April 28, 2022
By Joseph von Benedikt
Hot off the press, Mossberg’s new LR Hunter bolt action is based on the proven Patriot action, and it features bells and whistles intended to enhance a shooter’s precision in the field. At first, I was nonplussed by the lack of a heavy, match-profile barrel, since the “LR” model designation suggests long-range shooting. Then I put two and two together and realized that Mossberg has created a rifle that’s easier to shoot well yet still light enough to pack up a mountain.
The Patriot action is simple—which is a good thing—and is built with proven characteristics. The bolt can be removed by pressing a small catch at the left rear side of the action tang. Dual, vertical locking lugs up front achieve equal contact via a floating-head bolt design. The handle is robust yet sleek. A simple shroud surrounds the cocking piece.
Spiral fluting on the bolt keeps weight low and provides a place for debris to collect without impeding function. The safety is a two-position rocker-type located on the right rear of the action, and when engaged it blocks the trigger from contacting the sear. It does not lock the bolt when engaged.
Patterned much like Savage’s AccuTrigger, Mossberg’s LBA adjustable trigger provides a nice trigger release, and it’s user-adjustable. From the factory, the trigger on my test rifle is set at exactly 3 pounds, with 6 ounces of variation over a series of five measurements with a Lyman digital trigger gauge. It breaks with just a hint of creep.
A stout, high-impact polymer magazine fits comfortably and nearly flush in front of the well-profiled trigger bow. Capacity is 5+1 in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win., 4+1 in 6.5 PRC and 3+1 in .300 Win. Mag. Atop the action is a full-length Picatinny rail, providing 6.5 inches of mounting length.
Patriot LR Hunter barrels are fluted, threaded 5/8x24 up front for compatibility with a muzzle brake or suppressor and have an 11-degree match-type crown. Since they’re a pretty slender 0.63 inch at the muzzle, there’s a step up to 0.75 inch to provide a suppressor an adequate shoulder against which to square up. Each barrel is secured to the action using a barrel nut, with the recoil lug sandwiched between the front of the receiver and the shoulder of the barrel. All metal parts are finished in a simple, non-glare matte bluing.
Aside from the optics rail, the stock is where all the precision-enhancing aspects come in. It’s configured to assist the shooter in achieving consistency and stability while in field positions.
Inside the composite stock are machined aluminum bedding pillars, which provide a stable platform for the action and won’t compress over time beneath the heavy torque of the action screws. The butt has a minimum amount of drop, so recoil transfers rearward nearly straight, minimizing muzzle jump. A high Monte Carlo type comb maximizes the shooter’s cheek weld and has a negative angle running forward, so the top edge of the stock drops away from the shooter’s face during recoil.
A nice rubbery pad graces the buttstock. While it is emblazoned with the Mossberg logo, it feels like Decelerator rubber, which is my favorite recoil pad material. During shooting tests, it proved to dampen felt recoil effectively.
At first glance the pistol grip appears traditional, but a closer look reveals it to have quite a steep angle, giving it a feel nearly like modern vertical-grip competition stocks. It does not have a palm swell, but it’s comfortably hand-filling without feeling chunky.
Up front, the fore-end is fit with two sling swivel studs, making it easy to attach a bipod. If you’re not a bipod kinda guy, no sweat; the bottom of the fore-end is nice and flat, so it’ll sit level and stable on a sandbag or backpack.
A high-tech polymer coating on the stock protects it from abrasion and moisture, and it has what Mossberg terms a “micro-textured surface” meant to provide a non-slip grip even with sweaty hands or when wet with rain.
To wring out the Patriot LR Hunter at the range, I mounted one of Leupold’s new VX-3HD scopes, choosing the 4.5-14x40 version with the CDS-ZL turret and side-focus parallax adjustment. Built using a 30mm main tube, it’s a bull-strong hunting scope with cutting-edge long-range features.
Most critical of those is Leupold’s stellar CDS-ZL turret. The model letters stand for “custom dial system, zero locking.” Every scope comes with a voucher for a free custom turret cap, to be engraved in yards to match the ballistics of your particular rifle. Once you’ve broken-in your barrel and picked a favorite load, chronograph your muzzle velocity and send that along with your projectile’s specs and the average atmospheric conditions in which you hunt to Leupold and the company will create and ship you the custom turret.
The ZL (for “zero locking”) indicates a button that ensures you won’t accidentally spin your turret off its zero setting while sliding it into a saddle scabbard or onto a truck seat. There’s also a zero stop, which allows you to quickly dial down to your chosen zero without risking getting your turret off by a full turn. Without looking, too. A zero-lock button prevents accidental turret rotation.
