Howa is a Japanese company that also makes the Vanguard for Weatherby. The Howa 1500 is basically a Vanguard with slightly different finish, or so I understand.
As for quality, I have a buddy whom has been shooting rifles for accuracy and handloading since he was able to hold a gun, and he said that the Howas he's shot were functionally indistinguishable from Tikka rifles. That's pretty high praise, in my opinion.
I just bought a Howa in 223, and while I haven't had a chance to do much more than put a few rounds through (wrong size bullets for the twist), the function and fit of the rifle are great. Probably the finest gun in the house, although some would dispute that in favor of my wife's turkish shotgun from CZ.
If you're doing long range shooting like 500 yards, you might want to consider a rifle that doesn't come with a scope and provide your own glass. You'll probably want more magnification than the provided scope will offer.
"... I cannot but conclude the bulk of your [politicians] to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth." ~ Jonathon Swift
Last edited by Daekar; February 8, 2013 at 08:52 PM.