When it comes to long range precision sniper rifles, Mossberg is not the first rifle manufacturer that comes to mind. In fact, Mossberg bolt action rifles really have not been around very long and typically the first thought that comes to mind when thinking of Mossberg rifles is “cheap” or “low cost”. But not everyone or every department has an enormous budget in which they can tap into when purchasing a new sniper rifle. We like to take time to review and explore the entire spectrum of available rifles, scopes, and sniping equipment to include those items on the lower end of the price spectrum as well as the higher end. Mossberg has been making their “nighttrain” rifle for a number of years now, but it was always little more than a hunting rifle with some tacky accessories added on and attempted to be passed off as a tactical rifle. We never bothered reviewing that one, and still do not plan to. But this time around, Mossberg has taken it a little more serious and has actually made an effort to come up with a more legitimate long range precision rifle. The MVP series of rifles was introduced as a line of rifles that had some tactical intentions but with a bolt action. Both the 223 and 308 versions use AR style magazines and have some other features like one piece rails and AR flash hiders on them to provide more capability. They first had a medium weight barrel version of the MVP, and it was getting closer to a tactical rifle, and then they came out with the MVP Long Range (MVP LR). This is the rifle we have here for review and this one comes with an actual heavy barrel threaded for a suppressor, and an adjustable synthetic stock setup for long range tactical work. But the question remains, can this low cost rifle builder put together a capable long range rifle?
Mossberg offers two rifles that are aimed toward the long range tactical market, the first is the MVP LR that we are reviewing hear and the other is the MVP LC, or light chassis, which utilizes a MDT LSS chassis system and includes a Silencer Co muzzlebrake. We elected to go with the LR version this time around as it has a longer barrel and it is a much lower cost version. We’ll reserve the LC review for another time.
As is common with all manufacturers of rifles, one of the biggest ways to save money is with the stock. The Remington SPS and Savage 12FCV are two examples of this with their “tupperware” plastic stocks. The stock is a major cost component as anyone who has sourced a nice after market stock can tell you. With the Mossberg MVP LR this is also the case, but Mossberg tried to up the ante a little with their own synthetic stock that attempts to be higher quality than those other low cost stocks found on these other rifles. The main problem with these lower cost stocks like those found on the Remington 700 SPS is that they are injection molded plastic with limited internal strength. They flex and bend and pretty much only provide a place to grip the rifle and little else. The stock on the MVP LR is not purely injection molded plastic but is a firmer synthetic resin with an epoxy style painted finish. Its not a fiberglass laid up stock like McMillan and it appears to be molded somehow, but it certainly is more stiff than the cheap injection molded stocks.
At the rear is a thin recoil pad made of hard rubber that is functional, but does not provide any real recoil absorption. There is an adjustable cheekpiece that raises up and down to allow the shooter to align their eye with the scope just right. This cheekpiece does have a hard rubber coating on it that is smooth and offers an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the green stock. Unfortunately, it is more slick than the rougher green texture of the stock and as such your cheek moves around easily. This prevents your cheek from wearing raw during recoil, but it also makes for a slippery cheekweld. To adjust the height of the cheekpiece, there is a single push button on the right hand side of the buttstock that when pressed allows for the movement of the cheekpiece up and down until it is released and the cheekpiece locked in place. There are two vertical rods that provide the load bearing support when it is raised and then a single vertical threaded screw in the middle that provides the area for the button to securely clamp on to hold it in place. The screw system actually works quiet well for keeping the selected height firmly in place, but there is a good amount of slop with the two load bearing rods so that the entire cheekpiece has some forward and back movement when extended to any setting up off of the very bottom. There is no concern of it not holding up, but we just don’t like any sort of unwanted movement anywhere on a rifle that may effect the shooter during the firing process.
In front of the buttstock is actually a very nicely shaped near vertical pistol grip with a highly contoured area for your thumb to rest. The pistol grip feels very natural and comfortable in the hand and while it is thick, it does not have palm swells and should fit just about everyone’s hands nicely. The shape and location of the pistol grip does align the trigger finger nicely with the trigger as well which helps promote a good trigger squeeze. Both the buttstock and then pistol grip are shaped to allow firing the rifle either right or left handed as there is not a left handed bolt version available.
