(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By Brad Peirson
I got into shooting relatively recently. I bought my first gun from the trunk of a co-worker’s car after work one day. A single shot 12 gauge that I almost wore out on the trap range and the duck pond. Shortly after that purchase I decided I wanted in on target shooting fun. I was something less than financially stable six-odd years ago, so I was looking to get into the game on the cheap. I wasn’t looking to start hunting (yet), I was just looking to punch holes in paper at relatively long ranges (coming from a shotgunner), and I was looking to do it without causing a divorce by spending a mortgage payment on a rifle.
Walking through my local Walmart one day I stopped by the sporting goods counter to take a look at .22s. Cheap to buy and cheap to feed. Strictly by proxy I’d heard of the Ruger 10/22, and knew it was the gold standard. Sadly, Wally-world didn’t have any in their cabinet.
What they did have was a tiny, black, semi-automatic .22 with a price tag just a hair over $140. At that time the most I had to go on was brand recognition. I had heard of Mossberg, so I picked up the tiny 702 Plinkster. It may still be one of the best firearm purchases I’ve ever made.
Before I left Walmart that day I picked up the cheapest optic they had, a $10 rimfire scope that, looking back, I wouldn’t mount today on an air rifle. But through three years of plinking all day almost every single Saturday and Sunday, the 702 with the most budget of budget scopes hit anything I aimed it at.
My 702 is now six years old with somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 rounds through it. I’ve fired every flavor of .22LR ammunition through it I could find, usually big boxes of the cheapest, dirtiest ammo out there and it’s never failed to run. Thunderbolt, Federal, CCI, solid or hollow point, this gun has never cared. In fact, on one occasion it actually fed and fired a round that my wife’s lever action .22 wouldn’t.
I’ve only ever had one malfunction out of my 702. That happened when I took it to the range for this trip. I can best describe it as a stovepipe, but the spent case managed to get between the new round and the chamber. It took a fair amount of prying just to free the magazine, and some liberal cursing to get the spent case out. But one malfunction in thousands of rimfire rounds through a purely target gun using what is generally the dirtiest ammo on the planet? I’ll take it.
Then there’s the accuracy. I hadn’t actually fired the rifle in two or three years. In that time it’s only been out of the safe long enough to get cased for two trips across two different states. It ended up just a touch off of zero.
My plan was to re-zero the 702 using the bottom right target at 50 yards. I ended up not being able to find the rounds on the paper, I had to use a gong to gauge just where the shots were going. Finally they started to pop on the upper left of the paper. So I started to work back toward the bottom right with my adjustments. Once I got where I was happy I put a five-shot group in the bottom left target. In four holes.
Then, just for sanity’s sake, I started some range cleanup. There were a bunch of broken clays scattered around the berm near my target board, so I peppered their remains. Always leave the range a little cleaner than you found it.
Overall, the rifle is a little too small for me to mount properly. I can barely cram myself into it enough for a cheek weld. Even with that, I can still manage the best groups of any firearm I’ve ever owned and/or fired. I’m no marksman, but this rifle still manages to make me look like I could at least play one on TV.
Specifications: Mossberg International 702 Plinkster
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel Length: 18”
Overall Length: 37”
Weight: 4 lbs.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * *
No noticeable machining flaws and clean lines make the rifle fairly aesthetically pleasing, but nothing beats the look of a good wood stock.
Ergonomics (handling): * *
While it’s reliable, the 702 is tiny. A LOP around 14” and an extremely narrow fore-end make it tough for a tall, fat, larger framed guy like me to mount properly. Also losing points is the lack of a bolt hold open; the bolt locks back on the magazine, but then needs to be manually locked to drop the mag.
Ergonomics (firing): * * * * *
The 702’s trigger is a beautiful thing. No takeup and a clean break, Very little overtravel, and a short, audible reset. And, being a .22, there is so little recoil you’ll wonder if you even fired it (I did a couple of times).
Reliability: * * * * *
.22 LR is, by all accounts, an inherently unreliable round. Even with that, this rifle has had exactly one malfunction in the years I’ve owned it.
Customize This: *
One star because the dovetail on the receiver allows you to mount your choice of optic, but that’s about it. There are a grand total of two accessories: a drop-in AR style stock and a 25-round magazine, both of which come only from Mossberg. A 10/22 it ain’t.
Overall: * * * * *
It’s light, small, accurate, and highly reliable. Unless you feel called to the super customizable 10/22, I’d highly recommend giving the Mossberg 702 a try. It’s a fine rifle that’ll serve well as a plinker/small game gun as long as you own it.