Long known in sporting, as well as military and law enforcement circles, for its workhorse, value-priced shotguns, Mossberg generated mild surprise among shooters back when it entered the rifle market with its line of ATR bolt-actions. That was just a little over five years ago. The move served as a declaration of sorts by management that the company was prepared to build a future that would carry it beyond its comfortable reputation as America’s leading manufacturer of pump-action shotguns. That product line expansion continues on in a bold way in just a matter of weeks as the first of the company’s true AR-style Mossberg Modern Rifles (MMR) hit store shelves.
To those shooters who still regard Mossberg as a “shotgun” company, the move might feel out of sorts, but in truth, it’s a very natural progression.
“Within the last couple of years, Mossberg has been taking a new approach and trying to be more consumer driven,” says Tom Taylor, vice president of sales and marketing at Mossberg. “If you want to be consumer driven in this market, you better be in the tactical gun market.
In many ways, the company already has been quite involved in the market, both out front and behind the scenes. Since 1979, Mossberg has produced the only pump-action shotguns purchased by the United States government that meet or exceed both mil-spec and National Institute of Justice requirements. Mossberg currently has more than 40 world-wide military contracts and provide shotguns to our nation’s largest police force.
“I hear from a lot of returning servicemen and women who appreciate the performance of Mossbergs,” says Taylor.
Behind the scenes, Mossberg has been one of the largest suppliers of AR rifle barrels in the world.
“We already had that component nailed,” explains Taylor in discussing the MMR’s development. Just last year, the company introduced its Tactical .22, an AR-style rimfire rifle whose sales far outpaced even Mossberg’s expectations. Taylor said initial sales of the Tactical .22 exceeded the company’s forecast by five times, laying solid groundwork for the next inevitable step—the creation of a full-scale center-fire AR.
“This is a major new horizon in the firearms industry, we had to be a part of this market going forward,” says Taylor.
Mossberg’s Modern Rifle
“There are 1911s and there are ARs. They are very proven and basic designs,” says Taylor. But the MMR does boast some interesting features that make it proprietary. At least in the first incarnation, the rifle does not have a forward assist, though Taylor concedes later versions may well include one. There also is no dust cover on the MMR’s Hunter versions.
Both models are direct impingement, the proven gas system that has powered most ARs throughout its history. They also feature button-rifled, carbon-steel rifles with a 1:9 rate of twist, phosphate/anodized finishes for durability, Stark SE-1 one-piece pistol grips, oversized trigger guards for use with gloves and oversized charging handles for rapid, ambidextrous engagement, even when large optics are mounted. All MMRs are chambered in 5.56 mm/.223 caliber. Triggers are all single stage.
The MMR Hunter includes a slender, aluminum checkered fore-end that offers a sure, comfortable grip and won’t chew at a shooter’s hand like a rail-lined fore-end. Dual swivel studs accommodate both a bipod and sling. The 1:9 twist barrel is 20 inches long, and the Hunter model use a traditional A-2 style buttstock for a more solid cheek weld when shooting. Three versions of the Hunter MMR can be had, one in the black anodized/phosphate finish, one in Mossy Oak Treestand camo and one in Mossy Oak Brush camo. Each Hunter comes with a five-round magazine in order to comply with some state’s hunting regulations, which limit the number of rounds a sportsman can carry when pursuing particular game, but easily accepts higher-capacity AR-15 style magazines where not limited by law. A Picatinny rail is mounted atop the upper for the quick, easy mounting of an optic or red-dot sight.
The MMR Tactical comes with either a fixed A-2 style stock or six-position adjustable stock that allows for up to 4 inches of adjustment to accommodate varying lengths of pull, 16 ¼-inch barrels with A-2 style muzzlebrakes, quad Picatinny rails for ready customization and attachment of accessories and comes with either 10-round or 30-round magazines. An upper Picatinny rail accepts optics, and this model also comes with optional rail-mounted front and rear sights. The Tactical version does include a dust cover—a benefit when used in dry, dusty conditions such as those I recently encountered on a Texas hog hunt where everyone was testing the performance of the MMR.
The fore-end on the Hunter model, which I first tested, really did improve comfort, whether being held during extended shooting sessions or carried in the field for extended periods of time. I also found it resisted heating quite well when hammering round after round at targets as, most of us who love ARs like to do. The rifle sighted quickly and depending on the ammo, shot with varied degrees of solid accuracy in conjunction with a Bushnell Elite scope in 1.5-4x.
Initial five shot sets at 100 yards yielded several 3-inch groups using 70-grain specially loaded ammo that we were able to walk inside 2.5 inches. However, the heavy bullets were almost too much for the 1:9 twist, showing signs of beginning to wobble in flight due to the minor keyholing evident where the bullets hit the target. The Hornady TAP 62-grain loads were no better, no worse; however when switching up to 65-grain TAP ammo, the rifle found something it really liked and groups fell easily within a 2-inch circle. We’re not talking competition or custom-gun level accuracy here, but it’s more than adequate for virtually any hunting or shooting application by most shooters.
The .223 is a little light for the average hog-hunting venture, but with well-placed head shots it proved more than capable. In fact, one hunter took out two feeding hogs with a single shot at more than 175 yards. Given the creation of a dedicated hunter model, I would expect to see heavier calibers arrive in the MMR lineup in the near future. With an MSRP of around $900 for most of the MMR’s configurations, interested buyers should be able to put one in their hands for an actual retail price of around $750 to $800. As such, the MMR lives up to the company’s long-held philosophy of building solid performing guns and making them available at a good value.