The Howa 1500 is the twin to the Weatherby Vanguard. For the most part only a stamp machine somewhere in Japan knows the difference between these two rifles. This is the case because Howa has been making very accurate rifles for decades and Weatherby wanted a good rifle to put their name on for their lower-priced line. Firearm companies do this all the time to get a bigger share of the market and avoid retooling. A good product is good regardless of the box it comes in. In the case of the Vanguard and the Howa, this is actually pretty handy because scope mounts and other accessories are interchangeable. When something changes on one of these rifles it changes on the other, so the Howa now has a three-position safety and a two-stage trigger like the new Vanguard.
The main divergence in the Howa is that it is not available in Weatherby cartridges, but is available in more standard cartridges. The buyer also has more choices when it comes to choosing a finish, stock or barrel with the Howa. While the Howa has more options, a point has been deducted in the fit/finish category. This does not mean the Howa is poorly assembled. Where the fit counts (the bedding and barrel channel) the Howa is very well done, but the Vanguard has a better stock-to-action fit which, although of purely aesthetic value, earns it an extra point. Another differentiator is the lack of an accuracy guarantee on the Howa, but they usually toe the line with or without a guarantee.