As the AR platform continues to grow in popularity, with its new Mossberg Modular Rifle O.F. Mossberg & Sons has now added its name to the lengthening list of traditional-name manufacturers producing ARs. The company calls it the MMR for short.
Did I say “Mossberg”?
Yes, I did. And yes, this will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows among shooters who are still scratching their heads about big companies like S&W and Ruger offering ARs. Or among those who haven’t been paying attention to Mossberg’s recent introductions of new-design high-performance bolt-action rifles such as the 4×4 or ATR series, or the lever-action Model 464 or the new MVP rifle announced at this year’s NRA Convention. Or among those who still think of Mossberg as just an economy-grade shotgun maker. As Mossberg Vice President Tom Taylor puts it, “Mossberg is very serious about rifles.”
Well, the company certainly isn’t testing the AR waters by simply sticking a toe in. The North Haven firm is jumping in fully clothed. The three basic formats for its new rifle include an AR-15-platform 5.56mm/.223 Remington MMR Hunter, an AR-10 platform in 7.62/.308 MMR Hunter and an AR-15-platform 5.56mm/.223 MMR Tactical. Taken together, they are initially being offered in a total of 14 different configurations, accessory packages and finish variations. That’s a lot of options, not to mention a lot of investment in production capacity. And it all indicates a lot of confidence from Mossberg in the quality of these products and the depth of the market that awaits them.
A Look at the Details
The Hunter versions of the MMR, both in .223 Remington and the larger .308 Winchester, are specifically configured to service the increasing numbers of hunters seeking field-oriented ARs for varmints, predators and big game. Both chamberings are available in three finish options: all black, all camo (Mossy Oak Treestand or Brush) or with camo stock, pistol grip and fore-end only. All are furnished with a fixed A2-style buttstock and an ergonomic pistol grip from Stark Equipment Corp. that features a straight-angle trigger-finger alignment and integrated oversize triggerguard for gloved hands. The free-float aluminum fore-ends are Mossberg’s own unique slim-profile design, with dual front sling swivel studs and forward vents for accessory rail attachment.
The MMR Hunters have no sights, but they have a flattop receiver with integral Picatinny rail for optics and accessories. The charging handle has an oversize latch release for quick, positive operation. The 20-inch free-float barrel on the 5.56mm/.223 versions has a 1:9 twist; the 20-inch free-float barrel on the 7.62/.308 MMR Hunter has a 1:10 twist. The muzzles are countersunk for protection. Triggers on all MMR Hunter versions are of standard AR-type single-stage design. All MMR Hunters come with one five-round magazine (larger-capacity aftermarket magazines are readily available). The 5.56mm/.223 MMR Hunters weigh 7.61 pounds; the 7.62mm/.308 version weighs 91/2 pounds.
There are two features commonly found on other AR-platform guns that are not included on Mossberg’s MMR Hunter rifles: a dustcover and a forward assist. This will cause some comment. Here’s my take: When Mossberg was first contemplating the production of an AR, I was asked if I thought a forward assist was necessary.
My response was that I was first issued a first-generation M16 in 1968 and had been using the AR platform more or less continually ever since, both in military service and for civilian sport shooting, competition and hunting. In all those 40-plus years I could only remember trying to use a forward assist twice. And neither time did it do any good. To me it’s pretty much unnecessary and adds parts and assembly time to the manufacture.
As for the spring-loaded dustcover, well, it’s a good thing. If it’s used. Unfortunately, the vast majority of AR rifle users simply never bother to flip it shut after loading or firing. Also, it’s thin and fragile, prone to getting bent or out of alignment, and it adds time, cost and additional small parts to the manufacturing process. I’ve had a lot of dustcover latches wear out.
Personally, I’ve trained myself to reflexively check that it’s closed whenever I’m using an AR in the field—but I can live without it. Especially for the price the MMR Hunters are being offered for. The recommended retail price for these rifles runs from $992 for a black-finish MMR Hunter 5.56mm/.223 to $1,448 for a full-camo MMR Hunter 7.62mm/.308. Real-world pricing will come in notably less.
