint rifle for a walk in the thickets come fall.

For more information, drop a line to Legacy Sports International, 206 S. Union Street, Alexandria VA 22314.

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