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LIGHT & HANDY: Howa MiniAction 6.5 Grendel.

HOWA'S MINIACTION is an ultra-short action built to fit cartridges with a case length of about 1.7 inches or shorter. Howa rifles built on this action are currently chambered for .204 Ruger, .222 Rem., .223 Rem., 7.62x39mm and 6.5 Grendel.

Any of the cartridges listed will certainly fit in a standard short action, but the extra length and bolt travel is unnecessary, and it eats up valuable time when trying to manipulate the bolt quickly. The difference in length between a long action and a standard short action is about a half inch. The difference between the MiniAction and a short action is .9 inch. The length difference noticeably changes the handling characteristics of the rifle, making it much faster and more efficient.

The MiniAction's reduced bolt travel also means the bolt doesn't come close to the shooter's face when cycling the action, so it pairs very well with reduced-length-of-pull stocks for small or young shooters. These shooters can learn to keep their face on the comb when cycling the action without worrying about the bolt hitting them in the face.

Scopes with shorter eye relief will also be a good match for the MiniAction. When eye relief on a scope gets under 3.5 inches, the shooter's face must come closer to the action. Getting too close to the action means the shooter has to lift their face off the comb to cycle the bolt. That's a bad habit that should always be avoided.

Popular Lineage The MiniAction is constructed much like a smaller version of Howa's 1500. Removing the action screws and separating the barreled action from the stock exposes the action bottom. It's worth further study.

The MiniAction looks just like a vintage Winchester Model 54 from the bottom. It is wide and flat, and has a ton of bedding surface. This wide uninterrupted surface on the action's bottom was a feature that helped make both the Model 54 (and 70) so popular and accurate.

The MiniAction stays truer to the Model 54 by locating the forward action screw to the integral recoil lug behind the lug like on a Model 70. Winchester moved the action screw from their integral recoil lug on the Model 54 to the action body behind the lug on the Model 70 because they found the 54 would occasionally throw an erratic round. The recoil lug on the 54 was overtasked when torqued laterally under recoil and vertically from the action screw.

The recoil lug on the MiniAction is wider and thicker than the Model 54's and undoubtedly does a good job immobilizing the action under recoil. G&A's editors saw no signs of erratic accuracy at any time during our testing.

Howa recommends torquing the action screws 50 to 55 inch-pounds (in.-lbs.). I'd encourage owners to follow the factory specifications, because running torque all the way up to a semistandard 65 in.-lbs. (or more, for those not using a torque wrench) might very well be enough to cause an occasional thrown round. (If you have a Howa and it exhibits this behavior, check the torque on your front action screw.)

The rest of the MiniAction looks quite like an improved Remington Model 700. These are push-feed actions, so they have none of the feeding issues associated with controlled-round-feed (CRF) actions when using short and fat cartridges. As short cartridges come out of the magazine, they often have to make a steep climb up into the chamber. CRF actions can bind if the climb is too steep, because the design wants to keep the case head flat against the bolt face.

Howa refined the push-feed action by using the AR-15/ M16-style extractor rather than the small extractor ring that sits in front of the bolt face. The Howa extractor is wide and long. The width allows it to grab a significant chunk of the case rim and prevents it from pulling through a stuck case. The length means it has a ton of leverage to keep it from slipping off a fired case. I anticipate no extraction issues with Howa's extractor.

The ejector is a plunger that sits high up on the bolt face. Imagining it from the shooter's position behind the rifle, the extractor sits above the right bolt lug at the 1-o'clock position. The ejector has to also sit up high at 11 o'clock to push fired brass straight out of the ejection port. If the ejector was any lower or opposite the extractor, fired cases would be pushed up and into the scope's windage turret. Locating the ejector up high allows fired cases to exit safely at 3 o'clock. A beveled cut on the extractor also contributes to this reliable extraction/ejection system.

Attentive Touches The stock that comes on the MiniAction rifle is made from injection-molded polymer, but it doesn't fall into the placeholder category that so many stocks do. Howa didn't go cheap on polymer and spec'd a lot more of it in their stock than many of their competitors. They also made sure to use aluminum pillars around the action screws to further stabilize the barreled action. The barrel channel is rigid and won't present problems influencing the barrel if you want to shoot off a bipod.