Leupold’s Wind-Plex reticle provides the final piece of the long-range puzzle. It provides one-m.o.a. hash marks on the horizontal crosswire to assist the shooter in consistently holding for wind.
With the scope mounted in Nightforce X-Treme Duty Ultralite rings, I scrounged up a selection of .300 Win. Mag. ammo, testing with a Harris bipod up front and a bunny bag in the back. The LR Hunter, with its slender barrel, doesn’t have a lot of mass to tame recoil, and kick was zesty but not uncomfortable. Once zeroed, I threaded on my SilencerCo Harvester suppressor. In addition to the inherent recoil-dampening capability of a suppressor, it has an integral baffle-type brake up front and is really good at taming jumpy rifles.
With it aboard, recoil was comfortable. On that same range trip I was accuracy testing a medium-weight 6.5 Creedmoor with no muzzle device, and to my surprise, the suppressor-equipped .300 was less than that of the non-suppressed 6.5 Creedmoor. (For those wondering, point of impact shifted down eight inches and left one inch when I mounted the suppressor. That’s a lot, but not entirely unexpected due to the small-diameter profile of the Mossberg’s barrel.)
Ergonomics are excellent. The double-stack polymer magazine is easy to load, and the bolt functions easily and without drama. And while not the equal of a match-grade aftermarket trigger, the LBA is pretty good.
Reliability, too, was stellar during my tests. I ran most of the test ammo from the magazine, just to confirm that the rifle feeds and functions well. A few times I chucked a loose round into the ejection port, and those, too, fed into the chamber without an issue.
Away from the bench, the feel of the Mossberg is great, more like rifles costing double what it does. Worked like you mean it, the action runs like a well-oiled pickup truck. Thrown to the shoulder, the stock seats naturally, and the Monte Carlo comb positions the cheek and eye well behind the scope. Balance is good, too. It wears its weight between the shooter’s hands, making it nice and responsive.
I had only four different loads to test through the rifle, but three of the four are commonly very accurate. Results are shown in the accompanying table. Were a fella to handload for the Patriot LR Hunter, or find an additional half-dozen factory loads to test in it, the rifle would probably shoot one-m.o.a. groups with its favorite load. However, like most thin-barreled magnums, it’s finicky about ammo.
That leads me to my one beef with the LR Hunter. While it’s a solid hunting rifle, capable of killing cleanly to 400 yards or so in the hands of a skilled rifleman, in my opinion that “LR” designation is misleading. To provide legitimate long-range capability, a hunting rifle should shoot most loads into one m.o.a., and its favorite loads should deliver significantly smaller groups than that.
I think to achieve that level of accuracy, the LR Hunter should be fitted with a heavy-contour barrel. The fore-end of the stock has a channel that is plenty large enough. If the diameter of the barrel were increased significantly, the resulting stiffness and heat-absorption capability would undoubtedly result in a notable accuracy increase.
For those who really want to push their distance boundaries with a Patriot LR Hunter, consider one of the other three available cartridges rather than the .300 Win. Mag. I tested. Heavy magnums cause a great deal more barrel vibration and oscillation and action distortion during recoil. Plus, because they recoil so heavily, they exploit any imperfections in the action-to-stock marriage. Given the slender barrel, I’m nearly certain that any of the other three chamberings will shoot more accurately.
That said, if you just ignore the LR designation, this is a solid, great-feeling, all-around hunting rifle. It’s 7.5 pounds bare, so after mounting a scope and sling and filling the magazine with ammo, it’ll be a nine- to 10-pound rifle, depending on how heavy your scope is. That’s light enough to pack in whitetail country and in the West’s milder open country, and it’s heavy enough to take the edge off the recoil of the .300 magnum cartridge.
Mossberg Patriot LR Hunter Specification
- Type: two-lug bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag. (tested)
- Capacity: 3-round polymer magazine (as tested)
- Barrel: 24 in. fluted, 1:10 twist; threaded 5/8x24 (thread protector included)
- Overall Length: 44.75 in.
- Weight: 7 lb., 8 oz.
- Stock: Composite, Monte Carlo type; gray spider finish
- Finish: Matte blue
- Trigger: LBA adjustable; 3 lb. pull (measured, as received)
- Sights: None; full-length Picatinny rail
- Price: $766
- Manufacturer: Mossberg, mossberg.com