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(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.

Mossberg702

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.

Mossberg702_Target

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.

Conclusion

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.
Finish: Blued
Capacity: 10+1
MSRP: $190

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.

37 Responses to Gun Review: Mossberg International 702 Plinkster Rifle

  1. It looks a lot like the Marlin Model 70 (Model 60 with a clipazine) because that’s what they cribbed it from. The 10/22 is the ‘gold standard’ for available accessories, but there’s about 6MM more Model 60s in circulation than the Ruger.

    Oh, and ‘they’ being the Brazilians who make it for Mossberg to slap their name on. Can’t remember the name of the company, but the one I handled and shot a few years ago was a decent piece.

  2. It’s a poorly manufactured Marlin 795. As an Appleseed instructor I’ve seen hundreds of these and they are more expensive, crappier versions of the Marlin 795, which is hands down the best deal on one of the most accurate out of the box .22 autoloaders out there (definitely more accurate than a 10/22 out of box, and much cheaper). Skip the Mossberg and get a Marlin.

    And while you’re at it, get a decent rimfire scope from a reputable company like Bushnell, Burris, etc. Budget rimfire scopes should be at a fixed power, not variable, since you’ll get slightly higher quality glass for the same amount of money. A $10 scope is a waste of $10, since you’re going to be buying a new one soon when the $10 scope breaks or you get sick of constantly rezeroing.

    • That paragraph must have been lost to my delete key….

      The scope on it in the photos isn’t the $10 special. This one is a Simmons 22 Mag 4×32.

      So, I was swapped el cheapo for slightly less cheapo.

      • Good article man. I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

        I don’t have any experience with the Mossberg Plinkster. I started out with the Marlin 60, and love it. Since then, I’ve added a Marlin 795 and love it too. I do have an older tube fed Mossberg bolt action .22 rifle from the 1950’s (model 146b as I recall). Now that is an accurate, and high quality .22 rifle.

        • I have the same rifle. Paid $97 after taxes for it. (Slightly used)

          It’s a great first rifle. I will probably give it to my son.

    • Rifleman762, when you give advise/recommendations on optics, you need to be a bit more clear, and not simply blanket brands. For example, Bushnell is 1 of the brands you recommended, but I’m sure you well know Bushnell offers the Sportview model line, which is some of the cheapest junk still being sold on the planet. There are basically 2 different kinds of cheap junk scopes. The 1st is cheap junk scopes that have already malfunctioned or died in some manner, and the 2nd is those that will. There are no free lunches with optics. Instead of incorrectly advising brands, perhaps it would be better to include model lines as well, or even a dollar amount minimum limit to stop at? There are specialized scopes made specifically meant for mounting on 22s, and if a person don’t buy a scope with enough magnification to require an adjustable objective or side focus they are clearly the best way to go. Now a “regular” scope meant to be mounted on centerfire rifles are set at the factory to be parallax free for 100 yards, except Leupold, which is 150 yards. Most 22 shooting, the overwhelming majority, is closer than 100 yards, with probably 75% being within 50 yards. That means if you mount a scope intended to be mounted on a centerfire rifle by the manufacturer on a 22, then you’re going to have a parallax issue. Parallax is when the exit pupil of a scope, when looking at whatever range, is when the reticle appears to move if you move your head around while looking through the scope. Whatever the total amount of distance the reticle moves, that’s the amount of parallax you have, and even the best shot in the world cannot shoot better than the optics permit him to. For example if the view through the scope, the reticle seems to move around 2 inches, then you cannot be precise enough because even with a perfect hold, the best you can do is 2″. If you buy a scope (quality or “decent”) solely intended to be mounted on 22 rimfire (or 17), then it will come straight out of the box with parallax factory adjusted for 50 yards. If you choose to buy a scope with more than about 10x maginifation, even if intended for centerfires, if it has an adjustable objective or side focus, you can adjust it for perfect parallax.

  3. Nice review. Even with cheaper guns just goes to show that fundamentals of shooting always apply. I’ve purchased cheaper too when times were rougher also. Shot right up there with many hi end models.

  4. Cheap optics work ok on a plinker .22. I got a Barska scope for my 10/22. It worked well enough but I hated how it ruined the handling feel of the Ruger. So I pulled the Barska and put fiber optic peeps on the Ruger instead. But the scope worked well enough out to 75 yards which was the longest range I used it at.

