For the budget-conscious, or more correctly, budget-constrained, shooter, Mossberg has always been an ally. That remains the case with its boldest foray into semi-automatic rifles. Late last year, Mossberg made news when it introduced the Mossberg Modern Rifle (MMR), an affordable AR-style rifle chambered in 5.56x45 mm NATO (.223 Rem.).
That Mossberg decided to go all-in on an AR-style rifle should surprise no one. With more than 40 military contracts worldwide, including providing shotguns to the largest police force in the United States, Mossberg is the largest selling shotgun brand in America and the second overall long-gun brand. It is also the largest exporter of long rifles in the country and, perhaps most surprising, one of the largest AR barrel suppliers in the world.
The direct-gas-impingement-operated MMR Hunter's features-or lack thereof-distinguish it from many other ARs. First, the rifle does not have a forward assist, which results in a lower receiver with a slimmer, cleaner profile; however, it will be missed by the hunter who, for the sake of stealth in the field, eases the bolt forward, then uses the forward assist to ensure lockup. There also isn't a dust cover; its usefulness under normal field conditions is debatable, though.
Because most hunting occurs during cold weather, both the trigger guard and charging handle are oversize. The former permits easier access when wearing gloves, while the latter enables fast, ambidextrous charging, even when large optics are mounted. Scopes used for long-range shooting tend to extend past the rear of the upper, making gripping the charging handle difficult on many other ARs. Since the MMR Hunter is devoid of sights, a length of Picatinny rail tops the receiver.
The slender, checkered aluminum fore-end offers a comfortable grip that resists barrel heat nicely, even during high-volume shooting sessions. Just as important, it's not abrasive to a shooter's hand like some rail-lined versions. Dual front swivel studs accommodate both a bipod and sling.
The traditional A-2 style buttstock lacks some of the portability of a collapsible, six-position stock, but it delivers a better cheek weld when shooting. The test rifle had a basic black-anodized/phosphate finish, but models are also available with Mossy Oak Treestand or Mossy Oak Brush camouflage finishes. Other features include a Stark SE-1 one-piece pistol grip and a single-stage trigger.
The test rifle's fluted, 20-inch carbon steel barrel is button-rifled, free-floating and has a 1:9-inch rifling twist rate that accommodates most 0.224-inch projectiles, and especially those commonly used for hunting varmints, predators and larger game, such as feral hogs. Similarly, because of its intended hunting role, where regulations sometimes preclude using a high-capacity magazine for certain species, the MMR Hunter comes with an aluminum, five-round magazine; however, it will accept any standard AR-style magazine.
To field-test the MMR Hunter, we topped it with a Bushnell Elite 1.25-4X 24 mm riflescope and pursued feral hogs and coyotes, the former in Texas and the latter in Oklahoma and Kansas. Although not ideal for large hogs, the MMR Hunter, loaded with Hornady 55-grain TAP FPD, proved capable of quickly downing the animals. As can be expected, the load worked equally as well on coyotes. During the hunts, the MMR Hunter's good accuracy made hits, even those at longer distances, easier, and the rifle worked without issue. Its 20-inch barrel provided good velocities, but wasn't excessively long so as to snag in the brush.
On the range, the MMR Hunter exhibited no malfunctions despite hundreds of rounds consisting of a mixed bag of brands and bullet weights, and the attendant heavy fouling such shooting generates. Concerning accuracy, the standout was Hornady's 55-grain TAP FPD, which delivered an excellent average of 1.10 inches for five consecutive, five-shot groups at 100 yards. Still, the average for 75 rounds was a respectable 1.34 inches.
Our only complaint was the trigger. Breaking at 5 pounds , 4 ounces with lack of "crispness" and noticeable creep and overtravel, without practice, or for novice shooters, it could prove difficult to use and, most certainly, will negatively affect group size.
For the hunter looking to add an AR to his or her lineup of sporting rifles the Mossberg MMR Hunter would be a good candidate. It is lightweight, slim and accurate. With a suggested retail price of $921 or $1,010 (camouflage), and real-world cost even less, it also represents a good value.
Manufacturer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons; (203) 230-5300; www.mossberg.com