The stock is fairly thick through the action area and seems to provide a good amount of material to keep the action firmly in place. The cutouts for the bolt and the ejection port are standard fair without anything noteworthy, good or bad. The width of the stock pretty much stays the same as it transitions into the forearm area toward the front of the stock. There is no beavertail style forearm, so it is good that the stock is wide and fairly bulky near the action and then the forearm maintains a slightly rounded bottom with a pinched top portion as it moves forward. While the forearm is not a wide flat beavertail, it is not thin and small like a hunting stock either. A Harris bipod mounts up without problem to the forearm as it is the right shape to give it a good area to fit tight against and there are two sling swivel studs to allow the use of a bipod and a sling. The stock has some internal stiffeners to strengthen it and they work well as we could not easily move the forearm enough to make it touch the barrel which is free floated back to the action. Overall the stock does have a cheap feeling to it with both the material of the stock as well as the loose and wobbly adjustable cheekpiece. But it also has the requisite features to categorize it as a “Tactical” stock.
MVP stands for Mossberg Varmint Predator and all MVP rifles use the standard Mossberg action but with some modifications to the bolt to allow the use of AR style magazines. For the 7.62/308 rifles, magazines from LR308, SR-25, and even M1A/M14 rifles can be used. The rear shroud on the bolt is a bit odd in that there is a large protrusion on the left hand side that almost looks like it is there to purposely protect the bolt release. It is not very attractive and it obviously adds some weight, but we are not sure why the bolt release needs to be shrouded or protected? There are several other bolt actions on the market that have the bolt release in the same location without such a protection and they work fine. Regardless, the bolt release is a small push lever that when depressed allows the bolt to easily slide clear of the action. It is easy to get to and works well.
There is a two position safety on the right hand side of the rear tang and it has the same typical operation as most two position safeties, forward for fire, back for safe. There is a red dot on the stock itself in the rear, or safe, position which is a nice visual indicator as to what position the safety is in. With the safety engaged, the bolt can still be cycled which allows for a safe way to unchamber a live round if that is ever required.
The bolt itself has a large tactical style bolt knob with some very light grooves machined into it, supposedly to provide some additional gripping texture. Though the grooves are not pronounced enough to really provide much additional grip. There is also some light spiral fluting on the bolt body that is likely more decorative than anything, although we suspect it does provide some help with giving dirt or mud someway to exit the action if any finds its way into the bolt area. On the bolt face there is a small claw, almost like an AR15, that is used in conjunction with a spring loaded plunger to provide extraction duty and it worked well through out all our tests. There are also two smaller protrusions on the bottom of the bolt face and they are used to help strip the rounds from the AR style magazines when feeding. When the bolt is in the action and when cycling, there is some bolt slop, meaning some movement left, right, up and down, especially when the bolt is to the rear. This slop does hamper the smoothness of the action and gives it a notchy and cheap feel when cycling.
The floorplate is a two piece arrangement with a hard plastic trigger guard held in place by two screws. The screw in the rear just screws into the stock to hold the trigger guard and the screw at the front of the trigger guard is an action screw that screws up into the action. In front of the trigger guard is the Detachable Box Magazine (DBM) setup that is made of hard plastic as well. This hard plastic magazine well has a mag release lever at the front where there is a cut out area in the stock for the operators finger to reach in and then pull the magazine release lever toward the rear. This effectively drops the magazine, which does fall free from the rifle even when empty. If you press on the magazine well with your finger from the inside wall, you can see some flex, which we expected with the plastic, but it still appears to be fairly rugged. It will be interesting to hear how well they hold up over time, though we suspect with it being protected by the stock, it might do okay. The MVP LR rifle comes with one Magpul PMAG 10 round magazine, which also is a hard polymer design that comes with Magpuls backing and experience. Mossberg lists the rifle as having an eleven round capacity, this is counting one in the chamber and a full ten round magazine loaded.