    My other .22 is a Russian made rifle sold under the Winchester name brand. It’s a bolt gun and with it’s factory irons it’ll outshoot any factory standard 10/22. It’s an amazing rifle. So I put the barska on it. Works well enough. If i ever get non lead .22 ammo that works I’ll take it to the Sierras and hunt snow bunnies with it.

  5. This was my first gun and still is my favorite plinking rifle. Mine is the stainless barrel version. I put a 4x Barska on top and can knock pennies off a target at 50 yards with ease. It doesn’t like truncated cone type ammo and some subsonics, but other than a couple stovepipes in over 10,000 rounds all my issues have been ammo related. It was my go to small game gun until I inherited my grandpa’s Winchester 74, which killed hundreds of squirrels in his time and hopefully in mine. That gun can shoot incredibly well for being over 70 years old with the original open sights.

  6. That looks like an excellent review, both in terms of content and accuracy. My only quibble: the overall rating should be three stars. I agree with the number of stars for the individual categories, just not the overall number.

  7. A 22 rifle is more than a plinkster. It is the ultimate survival tool. If you are lost in the wilderness or taking an extended camping trip where you will be living off the land nothing beats a 22lr. You can pack 100s of rounds into the space weight and space taken up by 20 rounds of centerfield ammo. It is an effective self defense round against any predator smaller than a bear and most humans will break off an attack after taking a rifle fired 22.

    • I totally agree with you. I love .22 rifles, and realize that they are an extremely useful firearm tool. They are for far more than just plinking. That said, plinking is what I generally do with mine, and it is the actual name of this rifle.

  8. Nice review.

    I have one of these and I must say that I agree that the rifle is good but I must have terrible luck with the mags because they suck. Neither can go past six rounds being loaded into them before the spring starts to turn on itself and bind up preventing the floor plate from feeding rounds into the rifle.

    • I just started noticing something like the opposite problem, after I wrote the review. Lately one of the followers has been sticking up after the last round, jamming the mag in the rifle. I have to hit it the follower on the bench to free it up.

      It may or may not have something to do with the fact that I found it under the back seat of the truck after our last move….3 years after I put it there….

  9. We have a 702 in pink camo and it’s been a great gun. It hits the mark every time exactly where you aimed. Never jams or otherwise malfunctions. It’s fun for plinking and instructing, whether for someone new to firearms or just new to rifles. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for hunting or self-defense, too, if called upon.

  10. Maybe it’s just me, and it’s kind of a small nit to pick, but I really hate the way .22 rifles look with external box magazines, like this one or the Marlin 795 or the previously-reviewed Savage 64. Something about the size and shape of .22LR magazines just looks odd and ill-proportioned on a rifle. Ruger’s 10/22 certainly has its faults, but using a rotary magazine was a great idea, both from aesthetics and from reliability. I’ve often wondered if some of the magazine problems these inexpensive .22s seem to all have stems from the relatively cheaply-made and fragile mags dangling out of the gun getting snagged and bumped all the time.

    I was just out shooting my Henry .22 yesterday, and while a tube magazine is a pain to load, there’s something to be said for the slim lines it imparts to a rifle.

    • I absolutely agree. I love my Henry and my Marlin Model 60. Accurate, reliable, and so much fun — both to shoot and just to look at. I have no desire to own a .22 with a detachable magazine, especially considering how finicky .22 box magazines can be. But if I did, I’d probably go with the Marlin 795. Based on this review, the Mossberg 702 plinkster might be my second choice; it’s hard to beat something this cheap that’s also reliable and accurate.

    • I agree with you about the aesthetics of a .22 box magazine sticking out under the rifle. I have both a wood stocked Marlin 60 and a black polymer Marlin 795. The 60 looks much prettier/classier. I also prefer the tube magazine for general plinking purposes. The thing I love about the 795 is the extreme light weight, and the capacity for a higher rate of fire, using the detachable magazines.

    • Marlin/Glenfield Model 60s are the best out of the box bang for your buck .22LR money can buy – pre-Freedom anyway.

      Personally, I prefer the pre-mid-’80s models 17 vs 15 rounds, more importantly, 22″ vs 19″ barrel. (I have a few.)

      It is a beautiful gun, definitely a tie with the Nylon 66 – which is a different breed of cat altogether and getting really expensive.

      • I’ve got one of the 22″ barrel 15 round version (late 90’s), and one of the newer 19″ 15 round models. I guess that means I need to get one of the older 17 rounds guns now. I’ve heard that some of those models lack the last shot hold open feature. That is a bit of a bummer.

