Almost no one will argue that the modern sporting rifle is not only the most popular rifle platform in history, it’s also the most versatile. In a period of 10 years, I’ve gone from not quite “getting” the AR-15, to being a dyed-in-the-wool AR-phile. There are currently seven in my gun safe and there are four extra upper receivers on the shelf, including one precision match rifle.
What makes AR-15s so great is that they’re both accurate and easy to shoot. It rules the roost in 3-gun competition, dominates NRA High Power, and is a force to be reckoned with in long range tactical shooting. Just recently, an AR-pattern rifle in .308 won a long range steel match, competing against precision bolt-action rifles.
The AR-15 is also a viable hunting rifle. Back in the spring, I shot three hogs in one day hunting from a blind in East Texas. The only one of the three that didn’t drop in its tracks stopped about 10 yards past where he was hit. Pigs have a reputation for being tough to kill, but there are so many choices in .223 ammunition that you can accomplish almost any task you might ask of it.
A few weeks ago, I did some shooting with Mossberg’s “hunting” version of the AR-15, the MMR Hunter. The gun I tested was the hunting version of the MMR series. The Mossberg MMR Hunter sports a free-floating 20-inch barrel with a 1:9 twist. This will allow the MMR hunter to shoot bullets up to about 69 grains with no destabilization issues at longer ranges. There’s a slender and comfortable handguard with two sling swivel studs to allow use of both a tripod and a sling. The stock is one piece, similar to the M16A2, and the pistol grip features a battery compartment. There’s a Picatinny rail on top of the upper receiver for mounting optics, and the rifle comes with a six-round magazine.
At 39 inches long and seven pounds unloaded, this is a light and handy rifle. I scoped it with a Nikon AR .223 3-12x scope. I used this scope for the first time in the 2011 National Defense Match (NDM) and I found it to be a great medium-distance scope with accurate adjustments and clear optics. The NDM was fired out to 500 yards and the Nikon was perfect for the job. It seemed a perfect match for the MMR because the 1:9 twist makes the little Mossberg a great predator rifle.
Of course, a predator rifle must be accurate and I found the MMR was certainly up to that task, as well. While three- and five-shot groups are common, the real test of a rifle/ammunition combination is the 10-shot group. At 100 yards, the MMR delivered sub-MOA 10-shot groups with Black Hills .223 ammunition loaded with the 55-grain Barnes TSX bullet. This would make a great predator/varmint load. The big surprise was how well the MMR shot the bargain-priced Brown Bear 62-grain hollow point load. It shot almost as well as the Black Hills, though there weren’t as many close centered shots.
This is a great little rifle. It’s easy to carry and reasonably priced with an MSRP of $1,028. It’s certainly accurate, even with low-cost steel-cased ammunition. I did have one and a half complaints. First, the trigger on my test gun needs work. It’s both heavy and a bit gritty. There are a lot of great triggers out there for the AR-15 and I suspect I’ll be adding one to the MMR. The half complaint is that I felt a 1:8 twist barrel might have been an advantage, but this is solely dependent on the chosen purpose. The 1:9 twist barrel will handle bullets down to 40 grains, making the MMR primarily a varmint/predator gun. A 1:8 twist would allow use of up to 75-grain bullets, allowing better use of the MMR’s accuracy, but it would preclude the use of really light varmint bullets. Looks like the engineers saw this rifle as more of a predator/varmint rifle than a longer-range shooter.
To sum it up, Mossberg has proven to me that they can produce a quality AR-15. I suspect they will be adding a few more models to the MMR line in the future, they’ve certainly built a good rifle in the MMR Hunter.
Images by Dick Jones