Howa Super Lite

The definition of a true ultralight rifle

The search continues for the perfect flyweight rifle. Not surprisingly, the current trend is in that direction, since the idea of absolute minimum carrying weight is one that will always interest hunters who hunt in mountain country where the hills are steep and the air is thin. 

In rough terrain like the peaks of New Zealand, after lugging a 4kg outfit up and down in tahr and chamois country, most hunters are weary and anxious to exchange their burdensome musket for something that’s as light as possible.

Today, acquiring a handily light rifle is easy. Many modern sporters fall into that category. It’s the effective ultralight rifle that’s harder to come by. 

What do we mean by light and ultralight? In general terms, a light outfit will normally weigh about 3.5kg, inclusive of scope, mount, sling and a full magazine. A standard short-action rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, .308 or similar might be around 3.2kg; a little more in .270, .30-06 etc; in one of the assorted 7mm or .30 magnums, no more than 4kg. 

I don’t think that there is actually such a thing as a light rifle in heavy calibres like .338 and .375, but they can be made. Years ago I took a Sako Finnlight in .375 to the NT and three of us used it with great success, but playing with one of these cannons weighing just over 3kg is an ordeal for the average shooter.

The genuine ultralight mountain rifle, in terms of total rifle heft — fully equipped to hang on your shoulder for hunting — will run from 500g to 1kg less than the ordinarily light rifle in any cartridge category. 

A truly ultralight rifle is the lightest outfit practicable for its calibre, the accuracy needed and the recoil felt.

Flyweight rifles weighing less than 2kg without a scope have been around for at least three decades, but most were semi-custom jobs like the Ultra Light Model 20 and Rifle Inc Custom Model 700. 

They were not affordable nor easily obtained by the average Aussie hunter. 

Which brings us to the latest entrant in the ultralight stakes, the Howa Super Lite, which I am reviewing as I write this.

The new Howa Super Lite is intended to compete against other makes of factory-produced flyweights and has all the necessary credentials to be successful.

It doesn’t appear to lack any of the quality, features or technology of the established ultralights in the market. 

The difference it is it is substantially cheaper and readily available, supply-and-demand notwithstanding. 

At around $1500 in your local gun shop, the Howa means the search for the perfect flyweight rifle is now more affordable.

Initial testing is promising, too, but I’ll publish the full verdict in the May 2023 issue of Sporting Shooter, on sale in mid-April. 




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.