The trigger is a blade style trigger, much like the Savage accu-trigger setup. For those of you that are unfamiliar with these triggers, there is a blade that protrudes through the face of the trigger that provides a safety mechanism to insure the trigger does not activate without a finger on the trigger depressing that blade. The original intent of these style of triggers was to allow the manufacture to be freed of some liability so that they could make the triggers lighter from the factory to help provide a lighter trigger pull which usually translates to a more accurate rifle. There are some of us here at Sniper Central that are not a huge fan of these blade type triggers because there are occasions when the finger is not perfectly placed to allow the proper depressing of the blade which can cause non fires. This is especially an issue with those with smaller hands firing a rifle that perhaps does not have a vertical style pistol grip that gets the hand and trigger finger close and nicely aligned with the trigger. The stock on the MVP LR helps to get the trigger finger aligned, but we still had one instance of a non fire for the above said reason.
The trigger shoe on the MVP LR is very thin and with the blade protruding through it, there is no area for any sort of grooves or texture, so the face of the shoe is smooth. Even after the blade is depressed, the trigger on this LR rifle still had some notchy creep before it broke and there was also some over-travel on the trigger after the break as well. With our trigger scale the trigger pull measured 2.5 lbs on average, which is light for a factory installed trigger. Though we would not rate the trigger feel itself as being that great.
The barrel is a medium-heavy weight barrel that is twenty inches long and has some very light, mostly cosmetic, fluting to help reduce the weight some more. The barrel is a straight taper contour and incorporates a smooth barrel nut to headspace and lock the barrel into the action. This setup is much like what the Savage rifles use. If you have the proper tool to loosen the barrel nut, then the barrels should be easy to swap out, but do NOT attempt this if you do not know what you are doing, you literally can blow up the rifle and hurt or kill someone. A nice feature about the rifle is that they do come standard with a threaded barrel in the 5/8-24tpi thread spec which is the most common for suppressors.
The finish on the barrel and action is a matte bluing which is a bit thin when compared to some other factory rifles, but it gets the job done. The overall appearance is one of business. The olive green and black make a nice contrasting appearance and it has many of the tactical features one expects from a modern tactical rifle. The fit and finish are not that great as everything seems to have some slop in it. The bolt, the adjustable cheekpiece, the trigger all have unwanted movement and looseness, but even so, it all seems to work and this cheapness was to be expected based on the price and target market of the rifle. With the details of the rifle examined, it was now time to test it all out at the range to see how the rifle actually performs.
For our shooting evaluations we mounted one of our ‘test mule’ scopes to the rifle, in this case we used a Leupold VX3 6.5-20x50mm with target turrets and adjustable objective up on the bell. This scope was used on a Law Enforcement sniper rifle for a number of years before they upgraded it and it has been a good test scope for us since then. We used a set of Leupold Mk4 30mm rings and the one piece rail that comes on the MVP LR from the factory. The scope only took a minute to mount and with a quick adjustment to the cheekpiece on the rifle to get our eye aligned to the scope, we were set and ready to go.
Four our accuracy evaluation at 100 yards we used four different ammunition loads. Of course we used the standard Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr as well as some HSM M118LR 175gr, HSM 168gr AMAX Match, and then we wanted to bring some standard M80 ball to see how it would do in the rifle. So we brought along some Sellier & Bellot 147gr M80, which for a ball ammo is as good as any other and more consistent than most. We fired all of our 100 yard groups from a bench with a sand bag up front and then a sand sock at the rear of the rifle. The weather for the 100 yard test was just about perfect with an overcast sky, 50 degrees, and nearly no wind at all. The results are shown below:
|Load||Average Group||Best Group|
|Federal GMM 168gr||0.839″ (0.80 MOA)||0.739″ (0.71 MOA)|
|HSM M118LR 175gr||1.493″ (1.43 MOA)||1..122″ (1.07 MOA)|
|HSM 168gr AMAX 168gr||1.547″ (1.48 MOA)||1.386″ (1.32 MOA)|
|Sellier & Bellot M80 147gr||0.904″ (0.86 MOA)||0.457″ (0.44 MOA)|
In terms of accuracy, the rifle didn’t perform too bad, especially with the Federal Gold Medal Match. It is not a .5 MOA rifle, but with GMM it seems to shoot sub 1 MOA and in the .75 MOA pretty consistently. Neither of the HSM loads shot well at all, but the surprise was how well the S&B M80 load did as it actually shot the best group of the day and the overall average was just behind the Federal GMM with 1 MOA being about the norm. Maybe cheap rifles like cheap ammo? Its hard for us to explain.
