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Howa: Precision Rifles & Barreled Actions

Howa Machinery company history

The History of Howa Firearms


Howa Machinery, Ltd. is an interesting organization with a complex history. Although a successful machine tool and firearms company today, the group started out as a Japanese textile business in 1907. The organization was established under the name of Toyoda’s Loom Works, Ltd., the originator of several important textile machines and the Toyota Group (yes, the same Toyota that’s been manufacturing automobiles and automotive parts since the mid-1930s). While Howa is quick to note its past association with Toyoda’s Loom Works, Ltd., the same can’t be said for its former parent company—not surprising considering Howa armed the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII.

Following the conclusion of the war, Howa’s leadership moved to put the darker parts of the company’s past behind them. In 1945, managers reformed the organization and refocused on the manufacturing of textile machinery for commercial consumers. But as the Korean War began to heat-up, Howa shifted gears yet again. This time, however, the Japanese company manufactured mortars and bombs for the U.S. military rather than its adversaries. Since then, the company has continued to produce a variety of firearms and weapons for the military and civilian market. Today, Howa USA is operated under its parent company, Legacy Sports International, which oversees several other firearms manufacturers including Lithgow Arms, Webley & Scott, and Citadel.



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Popular Howa Rifles

Howa rifles are generally divided into two categories that include a variety of military and civilian platforms. Their weapons are either domestically produced in Japan or assembled, tested, and distributed in the United States.

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Arisaka Bolt-Action Rifle

The Arisaka family of bolt-action rifles was the primary group of service weapons used by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. Colonel Arisaka Nariakira designed the first Arisaka rifle in 1897, but Howa went on to manufacture a variety of models. One of the most noteworthy versions of the Arisaka was the 7.7×58mm Type 99 rifle that, despite being overshadowed by names like Springfield, Enfield, and Mauser, was a solid service weapon of WWII. Among other innovative details, the Type 99 was one of the first weapons of its type to feature a chrome-lined bore that, as Guns & Ammo writer Garry James points out, helped protect the weapon while fighting across the saltwater-swept islands of the South Pacific.

Howa ArmaLite AR-18

ArmaLite AR-18

The ArmaLite AR-18 is probably one of the more influential assault rifles that nobody’s ever heard of. A design alternative to the more successful AR-15, it was never adopted as a primary service weapon by any major military. Despite its relative obscurity, the AR-18 inspired other more well-known designs, such as the British SA-80, the Belgian FN F2000, and even the more recent Remington Adaptive Combat Rifle. It was designed by an American company, based out of California. Howa later picked-up a manufacturing contract for the AR-18 in the early 1970s. Japanese legislation terminated the exporting of military arms in 1974, however, limiting Howa AR-18 production to just several thousand units.

Howa Kuiu Sporting Rifle

Kuiu Sporting Rifle

Ranked one of the best new sporting rifles of 2017, the Kuiu placed fourth out of six in a test conducted by Field & Stream contributors Richard Mann, David F. Petzal, and Dave Hurteau. Although priced at a modest $800 MSRP, many generally consider it a very good rifle and, according to Petzal, of a superior quality “out of proportion to price”. Howa presently offers the Kuiu in 11 popular calibers with three different barrel options (20- and 22-inch standard or 24-inch magnum). This is a bargain of a rifle for anyone looking to purchase their first firearm.

Howa 1500

Howa 1500

Yes, you read the above title correctly. In addition to producing its own in-house platform, the Howa 1500, the company is under contract with Weatherby to manufacture the Vanguard. Both are very popular with many of today’s hunters and, withstanding a few alterations, are essentially the same weapon (the largest difference between the two is the stock). Howa offers the 1500 in a variety of configurations including several Hogue platforms, a youth scope package, and even a standalone barreled action minus the stock. Most of Howa’s 1500 offering are priced with the novice hunter in mind and are great entry-level hunting rifles. The Weatherby Vanguard, on the other hand, costs a bit more but is constructed with premium materials (the Range Certified Vanguard H-Bar RC, for instance, features a heavy barrel, hand-laminated stock, and custom engraved floorplate). Between the 1500 and Vanguard, there’s pretty much a rifle for every budget.

Howa Stocks

Boyds is proud to offer a variety of products designed for the Howa 1500 and Weatherby Vanguard. Whether you’re looking to upgrade the look and feel of your 1500, or improve the appearance and accuracy of your Vanguard, we’re sure to have the right gunstock for you. And the best part? Due to the similarity between these two models, a good deal of our products fit both the 1500 and Vanguard equally well.

One of our best-selling interchangeable products is the attractive Featherweight Howa 1500 Long Action Factory Barrel Channel. As is the case with other multi-model products, we additionally offer the FT Weatherby/Howa 1500 in a short action version (in the same variety of colors, materials, and finishes). Lastly, we also make custom stocks for related models including the Howa 1500 Mini and the Weatherby Vanguard Series 2. Stop by our Gunstock Configurator Build & Price page to check out our outstanding selection of hardwood gunstocks today! 


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