by John Markwell | Contributing Editor
The MVP series of bolt-action rifles from O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. (www.mossberg.com) has created quite a stir within the firearms community since their introduction in 2012. Offered in Varmint, Predator, and Patrol configurations, with either traditional styled stocks or the Mossberg Flex butt stock system, there is a MVP rifle to fill most any need; real or perceived.
The MVP rifles are available in 5.56 mm/ .223 and .308 and use M16 mags to feed the former, and either M14 or LR-308/SR25 style mags for the latter. Barrel lengths run from 16¼ to 20 inches in configurations from sporter through medium bull in weight. Initially offered in only 5.56mm/.223, the use of M16 magazines to feed the MVPs was nothing short of a brilliant idea. We feel this magazine compatibility has been a big factor contributing to the popularity of the MVP series of rifles from Mossberg. Whether or not this magazine compatibility would classify these rifles as “assault weapons” in some jurisdictions is debatable. Regardless, these are pretty neat rifles. When chambered for the 5.56mm NATO cartridge, the MVP rifles offer the varmint hunter the ability to use any AR15/M16 magazines and fire both 5.56mm and .223 Rem. ammunition.
We have now had two MVP rifles. The first was a Predator model that performed flawlessly and migrated to my son’s gun safe. Currently, we have on hand the Thunder Ranch rendition of MVP Patrol chambered in 5.56mm NATO. We are thoroughly enjoying this rifle. The Thunder Ranch MVP has an 18.5 inch medium bull barrel which is partly fluted, with a 1 in 9 twist rate, and is capped by an 11-degree tapered crown. The muzzle is threaded for attachment of either a flash or sound suppressor and comes with not one but, thoughtfully, two screw on thread protectors. The MVP’s receiver is topped by a Picatinny rail. The bolt has a small extractor similar to the Sako and a plunger-type ejector. Unique to the fluted bolt of the 5.56mm/223 caliber MVP rifle is the patented “cartridge pusher.” This little hinged metal tab, which is pinned below the bolt face, insures feeding from a variety of M16 magazines. It looks kind of funky, but it works.
The Thunder Ranch MVP has a wood stock that is nicely painted OD Green. The Thunder Ranch logo is stenciled on the right side below the ejection port. The magazine well has a polymer insert which houses the magazine catch/release and the action rests on aluminum pillars. The trigger guard is polymer (watch tightening the rear action screw) and three sling swivel studs, one at the butt and two in the forearm, finish out the stock. Much to our liking is the slightly short, 13¼-inch length of pull of the TR’s stock as well as the solid rubber butt pad. Tastefully textured in the grip and forearm areas, the TR MVP’s stock makes this a very user friendly rifle that is both comfortable to shoot and carry in the hand.
For any rifle to be really shootable a good trigger is a must and Mossberg’s Lightning Bolt-Action Trigger is pretty good. The pull weight of the LBA trigger is user adjustable from 2 to 7 pounds. Out of the box, the Thunder Ranch rifle’s trigger broke at an average of 3lbs 7ozs for 10 pulls with our Lyman trigger pull gauge. We left the trigger alone as it was nice and crisp. However, we found the trigger had one quirk which took a bit of getting used to. The trigger finger pad has to be in 100% contact, and square with the trigger’s front face in order to fully depress the lever in the center of the trigger. If one tends to pull the trigger from slightly to the side, the lever will not be fully depressed and a click instead of a bang will be the result. We tend to be somewhat of a “side-puller” due to arthritis in our hands so this is my problem, not the gun’s, and we have adapted. The safety on the TR MVP is a two position type mounted on the right side of the rear of the receiver. When on-safe it does not lock the bolt handle down. This feature allows one to unload the rifle in a truly safe manner but it also allows the bolt handle to be partially lifted inadvertently rendering the rifle unfireable.