There were a few things that did come to light during our shooting evaluation that need to be mention. The most glaring being the stiffness with which the rifle feeds from the magazine when there is more than one round in it. The feeding process is rough and stiff, which we think can be attributed to those two protrusions on the bottom of the bolt that aide in feeding from the double stack AR style magazines. When there are no rounds beneath the one that is being chambered, the action is much smoother, other wise its not very good. As our shooting evaluation went on, we did discover during some rapid fire drills that if the shooter manhandles the bolt, it seems to do better. Manhandling is not normally what a sniper likes to do when trying to remain concealed, but it did help smooth things up a bit. Perhaps over time the action will smooth out some more as well, but as it is, it lacks the feeling of precision.
As we mentioned earlier, the trigger has some take up before letoff and that take up is notchy and not very smooth, so there is some improvement to be had there. We also found ourselves searching for the magazine release at times which is a bit irksome, but we do suspect that an operator will eventually be able to more easily find and operate that release as they get more familiar with the rifle over time.
As many of you know, we have now incorporated a new mid range accuracy and usability test as a part of our standard reviews. We use a Figure 14 sniper target from World War 2 and set it up at 300 yards. We then take three rounds and time ourselves to engage the target, but we only fire one group so that the pressure is on since every shot counts, and we are on the clock. The head diagram has no distinct features and that provides a lack of any definitive aiming point, which accurately portrays real life engagements. Head shots at 300 yards also provides some longer range assessment of the firearm as well. For the test we selected the ammo that performed best in the 100 yard accuracy tests which in this case was the Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr. With a full seven MOA of up dialed into the scope, we prepared to begin the test. By the time we began this test we had figured out that the rifle needed to be manhandled to perform its best and that is what we did, cycling the bolt with a firm hand. Two of the shots felt as if they were rushed, but the group was fired quickly in only 18 seconds. The real surprise though came when we retrieved the target as the group was a very nice 3.126″ (0.995 MOA) centered right on the head. Our goal for this test is to fire the shots as quickly as possible while maintaining accuracy. 24 seconds and 1 MOA are considered the standards. This means the firing time was excellent. We also take into account the ammount of energy delivered on target at 300 yards, with the 308 168gr being the standard. Surprisingly, the MVP LR did very well in this test in both time (18 seconds) and accuracy (.995 MOA).
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (18 secs)||40|
|Accuracy Score (.995 moa)||45.2|
|Energy Score (1635 ft-lbs)||25|
So how does the Mossberg MVP LR rate? Well, lets be honest, it is a low cost mass produced rifle that is intended to capture sales from those on a limited budget but who desire the latest features such as an adjustable stock and DBM with a threaded barrel. The rifle looks and feels cheap and the fit and finish all around is pretty low quality. But the rifle does not perform horribly and it can be effective if you know its shortcomings. When we grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and forced it to perform, it came through, which honestly surprised us. No, it is not a better option than a Remington 700P for a good factory sniper rifle, but it is less money and has some added features. We do not plan on keeping one in our arsenal here, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t find a place in a lower budget arsenal where a beginners rifle might be desired. We do need to mention that we have had a customer who purchased one of these rifles and it developed a trigger problem and it would no longer fire. He is working with Mossberg to resolve the problem, but we have not yet heard what the outcome was. So, as long as you go into it with a full understanding of what the rifle really is and the limitations that come with cost cutting measures, then it could do okay for you.
Sniper Central 2016