Give an American a handy, accurate, magazine-fed bolt gun in a caliber like .308 Win. and he can do many things, including win battles, defend castles, take deer and wild pigs, and have a blast dinging targets nearly as far as he can see. Give him one for under $700 and he's over the moon.
I'll readily confess Mossberg makes me proud. O.F. Mossberg & Sons of North Haven, Conn., is America's oldest family-owned gunmaker. When Oscar Frederick Mossberg started it in 1919 he set out to build not only good guns, but good guns at affordable prices. Over the years he, his two sons Iver and Harold, grandson Alan, and great-grandson and current CEO Iver resisted selling out when times got tough. Instead the company continues to provide working-class Americans infallible shotguns for defense, hunting and fun.
Mossberg offers rifles in the same spirit. Several years ago the company got serious about the centerfire rifle business and created its 4x4 rifle. Mossberg built a sound action, mated it to a quality barrel using a Savage-inspired barrel-nut system (that increases accuracy potential by allowing for precise, repeatable headspace during production) and bedded it well in a decent stock. Then the company dropped in its LBA trigger, and custom gunsmiths should be glad the 4x4—like a Savage rifle—is just a little rough around the edges or there would be no reason to pay thousands more.
As another example of Mossberg's willingness to adapt, it next accepted the current tactical trend and created its .223 Rem.-chambered MVP series rifles. The company took the proven action, barrel and trigger of the 4x4 and added features that cause weekend warriors to salivate. Hunters might roll their eyes at the birdcage flash hider and "Tackleberry" look, but more pragmatically Mossberg modified the rifle to accept M16/AR-15 magazines. An innovative, hinged bolt head reliably scrapes fresh cartridges off the top of the detachable magazine. It's cool, but then again, America has noshortage of detachable-magazine-fed .223s.
This year, however, Mossberg did something that makes sense to me, a guy who likes more power than a .223 for everything but groundhogs and coyotes. Variations of the MVP rifle—including the laminated-stock model shown here called the Predator—are now available in 7.62 NATO (.308 Win.). Sure, there are a pile of bolt guns in .308 with detachable box magazines also, but this one utilizes standard M14/M1A or AR-10 magazines. So now, this "shotgun maker" offers an 11-round, magazine-fed, carbine-length bolt-action that's available in my favorite hunting caliber of all time. It costs around $700. And it shoots. My test gun produced 1.5-inch groups or better with three brands of factory ammo.
The Predator is available with a threaded, medium-contour, 18.5-inch barrel or a sporter-weight, 20-inch barrel. Both are fluted. While the .308 cartridge will generally give up about 50 fps for every inch shy of its optimum barrel length of 22 inches, this rifle with proper bullets still delivers enough energy to kill any big-game animal on the continent. I like the handiness of the short, stout 18.5-incher, and am considering a suppressor for it as game departments open up regulations to curtail burgeoning deer and hog populations.The barrel is mated to its laminated stock via one simple piece of polymer that forms the magazine well and two pillars, fore and aft, for the action bolts. Once these are tightened, the action's recoil lug fits into a slot in the stock, and the barrel remains free-floating. No doubt this system contributes to the rifle's accuracy.
Mossberg went with a different bolt design to accommodate the larger case head of the .308 Win. and ensure reliable push-feeding from an M1A or AR-10 magazine. Instead of being hinged, the bolt head has two small nodules on its bottom edge to strip cartridges from between the feed lips. The design worked without fail during testing.
The safety is a two-position toggle much like that found on a Remington Model 700. Back is safe; neither position locks the bolt. The magazine release is just ahead of the magazine well. It's metal, large enough for a fingertip and recessed to guard against inadvertent release.
Notable is the Predator's trigger. Similar to Savage's AccuTrigger, it is user adjustable down to 2 pounds yet remains safe. A finger must depress the center blade for the sear to release. My test rifle came out of the box with a 2.43-pound pull that had no creep, so I left the trigger exactly where it was.The Predator's stock is made of laminated wood that resists the accuracy-robbing swelling traditional wood stocks can experience in high humidity. Stippling on the fore-end and pistol grip provide purchase. The buttstock is a straight-line affair that directs recoil straight back to an effective, good-looking recoil pad.
Thanks to the NRA and its 5 million members, the "if you could only have one gun" debate is just for fun. Humor me, then, when I say Mossberg's MVP Predator is a strong contender. Find a high-capacity, detachable-magazine-fed bolt gun that weighs less than 8 pounds, shoots MOA groups, shoulders like a hunting rifle and costs $700, and I'll show you an American who wants a new Mossberg!