November 23, 2015
I have always maintained that at least 80 percent of a rifle's overall visual appeal is determined by its stock. You can have the slickest barreled action on the planet, but if the stock doesn't have the right lines and proportions, it's got two strikes against it from the get-go. And before I get to discussing this aspect with regard to the new Mossberg Patriot bolt action centerfire rifle, I think it's worthwhile to give an example of what I'm talking about.
The best one I can think of was the metamorphosis in 1962 of the Remington Model 721/722 (long and short action respectively) into the Model 700. The 720 series was a remarkable gun — the product of newly applied post-war design and manufacturing processes, resulting in a solid, accurate rifle that was easy and economical to manufacture. Instead of complicated, flat-bottomed forgings with integral recoil lugs, as seen on the 1903 Springfield, 1898 Mauser, 1917 Enfield and Remington's archrival Winchester's Model 70, the 720-series receiver was a simple tube with no projections with an eccentric washer sandwiched between the barrel and receiver to serve as a recoil lug.
But alas, the 721/722's trim barreled action was set into a stock that had all the visual appeal of a 2x4. Not only that, it had a stamped sheet metal buttplate and a one-piece trigger guard/floorplate, also of stamped sheet metal. The latter served no useful purpose other than to seal off what was a blind magazine, a purely cosmetic attempt to suggest a hinged floorplate.
Then came the Model 700. It was essentially nothing more than the 721/722 barreled action set into a sexy new high-gloss stock with a Monte Carlo comb, cheekpiece, pressed checkering and a plastic grip cap and buttplate with white-line spacers. As for the barreled action, the only visible cosmetic change was a new, checkered bolt handle with a rearward sweep to it. Suddenly, the new Remington 700 was arguably a classier, better-looking rifle than the Winchester Model 70, and 90 percent of this transformation was attributable to the stock.
Such is the story with the recently introduced Mossberg Patriot bolt action. It represents not quite the dramatic transformation as the Remington story, but the new Patriot is different enough the Mossberg folks feel justified in calling it a new rifle. I'll let you be the judge.
Mossberg, of course, has been in the thick of the battle royal being waged among Savage, Remington and Ruger and others to produce the most affordable bolt action big game rifle. I'm talking guns with suggested retail prices of less than $450, with some being less than $350.
In the case of Remington and Ruger, their value-priced rifles—the 783 and the American respectively—are totally different animals compared to their respective flagship Model 700 and Model 77 rifles. Savage and Mossberg's guns, on the other hand, employ the same basic action as used in all other models.
This past November I had the opportunity to use the new Mossberg Patriot chambered in 7mm Rem. Mag. on a whitetail hunt in Saskatchewan where over the course of five days I logged 37 hours in a ground blind in temperatures that ranged from five degrees to 15 degrees below zero. I was also able to take the same gun back home with me to test and evaluate under more controlled and pleasant conditions.
The heart of the Mossberg Patriot is, of course, the action, which is based on a tubular receiver in conjunction with a washer-type recoil lug and a barrel lock nut. Essentially, it's the same system first seen on the Savage 100 series rifles and many others since. There are some who consider any rifle based on a tubular receiver as being somehow inferior to a forged one and therefore the mark of a, well, lesser gun. I would remind this relatively small faction that most American-built bolt action rifles today employ tubular receivers, including the Kimber Model 84/8400 series and the Dakota Model 97, hardly budget-class guns.
And like the Savage, the Mossberg Patrito's bolt head is a separate component secured to the bolt body by a cross-bolt with a hole through its center to allow passage of the firing pin. This arrangement allows the bolt head containing the twin-opposed locking lugs to have a few thousandths lateral play, which allows the lugs to seat themselves perfectly against their abutment surfaces. It's like having a lapped action right out of the box, which certainly can't hurt accuracy.
The Mossberg Patriot's bolt body has six functional spiral flutes that, upon rotation, collect any dirt or foreign matter, thus keeping such debris off the bearing surface. And because fluting reduces bearing surface area, friction between bolt and receiver is also reduced. The bolt handle is a departure from Mossberg's previous ATR/4x4 models in that there is no longer a rearward sweep to it. This one little change alone required all stocks—synthetic, walnut and laminate—to be redesigned.
