Gun Review: Mossberg MVP Predator

In 2011, Mossberg released a modified version of its bolt action 4×4™ rifle called the MVP Varmint. The MVP Varmint took the gun industry by storm due to one unique design feature: it uses AR-15 magazines. Decried by detractors as a gimmick and heralded by others as revolutionary, the heavy barreled MVP Varmint gained quick acceptance and sold like hotcakes. In 2012, Mossberg took the MVP concept in the totally opposite direction by introducing the “P” version of the MVP: a lightweight carbine version called the “Predator.” As the name implies, it’s designed for hunting coyote, bobcats, and fox.   Think of it as a bolt action version of the Ruger Mini-14 or a Winchester 94 Trapper lever gun: a small, lightweight rifle with lots of on-board firepower. I tested the MVP Predator and walked away very impressed . . .

When I first unboxed it and saw the sporter profile barrel, I was pretty disappointed. I was expecting to review the 18” bull barreled version and, rightly or wrongly, I tend to associate the bull barrels with better accuracy. I figured the skinny barrel would only yield ho-hum accuracy (1 to  2 MOA) typical of lower-end hunting rifles. Man, was I wrong. I’ll cut straight to it: this thing is an absolute tack-driver. As an example, these were my first three shots at 100 yards during a recent trip to Tri-County Gun Club, in Sherwood, Oregon (.45 inches with Hornady 55 grain V Max):

And the MVP will produce groups like this all day long. That gets me excited, especially from a gun that retails for $500 and change. So, I’ve been bonding with the MVP for a few months now and am of the opinion that the skinny 20-inch barrel is the way to go for a “Predator” configuration. Here’s my thinking on this:

A bull barrel is not typically needed for predators. Hunting critters like coyotes or bobcats is typically not a high-volume shooting affair, so shifting POI from a hot barrel isn’t going be an issue. One to three shots constitutes a typical coyote hunting day for a hunter like me, and while I’m sure expert hunters will go through a few more rounds than that on a good day, I doubt anybody is likely to use a full box of shells.

Second, the light, relatively short barrel points faster than longer, heavier barrels. I usually shoot in a sitting or kneeling position off a long 13”-25” Harris bipod so this isn’t that much of an issue. But in situations where the coyotes are coming in fast and close, it’s nice to be able to ditch the sticks and shoot offhand with very low scope magnification. The MVP Predator excels at this type of shooting.

Third, predator hunting typically involves quite a bit of foot travel, so a short light rifle is a real bonus. I usually set up 4 to 6 stands in a morning, and there may be a quarter to a half mile or so between each one. I’ll often haul in my heavy bull-barreled sniper rifles (just because they’re cool and I like to take long 400-600 yard shots if offered), but a light rifle like the MVP Predator would be very advantageous if it doesn’t compromise accuracy. Also, you’re less likely to bang a short rifle up against a fence post, barbed wire, a gate, etc., announcing your presence to every coyote within ¼ mile. Staying quiet is critical when hunting, and short rifles are easier to maneuver.

Now, if you plan on suppressing the MVP, there may be some value in getting the thicker barrel. It seems to me that it might be easier to thread a barrel with a thicker profile.  But I’m not an expert on that.

The test gun is chambered in 5.56 x 45 NATO/.223 Rem which is a good choice for high volume shooting due to easy availability and low cost of ammunition. Of course, presently it would not be much of an overstatement to say that there is not a single round of .223 Rem available for sale in the USA. Don’t worry – I’m sure the Mexican military has some for sale. With any luck, the recent panic-buying spree will subside by the summer and .223 Rem will become more readily available again.

 

When I first inspected the bolt, I have to admit that I thought that the little lip that strips the round out of the magazine looked pretty flimsy. My first thought that it was “not G.I proof,” as we used to say in the military, but it’s worked like a charm. After only 500 rounds, I’m not prepared to declare it to be bomb-proof just yet, but by the same token, it hasn’t shown any signs of weakness or failure so far. 

