Howa Golden Bear History

Discussion in 'Other firearms built on Sako actions' started by stonecreek, Jun 24, 2018.

  1. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I stumbled across the following from Howa Heavy Machinery in a history of their firearms manufacturing:

    Howa presented the Howa Golden Bear bolt action rifle at the Chicago Shot Show in 1967. Approximately 3000 golden bear rifles were exported to U.S.A and passed all the tests at HP White Laboratory, which is one of the world’s most prestigious firearms testing laboratories.
    After the introduction of the rifle, Howa won the fame and acceptance in the U.S market.

    ※Golden Bear rifle

    [​IMG]
    As most Sako enthusiast are aware, the "Golden Bear" was an almost exact copy of the Sako Finnbear. A very few features differed (mainly the Golden Bear's aluminum bottom metal), but they were so close that even the bolts would exchange. The Golden Bear was distributed only for a couple of years in the late 1960's, and I had no idea how many of them were sold until finding this article. All were chambered for .30-06 except for a very small handful on a slightly shorter action which were in .308. Conventional wisdom is that Sako sued Howa for patent infringements which stopped the production and sale of the Golden Bear (While I don't doubt that this is true I've never seen any documentation of this and an email I sent several years ago to Howa got an indignant response that they would never copy anyone's design!)

    A little further down in the Howa firearms history is found this on the Model 1500:

    1979: Howa started to export Howa Model 1500 which was based on the successful Golden Bear rifle.


    ※M1500

    [​IMG]

    There are some similarities in the 1500 and the Sako L-series, but they are not close enough to be siblings -- maybe second cousins. Several small parts from the 1500 will interchange with L-series Sakos. IIRC, the first of these were sold under the Smith & Wesson brand (replacing the Husqvarnas which S&W marketed earlier.) They are now marketed as Weatherby Vanguard and under the Howa label itself.

    It was gratifying to learn a little more about the scarce Golden Bear and its history. I've owned a couple of them and found that they were of fairly high quality, perhaps not as high as a genuine Sako but a notch above the typical hunting rifle from most American manufacturers.
     
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  2. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Sounds as if there were only a few thousand made, yet it seems there is one for sale about anytime I search the web. Howa has always made a good rifle, as evidence by the Weatherby. I picked up one of their new "Mini-actions" over a year ago & other than an atrocious DBM system & mag release, it is a very nice design & shoots very accurately. Kind of a poor man's L461. I just bought the barreled action(6.5 Grendel), then stocked & scoped it for shooting long range targets. It looks like you could use their extractor in the small action Sakos. Very robust & positive extraction & ejection.
     
  3. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I forgot to mention that the Howa history just calls it the "Howa Golden Bear" and doesn't mention its full name which was "Dickson-Howa Golden Bear". I've never come across any clue as to who or what the "Dickson" comes from or represents. Possibly it was just plucked from the air to give the rifle a more English-sounding name or imply some association with the British Dickson shotguns.

    Incidentally, the apparently very small number of short-action .308's were made on an action just a tad bit longer than the L579 (about a 3" magazine as opposed to the 2.8" magazine of the Sako). The .308 Golden Bear's action was about the same diameter as the longer action, unlike the L579 whose diameter is reduced from that of the L61R. The "short" Golden Bear also has the third lug, unlike the L579. I have only see one of these in the flesh, which I hastily bought for a fair price. It is in the Deluxe configuration (skip line, contrasting grip cap and fore end) and in near new condition.
     

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