The one thing not changed was the bolt shroud. Before Mossberg acquired the manufacturing rights to the Patriot's action, the original design of the bolt shroud allowed a decocked bolt to be reinserted into the action. Under this circumstance, the firing pin protrudes from the bolt face, so if the decocked bolt is reinserted into the receiver with enough force and there's a live round chambered, you get ignition without the bolt being in battery—which ain't good! The current shroud prevents this, and while there are other ways to prevent such an occurrence, Mossberg chose to retain this rather unsightly protuberance on the Patriot.
The hammer-forged barrel, which sports six half-hearted 9.5-inch flutes, is free-floated in all three stock options. In all cases there is a polycarbonate bedding chassis on which the receiver sits that is integral with the magazine well. This unit drops into the stock from above. The trigger guard bow on the synthetic model is integral with the stock, while on the wood stocks there is a separate trigger guard bow that is much classier looking. But then the wood models are more expensive than the synthetic.
There's nothing new about the Mossberg Patriot's trigger. It's the company's LBA, which is user-adjustable down to two pounds. The two-position side safety does not lock the bolt. The bolt stop/release is as simple and efficient as it gets. It's a one-piece pivoting blade with an upward extension jutting up just behind the left side of the receiver bridge.
The magazine system is excellent. The entire box is of a one-piece polycarbonate, just like the well into which it fits. I've long maintained that poly magazines are far superior to metal ones because, for one thing, they are incredibly strong yet weigh half of what a comparable metal box weighs. Also, tolerances can be held extremely tight, and the feed lips are integral with the box, so there's no way they can be bent by a drop on a hard surface. The only other components comprising the magazine are the follower, also of polycarbonate, and the follower spring.
If there's a magazine that's easier or faster to charge than this one, I don't know who makes it. I was able to stuff three 7mm Rem. Mag. rounds into this box in four seconds. There's no pushing down on the follower then having to slide the round rearward under the feed lips. You simply push the cartridge straight down. And because all surfaces are so smooth, and the fact there's a natural lubricity to polycarbonate, the effort needed to feed a round from box to chamber is silky smooth, and there's never a slide mark on the case.
But it's the new stock that's going to win over a lot of converts who heretofore simply didn't like the awkward looks of what was Mossberg's flagship rifle, the 4x4.
For the Saskatchewan hunt, I had mounted a Bushnell Elite 2.5-10x40 in Millett rings on Weaver-type bases (which come standard on the Mossberg Patriot, preinstalled), so the gun was already set for range work. As is common with these hunts where a new rifle is about to be introduced and preproduction guns are being used, the gun arrived only three days prior to my getting on a plane. I was lucky to get in one short sighting-in session using Federal's 150-grain Fusion load, which shot pretty well for the few groups I was able to get in that day. So for formal testing I wanted to sample more of the Fusion, plus a couple other loads of different bullet weights.
At the range everything worked as it should. The trigger broke at three pounds, which is what I prefer on a hunting rifle, so I left it alone. There was, however, a hitch before let-off. It wasn't severe enough to where it affected my shooting. Accuracy was acceptable, but with this being a preproduction example, I believe it will be better on production guns.
I expected velocity loss with the 22-inch barrel in 7mm Magnum to be rather severe, and it was—averaging about 90 fps less than nominal. As of this writing, the plan was to fit all Mossberg Patriots with 22-inch pipes regardless of caliber. I think that would be a mistake, and I'm hoping Mossberg will reconsider before production begins. The 7mm and .300 Magnum models should have 24-inch spouts, otherwise you've got little more than a louder .280 or 30-06.
Other suggestions: change the stock's stippling panels to real checkering, and the pattern on the grip should be larger and more of a traditional point pattern to match the fore-end.
With the Mossberg Patriot, I believe the company has become a more serious player in the value-priced bolt action marketplace. The fact this rifle has gotten the company into Cabela's, Sheels and several large buying groups where heretofore Mossberg centerfire rifles were not carried certainly suggests a new and higher acceptance level. In addition to continuing all the chamberings of the 4x4 line (it and the ATR are gone), the Mossberg Patriot will be offered in .375 Ruger, a first for Mossberg and another step toward broadening the gun's appeal. It's also available in a shorter, 20-inch-barrel Bantam version, along with scoped combo offerings.