Each MiniAction rifle ships with a detachable box magazine system in either a five- or 10-round capacity, depending on caliber. (Extra magazines are available for purchase.) A word of caution here: The bottom "metal" is also made from polymer, and tightening the action screws too much can crack it. That's one more reason to invest in a good torque wrench. A small lever forward of the magazine well drops the magazine when pressed.

The rifle has a Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger (HACT), that we would leave in the rifle. This two-stage trigger usually comes set right around 4 pounds. The initial takeup is what you'd expect; light and long. Once the trigger and actuator engage the sear, the second stage begins. Our test rifle's trigger was very good with minimal amounts of creep. However, HACTs are pull-weight adjustable. Sear engagement is set at the factory.

Removing the barreled action from the stock reveals a white glob of rubber just above the trigger shoe. Removing the rubber uncovers a nut that can be backed out to lighten trigger pull. We found that HACTs don't adjust much lower than 4 pounds, but it is nice to get some adjustment with a trigger.

One feature not to be overlooked is that the trigger sits in a hangar that is easy to remove in the field. One screw is all it takes to separate the trigger from the action, facilitating easy repair or replacement in the rugged outdoors. Few factory triggers offer this capability.

A Real Performer For accuracy, the rifle performed admirably. We made no effort to clean or break in the barrel, and, yet, five-shot groups still hovered at or under 1 MOA. The single exception was with the steel-cased Wolf ammunition. We included this load in our test because it is the most affordable on the market and we can shoot a ton of it without going broke. It is not match ammunition, but it is accurate enough for those looking to have a good time.

Finish on the Howa rifle, like others, exhibits the high priority the Japanese devote to machining and finishing tolerances. Everything is smooth, slick and oozes quality.

The MiniAction takes the best of Winchester's former Model 54 and 70 and combines them with the refinements of the new Remington 700. The result is a sophisticated rifle that is light and very handy. It would make a fine companion for anyone from age 7 to 70.

Caption: The Howa MiniAction features a bolt with only two lugs and a 90-degree throw. Surprisingly, the bolt handle has little problem clearing the ocular housing on most scopes.

Caption: The MiniAction is Hat on (he bottom like the Winchester Model 54 and 70, but it has the forward action screw threading into the recoil lug like the Model 54. And, this rifle is fed by means of a detachable box magazine.

Caption: The bolt is similar to one found on the improved Remington Model 700. Instead of an internal extractor that sits on the bolt face there is a removable, AR-15/ M16-style extractor on the side of the bolt body.

Caption: The detachable magazine and bottom metal are proprietary Howa. Both are made of polymer materials to keep both weight and cost to a minimum.

Caption: Howa's HACT trigger is simple and easy to maintain. While adjustable, G&A found that it doesn't go much below 4 pounds.
Howa MiniAction

Type:             Bolt action
Cartridge:        6.5 Grendel (tested)
Capacity:         5+1 rds.
Barrel:           22 in., 1:8-in. twist
Overall Length:   41.5 in.
Weight:           6 lbs. (w/o scope)
Stock:            Molded polymer
Grips:            Textured
Length of Pull:   13.87 in.
Finish:           Blued, matte
Trigger:          4 lbs. (tested)
Sights:           None
Price:            $608
Manufacturer:     Howa, 800-553-4229
                  legacysports.com

PERFORMANCE

                                                       BEST    AVG.
                                 VELOCITY              GROUP   GROUP
LOAD                               (FPS)     ES   SD   (IN.)   (IN.)

Hornady ELD-M 123-gr. TJHP         2,493     14   5     .7      .84
Alexander Arms 123-gr. Scenar      2,597     40   14    .92    1.09
Wolf 100-gr. FMJ                   2,677     29   12   1.15    1.76

Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups at 100 yards.
Velocity is the average of five shots across a LabRadar chronograph
placed adjacent to the muzzle.
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Title Annotation:PROOFHOUSE
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Feb 17, 2018
Words:1574
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