By Justin Opinion
The name Mossberg instantly conjures images of “best in class” shotguns and a company moniker that has earned a place among the few elite firearms makers in the U.S., or even the world. If you’ve been paying attention over the past few years, you may also know that Mossberg has made a strong entry into the modern sporting rifle (AR-15, etc.) market. But when you open the box containing the 715P Duck Commander—even when you know what’s inside—your mouth will open just a little bit, and you may be heard muttering, “Cool!”
So, what is in the box—what is this thing called the Mossberg 715P Duck Commander? It’s a pistol—that looks like a baby AR—that shoots .22LR. Throw in the included red-dot optic, and you’re suddenly willing to make a huge dent in your stash of .22LR ammo. Oh, and the Duck Commander edition of the 715P comes with two other things that will move the corners of your mouth upward … full-on camouflage coverage over the entire pistol provided by Realtree. The new Max-5 waterfowl pattern covers the entire firearm. Last, but certainly not least, is the familiar-looking bandana of stars and stripes worn by Willie of Duck Dynasty fame. The Duck Commander designation of the pistol represents a marketing partnership between Mossberg and Duck Commander, and the bandana provides a bit of a wink and a tongue-in-cheek to say that this pistol is meant for having fun. A closer look ,and you will see the Duck Commander logo displayed on the side of the gun.
Unlike many guns, there is not an obvious application for a firearm like the 715P, so I had to ponder it a bit. My conclusion is that this is a pistol made for the primary purpose of good, old-fashioned fun—plinking! Yes, you could hunt small varmint with it, and you can shoot paper with it of course, but let’s not pretend that this is the gun you’ll bring to the Bullseye match. Putting hundreds of rounds downrange, having lots of fun trigger time is what this gun is all about. To test that for myself, I brought a couple of young family members along during a test session and forced them to endure the fun, which they did—so much so that I barely got a turn.
The 715P is deceivingly light for its size and doesn’t even feel like the 3.5 pounds it weighs. This is because most of the bulk is hollow polymer. There is even a fake charging handle, but it is cosmetic only and just part of the injection molded housing. The real “firearm” is tucked inside, and there is a real “operating handle” located at the bolt. Still, at 3.5 lbs., this isn’t a pistol you’d hold in the locked-elbow stance of a target shooter for very long and expect accuracy. Because of the length of the gun (some 16” stem to stern), much of that weight is hanging out front. The pistol is easy and fun to shoot one-handed but would be fatiguing after an extended period. The two-handed grip felt more like the way to go, holding the 715P like a tiny carbine, with the support hand gripping the front of the mag well and magazine.
The controls on the 715P are fairly intuitive and sparse. There are really only three, and here are my thoughts on each:
• Operating handle: This is used to manually manipulate the bolt for charging (chambering a round), unloading and locking the bolt open. The handle is easy to reach and easy to operate, but it might take the new user a little time to get used to the “push it in to lock the bolt back, and pull it out to charge the firearm” action. I’ll confess that I had to remind myself of that more than once.
• Safety: This is the old-fashioned button-style safety—push it in from one side to engage the safety and prevent the trigger from operating; push it in from the opposite side to disengage the safety and make the gun ready to fire. One side (left) is marked with red to indicate “safety off” when it is extended. This is a fairly common practice, and I like to think of it as “red = ready” and teach youngsters that phrase.
• Magazine release: My least favorite control on the 715P is the mag release. It is ambidextrous, meaning that it can equally frustrate right-handed and left-handed shooters alike. There are two levers (one on each side) that release the magazine by moving the lever downward. But they are awkward to reach and difficult to operate. The youngsters got the hang of it faster than I did and taught me the trick. But I never got proficient enough with it to like it. The other thing I don’t like about it is that the levers you use are not the real magazine release but a secondary control that pushes the real release inside. The inside release is a steel part, and the operating levers simply rotate a plastic cam against it. Plastic rotating against metal? ‘Nuff said.
The 715P Duck Commander is fun to shoot. Lots of fun. If you enjoy a good old-fashioned plinking session, then you’re sure to get a smile from this pistol. There is just something about putting a string of .22 brass cases in the air that brings out the kid in everyone. And therein lies the purpose for the 715P. The pistol comes with only one magazine, which is stated at a 25-round capacity, though I was never able to squeeze more than 22 into it and only achieved that once. Most often, after a dozen or so rounds, I gave up trying to fit more. The magazine has some serious issues and leaves much to be desired. It uses two springs, one below and one above the helper button. But if you push the helper button down, it compresses the lower spring and nothing more. The follower does not move. Loading rounds into the magazine is pretty much like all .22 LR magazines. The rounds go in easy with little spring resistance until about a dozen rounds, and then it feels like it locks up. I found that snapping the thumb helper several times (pulling it all the way down and releasing it) would sometimes loosen it up enough to accept a few more rounds, but more often it didn’t help much.
