ALL AROUND BOLT GUNS
What does an outstanding, all-around, utility bolt action rifle look like? Have you ever found one? It seems like most all of the centerfire bolt guns I grew up around were niche based, singular focus type rifles. The exception was typically found with my great grandfather’s Remington Model 34 .22 rifle for squirrels and plinking and Dad’s Marlin model 25M .22 WMR rifle for close range coyotes, ground hogs and all around varmint shooting. Bolt guns were purposed for large game during a particular part of the year, and you had rimfires and shotguns to handle the rest. It wasn’t a prejudice, it was just our mentality.
So when you take a company that is most widely known for its shotguns [like the Mossy 500 platform] and .22 Plinkster rifles and announce they’re expanding their bolt action line with a rifle that now comes in several configurations and most notably accepts AR-15/M16 magazines it piques the interest a little. Or a lot.
IT’S A LOOKER
When a long-time Haus of Guns follower mentioned via our Facebook page that he’d like to see a review of the rifle I did some investigating and quickly added it to the “Need List”. And I’m glad I did. Right out of the box there’s very little to raise your eyebrow to with the 18.5″ barreled Predator series of the MVP rifle. The sporter style laminate stock is lightweight and soft. It looks great and feels great too with a generous yet not abrasive checkering to the forend and grip area. Honestly I was worried I may not be able to do an impartial review when I first laid eyes on her. It’s just a slick little rifle.
A Matte blue finish is employed on all metal parts and while it looks great has proven to be rugged enough as its thrashed around prairie grass, sage brush, thorns, cactus, sand and blowing sand we experience on the western high plains. I say “rugged enough” because while the finish is resistant to scratching and scarring it’s not something I’m going to baptize in a salt water shower to test durability. This isn’t cerakote or nitride.
The total weight and impression of the rifle is darned near anemic. With an overall length of just 37.5″ and a “dry” weight with no scope and an empty magazine of 7 pounds the MVP rifle feels like something you could sling and carry or just carry over your shoulder for days on end. We topped this one originally with a Nikon Pro Staff 4-12x (as seen in the Savage Axis Review) and then more finally with an all new Redfield Battlezone adjustable turret optic secured by Leupold QRW rings. The combination of the MVP rifle, the Redfield optic and the Leupold holds have proven a match made in heaven or maybe more fitting a match made in hell for prairie dogs.
IT’S CUTE. BUT IS IT ACCURATE?
Quality accuracy is surprising from the little Mossberg MVP.
[I keep using the word “Mossberg” to remind myself of the shotgun company stereotype perhaps aiding in my amazement and impression of this rifle. Realistically it feels like performance, accuracy and impression of this rifle shouldn’t be as good as it is.]
Accuracy is most definitely aided by the fully adjustable Lightning trigger system the MVP rifle carries and the fully free floated medium bull fluted 18.5″ barrel she wears. If my reaction to the rifle’s accuracy gets annoying let me know. But at just 7 pounds before optics and ammo and with its short overall length this rifle should be more difficult to get sub MOA accuracy from. A couple of spots in the video you’ll see me shooting from a sandbag with the bipod folded up for added weight on the front end.
In the end it really came down to how flawed I am as a bench rest shooter. It’s a light gun with a short barrel, and the trigger is even lighter at 2 3/4 pounds right out of the box. The LBA (lightning bolt action) adjustable trigger has the slack tension plunger with a little bit of take up then, BAM! No wasted movement or real estate with the trigger. It’s outstanding. The rifle gets on target fast and the trigger makes up your mind for you if you’re having trouble.
On accuracy test day I stretched out to 150 yards and saw a group that would have been 1/2″ which is closer to .40 MOA but I had a surprise flier and it opened up to 1″ at 150. Still technically about 3/4 MOA so not bad at all. The 79 grain DRT ammo shot almost as well and the Hornady Steel match was very respectable too. As always with this sort of tedious work I end up running short on time, but honestly never went back to it because I was so satisfied with the results.
IT’S A BOLT ACTION
Bolt Action rifles are rarely the subject of torture and reliability tests when it comes to repeating arms. Similar in acceptance and expectation to say a lever action. But moreso because of the increased accuracy over a lever platform. Because the locking bolt and extraction method of operation is so time tested and proven it’s hard to find an unreliable version these days. So comparisons come down to accuracy, stock/action bedding, trigger response, speed and smoothness of bolt throw, purpose of use and finally price.
