by B. Gil Horman - Wednesday, September 26, 2012
As one of the most popular .22 rifles of all time, the Ruger 10/22 has been the inspiration for a variety of aftermarket parts and accurizing upgrades. In the early 2000s, Magnum Research obtained three patents pertaining to a carbon-fiber barrel designed for the 10/22. By 2003, the company had perfected the process of wrapping unidirectional graphite fibers parallel to the bore axis of a steel barrel insert. The result was a 13- to 16-ounce barrel, depending on the length, with six-times the rigidity of steel, and a 43 percent faster heat dissipation rate. All of those features added up to greater accuracy potential.
Rather than simply selling this new barrel as an accessory, the company took the next step and designed a complete rifle to support it. In 2004, the .22 Long Rifle version of the MagnumLite rimfire rifle was in production, followed the next year by the .22 WMR. Although the rifles utilize the 10/22 trigger group and 10-round rotary magazines, the rest of the gun is pure Magnum Research.
An addition to the series is the .22 Long Rifle MLR22AT. The fully floated 17-inch bull barrel, with a Benz target chamber designed specifically for semi-automatics, is mounted to a CNC-machined 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum receiver. The bolt is machined from heat-treated and through-hardened 4140 steel. The MLR22AT weighs approximately 4 pounds, 4 ounces, without an optic, and has an overall length of 35.5 inches.
The AT in the name stands for Ambidextrous Tactical. The folks at Magnum Research were regularly receiving requests for their popular Barracuda thumb-hole target stock in a left-hand configuration. Jim Tertin decided to simplify the process for everyone by designing a new, lightweight, ambidextrous thumb-hole stock made of glass-filled polypropylene and fitted with a hard rubber butt pad. Unlike many of the polymer 10/22 stocks on the market, this one has a comb that’s high enough to use comfortably with optics. Although the prototype stock shown in the photos has a smooth pistol grip, the production model will have molded-in checkering on the palm swell.
At the range, the MLR22AT proved to be the definition of a light and handy .22 rifle. Informal off-hand shooting was all-day comfortable because of the rifle’s low weight. The 3-pound, 8-ounce trigger was smooth and crisp. A Nikon Prostaff Target EFR 3-9X 40 mm AO scope, mounted with Leupold QRW rings to the milled-in Weaver-style scope rail, proved to be an excellent match for the rifle’s shooting characteristics. From a bench rest at 50 yards, with competition-grade target ammunition, the MLR22AT produced groups from 0.75 to 1.5 inches. As expected, shooting bulk-box and hunting rounds did result in the groups opening up a bit, but the rifle fed and fired a wide variety of loads reliably.
A Bright Future
June 2010 marked an important milestone in Magnum Research’s history, namely, the purchase of the company by Kahr Arms. Back in 2008, Magnum Research began the lengthy process of transferring production of the Desert Eagle pistol from its subcontractors in Israel to their facilities in Minnesota. After two years of hard work, 90 percent of the production setup was complete. However, the process of converting the pistol to an American-made product was exceptionally expensive and funds for the project were running low. This shortfall coincided with the national banking crisis of the time, which made additional funding through bank loans unavailable.
Kahr Arms was founded with a unique series of pocket-size pistols chambered for full-power defensive calibers designed by CEO Justin Moon. Becoming one of the most successful pistol makers in the 1990s, the company expanded with the purchase of Auto-Ordnance in 1999. In 2010, it saw another opportunity to grow by adding the Magnum Research holdings to its family of products.
According to both Frank Harris, Kahr’s vice president of sales and marketing, and Jim Tertin, the engineering wizard of Magnum Research, the merger has been mutually beneficial. Kahr has gained another iconic brand to expand its unique product catalog. Magnum Research received additional funding and the benefit of Kahr’s extensive CNC machining facilities to successfully complete the American-made Desert Eagle. Both companies were already using the same distributors, so Magnum Research’s advertising and distribution were dovetailed into Kahr’s existing marketing system. Most importantly, as far as customers are concerned, Kahr is dedicated to maintaining the quality and diversity of the Magnum Research line.
What does the future hold for Magnum Research? The company is working overtime to keep up with this year’s product requests. While the BFR revolvers and MagnumLite rifles tend to be seasonal sellers, the Desert Eagle pistol is in demand year-round. Although the primary focus of the company will continue to be moving the current product line out the door, don’t be surprised to see new offerings in 2013.
Model: Magnum Lite Rifle (MLR22AT)
Caliber: .22 Long Rifle (tested), .22 WMR
Action Type: recoil-operated, rimfire, semi-automatic rifle
Frame: black anodized aluminum
Barrel: 17" stainless steel
Rifling: six-groove, 1:16" RH Twist
Magazine: 10-round capacity, detachable rotary box
Sights: integral Weaver-style scope rail
Trigger: single-action: 3-lb., 8-oz. pull
Overall Length: 35½"
Weight: 4 lbs., 4 ozs.
Accessories: lock, manual
Suggested Retail Price: $562
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