Review of Howa 1500 Kratos Delivers Dependable Budget Accuracy
Howa has long been a trusted brand for affordable performance. In today’s article we will be discussing another model from Howa, a variant of the model 1500. The Kratos 6.5 Creedmoor is sold as a hunting rifle and introductory precision rifle. It’s built on the durable 1500 action and placed in a synthetic stock ready for whatever activity you choose. Let’s see if it holds up.
The God of war seems a bit off for the name of a hunting or match rifle, but here we are. The features that set he Kratos apart give it some excellent handling and performance. The synthetic stock feature bedded pillars in its composite structure to keep the action firmly stabilized. The model I received came with both a hinged floorplate and a detachable box magazine system that holds five rounds. The exterior of the stock features a very nice texturing that allows excellent handling, and the whole thing is finished off with an attractive camouflaged paint pattern.
The 1500 action and barrel are also Cerakoted in a tan color, which makes the whole thing quite handsome. Controls on the action include a right-side safety near the bolt-shroud, and opposite that is a petite bolt-release lever. The bolt is a ninety-degree two lug type, it uses an M16 type claw extractor and a traditional plunger ejector.
The barrel itself is a 22 inch 1-in-8 twist barrel of a fairly light profile. Nothing wrong with that for a hunting rifle, but it did seem a little light for even an entry level match rifle. This was of little concern to me, as the only plans I had for the rifle was as a hunting tool.
The muzzle of the rifle features a very slender muzzle brake with radial ports to reduce recoil. Underneath the brake were a clean set of 1/2-28-inch threads, perfect for mounting a suppressor. The rifle I received also came with a one-piece scope base, which would reduce the time needed to get a scope mounted and on the range.
The first thing I wanted to add to the rifle was a good scope, I had a 3-12x Crimson Trace Hardline scope handy, and already in a mount. This made installing it a breeze, leaving me needing only to zero the gun and get shooting. I also installed a Harris bipod and mounted my Yankee Hill Machine R9 suppressor, which would make nice additions to the ensemble.
With several hunts coming in the next few weeks, I wanted to make sure the rifle was ready for anything. Both my wife and son would also be hunting this year, and I was going to see if either of them wanted to try the new Howa as their main gun. That being the case I grabbed a couple different selections of ammunition, a Hornady 120 grain Match Load, as well as my own custom hunting load featuring the Patriot Valley arms Cayuga bullets. I’ve used these bullets many times in the past to take deer and elk, and these 122 grain bullets loaded in the 6.5 Creedmoor have dropped elk with outstanding performance.
After packing up all my gear and accessories, I took the Howa to my shooting spot. With a target hung at 100 yards, I laid down behind the Kratos and bore-sighted the scope. I zeroed the rifle using the Hornady ammo, while also comparing to 130 grain Federal Gold Medal ammunition. They all shot equally, so I tried my Cayuga hunting load as well. They averaged right at one MOA with a five-shot group.
With a little refinement I figured I could tighten that up before hunting season. I would prefer the rifle shoot half MOA groups; better consistency is handy when shots get longer. One thing I noticed while shooting the rifle at 100 yards was how much I liked the two-stage trigger. You could tell it wasn’t a seven-thousand-dollar sniper rifle trigger, but it still was a great little trigger and better than average for a hunting rifle.
With the rifle zeroed I figured I would do some real-world shooting. My favorite part of shooting here in the mountains is that it allows me to practice in the same scenarios that I would during a hunt. I picked out a rock about the size of a deer’s vitals, I picked it because it had the right shape, and lay surrounded by nothing but dry dirt. I ranged it with my LRF, and the range came back at 420 yards. It was a steep canyon and my target lay deep below me, so I dialed the elevation correction, subtracting for the incline of course. I favored into the wind, which was coming down the canyon, and took up the first stage of the trigger. When my hold was just right, I pressed harder and sent the shot crushing the thin rock into the dirt.
With a fresh sense of confidence, I decided to try another shot. This one was straight across the canyon, with a good wind blowing at full value. The laser came back with 650 yards, so I again corrected my scope elevation for the distance and evaluated the wind as I lay there. A full MIL into the wind seemed a bit much, but I’ve certainly misjudged the wind before, so I held the full MIL. After breaking the trigger again, I watched my bullet impact a few inches downwind of where I wanted it too. I should’ve probably held 1.1 or 1.2 MIL, but that is exactly why I like doing this, to get more experience doping the wind.
Pros and Cons
Having taken the Howa Kratos into the field several times now, I have been able to form an opinion worth sharing. First let’s talk about shootability, the stock feels great in the hands and its handsome to boot. I already mentioned the great trigger, and I love a good two-stage. The detachable magazine did seem a bit janky, in that I would occasionally get a failure to feed from a nose-down cartridge. The magazine itself felt pretty thin, which didn’t fill me with confidence either. I will likely just run the hinged floorplate for hunting purposes.
The muzzle brake was surprisingly petite, but it did reduce some felt recoil. Though with a Creedmoor I’m not sure if its needed. I much preferred shooting with my suppressor, additionally I don’t care for radially ported brakes due to the dirt they kick up when shooting.
As far as accuracy is concerned, I found it to be plenty accurate for a general-purpose hunting rifle. For an entry level match rifle, I think it could shoot better, either purpose would benefit from better accuracy in my opinion. Before hunting season starts, I will be refining my loads to see how good the little Howa can shoot.
One last point is that even for an entry level match gun, the Kratos could benefit from a heavier barrel. Thinner barrels seem to wander as shot strings get longer. Hopefully for hunting, we’ll only need to shoot it once.
Could be more accurate, especially for a match rifle
Would benefit from heavier barrel
Some issues feeding from the magazine
Not a huge fan of radial muzzle brakes
With an MSRP of $650 I think the Kratos is a safe buy. Its handsome looks and suitable performance coming from a reputable company like Howa is likely all you need to make a choice. In my opinion this is a great little rifle, I think if my son ends up using it next month he may fall in love and have to hold onto it. And that would be just fine with me.