Everyone and their brother makes an AR-15 these days. It is without a doubt the most popular design in the United States, and for good reason — it’s like Legos for grown ups. More and more “traditional” gun companies are throwing their hats in the ring, producing budget priced AR-15 copies for the civilian market. And the latest of those is Mossberg with their “Mossberg Modern Rifle.” But is there anything new and different that they bring to the table?
Mossberg’s MMR line came out in June of last year, with the “flagship” being a varmint hunter version sporting a long barrel and camo pattern. But they also announced a “tactical” version of the rifle with the standard “evil black rifle” black finish and priced it to compete in the budget AR-15 market. With competitors like the Smith & Wesson M&P-15 Sport and the Bushmaster A1 already firmly entrenched in the market they had some catching up to do.
The overall design is a bone stock AR-15. The major components are all Mossberg — the lower is stamped with Mossy’s Swede-inspired logo and the barrel bears the typical Mossy markings. And while everything looks right at first glance, there are some minor fit and finish issues with the gun. For example, despite the upper and lower supposedly made in the same place, they don’t quite match up. A minor gripe I know, but like a small crack under the wing of an airplane it’s a somewhat disconcerting indicator of possible problems below the surface.
The gun comes with most of the standard “mil spec” gubbins, which means the trigger is absolutely miserable. The stock trigger in most parts kits is a jagged, craggy affair with enough slack to make you think you’ve picked up a Sig P226 instead. And it has a typical mil spec break that would make the Geissele family sob uncontrollably. The MMR’s trigger feels like an unholy combination of a single stage trigger and a two stage trigger, with none of the benefits of either.
There’s also no forward assist, much like the S&W M&P-15 Sport design. But since in the hundreds of thousands of rounds I’ve put downrange with AR-15 rifles I’ve never once had the need to use my forward assist, I don’t really mind. And if push comes to shove, the scallop on the bolt carrier works just as well as a forward assist. Despite the lack of a FA the bolt still has the ratchet cutouts on the side to allow its use, though.
The grip, which is one of the only things that doesn’t appear to be made by Mossberg, is also rather unusual. It lowers your hand in relation to the gun (compared to a standard A2 grip), and while that does make the trigger guard a little larger and gives you a more comfortable grip, it also makes flipping the safety on or off quite difficult – except for those with large hands.
The Mossberg does have a significant leg up on the competition, however.
The S&W and the Spike’s AR-15s are cheaper, BUT neither has a free-floating barrel. The vast majority of “budget” AR-15 rifles use the standard M4 handguards that attach directly to a bracket on the gas block of the barrel and the delta ring next to the receiver. Since the handguards are directly attached to the barrel any force applied to the handguards has a tendency to bend the barrel (however slightly), throwing your rounds off target.
The MMR however doesn’t have this problem, thanks to its free-floating handguards and low profile gas block. This provides a tangible increase in accuracy over the competition.
The Mossberg not only has a free floating barrel and handguards, it has m1913 rails on all four sides of those handguards. That means you can hang all your favorite toys on this rifle with no problem, including lights, lasers, and grenade launchers. Unless you already used that government profile barrel to attach an underslung M203, that is.
But while the handguards are certainly, well, handy, they also have incredibly sharp edges. That, combined with the fact that they stick out a whole extra centimeter on each side than is really necessary means they are mighty uncomfortable. If I had just purchased this gun, a set of handguard covers would be first on my list of things to dress it up.
So, are the annoyances worth the added accuracy? Well…
In a word, “yes.” In two words, “hell yes.” That right there would have been a 1 MoA 3-round group at 50 yards, but thanks to the 5 round policy it expanded slightly to a 2 MoA group. Still, for a budget priced AR-15 that’s a thing of beauty. That was shot with the help of a spare scope I had laying around, and I have every confidence that if you improve the trigger and add a bipod or some other stabilization equipment (instead of shooting off a sandbag) you can keep that group to 1 MoA or less. (Extra special thanks to Bracken Range in San Antonio for the range time!)
This rifle has many great features…on paper. The free-floating barrel is a great touch and the optional iron sights are quite nice. But in reality, the rifle is almost as uncomfortable to shoot as this cactus – in its new-from-the-factory condition, at least. Some nice rail covers, a change of triggers and a different grip and I think this would make a fine rifle for everything from 3-gun competitions to hunting.
Despite the drawbacks, this might just be one of the best budget AR-15 rifles you can buy. Considering the competition, this rifle is available for less coin than most of the other offerings and gives the end user far more options in terms of how they want to kit their rifles. Oh, and it also allows them to be more accurate thanks to the free floating barrel.
Mossberg MMR Tactical 65014
Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
Overall: 36.5″ – 32.5″
Weight: 7.5 LBS empty
Capacity: 30 round magazine (included)
Sights: Detachable non-folding iron sights (optional)
MSRP: $950 ($655 – $720 street)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative to other similar guns, and the final score IS NOT calculated from the constituent scores.
Accuracy: * * * * *
The free floating barrel is a very nice touch. Combined with the heavy government profile barrel I’ve found it to be an extremely accurate gun, and I have no doubt that some minor upgrades would improve it further.
Ergonomics (Handling): * *
Oh dear God the handguards…
Ergonomics (Firing): * *
The trigger absolutely kills this rating.
Reliability: * * * * *
As long as you keep it nice and lubed (we’re pretty sure the test model came out of a vat of motor oil) everything will be fine.
Customization: * * * * *
The full length m1913 rail on the top and the rails on the side of the handguards make it very easy to customize this rifle.
Overall Rating: * * * *
Compared to everything else out there, and even including my complaints about the trigger and the handguards, its not a bad rifle. Compared to the other sub-$1k AR-15s, its fantastic. You’re $100 in upgrades away from a rifle I would be comfortable using in 3-gun competitions.
Full Disclosure: This rifle was provided by Mossberg for the purposes of reviewing for the site. It is en route back to Mossberg.