A first look at the bolt on the Mossberg MVP yield a strong impression. The surface is fluted with the lands sporting a stainless look and the grooves giving way to the same matte finish the rest of the metal parts wear. It’s knob is average sized, not large and tactical, but not small and forgettable and has textured surfaces both top and bottom.
The lockup was tight and reliable and feeding and extraction is uniform and flawless regardless of ammo type. This particular rifle had some play between the bolt and the receiver with a little bit of wobble when tested. However though the bolt function felt somewhat muddy and gritty at first, it has smoothed out nicely with a couple cleanings during the break-in period, some Tech Shield Elite dry-lube and somewhere around 300-400 rounds passed through. Most of which were flung at unsuspecting prairie dog towns. A job which this rifle is not only well suited for, but seemed so attached to the task our 50 grain V-Max hand recipe varmint loads have been heavily depleted.
IT’S NOT A FAN OF PMAGs
One of the biggest questions I received during the testing phase of this rifle was “How well does it work with PMAGs? Well the short answer is “it doesn’t”. But it’s not really that simple. When seated, the interior feed lips on a PMAG give just a couple thousands of an inch less clearance than your typical 30 round GI mag and the mag catches are intended to be a tighter fit than the standards too. Because of this it’s an extremely tight fit when it comes to seating the magazine and feeding reliability with bolt operation is hit and miss. We experienced this on our 20 and 30 round Magpul PMAGs both Gen M2 and 3. Could it work? Probably, but I didn’t care to thrash any more of my PMAGs for you guys. 😉
The no PMAG thing seems like it would be a bigger deal if it were an AR rifle of some kind. But it doesn’t really bother me at all. The thought of just up and dedicating 90% of our pile of GI mags to the MVP is a little romantic and even seems a bit fitting. The GI Mags are louder with bolt cycling, which you’ll see in the video. I took some camo form wrap and coated a 30 rounder in it and it seemed to help with the sound.
ITS PRICE TAG
How much of a value is it? Taking the rifle’s surprising (and surpassing) performance into consideration, I’d say the $600 ballpark is a pretty fair shake. Personally I think the $500 realm would be a little more appropriate considering the other time tested and proven bolts that are available in that price range and under. It’s not a Tikka, Remington 700, Browning X-Bolt or even FN SPR. But with that taken into consideration, it’s not a base model rifle either. Read the spec list below and tell me if any of the features listed have a basement price of less than a grand.
I love this rifle. Those four words probably could have been the primary content of this written review as I’m sure it’s been painfully obvious how much my heart swoons for this little gun. It’s lightweight, accurate, takes AR mags, LOVES our .223 hand loads, HATES prairie dogs, has a great feeling stock, looks great, has a great trigger and on and on and on. Literally the only thing I would change is “PMAG-gate” and the weight/feel of the bolt, firm up the mate to the receiver and make it just a little smoother. I won’t soon consider getting rid of my other bolt rifles in favor of adopting ONLY the Mossberg MVP as my all around bolt gun. But I will be honest in saying that this has become one of the first rifles off the rack and the last one back in when we head out.
We really do like it that much. And among a half dozen or so shooters that have gotten time on the stubby sniper (<—– OOOOH NEW NICKNAME?!?!?!) each and every one comes back raving about the feel, the trigger, the accuracy, the weight, etc, etc, etc. Oh, AND it’s a Mossberg? Yep.
If the Predator series of MVP rifles doesn’t find your palate, there are several others now that fit the bill including the Flex, Patrol and Thunder Ranch. Each with a different set of features to fit that stereotype of some sort of niche we still think bolt guns need to fall into.
Happy shooting everyone.
Mossberg MVP Predator 18.5″ SPECS
- Type: twin-lug bolt-action centerfire; sliding extractor, plunger ejector
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO
- Capacity: accepts AR magazines; 10-round supplied
- Barrel: 18.5 in. medium bull, fluted, 1:9 twist, varmint crown
- Overall length: 37.5 in.
- Weight: 7 lb.
- Finish: matte blue
- Stock: Sporter laminate
- Trigger: adjustable Lightning Bolt Action; 2.75 pound pull supplied
- Sights: none; Weaver-style bases installed
- Price: $629
- Manufacturer: Mosssberg, mossberg.com