(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details.)
By Tim Going
I am walking proof that Mark Morford is an idiot (as if proof was really needed.) I am a young Native American with a college degree, a technical skills job, living solidly in the middle class. I may not have the strong 2A conviction of the OFWG crowd, but I do believe in being a self-supporting and independent citizen. As such, I own and enjoy shooting guns. I may not have quite the collection of firearms that many readers on this site have, but I am solidly in the CNN “arsenal” range. Being a man of moderate income means, everything in my collection shares one key trait; they all cost less than $300 new . . .
In my lifetime I have purchased 12 different firearms, ranging in price from the $109 dollar Mosin Nagant I bought two years ago to the $289 Rossi Wizard .308 I “purchased for myself” then just happened to sell to my dad for a dollar on the day of his anniversary. This brief experience with “cheap” guns has taught a very important lesson. Just because a gun is cheap, does not mean it is bad.
Now, I will be the first to admit that sometimes, a cheap gun is a cheap gun. Don’t even get me started on the SIG Mosquito, my life lesson that when ALL the reviews you read say something is bad, it probably is bad. But if you think that any gun less than $300 is not even worth wasting your time, well I find your lack of faith disturbing. My Mossberg Maverick, GSG 1911-22 (purchased after the review of the gun on TTAG) and my SCCY CPX-1 all stand as testament that a reliable, accurate, and fun gun can be had for less than three bills. However, the biggest proof of this point is my Mossberg 715T.
Before I get into the meat of this review, there are two things you should keep in mind about the 715T:
In Which Our Hero Defends His Purchase
First of all, this is not an AR in .22 LR. If you are looking for a cheaper-to-feed trainer for your tactical drills, sorry, but these are not the droids you are looking for. What you want is the M&P15-22, or the Walther-made Colt M4 OPS. These guns are both offer a much more similar feel to the AR-15. The 715T is essentially a Mossberg 702 Plinkster slapped into a plastic clamshell. Your controls are different, action is different, and the balance and weight make it handle strangely compared to an AR-15. You are much better off comparing this to other .22 semi-automatics.
Secondly, keep in mind that this is a cheap gun. When I purchased mine from my favorite LGS, I got the carry handle model with a 25-rd magazine and a 100-rd box of Mini-Mags for $250 out the door. Not too bad if you ask me, especially since I probably could have sold the ammo on Armslist for half that price at the time.
My experience has shown me to always inspect any gun before purchase, but especially with lower cost guns. The Mossberg was no exception, as the flattop model that I initially looked at had a very pronounced lateral curve in the top rail. Whether this was a result of a missed quality control item, or happened in shipping and handling was unknown, but the shop owner had to send it off for replacement. Internet rumors have listed problems with broken grips and bent barrels, but I cannot vouch for any of these.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program:
Out of the box, a quick examination reveals that this is not a museum-quality piece of art. My rifle required some trimming around the sling swivel and the rear sight to remove some leftover plastic tags. It wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, but then again I am used to cheaper guns so YMMV. Fit and finish were quality, but not precision grade. The pictures below shows that the two clamshell halves match up fairly well, even after multiple disassemblies, with very little gap or misalignment.
The six-position stock is an all-plastic affair, stamped with an ATI logo, and feels…cheap. It has some play to it, but it has shown no sign of cracking or loosening in the year that I have owned it. The finish on the metal components is pretty rugged. I would estimate that I’ve put about 3,500 rounds through this gun and carried it on several squirrel and rabbit hunting trips, as well as hauling it on the back of the four wheeler a few times.
It helps that I clean my guns as soon as I return from my adventuring, but being a lower cost gun I’m not exactly easy on them in the field. Impromptu rests, rattling around in a truck bed, and getting dragged around under my house chasing deadly rogue possums have yet to cause any problems.
I will say that that clamshell design is a big drawback when it comes to cleaning. Breaking it down requires removing 13 Phillips screws and two Allen head screws to get a good scrub on, so I find myself more and more just wiping down the barrel and what parts of the action I can get to easily. Being a standard blowback rifle using mostly cheaper grade rimfire ammo, it can get dirty pretty quick, but I’ve never had an issue due to contamination during my range trips. I would suggest spending a few bucks on a good screwdriver set. I tried to use my 9-in-1 Klein the first few times I disassembled and the screws still have scars from the trauma of it all.