Given that a primary element of the AR platform’s popularity is home defense and law enforcement use, it’s no wonder Mossberg has also included a 5.56mm/.223 MMR Tactical model in its new family. This model shares all the basic features of the Hunter versions, but with a somewhat different feature set. For one, it has a dustcover (but still no forward assist). For another, it has a free-float Picatinny quad-rail forearm with plastic rail covers. The 1:9-twist, 161/2-inch barrel has a removable A2-type muzzlebrake.
Removable Picatinny rail front and rear sights or optional A2-style sights are available. Buttstock options include either an AR-style six-position collapsible stock with mil-spec receiver extension or standard fixed A2-type stock (no difference in cost). Magazine capacity options include either 10-round or 30-round standard AR type. The MMR Tactical models are available only in black anodized phosphate finish. Recommended retail price for all MMR Tactical versions is $885 without sights, $922 with detachable sights.
Out in the Field
Just prior to the announcement of the new MMR family, I had the opportunity to join Mossberg’s Tom Taylor and Linda Powell on a combined varmint and predator hunt in eastern Oregon using standard-issue 5.56mm/.223 basic MMR Hunter rifles. Over three days of targeting, ground squirrel shooting and coyote calling, our group of eight shooters fired more than 5,000 rounds of .223 Remington ammunition in 13 different varieties from 11 different manufacturers, ranging in bullet weights from 35-grain lead-free loads to 62-grain match loads. Linda had raided every gun shop in Oregon for everything they had.
In all that shooting, over three days, morning and afternoon long, there was not a single malfunction of any kind. The guns’ performance was made even more impressive by the fact that it was dry, dusty and windy in the ground squirrel fields, so that by 2 p.m. or so, your eyes were sticky and you could feel grit grinding between your back teeth.
We gave the MMRs zero maintenance. This means we did not clean them or lube them at all for the entire duration, shooting them straight out of the box. Considering that the inside bearing surfaces of typical AR receivers, bolt carriers and operating mechanisms are relatively rough-surfaced to begin with (unlike with most bolt-action rifles), I was more than slightly impressed.
As for accuracy, well, all rifles have preferences for individual loads, and the MMRs were no exception. With the ammo my particular rifle liked best (which happened to be Hornady 55-grain V-Max and DoubleTap 55-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip), I had no trouble holding 11/4-inch groups at 100 yards shooting from a field-rest varmint-shooting table at a target stuck in the ground. Not bad, considering that these were not exactly optimum benchrest conditions on a breezy day. Even more impressive was that the rifles held their groups throughout the shoot.
Remember, I said we didn’t maintain them at all. That means we didn’t even run a cleaning swab down their bores. And we shot a lot of rounds. And the rifles got hot. I whacked a coyote dead-center at about 150 yards the last morning. And I finished the last afternoon by hitting 80 ground squirrels out of 100 rounds fired at ranges running from 20 yards to more than 200. Consistency, point of aim, trajectory compensation and wind-drift allowance still held as true as at the beginning of the first day.
It’s also noteworthy that the MMRs do not have chromed bores, which typically resist fouling better than standard steel tubes. These were brand-new barrels, fresh from the factory, not seasoned or broken-in in any way. I’d never submit any new rifle of my own to this kind of abuse. But we wanted to see what these new Mossberg offerings were really made of.
At the Bench
Returning home, I mounted the new MMR Hunter that was waiting for me with a Nikon Monarch 6-24x50mm SF scope with fine crosshairs and sat down at a real bench rest with some of the same Hornady 55-grain V-Max ammo load I’d used in Oregon. Minute-of-angle 100-yard three-shot groups all day long—in spite of the standard AR trigger. At 200 yards it averaged 2.12 inches. (That was me more than the gun; it’d do better with a precision aftermarket trigger.)
All this will come as a surprise only to those who have forgotten Mossberg’s long reputation for producing extraordinarily reliable and accurate products at prices notably below many other premium makers of comparable firearms. I can be a pretty harsh critic of today’s new plethora of AR-platform rifles. I’ve used ARs for a long time, I know what they’re capable of, and I know how easy it is for a company to turn out a slipshod, fast-to-market product. The Mossberg MMRs are anything but.
I like these guns. I’m an AR guy, and I’m gonna own one.