Review: Savage Arms MSR 15 LR
May 17, 2019
The compact .224 Valkyrie cartridge caught the attention of many shooters when it was first introduced. Here was an intermediate size cartridge designed for the AR-15 family of rifles that was capable of long-range use. Thanks to its ability to throw long and heavy-for-caliber projectiles with relatively high ballistic coefficients, the .224 Valkyrie added a step-up in performance over the traditional favorites.
Savage Arms took note of the interest in the .224 Valkyrie and examined what shooters were looking for in a rifle so-chambered: reduced recoil allowing shooters to spot their shots; heavy enough to be stable yet not too heavy that it becomes unwieldy; enough barrel length to maximize the potential of the cartridge; the ability to adjust the gas to tailor use with and without a sound suppressor; easy charging from the prone position or from a bench; and an adjustable stock. Savage responded with the MSR 15 Long Range.
When I first examined the MSR 15 Long Range, I liked the concept as well as the execution. Its features are practical and executed in a way to enhance the overall performance of the rifle.
The rifle itself has a bit of weight to it, tipping the scales at 10.5 pounds. Add a scope, mount, bipod and loaded magazine and you have a rifle that’s stable off a bipod or rest yet still light enough to shoot from improvised positions.
The heart of the rifle is a 22-inch stainless steel heavy match barrel with a 1:7 twist. Because long-range shooters are concerned with reducing felt recoil and staying on the scope to spot their shots, the MSR 15 Long Range is fitted with an effective two-baffle muzzle brake. The muzzle is threaded 1/2x28 for those who want to use a different brake or a suppressor.
The rifle features a low-profile adjustable gas block, enabling shooters to fine-tune for specific loads—especially helpful for avid handloaders—or for suppressor use. Surrounding the barrel is a robust but fairly light free-floating handguard, which is bolted to the upper receiver instead of mounted on the barrel nut so it’s truly free-floating. It has a comfortable diameter and features M-Lok slots for easy mounting of accessories.
The upper receiver itself has additional material to better support the long, heavy barrel and to mount the handguard, and it includes the standard case deflector, forward assist and port door cover. However, it departs from tradition with a charging handle located on the left of the upper receiver. This facilitates easy charging from the prone or from a rest.
Riding inside the upper receiver you’ll find a nickel/boron bolt carrier. Because the .224 Valkyrie is based on the 6.8mm Rem. SPC and has a larger case head, the bolt is larger than your standard 5.56 design. It also feeds from 6.8mm SPC magazines, and a Precision Reflex Inc. magazine is included with the gun.
The lower receiver features an integral trigger guard, which is nicely contoured to facilitate use with gloves, in addition to the standard AR controls. Peek inside, though, and you’ll find a two-stage trigger rather than your typical service-grade single-stage. This provides a fairly crisp release, and our review rifle broke cleanly at four pounds.
At the rear of the receiver you’ll find a Magpul Industries’ PRS stock, which is adjustable for comb height and length of pull.
I installed a Bushnell Tactical LRTS 4.5-18x44mm scope with mil turrets and reticle on the rifle and went to work. The Savage MSR 15 Long Range proved to be a smooth shooter. Felt recoil is mild, as you would expect, and you can adjust the rifle to reduce muzzle movement and enable you to spot shots.
The barrel length on the MSR 15 Long Range is a nice compromise between 24 inches, which is getting a mite long on an AR-15, and losing velocity with a shorter 20-inch tube. Every single foot per second is appreciated past 600 yards.
Rounds fed smoothly, the bolt operated easily and the sidecharging handle works well. Extraction and ejection were flawless and consistent. Zapping small steel plates from 400 to 580 yards at speed proved to be great fun. As I became more familiar with the rifle and the wind conditions, I began pushing to go ever faster.
Moving to 800 yards, I ran my various silhouettes and eight- and 12-inch plates, having issues only with the troublesome four-incher. I would have loved to push this rifle beyond 800 yards, but alas, that’s as far as my range goes.
Savage’s MSR 15 Long Range is accurate, easy to shoot well and has great exterior ballistics for an AR-15. While it lacks the bullet diameter and weight of, say, a 6.5mm Grendel, it does have an advantage in the wind. Plus, when it comes to reloading, .224 projectiles are less expensive than heavier .264s.
For someone looking for a mild-recoiling gas gun, the MSR 15 Long Range is definitely worth a look. It has a number of nice features, is smooth shooting and is quite accurate for an out-of-the-box rifle.