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Thread: Vanguard History

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    USA, North Carolina, Franklin

    Default Vanguard History

    Even though the incomparable Mark V is the flagship of the Weatherby lineup, many of us carry the Vanguard in the field. Its two lug action and excellent barrel make for an affordable accurate rifle. The bulk of Weatherby's sales today is accounted for by the many Vanguard variations. The origins of the Vannie are often not well understood.
    In the not that beginning...the Howa company made textile machinery. Then in World War II almost any company that could make war materiel did just that. The Imperial Japanese arsenal at Nagoya sent a team of engineers to supervise the manufacturing of the Type 99 rifle along with its bayonet at Howa. The Howa manufactured rifles, perhaps the term subcontractor might be more appropriate, have the Nagoya fighting fish symbol along with a three sided design. Bayonets had a sort of diamond type marking along with the Nagoya marking. After World War II, there was of course no market (or manufacturing capability) for firearms.
    Somewhere in the middle 1960's, the Howa company decided to build a sporting rifle. Rather than produce an original design, they tooled up to produce a copy of a Finnish rifle which had a modified Mauser type action. More about that later.
    Back about 1967 a company headquartered on Mission Street in San Francisco was importing various types of mostly Japanese sporting goods. They also sold Spanish and Italian shotguns. The company was Taico, which stood for The American Import Company. One of their brand names was Dickson, or L.M. Dickson. Dear old Dad bought a ball glove for me in 1967 that was signed L.M. Dickson. The kids at school wondered who it was that signed my glove and they finally decided that it was the famous Japanese baseball star L.M. Dickeysoy. Ha, ha.
    The shotguns included the names of their makers in Taico advertising, like Dickson-Ugartechea. All the guns had colorful names like Gray Eagle, or the Falcon, or something similar.
    The most interesting import sold by Taico was an unabashed copy of a Sako Finnbear. It was the Dickson-Howa Golden Bear. It looked quite a bit like a Sako (not surprisingly) or the old model Vanguard. It had the pointy bottom trigger guard like the Vanguard used to have. Also a Sako type guide rib on the bolt. The extractor was a Sako copy and the ejector was a fixed type that fitted in a slot cut through the left locking lug. No plunger type ejector like the Vanguard of today. The rifle also had Sako style grooves cut in the receiver for the Sako type rings. The bolt shroud was open at the rear like the Howa 1500 of today (and unlike the Vanguard).
    The Golden Bear came only in the ever popular 30-06. The rifle was nice too. It came with a California style stock and nice wood. There was a hooded front sight, but no rear sight was provided. I suppose you could have put one of the strange Sako rear sights on the receiver. It wasn't common in those days to have a completely slick barrel, so the front sight kept the rifle from looking naked.
    If you wanted a fancy rifle, Taico could handle that too. The Golden Bear came in four grades. The "Golden Bear" Model FSD 43 had a semi-fancy walnut stock and cost $159.95. It had a black plastic buttplate and grip cap with a white line spacer. The "Custom" Model LMD 72 had a rosewood tip and grip cap with jewelled bolt and came in at $191.75. If you were flush with money you could buy one of the two higher grades. They were called the "Presentation" and "Medallion" grades. They were advertised with high grade California Walnut and Madrone with Ivory and exotic wood inlays. Does this sound familiar? The two upper grades were styled differently but either one cost $400.
    Kick pads and scope bases were extra. Barrel length was 25" which made it look even more like a Webbie. The stocks on the lower grades were a moderate Monte Carlo type and had the same sling swivels/loops like a very early Vanguard.
    Back in 1967 the words "Made in Japan" was the same thing as saying trash. The rifles were nice, but they probably didn't sell a bunch. I wonder if any of the high grade guns were sold at all. I used to see the shotguns quite often. By 1968 the American Import Company (founded in 1894) had stopped advertising. There is no relationship between Taico and the great Dickson shotguns from Scotland, or Japanese baseball players.
    Is it possible that Roy Weatherby saw the Dickson-Howa Golden Bear with its California good looks and nice tan and said, "Hmmm that would make a nice Weatherby. Maybe I will go to Japan and visit the Howa people."? Whether that happened or not, the Vanguard wasn't the first Howa in the US. The Golden Bear was around just about three years earlier.
    (To be continued...maybe)
    your pal,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Vanguard History

    Very interesting read. I look forward to your next installment.

    "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession; I have
    learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first."
    - Ronald Reagan

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    CT, USA

    Default Re: Vanguard History


    My type 99 is a good shooter, but my early Vanguard had the MUM ground off

    Thanks for the insight, it is enlightening.

    Accuracy is Uniformity.

    Wby Vanguard SUB MOA .257 Wby Mag
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    Wby Mk V Deluxe .300 Wby Mag - USA
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