February 14, 2013
There's no one out there who hasn't heard of the Ruger 10/22, right? Didn't think so. One of the most popular .22s of all time since its introduction in 1964, it has spawned a cottage industry of aftermarket parts and complete rifles built around its action and its wonderful and revolutionary rotary magazine.
Now no less a firearms maker than Magnum Research has joined in the fun. Its new MLR22 is a nifty piece of gunsmithing that offers rimfire fanatics a head-turning, light and lively semi-auto rimfire.
The rifle weighs just 4.25 pounds, thanks to the combination of a graphite-sleeve barrel and skeletonized stock. The barrel is proprietary, and in fact the Pillager, Minn.,-based Magnum Research developed the machine that makes it. The barrel is built by applying graphite fibers that are stretched lengthwise and rolled onto the barrel and then baked.
The process creates a barrel that's as rigid as a bull steel barrel but is incredibly light for its diameter; the 17-inch, 0.94-inch barrel on my MLR22 sample weighed only 13 ounces. The graphite construction also dissipates heat nearly twice as fast as steel.
While it's a proprietary design, it slip-fits into the receiver and is secured by a V-block just like any other 10/22 barrel. The muzzle's steel cap muzzle sports a 17-degree crown and projects past the steel barrel liner, further protecting the rifling.
The rifle is available in several stock configurations: Barracuda (in forest camo, nutmeg or pepper colors), tactical black (a multi-position synthetic), Hogue OverMolded and a brand-new ambi thumbhole. I picked the Barracuda forest camo version because I love thumbhole stocks, and this one's a beauty with its layers of green, ochre, gray and black.
The thumbhole portion is sculpted — substantial where it should be and thin where it should be. It's relieved on the left side to position your shooting-hand thumb (for righties) in the proper position — pointing forward, more or less parallel to the bore. I find this lessens the chances that you'll torque the gun with your shooting hand. The stock also flares at the bottom of the grip to help you keep your wrist straight.
The stock's cheekpiece is basically a Monte Carlo, and the comb is comfortable and of a decent height for a low-mounted optic (the new ambi thumbhole promises a higher comb). The hard rubber buttpad has a cross-hatch texture to it, and it does an excellent job of keeping the rifle positioned in your shoulder.
The 6061-T6 aluminum receiver is CNC machined and sports an integral Weaver-style rail for mounting optics.
The graphite barrel is stiffer than steel and dissipates heat nearly 50 percent faster. Its stainless steel cap features a 17-degree crown.
The receiver is a nice piece of engineering. It's CNC machined from a 6061-T6 aluminum forging and sports an integral Weaver-style rail. The rail is 5.5 inches long and overhangs the receiver in the front by about 0.8 inch, giving you plenty of real estate for mounting optics. The rail 0.5 inch high.
Receiver weight is no different than a stock 10/22 receiver with a rail installed. The only thing I noted here was the loose fit of the bolt stop pin, receiver cross pins and the magazine latch pivot/ejector pin. The bolt stop and latch pivot/ejector pins on my sample were particularly loose and tended to fall out without any provocation.
The bolt is machined from 4140 steel and sports an oversize handle, a functional touch that makes for sure, fast operation.
The trigger resides in a polymer housing, whereas Ruger housings are cast metal. That makes sense; Ruger has a casting operation, so of course it would use a cast part whereas polymer is less expensive and just as appropriate for a part such as this. Plus it's three ounces lighter.
I disagree with the route Magnum Research took on the fire-control system. A rifle that retails for just north of $800 shouldn't be saddled with a stock Ruger trigger and its balky bolt release. I asked a company representative about it, and he said users would replace the trigger anyway, so the stock one is fine. I guess he has a point, but I think they should've incorporated a good aftermarket trigger instead.
That trigger, which broke at nearly five pounds, didn't do the rifle any favors in accuracy testing, but overall I thought the gun shot quite well. The MLR22 sports a Benz chamber, which features a shorter leade than a typical .22 chamber. This feature should make the gun more accurate, but it also means it can be pickier in what it likes. As the company indicates, the MLR22 is not going to love a lot of high-velocity hollowpoint loads, but it adored standard velocity solids. You'll just have to experiment.
While it performed fine from the bench, where this rifle really shines is in its handling. It's lively, fast-pointing, and a pleasure to shoot from field positions. It would make an excellent rifle for action rimfire or plinking and a great companion for hunting squirrels or shooting varmints at close ranges (although they should consider adding sling swivel studs to the Barracuda version for hunters).
Gun services provided by Turners Outdoorsman. Range facilities provided by Angeles Ranges.