A red-dot optic is also supplied with the Duck Commander edition of the 715P is. The evaluation copy came equipped with a UTG red/green reticle optic. It is an adequate quality sight to use for plinking, and is easy to adjust for elevation and windage. There are five reticle settings each for green and red. During testing, the green dot was a nice contrast against the red-colored targets I was using. The fixed sights on the pistol are the rear peep-sight and front post style.
The sight picture is good and easy to acquire. One complaint about the pairing of the fixed sights and UTG optic is that they do not co-witness at all. The front sight can be a distraction when using the red-dot because it sits just below the aim point.
Mossberg did a nice job on the look and feel of the 715P Duck Commander. The Realtree dip is so good that you’d better be careful where you lay this gun down or you may not find it. Extending the camo to the box portion of the magazine (a cosmetic extension) was a nice touch. The A2 flash hider on the end of the six-inch barrel completes the look and really makes this pistol look like a baby AR. Out front is a usable quad rail fore-end of picatinny with about three inches of usable space. The two side rails can be removed for those who prefer a more slender grip.
The grip is part of the molded polymer shell. It’s a decent-sized grip, small enough for junior shooters and robust enough for adults. The trigger guard is good-sized and should allow a gloved shooter access. The trigger itself is adequate for a gun in this class. The pull is good at 5 lbs. 1.5 oz. (a 10-pull average as measured by the author) but it is a long reach, long resetting trigger that takes some practice to get a good rhythm with, and it’s a little spongy.
Cleaning the 715P is not for the faint of heart. It essentially requires the complete disassembly of the pistol to remove the “real gun parts” from the outer cosmetic shell. Multiple tools are required, along with some degree of competency. You might buy this gun for your kids to plink with, but you’d better be ready to take over when it’s time to clean and lube the gun. When I read the instructions for disassembly and cleaning of the 715P, I was very tempted to send it back to Mossberg dirty. Believe me, it was only so I could describe the process to you that I put myself through it. It takes a minimum of five different tools (none of which are supplied) and an above-average skill level to take this gun down and clean it. It involves stripping off all external parts (red-dot optic, rear sight, etc.) and removing about a dozen or more screws just to get the two polymer halves apart. Then you need an Allen wrench to remove two retaining screws that hold the firearm to the shell. Okay, that was the easy part. Now you need a steel punch, hammer and some sort of armorer’s block, because you have to remove two pins that hold the upper receiver to the trigger group housing. Oh, and these pins have knurled ends on them—do not mistake this with popping loose the takedown pins on a real AR. They come out hard and they go back in just as hard. After you’ve cleaned it, reverse the process. My guess is that most owners will do this once, maybe. After that it will be spray cleaner and a bore snake = good enough.
Several brands of ammo were tested as five-shot groups with the Mossberg 715P at 25 yards using a bench rest with a vise attachment. Results were adequate for a plinking gun, but not tight enough to be taken seriously. The best group was produced using CCI Mini-Mag, which yielded a 1.79” spread. Average of 5 groups, each a different ammo, was 2.573”.
To me, this takes it out of serious consideration as a varmint gun, unless you are at close range. As a favorite teacher of mine used to do, I threw out the “worst score” hit and measured best four-out-of-five shot groups. When I did that, Remington edged out the CCI Mini-Mag by just a bit, and the average dropped to 1.554”, a marked improvement. So, if you want to blame the flyer in each group on me, my rest, the ammo, or cosmic forces, an inch and a half is not so bad. To be fair, I was using the green dot of the UTG optic at its brightest setting to compensate for the bright sunlight. This makes the dot itself over an inch in diameter against the 25-yard target. This increases the margin of shooter error.
If you are willing to spend around $400 (MSRP is $447) for a cool looking, fun time having, kid magnet .22 to take to the range for family fun, it might not get any better than the Mossberg 715P, especially with the name Mossberg on it and the company behind it. If you also expect serious accuracy or utility from the gun, you might be left wanting. I think that if you accept the 715P for what it is, there is value in owning one. You’ll have to decide.