MDT is a dark horse rifle chassis manufacturer from our northern suburb that has recently been producing chassis for just about everyone. Savage uses MDT’s chassis on their 10 BA Stealth, Remington put one on their 700 Tactical, and even Weatherby has a version on their Vanguard rifle. Now MDT is out with a new chassis that looks to give shooters a lower cost option for a proper fully-adjustable, user-configurable aluminum based chassis system.

The chassis is a more modular design than we’ve previous seen from MDT. The only thing you can’t change is the receiver, which accepts Accuracy International compatible magazines (available from AI, Magpul, or MDT’s own injection molded flavor). It accepts standard AR-15 style grips, so you’re welcome to swap out the included Hogue grip for something a little more your speed should you so choose.

Where previous incarnations of MDT’s chassis have had a somewhat awkward-to-reach magazine release, the new ESS has a simpler paddle release that wraps around the triggerguard and is easy to hit even while your hand is on the grip. Inserting mags into the well is easy even from the prone position and they drop free with the push of a button, which is really everything you could ask for from a chassis.

Right now the only available option for buttstocks is their own adjustable skeletonized version, but their online ordering system looks to be setup to offer a number of different options in the future (probably also including the usual adapter plates for AR style stocks).

The adjustment knobs are easily manipulated to get just the right comb height and length of pull your your rifle and optic setup, and once you’ve got it where you like it a pair of hex screws lock it all in place. In this way the system allows for nearly infinite adjustment positions while still maintaining the rigidity I look for in a good precision rifle stock.

That cheek piece isn’t nearly as uncomfortable as it may look. The faux carbon fiber finish would usually tend to chafe and be a little rough on your cheek, but after spending hours on end with my face pressed against it, I can confirm that it’s as good as any other cheek pieces I’ve felt. Or my face may have gone numb. Either or.

The real party trick here is the replaceable forend. There are three basic options: a rail-free forend, one with a top rail for a night vision system, and a full-length rail. What’s cool here is that the full length rail actually mounts to the receiver itself and ties into the chassis forend rail as well, providing far more rigidity and accuracy than just having a chassis-mounted rail alone.

In any case the rails sport MLOK attachment slots all over the place for all your gubbins attachment needs, as well as the usual sling swivel mount to attach your bipod of choice.

Swapping out the forend is easy, but not quite as easy as it could be. The forend is affixed to the chassis with three bolts under the plastic pseudo hand hold, but due to the tight clearances around the barrel you’ll also need to un-bolt the receiver from the chassis to wiggle it all free. Slightly annoying, but you’ll probably only need to do it once.

Personally I’m a fan of the NV rail version. For me that’s just enough rail space for a night vision optic if I decide to go nighttime hog hunting sometime in the near future, but provides a great amount of ventilation along the top to keep the barrel from overheating. Plus it just looks cool, which (let’s be honest here) is about half the reason you’re considering this in the first place. Sling swivel QD cups are machined into the sides of the forend and buttsotck to give you a nice mounting spot for your sling while carrying over long distances or up craggy mountains.

Features are nice, but performance is the real measure.

I’ve fired the Remington XM2010 and Remington PSR. I’ve been behind just about everything in Barrett’s inventory, pulled the trigger on the best that McMillan offers, and put Accuracy International rifles to the test. After all those I can say that the difference between this chassis and those others is negligible at best for the average shooter.

Sitting in the deep end of the pool out at my usual shooting range I was comfortably hitting the 750-yard target with ease. The chassis kept my body perfectly aligned for each shot and holding the rifle as steady as possible. Everything about the stock felt comfortable and right.

What makes this chassis remarkable, though, is that it offers the same general features and appearance of others like the CADEX Competition or AICS chassis, but at a fraction of the price. CADEX asks $1,375 for the base model of their latest chassis, and AICS wants $1,560 for their comparable model. MDT, on the other hand, is selling their ESS for only $924 as seen here. That’s about $500 you can spend elsewhere, like on some better glass or more ammunition, without any drawbacks.

There’s always going to be those precision shooters who need all the bells and whistles that the brand names offer in their chassis, but for the average long range shooter there really is no need to spend that money. MDT might be a new entrant into the world of precision rifle chassis but their work is well known in the industry and trusted enough by the big names to sell their stocks as optional equipment direct from the factory.

