Gun Review: Mossberg MVP Varmint

There’s something to be said for using teeny tiny bullets zipping along amazingly fast for taking out small game. Especially when your target is similarly zipping across the field in front of you, being able to hit that moving target is made much easier with faster rounds. Varmint hunters have known this for ages, and that knowledge has popularized calibers such as the .204 Ruger and .223 Remington (the lightweight versions) for small game. And that’s where Mossberg’s MVP comes into the picture . . .

It seems like Mossberg has been trying to work their way into the rifle hunting market for a while now. Mossberg’s shotguns are well known and well loved for everything from home defense to bird hunting, but their rifle line has been downright nonexistent until more recently. With the introduction of the 100 ATR and the Mossberg MMR, Mossberg started making their way into the market for larger game, and the MVP seems to be Mossberg’s effort to get into small game as well.

The MVP was unveiled at NRA 2011, and TTAG was on the scene, not that we paid much attention at the time. In fact this is the only picture I snapped of the rifle at the time. I believe the original thought I had when I saw it was “gimmick” and the reason was the magazine.

This rifle, while using a bolt action, takes standard AR-15 magazines. And the reasoning is actually pretty sound — it lets you load up your rifle with a ton of ammo and reign death and destruction down on your chosen hunting grounds for longer without reloading. If you’ve got the perfect vantage point for annihilating a bunch of gophers you don’t want to be caught having to reload while the last one gets away and ruins your golf course, and this rifle gives you that ability. Its an interesting feature, but as we’ll see it may not be the most useful thing to have on your gun.

Wait a second…

This rifle takes standard AR-15 magazines…

I wonder if…

MUHUHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Ahem. Yes, apparently a Surefire high capacity magazine will fit. Good to know. Moving on . . .

So, what other features does this rifle have, other than taking an AR-15 mag? Well, the bolt (or at least the handle and firing pin assembly) seems to come straight from the short action 100 ATR — with some slight modifications.

The AR-15 magazine was designed to sit much lower in the receiver than normal hunting rifles, and so the next cartridge coming off the magazine is a little bit too low for a normal style bolt to pick up. Mossberg’s solution to this problem wass to design a bolt with a lower half that splits open and a lower section that digs down into the magazine to grab that next round.

The impact of having a magazine that sits that low is no bueno for reliability. I had more than a few instances where the round ended up off center and the bolt failed to chamber the round on the first try. I get the feeling this is due to the spring in the mag “popping” the round up as it leaves the feed lips, causing the round to lodge slightly sideways rather than feeding smoothly into the chamber.

The bolt itself looks great at first glance — the handle feels nice and grippy and it looks very pretty — but once in action, it’s not as pleasant as it would seem. It takes more force to get the bolt open than I’d like, requiring a firm grip on the bolt handle to crack the thing open rather than giving me the ability to simply use the side of my hand as I prefer. That’s not to say it’s terrible, just very heavy for such a light and small caliber.

Other things lifted from the 100 ATR series include the trigger, which uses that two stage “LBA” or “Lightning Bolt Action” design with the little metal bit that sticks out in front. It’s a popular design for the trigger of budget priced guns these days and it works pretty well. The trigger itself is adjustable from “OH GOD” to “dangerously light.”

Sure, there are also the factory standard weaver mounts. We could talk about them as well, but far and away, the best thing about this gun is the stock.

If you know me and my rifle reviews, you know the one thing that pisses me off more than anything is a bad cheek piece — specifically, one too low for a rifle that was designed from day one to use a scope.

When I saw this stock, it was like the heavens opened up and I could hear angels singing. With the right cheek weld, I could actually get a proper sight picture through my scope. It was perfect. Perfect in a way that, normally, you’d need to invest in a replacement stock or a cheek riser to get on a factory gun. Kudos to you, Mossberg.

OK, this review is getting a bit long, so let’s dump some more facts on you, rapid-fire style. There are sling studs so you can mount a bipod (or actually use them for a sling, I guess). The barrel is 24 inches long with a 1:9 twist for light projectiles and while it’s a VERY heavy profile, it does have some fluting for weight reduction and barrel harmonics black magic. There’s a nice target crown for precision shooting. And the laminate stock is free floating, with grippy panels on both sides of the fore-end as well as the grip. That just about covers it, I think.

But the real question is how well the thing shoots.

This WAS a 1 MoA 50 yard 3-round group, but as is becoming a tradition, the last two shots made it a 2 MoA group instead. With the right ammo and some patience I have no doubt that this gun will perform at 1 MoA or better. In fact, after this I went on to put about 40 rounds on a steel target 250 yards away one after another within a 10 minute time period. The barrel was blazing hot, but the PoI hadn’t shifted noticeably at all, thanks to the heavy barrel profile.

