Magnum Research sent us two guns, one in .22LR and one in.22WMR, plus an extra .22LR graphite stiffened barrel. The two rifles performed really well. They are based on a standard 10/22, and the trigger group, magazine and stock are interchangeable. The barrels and Barracuda stocks are available for your own 10/22 as well. Graphite barrels are not a new idea, but these are well executed with a patented new technology from Magnum Research.
The guns themselves are marked MLR-1722 and MLR-1722M, which indicates that they will most likely come out in .17HMR as well. The chamber is clearly longer on the .22WMR for the added pressure, and we got a look at both stocks, the Barracuda with the special high cheekpiece, and the Hogue Overmolded stock that is a soft touch like the high end deer rifles.
The .22LR model liked this Winchester Super X the best of the brands we tried. This .36 inch group at 50 yards was the best of the bunch, but none of the groups was over .5 inches for three shots.
One of these days we will replace the wobbly table that we shoot a lot of our groups on. Human error is most likely the only thing from keeping this rifle from shooting 1/2MOA all day long.
As you can see from this ten round group of just over an inch, most of the rounds were within that same half inch in the middle.
This .26 inch group was the best for the .22WMR. It was shot with 45 Hornady Critical Defense. This rifle did fluctuate more with some groups in the one inch range.
We only realized later that the web page for this gun says that if you use 30 grain bullets you will void the warranty. Oh well.
We did have a few failures to feed with the 30 grain, but over at least four boxes, it worked mostly fine and was nearly as accurate as the 45 grain. The 45 grain had no failures whatsoever.
All of these rifles come with an integral Picatinny rail along the tip, and about the only fault we could find with the guns is the lack of a last round holdopen. If you want to avoid dry fires you really have to be diligent to count your rounds. We had a few dry fires before figuring that out. This could lead to problems down the road with a worked hardned and brittle firing pin.
Magnum Research Magnum Lite® Rifles
The quest for the ultimate .22 has found an unexpected home in Minnesota at Magnum Research, Inc., creators of the most popular movie gun of all time, the Desert Eagle. You wouldn’t expect Magnum Research to be the new leader in cutting edge .22LR, .22WMR and at some point even .17HMR firearms. But these days Magnum Research is home to not only their famous handguns, but also a patented graphite barrel technology called Magnum Lite® . What makes these barrels unique is that the graphite fibers are unidirectional, parallel to the bore axis. The result are barrels that are six times more rigid than steel of the same weight and that dissipate heat 43% faster than steel. Magnum Research is taking the custom rimfire market to a whole new level by producing a whole line of these guns in various calibers, and they have carried the technology to full sized centerfire calibers as well.
The two rifles you see here in our tests are the MLR22AT in .22LR, at an MSRP of $562, and the MRL22WMH in .22WMR at an MSRP of $791. Both guns come in under 5 lbs., and though they are built to serve very different functions, both are extremely accurate, and both seem to be very well built. With a history of innovation and novel approaches to things firearm, Magnum Research seems to have hit a useful niche in both the 10/22 aftermarket and in their own line of custom quality firearms. Their guns are built on their own custom receivers, and you can buy the graphite barrels and their unique Barracuda stocks separately, for your own 10/22 project on your existing Ruger rifle.
Short of cutting the stand alone barrel in half to get a cross section just for curiosity sake, understanding the methodology of the Magnum Lite® barrels isn’t that hard. Most people understand the concept of a “bull barrel.” Thicker steel makes the barrel less floppy as the harmonic vibration of the bullet passes through it. The problem with a solid steel barrel, however, is that no matter how thick the steel, it is in fact all steel, so the molecules are attached to each other and transfer heat directly to one another. This results in a stiffer barrel, but still one that is subject to a certain amount of flop as it heats up. Since steel is also very heavy, the firearms industry has always been looking for a lighter material that will stiffen barrels without the weight, and preferably without the easy transfer of heat. Graphite, an insulator, not a conductor like steel, has long been thought of as the ideal substance, and this why Magnum Research has worked to perfect the bull graphite barrel, in a way that both stiffens the barrel and lasts the lifetime of the firearm
They do this by sleeving a thin walled barrel with a column of unidirectional graphite. Both the chamber and the muzzle have steel caps, as you can see in the pictures. They cut the chamber into the steel , to contain the pressure of the brass rimfire cartridge, and they cap the muzzle with steel, to give you a solid and resilient muzzle. You would think that this would add significant weight, but the finished barrels are only 13-16 ounces total, depending on length. You can buy the barrel separately, or you can buy the barrel attached to a Magnum Research action and stock. The receivers on these guns are made from 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum forgings for strength, so even in the venerable .22WMR the guns don’t flex at all, even though the overall guns are literally feather weight. The bolts are made from 4140 heat treated steel, and the Ruger 10/22 inspired design works flawlessly. . The $269 MRSP barrel itself, available on the rifles or as a standalone drop in replacement for the 10/22, has been tested to hold zero over 500 rounds in 20 minutes. The Barracuda stock you see here, in several colors, is also available as an aftermarket part to accommodate the .920″ graphite bull barrel.