The gun uses a standard crossbolt safety that isn’t too shabby. It snaps firmly from side to side, without hanging up partway through. The pistol grip is modeled after a standard AR grip, and has a finger ridge that lines up in exactly the right spot for my size nine hands. The plastic, non-removable sights are adjustable for windage and elevation. They work reasonably well once you remove the leftover junk from them.
The gun also sports a bolt hold-open that is activated by pushing the charging handle in when fully retracted. Then a quick pull will allow the bolt to slide forward and chamber a round. It sounds good in theory, but in practice can be a sloppy. The first few times I used it, I found myself accidentally locking the bolt open when trying to chamber a round. Not a big headache for sure, but something to be aware of. The gun also holds open on empty, but since it uses the follower of the magazine as a stop, you still have to manually cycle the action to chamber a fresh round.
My biggest complaint when I first bought the gun, and one echoed by the wifey, was that the top and bottom rails on the handguard are insanely sharp. We’re talking Kal Skirata three-sided knife sharp for my fellow Mandalorian enthusiasts out there. I don’t have a ton of experience with railed guns, but the three or four models I have shot did a lot less skin damage.
The first range visit left us both with big smiles, but raw left hands. The beauty of the design though, is that it accepts any standard Picatinny rail items you would use with an AR-15, of which there is a plethora. So one 10-minute shopping trip on Amazon, and a two-day wait later, my vertical foregrip was installed and ready to roll. It’s no Magpul, but it locks up tight and makes for an easier-on-the-hands (and eyes, if you ask me) shooting experience. Along with that item was the answer for my second biggest complaint.
As anyone who has ever shot the old fixed carry handle AR rifles will tell you, you have to get a little creative with the optics for the best results. While the 715T sports a short Picatinny rail on top of the handle, getting your head up there to see it is a different story. A stiff neck and diminished accuracy after range trip number one convinced me to drop $10 on a set of cheek pieces from Command Arms. The 1.25” riser snapped in solidly, too solidly…(cue dramatic music). I had to use a screwdriver to pry it off when I needed to move it forward, but at least I didn’t have to worry about it and the stock wobbling.
These two little improvements were not completely necessary, but made the rifle much more comfortable for me to use. The flattop model would eliminate the second problem for those keeping score at home.
The second range trip went a lot smoother, and I had no complaints, just observations. A plastic stock and fake receiver meant most of the weight is forward of the grip. Being a .22, that isn’t a lot, but it doesn’t balance for offhand shooting as well as my Ruger 10/22 or Savage MK II. I guess if there was any recoil to a .22 rifle, this might help reduce muzzle rise, so let’s call this one a feature not a bug. Once I switched from a red-dot to a full scope, the problem was reduced, but it still feels strange compared to other guns.
There are two things I commonly hear when experienced shooters pick the 715T up at the range. The first is, “You’re shooting that thing? You’re braver than I thought.” This is typically before they fire it. The second is, “That magazine release sucks.” This is especially common with those used to the release on an AR.
This gun uses a paddle on the side of the magazine well that can be a bit…sloppy. Okay, that was my personal bias sneaking in. It is downright nasty. Mine has some play too it, offers no tactile feedback, and was stiffer than Dirk Diggler at a Mom’s Demand Action rally. It has loosened a bit with extensive use (insert in appropriate Shannon Watts joke here), but it is far from ideal. Those looking for tactical reloads need not apply. Even now, my magazine changes are like an offensive lineman touchdown: rumblin’, bumblin’, and stumblin’.
While I usually see somewhat diminished accuracy with my lower-priced guns, I can’t say that this is true with the Mossberg 715T. It is a tack driver of a gun. I have found that my gun is a cheap date, and shoots Remington Viper 36-grain most accurately. The target above is ten rounds at 25 yards on a somewhat overcast, but very wet day, using a cheap Centerpoint 3-9X scope and a backpack for a rest, with my golf ball marker for comparison. Stretching its legs out to 50 yards results in:
That’s seven (why seven? Because my target fell and I wasn’t slogging through the mud for you people again) rounds in a respectable, but not fabulous pattern. This is what I would call typical accuracy. I could cherry pick some groups I’ve shot that were better, but this is fairly representative of my average over the past year.