Nick Leghorn reviewed the MVP Varmint version of the MVP and while he had a lot of positive things to say about the Mossy, he found it to be lacking in a couple of key areas.  First, his test sample wasn’t as reliable as it should be. Second, he thought the bolt required too much force to unlock. So when Mossberg sent TTAG the MVP Predator, I wanted to see if this test sample had the same foibles.

In terms of reliability, the Predator prefers some mags over others. Because an AR-15’s mag well has a deep funnel, there isn’t much opportunity for a magazine to rock back and forth from front to back. The Predator, on the other hand, lacks a deep funnel, so if the magazine is a bit “short” of spec, it won’t seat very well in the mag well. Mags tend to rattle around a bit in the MVP’s well, and that can make some extra noise. In the case of some mags, this can affect reliability of the rifle because it affects the angle at which the Predator’s bolt strips the round off the mag. If the angle isn’t right, the bolt misses the strip or gums up so mag selection is important.

The Mossy proved to cycle reliably with the factory 5-round mag (small mag on the far right in the picture above).  The magnificent HK 30-rd magazines worked flawlessly, as did Magpul Gen 2 PMAGs, Lancer mags and mil-spec Colt mags. I had some C-Product 20-round magazines that seemed to routinely cause problems. I solved that with a little duct tape, but some shooters might find that to be a less-than-perfect solution.

As for the bolt throw – I have to agree with Nick that it initially took a surprising amount of force to lift the bolt on the MVP Predator after a round was fired. However, after a 300-round break-in period, the bolt is not nearly as stiff as it once was. I’m sure a gunsmith could smooth out the bolt even more if need be, but I haven’t found it to be a real problem.

 

I’m very impressed with the MVP’s trigger. I know I’ve said that a lot lately in my reviews and I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record. But trigger technology has improved greatly in the past ten years or so, thanks in large part to Savage’s legendary Accu-trigger. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Mossberg definitely upped its game in 2008 when it released its Accu-trigger-inspired LBA™ Lightning Bolt Action™ Adjustable Trigger.

The LBA trigger adjustment is remarkable in its simplicity. Tightening or loosening a flathead screw adds or releases tension on a spring that controls the pull weight (see photo, above lower). As an added bonus, the LBA trigger blade in the center of the trigger prevents the sear from releasing the striker unless the blade is fully depressed. Thus, the gun will not accidentally fire when jarred, even when the trigger is set at the lightest adjustment setting.

The MVP Predator has some nice features that set it apart from the rest of the $500 rifle crowd, including a highly recessed crown and shallow flutes on the barrel. The aggressive channel makes the crown difficult to clean without a good tool, but again -  no biggie.

I also really like the stylish shallow spiral flutes on the bolt.  That’s a feature usually only found on high-end rifles. Although the flutes on the MVP don’t compare to those on a Robar or a Surgeon, I’m not aware of any other manufacturer that’s adding bolt flutes to a $500 rifle. Cudos to Mossberg.

 

Traditionalists may balk, but I appreciate originality in gun design. So I really like the styling of the fore-end and handgrips, as well as the gray-ish laminate stock.

I also appreciate the plastic bedding system in the stock – no real need to bed this rifle. The barrel channel keeps wood away from the barrel, making the rifle entirely free–floating.

Scope Options / Recommendations

Mossberg offers the MVP Predator in a scoped package. Unless money is really tight, I would skip these factory package “deals” because, in most cases, the scopes that come with them aren’t great. Spend the extra money and buy a good quality scope from Leopold, Burris, Nikon, etc.

I don’t believe you need a big, high magnification scope for the MVP Predator, especially if you’re actually using it to hunt predators. Any decent 3-9 x 40 scope should do the trick. Even better, a small lightweight 2-7 x 33 or 2.5-8 x 36 would provide all the magnification you need while keeping weight down to a minimum. I also like the option of being able to dial the magnification down to 2x or 2.5x when the coyotes come in fast and close. If you plan on shooting at ranges longer than 300 yards, a BDC reticle or target turrets should be added.

