Howa 1500 Super Lite review

Review: Howa 1500 Super Lite ultralight hunting rifle

The Howa 1500 Super Lite is a true ultralight mountain rifle that shoots well and carries better, a handsomely crafted sporter that has lost useless weight without injuring proportion or performance. 

Acquiring a light rifle is easy. It’s the effective ultralight rifle that’s harder to come by.

Howa 1500 Super Lite review
The Howa Super Lite is a joy to carry in the field and deadly effective on ferals and game

The genuine flyweight mountain rifle is the lightest outfit practicable for its calibre, the accuracy needed and the recoil felt. The Howa Super Lite is the new contender here.

Flyweight rifles weighing 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.

The Howa Super Lite has all the necessary credentials to be successful. My sample weighed 2kg naked, which increased to a mere 2.5kg field-ready when outfitted with a Picatinny rail, rings and a Crimson Trace 3-9×40 scope; a sling and magazine with three cartridges added only a few extra grams.

How do they do it? For starters, it’s only chambered for short-action .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges, and the Howa Model 1500 short action weighs only 570g compared to 1kg for the standard-length action.

Howa 1500 Super Lite review
Even the short-action receiver has come in for some extra weight-saving attention

If you think that there’s not much Howa could do to trim the non-functional weight of the 1500 action, you’d be wrong. Most rifle makers trim weight by either eliminating the bottom metal altogether or exchanging steel for alloy. Howa went about it in an unprecedented way by having the entire trigger guard, floorplate assembly and magazine made out of carbon-fibre! 

The unit weighs just 57g, trimming 340g off a steel one — a worthwhile saving.

Howa chose the Stocky’s featherlight carbon-fibre stock which weighs 455g and, combined with a skinny barrel, made this mountain rifle about 0.5kg lighter than the regular Howa 1500 in .308.

The bolt knob too was hollowed out to reduce the heft a tad more.

Howa 1500 Super Lite review
Lightened Howa bolt slides smoothly and lock up strongly

The barrelled action is a neat 1.36kg, so the barrel probably accounts for about 1kg. The bantam-weight barrel, 51cm (20”) long, is 28mm at the receiver ring. The chamber section reduces over 9cm before gradually tapering off to reach 14.5mm at the threaded muzzle cap.

The lightest barrel I’ve ever seen was on the Ruger M77 Ultra Light at 12.7mm (½”).

We’ve often been told that a light barrel walks bullets around as it heats up. Howa’s barrel does no walking and lands three bullets in the same impact area every time. 

Wandering impacts simply don’t occur with a barrel properly bedded. Of course, if we can’t clobber what we’re hunting with the first two shots, we’d better start throwing rocks anyway.

Howa 1500 Super Lite review
The Super Lite’s carbon-fibre bottom metal (top) saves a lot of mass compared with the standard steel parts on most Howas

During testing, I noticed how close a fit the barrel seemed in the fore-end of the Stocky’s carbon stock. The barrel was free-floated but the gap was minimal.

These Stocky’s classic-styled carbon stocks are renowned for being stronger, lighter and more precisely machined than ever before. It is laid up by hand.

Each and every one of the lightest and strongest fill materials was developed by the world’s best composite chemists and sourced by Stocky’s with the objective of building the lightest, strongest stock possible. They spent a year laminating samples and testing for the lightest, strongest, stiffest, most compression-free composites available. 

Working in cooperation with America’s finest carbon-fibre chemists, Stocky’s formulated its own unique materials and bought a new state-of-the-art four-axis CNC vertical mill to manufacture its stocks.

Howa 1500 Super Lite review
The Stocky’s stock has its own unique and effective bedding

The exterior shell is made by hand applying layers of premium carbon-fibre cloth one at a time, with the seams overlapped for added strength. Then the resins are thermodynamically activated in computer-controlled convection ovens with temperatures controlled to achieve the ideal curing time curves for each individual model. After the shell is completely cured it is filled and inletted for the Howa barrelled action.

Rather than increasing weight by using a foam-type filler for the fore-end and receiver area, or by adding an aluminium Accublock, Stocky’s used its own lightweight Accublock composite material that functionally duplicates T6062 aluminium from a compression and strength standpoint but could be moulded right in as part of the manufacturing process. 

A close look at the stock shows how the Accublock is an integrated and machined part of the stock. No aluminium pillars are needed, since the carbon Accublock design functions better than metal in some respects and requires no additional bedding.

However, if a shooter requires individual bedding, the Accublock was designed for skim-bedding just like the aluminium version. Simply scuff and remove any finish overspray and bed — the V will hold the receiver in place while your bedding epoxy cures.