That’s as solid as it gets for me, and while I’ve been using .22’s since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I’m far from an experienced marksmen. Sadly, my wife is a much better shot with this gun than I am, and she put up this impressive 5-shot group at 50 yards on the same day.
She just likes to show off sometimes. On days when I feel like slapping on the old red dot and doing some running and gunning, I can put up offhand, somewhat rapid-fire groups from 10 yards that stay within the A-zone of a silhouette target. Its not jaw-dropping, stop-the-presses tack driving, but it offers plenty of practical accuracy as the squirrels I’ve dropped with it will testify. Lets just say for your average shooter, it will shoot as well as you can.
A big part of this fairly reasonable accuracy comes from the trigger, which is usually a point of weakness on cheap guns. It’s a two-stage affair with a breaking weight of five pounds according to my borrowed-from-work pull gauge. The reset is rather long, but the break feels clean with very little creep.
It should be noted that the top-mounted rail is removable by means of a small nut underneath. Do not expect your gun to hold zero when removing and reinstalling this, though. Your gun may, but mine typically runs from 1” high to 2” low when I put it back on. I could probably clear this problem up using a torque wrench on the nut, but I haven’t tested this out yet to see if it will work. You may think, “Well just don’t take it off and you’ll be fine,” but unfortunately the rail comes off when you disassemble for cleaning. So let’s call that a bug not a feature.
I’ve already mentioned that I keep the gun clean, but use it rough. I also put a lot of different ammo through it. With the scarcity of .22 I’m constantly buying small boxes of different rounds to keep the beast fed. The full list of what I have put though it is:
CCI Blazer 40 grain
CCI Mini-mag 40 grain Solid
CCI Mini-mag 36 grain HP
Remington Viper 36 grain segmented HP
Winchester Super-X 36-grain Lead Free
Federal Gold Match 40-grain Solid
Wolf Match Target 40 grain Solid
Federal 36 grain HP
Remington Thunderbolt 40 grain solid
Remington CBee 33 grain Subsonic
It has run almost all of them without issue. It would not run the CBees at all, but that is to be expected with a subsonic round meant for bolt action guns. The Winchester Super-X’s would short stroke the action about twice per magazine, but I’ve had that same problem in my 10/22. I read that this is an issue with this ammo in semi-automatics due to rounds being lead free.
Looking back through my mostly complete range logs (you do keep range log books, don’t you?) I have had about 10 FTF’s on the CCI Blazers. This is by far the most common round I’ve shot through it, so it may just be due to statistical probabilities. Of those ten, I tried shooting half of them through my bolt action, and all but one refused to fire. I have not had any failures to fire or eject in approximately 300 rounds of Mini-Mags, and this is typically what is loaded in the gun when it’s around the house as they work wonders on the possums and raccoons that tend to frequent my wife’s chicken coop. Like any .22 worth its salt, if you do your part and keep it clean, it does its job and shoots.
One problem that should be noted though is this; the magazines can be a major cause of reliability issues. Since it is based on the 702 Plinkster, the gun seems to be originally designed to run 10-round magazines, which are also available. However, on the 25-rounders, the area where the metal portion mates up to the fake plastic has caused me some problems.
What kind of problems you ask? Well it is difficult…no, very difficult…no, really difficult to load until you get the hang of it. Rounds one through 10 go in smooth as buttah, but then have a tendency to catch. DO NOT FORCE IT! In case you didn’t catch that I will say again, DO NOT FORCE IT!
Mossberg tosses in a cheap plastic magazine loader that can be a big help, but when it stops at round 11 or 12 it is usually the follower catching. My inordinate amounts of forcing led to some dented shells that caused me three or four failures to feed before I sorted the problem out. A little love tap on the bottom will clear that right up and you can load her to the brim. I have read that some people have problems loading them up to full capacity, but the two 25-round magazines I have load with just firm pressure and a bump on the bottom at about round 20. The two 10-rounder’s are easy peasy.
