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A Look Back at the History of Weatherby

WIKIPEDIA.ORG From the Archives – Weatherby, Inc. is best known for its high-powered magnum cartridges, such as the .257 Weatherby Magnum, 270 Weatherby Magnum, .300 Weatherby Magnum, .340 Weatherby Magnum and the .460 Weatherby Magnum.

In the late 1960s, Weatherby contracted with Howa of Japan to build a Weatherby rifle that would be more affordable for the average hunter. The result was the Weatherby Vanguard which was introduced in 1970, the same year that production of the Mark V moved to Japan. Based on the Howa 1500 bolt action, and initially offered only in standard calibers, the Vanguard provided an attractive alternative for buyers in the market for a sporting bolt-action rifle like the Winchester Model 70 or Remington Model 700. The Vanguard is now available in select Weatherby magnum calibers.

Weatherby’s first break with Mauser actions came in 1956 when he commissioned the Danish firm of Schultz & Larsen to build 378 Weatherby Magnums utilizing their Model 54 bolt action. This action was very stout and featured four rear locking lugs. Many of its features (such as the low bolt lift and triple gas escape ports in the bolt) would find their way into Weatherby’s proprietary bolt action, which would make its debut two years later.

In 1958, after several years of development, Roy Weatherby introduced the Mark V bolt action, his first proprietary design developed totally in-house by Weatherby himself and his head engineer, Fred Jennie. Built to withstand the hottest of Weatherby’s experimental cartridges (which were exceeding 100,000 psi). The first Weatherby Mark V actions were manufactured in the U.S. by Pacific Founders, Inc. and the rifles were assembled and finished at the Weatherby facility in South Gate.

Demand for the Mark V quickly exceeded Weatherby’s manufacturing capability, so the company contracted with J. P. Sauer in West Germany to build production Mark V rifles. Manufacturing of the Mark V remained there until the early 1970s when material and labour costs led Weatherby to move production to Howa in Japan. Some say the machining and finishing of the Howa made Mark Vs was actually better than the Sauer made guns. In 1995, manufacturing of the Mark V was moved back to the United States, where the Mark V has been built under contract by both Saco Defense and Acrometal/ATEK.

The Mark V action remained relatively unchanged during the first five years of production. Shortly after, manufacturing moved from PFI in the U.S. to J. P. Sauer in Germany. In addition, the safety was redesigned and moved from the receiver to the bolt, which was changed from a smooth to a fluted surface. The first major change came in 1963 when Weatherby designed a shorter and more trim Mark V action for their 224 Weatherby Magnum varmint round, new for 1964. The bolt in this smaller Mark V action only had six locking lugs, versus the nine found on its bigger brother. Rifles chambered for the new 224 Wby Magnum were dubbed “Varmintmaster.”

Varmintmaster was later offered in 22-250 Remington, making this the first non-Weatherby cartridge offered in the Mark V. In 1967, the 9-lug Mark V action was offered for the first time in 30-06. These two cartridges, the 30-06 and 22-250, remained the only two non-Weatherby chamberings offered in production Mark V rifles until the mid-1990s. (Though Weatherby would build a custom Mark V to a customer’s specifications in virtually any caliber.) Today, all non-Weatherby standard calibers (not magnum cartridges) are only offered in 6-lug versions of the action. This makes 9-lug, 30-06 Mark Vs (whether made in Germany or Japan) somewhat of a rarity.

In the late 1960s, Weatherby contracted with Howa of Japan to build a Weatherby rifle that would be more affordable for the average hunter. The result was the Weatherby Vanguard which was introduced in 1970, the same year that production of the Mark V moved to Japan. Based on the Howa 1500 bolt action, and initially offered only in standard calibers, the Vanguard provided an attractive alternative for buyers in the market for a sporting bolt-action rifle like the Winchester Model 70 or Remington Model 700. The Vanguard is now available in select Weatherby magnum calibers.

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