Howa 1500 Super Lite review

When you torque the action screws to the suggested 5.1Nm you’ll have no more give than you would with an aluminium bedding block. Over time there’ll be no cracks or degradation of strength under the recoil of heavy calibres. 

Unlike aluminium, it is thermally stable, and whether you are hunting in tropical sun at 50°C or arctic cold at -40°C, it does not shrink or expand and the torque settings will not change, but retain a reliable zero under the most extreme conditions.

Naturally, the Howa’s stock is also impervious to moisture.

The stock is slim, trim and terrific, an American classic design with rounded fore-end and high, straight comb sloping upward toward the rear. 

Howa 1500 Super Lite review
The Howa has practical accuracy in spades, a difficult thing to achieve in an ultralight rifle

The slim pistol grip is gently curved and uncapped. The butt is fitted with a Limbsaver recoil pad and they even shaved 20-25 grams by thinning the butt pad.

The stock has a mottled grey/black spiderweb finish that’s rough to the touch.

Howa’s short action is flat bottomed and has an integral recoil lug, which gives it a lot of surface area to connect with the Accublock’s bedding surface, not only on the receiver’s bottom but also around the tang, which sits slightly above the stock where it mates solidly to the carbon-fibre block. 

When the front and rear action screws are tightened to the correct torque value, it places two large, flat surfaces in direct contact with one another. It is one of the most stress-free bedding systems I’ve ever seen in a readily obtainable production rifle.

Howa 1500 Super Lite accuracy

The Howa 1500 action is too well known to merit a full description here, but it is basically a dual-lug, push-feed action derived from the early Sako L579. It has a strong breeching system. 

The counterbored bolt face seats the cartridge deeply into the barrel and the head protrudes only 2.7mm. 

Operation of the Howa bolt is smooth and positive, due in part to the compact stroke and a small extra guide lug formed by the top of the bolt handle.

The bolt face retains the Sako-type sharp claw extractor in a slot over the right locking lug. A plunger ejector located directly opposite the extractor helps throw empty cases at a low angle.

Good features are the bolt guide rib, one-piece firing pin and fast lock time.

The Howa Actuator Controlled Trigger (HACT) on the test rifle measured 1.36kg (3lb) on my RCBS trigger scale. All of my personal rifles are set to let off at this weight, which I consider perfect for a big-game rifle.

Howa 1500 Super Lite review
The lightweight Howa shot very well with a range of ammunition

At the range, the rifle shot well from the bench and accuracy was within expectations. 

We concentrated on three-shot groups (the magazine holds three rounds) and allowed the rifle to cool slightly between groups. Results are shown in the accompanying table. The best group of the day went to Sellier & Bellot’s 180gn soft point for a .78” cluster.

Practical accuracy was outstanding. I had no trouble keeping shots inside 1½” at 100yd, except one group that went 1.78” when I pulled the third shot.

This handsomely crafted sporter stands as a representative of what skilled designing and modern materials can do in scaling useless weight from a hunting rifle without injuring proportion or performance.

If I owned this Howa I’d pare off a few more grams by replacing the Picatinny rail and steel rings with a set of alloy Zero-Lok rings. Made of aluminium alloy, the pair weighs about 70g. 

Howa 1500 Super Lite review
Even with this mid-sized Crimson Trace scope, the Howa was supremely light but you could trim it down further with a more compact optic

Then there are riflescopes. I believe that a scope to be used on an ultralight rifle should not exceed 340g or so, which makes a good case for a compact scope.

Bear in mind that I’m talking about a really serious flyweight rifle, one that’s suitable for the toughest mountain hunting imaginable. Carefully choosing a scope and mount can also enable you to put weight where it is most important without affecting the rifle’s balance. 

The point I am making is that where weight is a concern, be sure to consider how much the accessories weigh.

Howa’s Super Lite rifle is well crafted. Like a thoroughbred horse, it isn’t meant for pulling a plough or a cart. It takes tender, thoughtful care. It’s sure nice to have when you’re going uphill in a hurry.  


  • Type: Push-feed bolt action
  • Calibres: 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 (tested)
  • Capacity: 3 rounds
  • Barrel: 51cm (20”); 1:12 twist
  • Overall length: 93cm (39.6”)
  • Weight: 2.0kg (4.5lb) without scope
  • Stock: Stocky’s carbon-fibre
  • Length of pull: 33.7cm (13.25”)
  • Finish: Stock, spiderweb painted; metal, matte blued
  • Trigger: HACT set at 1.36kg (3lb)
  • Sights: None, drilled and tapped for Rem 700 mounts
  • Price: Around $1400-1550 but varies (2024)
  • Distributor: OSA Australia




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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.