If you look at the differences in our two test guns, the thumbhole Barracuda stock model is the flagship gun of the line, just released this year. It has a high comb, or cheek rest, so you can mount a scope on the integral top rail to find a lined up natural cheek weld, without any adjustments. The graphite bull barrel is free floated and mounted into the action just like a standard Ruger 10/22. We were not able to try to mount the extra barrel they sent us into a 10/22, but it does use the same mounting system as the standard Ruger as well, though you may need a wider stock, either the Barracuda or the Hogue Overmolded soft touch stock you see here on the .22WMR. The thumbhole stock is ambidextrous, but it is a little confusing to call it that because the bolt handle is on the right side, and no left side mounting is available. On both guns ejection was forward and to the right, so there would be no problem with a southpaw shooting them. You would just have to get used to the right hand bolt handle. The safety is a standard crossbar, and the trigger group I believe is an actual Ruger part, though it could be an aftermarket. The magazines that came with the guns were actual Ruger mags. The .22LR holds ten rounds and the .22WMR holds nine.
Testing the two guns, it was hard to tell which one was the better performer. Human error is about the only error with both guns. They are absolute tack drivers. . We easily repeated 3 to 5 round groups of .5 inches at 50 yards with the .22LR model MLR22AT. And even ten round groups only opened up to just over an inch, in what was really rested, casual shooting, sans our usual Army Sniper Ben. My best with the .22LR gun was the .36 inch group you see in the pictures, but none of my groups, even when the gun had been shot over 200 rounds in a short time, were over .5 inches in the first 3 shots. This would demonstrate that the gun is most likely sub-MOA, even hot, and that shooter error was the only thing keeping the 10 round and more groups at bigger than that. We used mostly Winchester .22LR as well as some CCI and couple boxes of Federal mixed in. Most rimfire ammo is made in the same factory these days, so it really is just a case of which name is on the box and what specs it was made to at the time. The Magnum Research MLR22AT liked this Winchester brand from Wal-Mart just fine.
For the .22WMR tests on the MRL22WMH we used Hornady ammo exclusively. The only thing, we may have voided the warranty by using .30 grain ammo. Go figure. This is our second outing this month with a gun that has a caveat on the website saying that SAAMI specification ammo will void the warranty. I have not previously heard of this practice. Our best groups were definitely with the .45 grain Hornady Critical Defense, and one was even .26 inches for 3 rounds at 50 yards, a record for our tests. It looks like two rounds, but it is three. The 30 grain bullets actually worked mostly fine in the gun, but we did have a few failures to feed. I don’t know why they would void the warranty. Overall the average groups for the .22WMR were in the .5 to one inch range at 50 yards, not quite as tight as the .22LR version.
You may be asking the age old question, “why do I need this.” For true gun nuts, this question rarely comes up, but for the casual shooter, you have to ask the question of why should someone buy a fairly obscure and new product, when a regular Ruger 10/22 works pretty darn good on its own. Indeed the reason for the extensive aftermarket in 10/22 parts is in fact because the 10/22 is just that good. The answer is that these Magnum Research guns are just that much better, and they can still be improved because they fit other aftermarket parts. Our accuracy tests on the barrels themselves are probably not even as good as the guns would do in a locked fixture. Most likely the physical accuracy, or more correctly stated, “precision,” of the Magnum Lite® barrel is next to perfect, even over hundreds of rounds. Locked in a vise it would most likely shoot a ragged dime sized hole at 100 yards, and the gun is under five pounds remember. This kind of repeatable rigidity, especially at this low weight, is unheard of in a steel barrel gun. You may not feel you need this kind of performance, but wouldn’t it be nice to know you have it?
If you are a competitive shooter, or you just want to be able to go out plinking on a hot summer afternoon without your accuracy going south after 30 rounds, the Magnum Research Magnum Lite® system is worth the investment. If you are a serious .22WMR hunter, that version of the gun is probably also worth the investment, though it is much more expensive. A .22WMR, with the right shot placement, will take any animal in North America. It isn’t legal in all states, but where it is, there is an increasing popularity in “sniper hunting” with rimfires on everything from small game, to larger varmints, to even whitetails. A super accurate .22WMR is a humanitarian duty if you plan to hunt game with a rimfire. And because they are so cheap to shoot, you can get your practice in! The Magnum Research Magnum Lite® is a great option to have in the market, and if it fits your budget, the completely Made in USA Magnum Lite® is worthy of a lifetime purchase decision. My only complaint with the gun is that it doesn’t have a last round hold-open. It is fairly important to not dry fire a rimfire, because the firing pin work hardens and they will become brittle and break, but it is difficult to not dry fire either of these guns unless you meticulously count your rounds.
Graphite barrels are not new to the firearms market. But this unidirectional, patented, new graphite barrel technology from Magnum Research is exciting. It is light as a feather, and heating up the guns doesn’t seem to throw off the accuracy at all like it would with a steel bull barrel. Expanding from just the barrel technology to manufacturing their own whole complete rifles with this technology was a bold move for Magnum Research. They are for sure used to being in the “niche firearm” market with the Desert Eagles, but there is a much larger segment of the shooting population that would be in the market for a super accurate graphite barreled 10/22 than there are for a big, heavy, magnum semi-auto pistol. The Magnum Lite® guns could be a huge hit for Magnum Research, and we can’t wait to see the centerfires.