One of the new rifles I tested for the upcoming Gun Nuts (which promises to be bigger than The Sound of Music) is the Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Back Country. Vanguard, in case you’ve just fallen off the turnip truck, is Weatherby’s medium-priced line of rifles. Series 2 has Weatherby’s new two-stage trigger and is guaranteed to shoot under a minute of angle at 100 yards. Some Vanguards are very modestly priced, but the Back Country is not, which we will get to in a minute. However, it is one of the best hunting rifles I have seen come out of a factory box.
Like other Vanguards, the fit and finish are flawless. The only other rifles I can think of that are equal in this price bracket are Tikkas. And, while other Series 2 Vanguards tend to be on the porky side, the Back Country has had all excess weight trimmed away. My .30/06 weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces without scope, and 7 ¾ pounds with a Meopta Meopro 3.5X-10X on board, which is just about perfect for an ’06. The 24-inch barrel is fluted, and the flutes are deep enough to actually save some weight, but I can’t see where else they’ve trimmed the ounces. The synthetic stock is pillar bedded, and the rifle feeds from a box magazine, with a detachable-box-magazine kit available in case you’d like to be a road hunter.
All the steel is chrome-moly, but it’s finished with Cerakote, a very tough, non-reflective ceramic that enables you to hunt in the rain all day and play cards at night instead of cleaning your rifle.
The two-stage trigger scales 2 ½ pounds, which is a tad light for my taste, but on the other hand it’s a virtually perfect pull. If you fiddle with it you should be locked up where you will be unable to harm yourself.
As for accuracy, the Back Country does what it is guaranteed to do. I didn’t have a chance to shoot it at length, but here’s what I got, three-shot groups at 100 yards:
– Federal 168-grain Match Ammo: .655″
– Federal 180-grain 180-grain Trophy Copper: .783″
– Federal 165-grain Trophy Copper: .672″
– HSM 165-grain Soft Point: 1.108″
The price for the Back Country is $1,399, which is not cheap for a factory rifle. However, as I said to the camera on Gun Nuts (which promises to be bigger than Funny Girl), this is a custom rifle masquerading as an off-the-shelf rifle. Weatherby has put everything into it that you can put into a first-rank rifle. If you went to a custom smith with $5,399, or $7,399 and asked him to build you something significantly better, I don’t know what he could do. As hunting rifles go these days, the Back Country is about as good as they come.