The ESS chassis system is a great product available at a great price point that offers all the customization you could possibly want from a chassis system. Once you put your gun in one, I doubt you’ll ever want to swap it again.

Specifications: MDT ESS Chassis System (NV Optics Option)

Available Actions: Remington 700, Savage, Tikka T3, Howa 1500 Long or Short
Weight: 4.6 lbs (3.0 lbs in lightweight configuration)
Magazines: AICS pattern
Price as reviewed: $924 MSRP

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * * * * 1/2
The ESS makes the rifle look slimmer and sleeker than even without the chassis. The adjustments all work great, the forend system is easy to swap, and the stock is simple to configure. The only thing keeping it from being a five star design is the lack of a Picatinny rail or other mounting system for a rear monopod on the buttstock.

Weight: * * * * *
The only thing that comes close to this in terms of price and features is MasterPiece Arms’ MPA BA chassis, which they recently started selling as a standalone kit. But even that’s nearly a full pound heavier and much less adjustable.

Durability: * * * * *
The ESS is put together extremely well. After weeks of use I haven’t noticed a single wiggle or issue, and I’ll keep y’all informed but I don’t anticipate any issues. I’ve used MDT’s other chassis systems for months on end without an issue and I expect the same this time around.

Comfort: * * * * *
Fully adjustable buttstock makes comfort a breeze.

Overall: * * * * *
This is a great chassis. Especially given the sticker price, it’s a lightweight and capablesystem that would be perfect for your average precision shooter.

19 Responses to Gear Review: MDT ESS Chassis

  1. Call rifle and very good review. I’m just seeing a lot of Bolt guns this year after Shot Show it’s almost like designers thought Hillary Clinton was going to be elected to the presidency and they decided to put their money into bolt guns seeing how she was probably going to ban the AR-15 platform from existence. I’m glad to see people designing cool stuff however I’m a semi-auto guy.

  2. If this version fits the Howa 1500 short action count me in for two. The current Howa compatible version is ugly at best

  3. It looks good enough to get me interested in the full rail version. But I will have to buy a compatible rifle first.

  4. For that price, you can find a Savage BA with a stock, according to the article, made by the same company. While I will stipulate that the Savage stock is ugly, especially compared to this, it is a whole gun, after all, in .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor. (Yes, the MSRP on the Savage is $1200, but it is easy to find them for less than $1000.)

  5. This review is exactly what i wanted to read. Ordered mine a few days ago for my howa 1500 short action in 308. Was sold on it even with very little research and reviews available, $950 aud with 15″ fore end no rail

    • Looks to me like it’s about $100 to $200 more expensive and doesn’t have the customization options offered by the MDT. I agree it’s a solid stock and I really like MPA’s precision rifles but just looking at the stocks I think MDT has them beat.

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  7. I have had my order in for the ESS for a while now. I have been through many different stocks and chassis, and to me, the ESS is about the best bang for the buck out there. While I did like my MPA Lite, I am very excited about getting this chassis in my hands and getting my rifle put back together!!

    DK

  8. I have a HS3 for the Howa 1500 and LOVE IT. Good Job MDT.
    I want to see some real world reviews of a ESS for the Howa and I’ll definitely be throwing my dollars at you.

  9. It looks great. What is a realistic time frame, one should expect, if i ordered this chassis to replace my 700 SPS Tactical. I know it’s says 4 to 6 weeks, but what is it in reality? I’m afraid, if i order, it’ll take 3 to 6 month to get it. And did anyone had any issues installing Timney or Jewell straight triggers in it? Thanks.

  10. What’s your opinion between this chassis and MDTs TAC21? I’m torn between the two in regards to form and function for my Rem700 chambered for 300winmag. I love the sleeker look (and lighter weight) of the ESS which could come in handy when hunting, but the TAC seems a bit more stable and 1000yard range worthy. Don’t own either (yet)… so any advice is welcomed!

  11. Hello, I’m looking to get the ESS with the NV forend and I wonder if your forend is a 15 “or 18”, and how much free space do you have for the scope, because I want it as low as possible. Do you think my Vortex Viper PST 6-24X50 of 19.5 “with the sunshade fit in space before the rail of the forend? Thanks a lot!!

    • My hand guard with the NV rail is the 15″ one. I had a Nightforce ATACR with 3″ sunshade, and still had room to open my scope caps.

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