So Why Shouldn’t I Buy A 10/22?
I’m glad you asked. Allow me to explain in these four concluding points.
1. Imagine being a kid and getting this as your first rifle. How cool would it be to show this off to your friends? Answer: Super Cool. It looks like a military rifle and takes any accessories you could throw at it. It has an adjustable stock so it can grow with you. And it works well, so you can actually use it. As Robert noted in the initial press release back in 2010, these would be the ultimate Christmas gift for a young shooter.
2. It accepts all the “assault rifle” rail-mounted accessories like shoulder thingies that go up and 25-clip per minute magazines. But since it is my understanding that rimfire rifles are not limited to a certain number of features, you can have your California cake and eat it too. If nothing else, you can have a gun that looks the part, and unleash your inner Stickittothemaniosis. And if there is one thing most People of the Gun can agree on, it’s that getting the anti’s undies in a bunch over nothing is worth any price.
3. It’s actually a pretty good semi-automatic .22 in its own right. The 702 Plinkster has been a popular gun for a while, though far from a pretty sight. I get it, it’s no Ruger 10/22 with its classic lines and timeless charm. If my house was on fire, I would probably save the Ruger first to be honest. Still, its accuracy speaks for itself and with its adaptability it can be used for everything from hunting varmints to a home defense rifle for the recoil adverse. Mine has turned into my wife’s bedside gun. I know that a .22 is far from the ideal weapon for stopping an intruder, but with 25 rounds on tap in a gun she is familiar with, shoots well, and won’t blow her ear drums out? Well, there are far worse options out there. Plus, most of the intruders she has to deal with are of the egg-stealing, four-legged variety so it works well. Sure, you could trick out a Ruger with aftermarket stocks, mags, and accessories. Or you could get a S&W or Colt made AR .22. But then you’re just paying more for something that the Mossberg does well enough already.
4. Lastly, the fun factor cannot be overstated on this gun. I have used it to break in over a dozen new shooters, and this is the gun they keep wanting to shoot. With a red dot, you get an easy-to-use gun that will hit what you’re aiming at. All for less than $300. A friend who had never owned a gun before went out and bought one of the flattop models because he enjoyed it so much. That should be considered a victory unto itself.
Not all cheap guns are created equal. See: Mosquito, SIG. But as manufacturing techniques improve, and costs of durable materials like plastics decrease, some quality weapons can be produced for a low cost. Remember, that plastic isn’t always bad, as GLOCK users and Denise Richards fans will tell you. If you can look past their little quirks, you can rewarded with a good little gun like the Mossberg 715T for not a lot of money. And for anyone who sees it as a gimmick or market fad riding on the coattails of the surge in AR popularity, it should be noted that they have been selling these guns pretty well for four years now. Read into that what you will.
Specifications: Mossberg 715T Carry Handle w/Adjustable Stock
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel Length: 18”
Weight: 5.3 lbs
Sights: A-2 Style Plastic with adjustable rear
Length of Pull: 10.5-14.25”
Capacity: 10 or 25 round magazines
Cost: $309 MSRP (Typically seen in the wild for $229-289 depending on the area)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * *
I like the look, and as this is my review, so it gets a solid grade. You’ll never mistake it for a Wilson Combat or a LaRue, but it looks good with minimal flaws in construction.
Ergonomics: * * *
You can mount a lot of accessories on those rails and the adjustable stock means it can adapt to a wide range of shooters. But that mag release….
Accuracy: * * * 1/2
The targets don’t lie, I can consistently shoot with this gun as well as I can with any .22 I own. I doubt you’ll be entering any Olympic smallbore contests with it, but I figure it will hold its own with any of the other “tactical .22s” you’ll see.
Reliability: * * * * 1/2
Roughly 3,500 rounds down the tube with nary a breakage in sight. Find an ammo that suits your gun, learn to load the magazines right and it is as close to reliable as a .22 can be.
Overall: * * * *
I like this gun. Other people like this gun. Mossberg has sold a lot of these guns. But I just can’t get it above four stars due to that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mag release and the extra hassle of the clamshell for disassembly. In its price range though, it gives you a level of customization that is top notch.