When I first saw this gun, “gimmick” was the word that came to mind. And, for the most part I think that holds true. The AR-15 magazine compatibility is nice, but in the end it seems to cause more problems and slow the shooter down more than a custom designed detachable magazine would.

But on the other side of the coin, the idea of using a standard AR-15 magazine for a varmint rifle is pretty ingenious. Instead of having to design an all new magazine that may or may not be available in the future, Mossberg went with a magazine that would definitely be available for MVP customers for years to come, no matter if the rifle was a success or a flop. And THAT is pretty smart.

Here’s the thing, though. If I wanted a fast-shooting, high capacity rifle for varmint hunting, I’d grab an AR-15 instead. Sure, it might not be as accurate or push rounds as fast, but it won’t be a one trick pony like this rifle here. You don’t even have to go far to find a suitable replacement — the Mossberg MMR is a pretty damn good choice.

If your state restricts your groundhog shooting playtime to bolt action rifles, this is a good option. But if you’re free to shoot what you want, you might want to consider your alternatives.

Mossberg MVP Varmint 27700

Specifications:

Caliber:           5.56x45mm NATO (test rifle in .204 Ruger)
Barrel:            24″
Overall:          43″
Weight:          7.75 LBS empty
Capacity:       10 rounds (included), takes standard AR-15 magazines
Sights:            Weaver mounts pre-installed
MSRP:            $668 (about $500 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: * * * * *
Free floating, long and HEAVY barrels tend to get this kind of rating. My group was a little rushed, but with some time and patience you can definitely get 1 MoA or better.

Ergonomics (Handling): * * * *
The magazine release is a little awkward, but otherwise a solid rifle.

Ergonomics (Firing): * * * *
Very nice indeed. Almost no recoil. But the bolt is rather tough to cycle.

Reliability: * *
There’s something about the combination of a heavy follower spring in the magazine and a funky bolt design that keeps this from chambering 100% of the time.

Customization: * * *
There’s not much you can do other than throwing in a different magazine or mounting a new scope. The trigger is adjustable (which is nice) but there aren’t really any aftermarket parts yet.

Overall Rating: * *
The magazines and the stock put it ahead of the competition, but the reliability issues and the sudden realization that for about the same money you can have a Remington 700 or a little more for a Mossberg MMR that will do the job just as well means (according to the rubric) that two stars is the best I can do.

Manufacturer’s website

Full Disclosure: This rifle was provided by Mossberg for the purposes of reviewing for the site. It is en route back to Mossberg.

Special thanks to Dutra Arms in Spring Branch, TX for being an awesome FFL!

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

28 Responses to Gun Review: Mossberg MVP Varmint

  1. avatarChris Dumm says:

    When I saw the MVP at the SHOT show (replete with quad-stack magazine) I had high hopes for it as a possible light scout rifle; a junior-varsity version of the .308 Ruger Scout Rifle.

    As my then-toddler daughter used to say, however, “but it not.”

    If the AR magazine doesn’t function reliably, the whole raison d’être of the gun evaporates. Maybe with more testing it might have worked better with another magazine brand; that would make it reliable but still not *universally* reliable. And that was the whole point, right?

    And I’m not sure where the 24″ barrel comes in handy. Even the most exotic .223/5.56 loads are optimizes for rifles no longer than 20″.

  2. avatarJim March says:

    IF the feed reliability issue can be addressed (maybe by loading 30rd mags to 25, or a lighter spring, or…?) the first thing that I saw in it is a weird but cool “insurgency rifle”.

    • avatarRambeast says:

      I have been preached to about the evils of having loaded magazines sitting in my safe. I tried out magazines that have been empty for weeks and had many malfunctions. On the flip side, I find that if they are left loaded to capacity, I have yet to get a double feed, volcano, ftf, or any other magazine related malfunction in my AR. Not sure if the same can be said about bolt action with AR mags.

  3. The problem is in some states you are limited to a 5-round mag for hunting with a semi (even varmints) while you have no limits on bolt actions. That is where this rifle shines.

    AZ was this way until about 1 month ago when our new law went into affect allowing you to hunt with a semi with any size mag.

  4. avatarE. Zach Lee-Wright says:

    Mr. Horning touches on the subject of my question. Are 30 round mags prohibited in Cali. or just the semi-auto rifle with a hi-cap mag? Is this rifle going to be useful for the purpose of giving Cali gun banners fits, a la the bullet button?

    If nothing else, I see some good coming in being able to point out the blanket statements about hi-cap mags are incorrect-a-mundo. As if accuracy is a big thing to gun banners.