Feeding and functioning of the TR MVP rifle with a variety of M16 magazines was generally pretty good; actually very good, but a bit rough with some magazines. We ran every round fired in the TR MVP rifle through an assortment of magazines. All the magazines tested fit well and locked solidly in place in the TR’s polymer magazine box. We used magazines from Colt, MAGPUL Industries, H&K, SureFire, and Brownells during our testing of the Thunder Ranch MVP. The magazine release and latch are metal with the release tab located at the front of the mag well. Manipulation of magazines was simple and natural with removal involving little more than a flip of the release with the index finger of the hand controlling the magazine while fresh mags snapped solidly in place when inserted. It was a pleasure to be able to top up magazines while they were in place and to be able to single feed cartridges, by just chucking a cartridge on top of the follower and running the bolt home. This was also a plus, in our opinion.
As mentioned above, the muzzle of the 18.5 inch barrel of the TR MVP rifle is threaded ½ inch 28tpi which is the same as most AR rifle barrels. This feature is one of the things that attracted us to the TR rifle, as it could be fitted with a suppressor if so desired. We hooked up with our buddy Gary Powers at the Fort Harmar Rifle Club shortly after receiving the TR rifle and fitted one of his Thunderbeast cans to the rifle’s muzzle. The reduction in muzzle blast was significant. For certain LE and hunting applications, the use of a suppressor has obvious utility and being able to attach one to the TR Mossberg rifle is another plus, in our opinion. Since we live in rifle country where the sound of rifle fire is pretty common, we are still pondering the practicality of acquiring a suppressor for the TR MVP rifle. Time will tell.
We mounted an older Leupold VXII 4-12x telescope to the Thunder Ranch’s Picatinny rail using Warne Maxima rings which we purchased from Brownells. We also attached an MGM Switchview lever to the Leupold’s power ring. After a considerable wait for winter to abate, we finally got up to our bench and established a 100 yard zero on the outfit and were ready to do some shooting.
Accuracy-wise the TR MVP was the equal of the Predator Model that we had last year. Due to the current ammo situation, we didn’t fire the number of five-round groups we normally like to when evaluating a new rifle but we shot enough to get a good idea of the rifle’s performance capabilities and its likes in the ammo department. The chart at right summarizes our accuracy testing.
We put a final zero on the TR MVP shooting Nosler 40-gr. Lead-Free Ballistic Tip Varmint ammo and went up the fork to shoot some woodchucks. Walking the edges of a few hay fields yielded shots on several chucks from around 50 out to about 230 yards. On the longer shots, I was wishing I’d touched up the trigger pull a bit but the rifle still performed well, sending several alfalfa munchers to the great meadow in the sky.
The TR MVP rifle comes with one 10-round magazine that has a GI style metal floor plate which, like the metal 20-rounder magazines, was prone to snag when carried in our Eberlestock Gunrunner’s Backscabbard. The 20-round mags also made for a pretty tight fit in the scabbard and tended to poke the back when the rifle was carried in the traditional manner with the attached sling. So, we obtained three 10-round MAGPUL Gen3 PMAGs from Brownells with their contoured polymer floor plates. These polymer magazines are incredibly reliable and they have a distinct lack of sharp edges which eases carry in the Gun Runner pack and over the shoulder. The ten-round magazines are, also, not overly heavy when loaded and allow the rifle’s balance point to be just in front of the magazine well, making for comfortable carry in the hand. Although we may use 20-round magazines for some prairie dog shooting, the 10-round PMAGs will be our “go to” magazines for most purposes.
Except for having to adapt to the trigger (which we have since replaced with an aftermarket Timney), we consider the Mossberg TR MVP rifle to be quite the shooter. It is a very user friendly rifle. The M16 magazine compatibility is its greatest feature and being suppressor ready is a big plus and is a temptation to us personally. We used the Mossberg Thunder Ranch MVP through the winter of 2014/15 and hauled it to the West for some prairie dog shooting during the summer of 2016. Currently, the MVP Thunder Ranch rifle resides in our pickup with a loaded magazine in the cup holder. There are certain advantages to living in rural America and having a good rifle like the Thunder Ranch Mossberg in .223 handy on a daily basis is one of them. Good Shooting.