October 25, 2011
By J. Scott Rupp
The Mossberg MVP (Mossberg Predator Varmint) is a purpose-built rifle for sure, with a fluted 24-inch medium bull barrel and wide, flat-bottom fore-end — a gun aimed squarely at those who love to hunker down over a prairie dog town or hunt coyotes in open country.
The MVP is a keeper. Why? Three reasons. One, it's accurate. Two, it takes AR mags. Three, it's economical.
Let's take reason No. 2 first. The MVP is based on the 4x4 action, and the first iteration is in 5.56 (more on this in a bit). What makes this rifle stand out is the Drop Push bolt, which employs a device I've never seen before: It incorporates a small lever at the six o'clock position on the bolt face. This lever dips down and enables the bolt to strip a round from an AR magazine.
The Drop Push lever is held in place with a forged pin, and when the bolt face reaches the feed ramp, the lever simply moves flush with the bolt face — allowing the bolt to move into battery. Pretty cool.
"The design was the culmination of several design iterations," Mossberg senior design engineer Tim Blazek said. "Extensive live-fire testing was performed, both internally and in the field."
I tried to break it. Well, not really, but I reefed on the bolt as hard as I could while cycling the bolt as hard as I could. Not
only did the lever not break (honestly I wasn't expecting it to), it never hung up. Feeding was flawless.
The body of the bolt is fluted. I'm sure it saves a bit of weight but since this isn't a rifle where weight is really an issue, it's mostly for looks. The bolt features twin lugs, plunger ejector and sliding extractor. A note about that last: It is possible to slide the extractor all the way out of the bolt, and if you don't capture the spring, well, parts fly everywhere. Don't be that guy (me). The bolt knob is normal size and checkered.
The 10-round magazine slides effortlessly into its well. I kept expecting a click or some sort of resistance to overcome in order to seat it, but it just glides right in. An unobtrusive release is forward of the mag well, and a light push on it drops the magazine.
And now with the novelty of its feeding system out of the way, let's talk accuracy, starting with the trigger. It was the first
Mossberg I've actually tested for Rifle Shooter, and I'd never had a chance to play with the LBA (Lightning Bolt Action) trigger before.
I broke out my Lyman digital trigger scale and did 10 reps, the trigger averaging 3.25 pounds, a bit heavier than I wanted. So I turned the rifle over, removed the no-nonsense hex-head action screws and pulled the barreled action out of the stock. As promised, the trigger adjustment was super easy. I simply turned a slotted screw in the front of the trigger housing, and in no time I had the LBA breaking at 2.5 pounds.
The LBA trigger is certainly a contributing factor to the rifle's overall accuracy. The stability of a laminate stock helps too, as does the medium-contour fluted barrel. The barreled action nestles into the stock courtesy of a polymer bedding block and aluminum pillars. The barrel has a sandwich-style recoil lug
and is attached to the receiver via a smooth barrel nut.
The barrel sports a 1:9 twist and, as mentioned, is chambered for 5.56 NATO, which is unusual in that most manufacturers build rifles of this type on the .223 Remington chamber specs. Tim Blazek told me they went the 5.56 route so that the abundant supply of military surplus ammo could be used in the MVP. Yes, we consider the 5.56 and .223 to be identical, but they're really not, and by using the 5.56 chambering Mossberg has ensured there won't be any problems with the hotter NATO ammo.
For the accuracy test I mounted a Nikon ProStaff 4-12x40 onto Weaver-style bases via Burris ZEE steel medium-height rings. The scope proved the perfect mate in terms of power range, size and compatibility in terms of price.
I have to say the stock took a little bit of getting used to, but then I'm not an avid varminter. The weight distribution was a little farther forward than I'm used to due to the wide, heavy fore-end and thin buttstock, or at least it took some experimenting to get the balance on the bags the way I wanted it.
The MVP's buttstock is a "benchrest" type, with a deep relieved area in the wrist and a stippled palm swell (sorry lefties; it's a right-hand-only configuration). It also has a 13-inch length of pull. Funny, but as a short person I've gotten so accustomed to shooting rifles that are too long for me that the MVP's stock felt weird at first. I got used to it quickly, although this attribute is something you want to take into account when you're mounting a scope on the MVP for proper eye relief.
I put the rifle through my normal benchrest testing drill, but I also got prone with a bipod, and I found the rifle to be
perfectly in tune with this type of shooting. With just a fist under the toe of the stock for support, I got very good groups at 100 and 200 yards (including a 2.65-inch group at 200 with a flyer where I missed the wind; had I not, the group would've measured 1.25 inches or 0.63 m.o.a.). Ringing gongs out to 300 and 400 was way too easy with the ProStaff's BDC reticle.
In answer to reader demand for 200-yard accuracy testing, I also took the best shooting 100-yard load (Black Hills 50-grain V-Max) and shot that from the bench at 200. Four three-shot groups with this load at that distance averaged 1.07 inches.
For another real-world experiment, I grabbed a box of Black Hills 36-grain Varmint Grenades. Immediately following testing of another load — no cleaning, no cooling period — I commenced firing seven three-shot groups at 100 yards, one right after the next at a cadence you might use on a really good prairie dog town.
The barrel got smoking hot, but you know what? Accuracy deteriorated little. Average for all the groups was 1.46 inches. The smallest group, fired first, was 0.95; the largest, fired next to last, was 2.10. Total deviation from the average was therefore only half an inch.
Complaints? Only one, and based on the gun's performance in the accuracy test, you may or may not care. This is one dirty gun. I don't think I've ever worked with a rifle that required so many patches to come clean.
The prime suspect is the bore, which I examined with a Hawkeye borescope. It's not like I found a bunch of tool marks or anything, but it's not exactly mirror bright either.
I think hand-lapping would solve this issue or, much simpler, a product such David Tubb's Final Finish. I've not yet tried Tubb's ammo-based method of smoothing of bore (it's available in component bullets or as loaded ammo), but those I know who have tried it give it a thumbs-up. Or just suck it up and clean the rifle with however many patches it takes.
That criticism aside if you're looking for an accurate, good-looking and economical rifle to take to the field for vermin large and small — or just for recreational shooting — you'd be hard-pressed to do better than the Mossberg MVP.
- Type: twin-lug bolt-action centerfire; sliding extractor, plunger ejector
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO
- Capacity: accepts AR magazines; 10-round supplied
- Barrel: 24 in. medium bull, fluted, 1:9 twist, varmint crown
- Overall length: 43 in.
- Weight: 7.25 lb.
- Finish: matte blue
- Stock: benchrest-style gray laminate
- Trigger: adjustable Lightning Bolt Action; 3.25-lb. pull from factory; 2.5-lb. pull as tested
- Sights: none; Weaver-style bases installed
- Price: $649; $796 w/factory-installed and bore-sighted 4-15x50 scope and supplied bipod
- Manufacturer: Mosssberg, mossberg.com, 203-230-5300
- Smallest Group: Black Hills V-Max 50 gr. — 0.46 in.
- Largest Group: Hornady Superformance NTX 35 gr. — 1.15 in.
- Average of all ammo tested (7 types): 0.88 in.
- Accuracy results are averages of three three-shot groups at 100 yards from a Caldwell Fire Control Rest.