  5. avatarJohn A. says:

    I have this rifle & it feeds reliably out of 10, 20 & 30 round magazines. It prefers the steel or aluminum AR mags, the polymer mags are harder to seat in the mag well. Overall, I’m very impressed with it’s accuracy, absolutely my most accurate production bolt action rifle. With good quality ammo, 1-MOA or better all day long. It is no light-weight by any measure though, so it’s a varmint gun for sure, & a great bench rest rifle!!

  6. avatarDan Bogan says:

    I just bought the 18.5 varmint mvp , nice rifle!
    Found that 20 rnd. pmags work the best , no feeding failures .

  7. avatarMikeyMikeMB says:

    I, too, just took ownership of the 18.5″ version & love it. It has run 30 year old STANAG mags & current production PMags just fine. My preference are the 20rd mags. It has now become my 2nd favorite rifle; the first being my Savage 10FCM chambered in 7.62×39. If only it took AK mags ….
    The Mossberg MVP is not for everyone, nor, do I think, was it designed for mega-capacity AR mags. Keep them under 30rds and load ‘em light to 25-28rds and you’re set for all day fun.

  8. avatarGEO says:

    Have owned the 27700 new for eight months now, have shot over 3000 rounds of 5.56 ammo of different brand name and grain, also used ten round ar- mags. The gun has yet to fail to load the rounds from the ar-mags i have used, also at 200 yards the rifle holds an easy one inch group. Have a zeiss 3.5-10-44 scope and a caldwell bi pod mounted, not looking for add-on. The adjustable trigger is great. mag release and bolt take little to get use to, not bad, gun cost was only $500, looks is *****, my over all after owning for eight months is ****. Heading to the 500 yard range to check out new distances. geo

  9. avatarJeff says:

    I traded a mid ban ar15 for an 18.5″ this week (got a little cash also). Tried it out this morning for the first time. Could not put it down! I’m amazed at how accurate it is (1″ groups at 100 yards with Tulla garbage!). Am going to try some xm855 this afternoon, just to see how good this is. No FTF, no hang ups, nothing. WOW! Fun rifle.

  10. avatarRobert Sheppard says:

    Won one of these rifles at the REMF dinner a few months back. Took it to the range last week and was pleasantly surprised. Once I got it dialed in it consistently shot groups at a 100yds in the red with most touching each other. I doubt most other 223 rifles will do this without some mods. I really had no trouble with the loading although I only used metal mags. I hear it doesn’t like plastic ones. I did take some time and cleaned it a few times between shots in the beginning but later on ran numerous 20 rd clips thru it with little or no effect on accuracy. Really a great rifle from Mossberg.

  11. avatarGary Goel says:

    I have been looking for information on this gun and between the actual article and the opinions rendered I’ve come to conclusion I’m grabbing one. The writer had some good points but I’m an experienced shooter and waited for you guys in the field to way in. Everyone sounds extremely happy with their guns and that’s the opinion that counts.

    • avatarmikeymikemb says:

      Get one Gary. Prices are down, too. I now own two; the 18.5 and the 24 HB. Check out the Mossberg MVP Patrol rifles also.

  12. I’m really shocked at the comments and issues that the writer here brings up. I’ve been shooting my MVP varmint for as long as they have been on the sales floor now (bought the first one in California) and I haven’t had any issues with rounds not feeding or anything of the like. I will NOT use Pmags in it because they don’t seem to seat well, but I generally shoot 10 round magazines and shoot 2, five round groups. My MVP is one of my favorite guns, and at less than 1/4 the price of my Remington 700, it regularly shoots 1/4-1/2moa groups with factory reloaded 55gr Vmax ammunition from BVAC or Freedom Munitions. These aren’t even nice handloads, they are factory reloads. If your gun isn’t shooting sub-moa, you’re probably the weak link, not the gun. Even cheap PMC is shooting 1 to 1 1/4″ groups at 100 yards. 50 yards should be in the same hole pretty easily.

  13. avatardao vu says:

    I want to oder a bolt assy of MVP VARMINT 223 I need some help.. thank you

    • avatarLayton Huskey says:

      If you can’t order one online, go to your local gun market and they should be able to get one for you. I got my .223 MVP Varmint at Academy Sports right off the shelf, but I have a friend who had one ordered from Walmart and it came in within a week.

      • avatarGEO says:

        TO Layton Huskey. Check out the web sight called GRABAGUN. They have all the Mossberg MVP in stock and good prices.

  14. avatardao vu says:

    I want to oder a bolt assy MVP VARMINT 223

  15. avatarGEO says:

    Made comment in April 2013, have had another seven months with rifle, Mossberg 5.56 bolt, I shoot almost every weekend. The rifle bolt is working great, no feed problems with metal ar-mags. I have shot at the 300 yard mark, rifle is still holding great groups, still working on my skills to move out to 500 yards. at 300 shot group are 2 in to 2 in half with 5.56 ammo. looking to go with the Mossberg .308 bolt next.