        This spring, when I bought the my second Marlin 60 (the shorter barrel newer model), the store also had one of the older 17 shot 22″ rifles (both used – pawn shop). I guess I like the shorter barrel better in general. I also like the short barrel on my Marlin 795. It makes for a very handy rifle.

        I guess that means my 22″ Marlin 60, and my Mossberg bolt action with it’s 26″ barrel are my “serious marksman” .22 rifles.

        • Art, Welcome to one of my oddball collectibles. Don’t forget the S/S…. Fortunately, unlike Mausers and Mosins, at least one can complete the entire collection with only about twenty-ish rifles and for way less money than a single Barrett…

          IIRC, The hold-open didn’t arrive till the late 80s, I honestly have no idea how it works, never shot one. I don’t have a Model 60 post 1980, and I really don’t want one. But that’s just me. I prefer the longer barrel, some folks prefer the handling of the shorter, to each his own and all that.

  11. First gun I ever actually bought was a Winchester Model 77, back in 1960. .22 LR semi, available either as box mag or tube, I got the box (didn’t even know there was a tube at the time) and since they were on clearance, 10 extra mags at $0.05 each, the rifle was $25 in the box. I have no clue how many BBs went down that barrel, but I used to shoot flies off corrugated iron at the dump, with a 4X Weaver scope on it. I sold that rifle while I was in college, without ever discovering that it was possible for a semi-auto to jam. Or for a box magazine to fail to feed.

    • That is the very stock I put my 702 into. I won the gun in a breast cancer raffle (It was pink and the guys at the range revoked my man-card). Bushnell scope makes it deadly accurate out to about 100 yds. Still prefer my Remington 512T. It’ll take the freckles off a gnats patoot at 100 yds even with the stock Lyman peep. 22’s are just a blast to shoot anyway you look at it.

  12. I am a 22lr enthusiasts and I own several 22lr revolvers, also a couple of semi auto guns and rifles in 22lr. I have owned the oldest for 30 years the newest for 2 years. In all that time I have experienced very few malfunctions in 22lr and I have shot tens of thousands of rounds. The only time I had repeted malfunctions was with some bad winchester bulk ammo in a white box. Why shoot anything else when this is inexpensive and a lot of fun

    • I remember having trouble years ago (90’s) having reliability trouble with the Peters brand of .22 ammo, and some of the Remington green box ammo.

      Therefore, I tend to stick more with the Federal bulk packs from Walmart, and more recently CCI Blazer and Mini-mags. I also think the Remington ammo has improved over the years.

  13. “…the rifle is a little too small for me to mount properly. I can barely cram myself into it…”

    try a larger caliber.

    i have a cbc manufactured nylon 66. not too reliable, but the price was perfect.

    • Egads, please save up a few hundred more and get the real deal. (If you want, totally up to you and all that….)

      A genuine Nylon 66 is up there with a Model 60, or Star 30M – it’s the W123 300D of guns. It’ll still be running when the cockroaches evolve to take over from us.

      (Scroll down to Tom Frye…)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhibition_shooting

  14. It’s not a bad rifle, but what irks me with .22 rifles is they are all limited to 10 round magazines, with the Ruger being the exception as it has those 25 round mags. There is a 25 round mag for the Plinkster, but it’s complete junk from all accounts I’ve seen or read and the thing is the size of an AR mag.

    I personally have come to the conclusion that I want as many rounds as I can get in a detachable magazine and still function without issue. Being limited to just 10 isn’t acceptable and that’s why I think it’s silly to buy something like a Plinkster over a 10/22 which has a HUGE aftermarket of accessories.

    • I own a pair of 702 Plinksters. I love them both. I recently bought one of the 25 round magazines, directly from Mossberg. It is a bear to load, but it has yet to fail to feed. Feeds all 25 rounds as fast as I can pull the trigger. Surprisingly, the price of the 25 round mag was no higher from Mossberg than from any other source I have found. I bought both of my Plinksters from WalMart counters. Neither one cost over $100, but each time, I found them “on sale” (WalMart claims they do not have sales). One other thing. I filled the hollow stocks with extra ammunition. I have over 300 loose rounds inside each stock. It gives the rifles a more solid feel, too.

  15. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to disassemble this rifle for maintenance. The spring cannot be replaced with anything short of 4 hands, a Hemostat, and a bench vise. Your best bet is to simply use brake parts cleaner and an air compressor. I bought my 702 back in 2004.

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