I tried to run a Bushnell 1 x 6.5 Tactical Scope on the MVP and although I like the scope, I didn’t like the combination. As an initial matter, you can see the barrel when the scope is set to anything under 2x, which is distracting. Second, the way the factory scope bases were installed didn’t allow me to mount the Bushnell forward enough to get a good cheek weld. And finally, it’s my opinion that a lightweight scope is the way to go on this rig. The Bushnell is a heavy duty piece of kit made for AR-15s, so I’d shy away from tactical red dots or 1×4 or 1×6 scopes on the Predator.

Ammo Preference

The MVP Predator’s 5.56 x 45 NATO chambering and 1 in 9 twist are optimized for shooting both surplus military ammo as well as the light-weight bullets favored by predator hunters. I had great success shooting anything from 40 grains up to 69 grains, including M855 and M109 ball. I mostly shoot 55 grain ammo (‘cause its cheap), and this rifle shot sub MOA with even pedestrian ammo such as UMC, American Eagle, etc.   Accuracy suffered a bit when I fired a few of the bigger 77 grain bullets through the Predator, but even then, groups tended to be 1-2 MOA on a warm day. Certainly, you would expect worse accuracy in cold weather.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I haven’t historically been a Mossberg fan. Then again, I never owned any of their rifles or shotguns. Based on the way the MVP has performed, though, they can now officially add me to their fan club list. This rifle does what it’s intended to do very well, and for the price, the MVP Predator is an absolute steal. So long as you take the time to match it up with the aftermarket mags it likes, you will not be disappointed.

What’s next for the MVP Predator? Expect Mossberg to release versions of the MVP in .308 Win and .204 Ruger. Maybe others as well.  If it were up to me, I’d bring out versions with Mossy Oak camo stocks and a threaded barrel. A Jeff Cooper-inspired scout rifle version in .308 Win would seem to be a natural fit as well. I might also think about developing optional mounts for night vision.

Specifications

Caliber: 5.56×45(NATO) / .223 Rem.
Barrel: Choice between 18.5 inch medium “bull” or a 20 inch sporter contour (both have a 1 in 9 RH twist).
Length: 39 inch overall length
Weight: 6 lbs., 7 ounces empty
Operation: bolt action
Finish: parkerized
Trigger:  LBA™ Lightning Bolt Action™Adjustable Trigger (2 to 6 Ibs)
Capacity: 5 round mag included; accepts AR magazines
Sights:  Drilled and tapped, no iron sites included. Weaver scope mounts are factory installed
Price (MSRP):  $650.00  Street price is $500.00 -$550.00

 

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)

Accuracy: * * * * *
The MVP is one of the most accurate skinny-barreled production rifles I’ve ever shot in that price range. The test rifle is a .4 to .7 MOA shooter all day long, using factory ammo.  My personal best was a three-shot .37 inch group at 100 yards. To get a rifle with this kind of accuracy for $500 is a sure sign that Mossy is on the right track.

Ergonomics: * * * * 1/2
I really love the handling characteristics of the diminutive Mossberg MVP Predator.  Light, fast, and comfortable ergonomics make it a real hit. I wish the stock were an inch longer, but I say that about most rifles. I probably won’t complain when it’s cold out and I’m wearing a bulky jacket.

Reliability: * * * *
The MVP did occasionally fail to chamber the last round from a few different AR mags.  Having said that, the rifle functioned flawlessly with the factory 5-round magazine supplied by Mossberg. Figure out which mags it likes and you will be good to go.

Durability:  * * * * *  
I did not experience any broken parts, failures to fire, or other failures that would make me lose confidence in the rifle. The finish on the rifle leaves a bit to be desired, because the blueing seems to be wearing off in high-use areas such as the bolt handle. This MVP screams for a camo duracoat job in any event, so I’m not too worried about the blueing. 

Customization: * * *  
Other than the obvious (AR mags!), there are no MVP-specific aftermarket accessories available for this rifle. But honestly, I can’t think of anything that I’d change. I suppose it’s possible to add a Badger Ordinance tactical bolt handle if you really wanted to.

Overall Rating: * * * * ½
I really love this rifle.  And I really hope Mossberg doesn’t want it back.