  16. avatarThe Bends SF says:

    I have the 24″ varmint, and I can say it’s not perfect out of the box but has solid potential.

    The bolt itself is really goofy in that it is machined kinda crappy. Real gritty like a chalkboard… a little rubdown with a set of sandpapers and is like glass now. Maybe 6 bucks and some free time. no biggie.

    The chambering issue I can ABSOLUTELY concur what the writer said. It fails to smoothly chamber like my rem 700 in 308. The magazine pressure kicks up the round from the operator left inside the magazine causing it to occasionally put the round up into the top-right of the chamber face. It seems to cycle better with shorter overall-length rounds.

    Slow steady stealthy quiet chambering – GOOD.
    Fast pressured battle chambering – NOT GOOD AT ALL.

    Fortunately groundhogs and ground squirrels don’t shoot back.

  17. avatarGEO says:

    To the bends. Don’t know were you bought your rifle. My rifle out of the box was great, no problems, the bolt became easier to use the more I shot. Unless you have been in battle with that rifle you should not make any comments on it. Since I have saw your comment I have been trying to make my bolt miss function. I have even tried reaching over the rifle with my left hand to operate the bolt, getting over the scope is a little hard but bolt still operates. Try taking the rifle out and using it. you my become more comfortable with it. when and if my rifle fails me I will let you be the first to know. Its been over a year now of shooting almost every week-end, Maybe I will just wear it out. Will keep you up dated.

  18. avatarRomeo says:

    I have the same rifle and I have decided to bring the 10 round metal magazine only (not the original mag that came with it). I had nothing but failure to feed, either the bolt don’t actually pick-up a round or damage a round! Very disappointed, really! Next time out I will try to use the original mag and my other AR metal magazines. I will update this post by then. In the mean time any suggestion is will be appreciated.

    • avatarThe Bends SF says:

      see. thats EXACTLY the same problem I had.

      • avatarRomeo says:

        Any luck using other mags,like the original mag that came with the rifle? I hope to get a chance this weekend, I really like everything about it, wood stock, grip, 24 inch BBL, trigger and the AR magazine concept. If only it chamber the way I see those guys on youtube, it would be next to perfection.

        • avatarThe Bends SF says:

          I’m shooting 223 of various configurations( I hand load) I had to extend the feed ramp all the way down to keep rounds from getting hammered back into the case, and lower the front of my magazines (factory and aftermarket metal mags) approx. 1/16th”+ to keep the rounds from jamming up to the left before the chamber.

          After studying the rifle it’s clear the rifles problem is the magazine lock-up. It allows too much wiggle front-to-back. If you apply pressure to the rear of the mag the rounds will jam up before the chamber. If you apply pressure to the front(as in your hand is slid back on the forearm touching the mag) the rounds will hit below the feed ramp.

          So my rifle is much better now and feeds consistently. I’m happy with it. Mossberg needs to clean up all the magazine slack and expand the feed ramp in newer models for this rifle to be a real contender.

      • avatarRomeo says:

        The Bends SF and GEO, I had a chance to last night to take a closer look at my issue and noticed that as I push the Bolt forward it pick-up the cartridge just fine. But as the tip of the cartridge (tip of he bullet), hit the feed ramp it just go hit the top of the chamber opening. It seems tha the feed ramp is too steep and high for the entire cartridge to make it all the way into the chamber. So to The Bends SF how did you lower your feeed ramp, did it require major disassembly and or need a Pro Gunsmith? i will conract my dealer (Ontario,Canada) if they can help me.

  19. avatarGEO says:

    I bought two ten round metal mags that were made in Connecticut, stamped on the bottom. I have only used 5.56 ammo with no feed problems. Maybe its the 223 ammo that is not feeding. I will have to try some. what ammo are you using that are not feeding? THE BENDS SF and ROMEO. Is it all ammo you use? Still shooting on weekends waiting for feed problems.

    • avatarRomeo says:

      I made it down range Sunday afternoon 23 Feb, used a number of AR magazines (all metal). It all worked fine as long as I rack the Bolt properly. Here’s what I noted, when I pushed the Bolt slowly/gently about an inch-In or until the Bolt face (I think that is what it’s called, and meet the cartridge), I can then ram the Bolt all the way-in with no failure 99% of the time. So I’m quite happy about that solution, I wonder why Mossberg choose to have so much slack on the Bolt. A tighter tollerance might just do the trick, I’m comparing it to my Savage Axis in .223 and Ruger American in .308. Ther’s also some play but not as much as with this Mossberg MVP.

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