For more information, visit http://www.mossberg.com/
To purchase a Mossberg MVP Varmint rifle on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=mossberg%20MVP%20varmint
My first experience with Mossberg rifles occurred when I was a young man working behind a gun counter while still in school. A customer I knew came in and purchased the first model of centerfire rifle Mossberg produced. The rifle was a Mossberg 800 varmint and it was chambered for the popular .22/250 round. I knew this customer well; he was a hand-loader who owned several very accurate rifles and expected a high degree of accuracy. He had a 300-yard range on his property that I had used to sight in rifles. I’d seen how some of his rifles performed and I was surprised at his choice. At the time, those who wanted an accurate rifle purchased a Winchester Model 70 or a Remington Model 700. Those with more money to spend bought a Remington 40X.
Several months later, I was checking the zero of one of my rifles when he showed up at the bench with the Mossberg. He shot a five shot string while my barrel was cooling and I was amazed at the result. At 100 yards, the five-shot group was easily hidden under a dime. Good accuracy in today’s world and remarkable back in those days, especially for a rifle with a price tag of under a hundred dollars. He’d glass-bedded the action, worked on the trigger and developed a load the rifle liked. I was thoroughly impressed.
The cost of long range rifles is a result of specialized features that are normally low production items. Long range rifles require stable stocks that are designed for precision shooting from different positions. They need a trigger system that allows the shooter to break the shot without disturbing the hold. The barrel should be heavy enough to dampen barrel whip, and pillar bedding is required to prevent loss of zero in weather changes. Most long range shooting is aided by greater magazine capacity, and fast reloading can be an asset. Until recently, all these features were only available on rifles that sold for way past the thousand dollar mark and sometimes three or four times that.
My first experience with the Mossberg MVP line was at a writer conference. I was impressed with the features of the 5.56 version and especially intrigued with its ability to use standard AR-15 magazines. Increased-capacity magazines for bolt action rifles are generally quite expensive; some cost about the same as that Mossberg 800 that impressed me so many years ago. I liked the rifle and I stated that Mossberg should attempt building one in .308/7.62 NATO. That’s exactly what they did. Those first versions sported short 18.5 or 20 inch barrels. While short barrels are handy, I’m not excited about a long range rifle with a short barrel. A bit later, they brought out the Varmint version with a 24-inch medium heavy fluted barrel. Designated the MVP Varmint, it’s the rifle I chose to review.
- Chambering: .308/7.62 NATO
- Barrel: 24 inches
- OA Length: 44 inches
- Weight: 8.75 pounds
- Stock: Laminated, benchrest
- Sights: None, Weaver-style scope bases included
- Action: Bolt-action
- Finish: Matte blued
- Capacity: 10+1
- MSRP: $715
My experience with short barrels at long range came with the 22-inch barrel of the M14/M1A Service Rifles I competed with in NRA High Power. I won a couple of regional championships with an M1A Service Rifle, but I fully realized the disadvantage of losing a couple of hundred feet per second over the 30-inch barrels on the rifles in the Match Rifle class. In winning both those matches, I had keyholes in my target, even when they landed in the ten and X rings. Short barreled .308s tend to lose steam when they travel long distances. I’d prefer a 26-inch tube, but 24 inches is better than 20. The barrel is a 1-10 twist unit, and that’s an advantage for longer range shooting as it allows use of heavier 190-grain bullets with better ballistic properties. Muzzle diameter is .760, heavy enough for stiffness, but keeping weight at a manageable 8.75 pounds.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
One thing that attracted me to the original MVP in 5.56 was the ability to use inexpensive AR-15 magazines. Mossberg has accomplished the same thing with the 7.62 version by adding a couple of little wings on the bottom of the bolt that allow it to pick up cartridges off both sides of the staggered magazine. The rifle is designed to feed from both 7.62 PMAG-pattern magazines as well as M1A/M14 magazines.
There have been complaints online about rough cycling, and I noticed it as well. The problem is that the wings that allow pickup of the rounds from either side of the magazine create a drag when they come in contact with the shoulder of the next round in the magazine. However, it did not impede functioning. It comes with a 7.62mm PMAG-pattern 10-round magazine, but my assortment of M14 magazines in different lengths fit nicely and worked flawlessly. The wings allow the bolt to close on an empty magazine without being impeded by the follower.
I particularly liked the magazine release. It’s flush on the bottom of the stock, easy to operate, yet out of the way. I’m used to the M14-style lever many box magazine bolt guns use, but the recessed button was easy to get used to and unobtrusive. Other controls and design features were standard for modern bolt-actions. The bolt head is a separate part as is current custom and the barrel uses a nut for headspacing. The trigger is the current bladed style that allows safe, but light breaks. The spiral fluted bolt is fairly smooth, but I’d have preferred a larger knob and longer handle.
The MVP comes with Weaver-style scope bases. My first assumption was that the scope wouldn’t be far enough forward for prone position but the stock is long enough that I could comfortably shoot prone even though I tend to crawl a stock. The laminated stock is well designed with a vertical pistol grip that works so well for precision rifles and featured a comfortable recoil pad. The comb is a good height for shooting with a scope, allowing a comfortable cheek weld.
My grandson, Charlie, really liked the looks and feel of the MVP and while he’s sometimes a bit shy of recoil with guns larger than his .243, he really enjoyed shooting it. The recoil pad and portly weight make it a pleasure to shoot.
Of course, this is a heavy rifle with a target style stock and tactical features, so ultimately we get down to accuracy. I tested with several brands of match 7.62 ammunition; some modern, some remarkably obscure. At first, accuracy was disappointing. I brought the rifle in and took the action out of the stock and on doing so, I found the guard screws a bit loose. I also noticed the recoil lug wasn’t glass bedded into the stock and not particularly tight. I feel certain that glass bedding the recoil lug recess and the front of the receiver would help.
Back on the range, I managed some pretty good groups. My best 100-yard five shot group measured just under a half inch with the worst measuring about 1.25. The MVP seemed to tighten up as I shot more, another reason I think a glass bedding job would help. I tried several different loads; Hornady Tap 168, Winchester 168 Match, Lake City M852, and an old lot of Federal 168 Match. Of the loads tested, the Winchester load produced the best groups, averaging less than .750.
Like that Mossberg 800 from many years ago, the MVP has potential and can be a remarkable low-priced gun with a little work. As it is, it’s certainly capable. While no one will argue that spending more money will increase your chances of getting a truly accurate rifle, sometimes you can get what you need for a lot less money. The MVP Varmint 7.62 is remarkably inexpensive for the features it sports. As a basis for an economical long range project rifle, it certainly shines.