Weatherby Rifles: The American Firearm and Ammo Company Making Bolt Actions, Shotguns, and Hunting Ammunition

Here's a brief history of this storied American gun maker

Some people might not know much about Weatherby, Inc., the ammo, rifle, and shotgun company. They are a thoroughly American gunmaker that has been around since the end of the Second World War. Today, this Sheridan, Wyoming-based company can claim it was integral in the advancement of firearms and ammunition in the past several decades.

Here's a quick rundown of how Weatherby came to be, and a snapshot of what they produce today.

Founding of Weatherby

Weatherby, Inc. was founded by Roy Weatherby in 1945 and became best known not for rifles but for its high-powered magnum cartridges, like the .257 Weatherby Magnum, .270 Weatherby Magnum, .300 Weatherby Magnum, .340 Weatherby Mag, and the .460 Weatherby Mag.

Roy Weatherby built his original production rifles on commercial Mauser actions made by FN, Brevex, and Mathieu for left-handed guns. At the start, Weatherby built custom rifles to customer's special orders, including action type.

He built the rifles for years in a small factory in California until he contracted with Sako in 1956 to build his guns based on the Weatherby-FN Mauser actions. That same year, he commissioned a Danish company to build the first .378 Weatherby Magnum rifles, going beyond the Mauser action and using a Schultz & Larsen Model 54 action instead.

The Mark V

A few years later in 1958, Weatherby introduced the Mark V bolt action rifle—which was the company's first in-house proprietary design created by Roy Weatherby and his head engineer, Fred Jennie. The goal of the rifle's design was to handle the high pressures created by Weatherby's magnum cartridges.

The first Weatherby Mark V actions were made in the U.S. by Pacific Founders, Inc. and they were assembled at the Weatherby plant in California. When the rifle proved to be a hit, Weatherby contracted J.P. Sauer in then West Germany to build the guns. The arrangement continued into the early 1970s.

Mark V Expansion and the Vanguard Rifle

Due to material and labor costs, Weatherby moved the Mark V production to Howa, Japan, which resulted in an improvement in fit and finish. Manufacturing was moved back to the U.S. in 1995 and it has been built under contract by Saco Defense and Acrometal/ATEK ever since. The biggest change on the U.S. versions was the safety being moved from the bolt to the receiver.

The biggest change came in 1964 when Weatherby trimmed down the design of the action to work with their new .224 Weatherby Magnum varmint round. The smaller bolt had six locking lugs instead of nine.

The first non-Weatherby cartridge the Mark V was chambered for was the .22-250 Remington. They also made a Mark V with a nine-lug bolt in .30-06 in the late '60s, but chambering offerings weren't expanded until the 1990s.

When Weatherby was contracting Howa for the Mark V, they also used the partnership to create a rifle that would appeal to the budget hunting rifle market. That effort produced the Weatherby Vanguard rifle beginning in 1970 as a competitor for the Winchester Model 70 and the Remington Model 700. It has since become extremely popular and is offered in a number of variants with wood and synthetic Monte Carlo-style stocks.

Weatherby Today

Currently, Weatherby offers two lines of centerfire rifles with the Mark V and the Vanguard lines. The Mark V rifle actions are made by ATEK in Brainerd, Minnesota. The barrel and action on the Vanguard rifles are still made by Howa in Japan. Both rifles are assembled at Weatherby's HQ in Sheridan.

There are a number of options available for both models, including blued and stainless steel finishes in a couple different barrel lengths and with wood or synthetic stocks. Many come with camo patterns, mimicking everything from the high country to the low swamplands. They are also available in a wide range of chamberings, from the speedy .223 Remington (Vanguard), to the popular 6.5 Creedmoor to the powerful .300 Weatherby Magnum. Rifles in .340 WM or .460 Weatherby Magnum are only available in the Mark V line.

All Weatherby rifles come with a three-shot sub-MOA guarantee from a cold barrel, using premium ammunition, which has made them a favorite of backcountry hunters for many years.

Weatherby made waves a few years ago with the introduction of its Camilla rifles sized for female hunters. The Camilla Ultra Lightweight rifle has become extremely popular.

On the ammo side, Weatherby produced what is considered the most powerful commercially available hunting cartridge in the .460 Weatherby and it has been a leading name in high velocity magnum hunting rounds for decades.

Here is the full lineup of original Weatherby calibers:

  • .224 Weatherby Magnum
  • .240 Weatherby Magnum
  • .257 Weatherby Magnum
  • 6.5 RPM (Rebated Precision Magnum)
  • 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum
  • .270 Weatherby Magnum
  • 7mm Weatherby Magnum
  • .300 Weatherby Magnum

Weatherby Shotguns

Weatherby also produces a line of shotguns built for bird hunting and skeet shooting. Currently, there are four Weatherby shotgun models: the 18i inertia semi-auto, the Element inertia gun, the SA-08 gas-operated semi-auto, and the Orion over/under double gun. The shotguns are not made in Wyoming, but in Italy through a partnership with Italian gunmaker Fausti Stefano.