Gun Review: MG Arms Ultra-Light Rifle in 7mm-08

“I settled on the 7mm-08 Remington as the best combination of power with modest recoil, but I was and continue to be shocked at the incredible performance of this little cartridge.”

– Craig Boddington — in Safari Rifles II — on the performance of the 7mm-08 for hunting applications.

It seems that every time I write a gun review for this, or any other, outlet it comes with a disclaimer. So, here it is. I had never seen, let alone fired, a rifle chambered in 7mm-08 Remington before Kerry and Carol O’Day of MG Arms sent me one of their Ultra-Lights.

Readers may recall that my first experience with an MGA Ultra-Light involved a dangerous game cartridge – the .416 Taylor. Needless to say, the 7mm-08 Remington has significantly less recoil than a .416 caliber rifle.

Also, unlike the .416 Taylor, with its skeletonized Remington Model 700 action, the 7mm-08 Remington was built around a similarly-skeletonized, Howa Model 1500 action.

As with each of the MGA Ultra-Lights, the bolt is fluted and skeletonized to reduce weight.

The trigger is the MG Arms go-to: a Jewell Triggers adjustable model that is light and incredibly crisp.

The rifle sports MGA’s Super Eliminator muzzle brake. It may not be needed for recoil reduction on such a mild cartridge, this feature allows the shooter to ‘call’ their shots because of the great reduction in muzzle lift.

The 7mm-08 Remington Ultra-Light wears a 13-ounce Kevlar stock with a with a black and tan camo pattern.

Finally, the Ultra-Light came from MG Arms equipped with a crystal-clear Swarovski Z5 3.5-18x x 44 scope.

I have been reviewing quite a few open-sighted firearms lately, so it was a real joy to give my eyes a rest with such a wonderful optic. (For a great tutorial on the Z5 Series Ballistic Turret System, check out this video by H-S Precision’s Josh Cluff.)

Shooting the 7mm-08 Remington Ultra-Light

Along with the Ultra-Light and the Swarovski scope, MG Arms even worked up some custom handloads for my review.

They also ‘generously’ sent me a jpeg of a representative group obtained when they were sighting-in the 7mm-08.

Actually, I requested the photo of the sight-in group. So, the performance anxiety I experienced while driving to the range was entirely my own fault.

The format for the range trial reflects my usual approach. I emphasize tests that provide an estimate of how well a firearm will work for hunters, rather than for those interested in competitive shooting.

This is NOT because I think less of competitive shooters and their skills (my older brother competed several times for a place on the US Olympic pistol team). But I’m a hunter, and so I prefer to design protocols that provide me the best litmus test(s) for hunting applications.

With that in mind, though I recorded accuracy data from the bench, I did not lock the Ultra-Light into a rigid rest. I used sandbags and fired with the butt supported by my non-trigger hand.

Likewise, I fired from two ‘field-rests’, both produced by Lilian Camalet of 4StableSticks: a model designed for seated shooting and a standing rest (‘Ultimate Leather’) model.

Along with the accuracy analysis, I also used my LabRadar unit to chronograph 11 of the 95 cartridges. The mean muzzle velocity was 2531 fps, and the mean muzzle energy was 1990 ft-lbs.

The velocity and the ballistic coefficient for the 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets resulted in the following trajectories: 100-yards = 0″; 200-yards = -3.5 inches; 300-yards = -13 inches.

Though the bullet drop was significant, the accuracy remained excellent out to 300 yards. Pictured below is a 300-yard, 3-shot group obtained using the 4StableSticks ‘seated’ rest.

In fact, the accuracy, as illustrated by the following bar graph was outstanding from all three rest types. All distance and rest type combinations provided sub-MOA groups. In terms of hunting applications, this indicates that animals the size of African pygmy antelope (~20 pounds) could be harvested ethically with this rifle at distances of 300 yards or less.

Conclusions

Whether you plan to head overseas, or focus on North American species, the MG Arms Ultra-Light in 7mm-08 would be an excellent rifle choice. If you have the skill it will be wonderfully effective in the African bush, whitetail woods, sheep mountains or Pronghorn plains.

The accuracy and energy levels are sufficient for each of these applications. And at under seven pounds, the Ultra-Light would also be a pleasure to carry, especially over long distances or up steep inclines.

Specifications: MG Arms Ultra-Light Rifle

Caliber: 7mm-08
Action Type:
Howa Model 1500 (customized)
Capacity:
3+1
Overall Length:
44″
Barrel:
Pac-Nor National Match SS
Barrel Length:
21”
Muzzle Brake:
MGA Super Eliminator
Weight:
6.8 lbs. (with Swarovski Z5 3.5-18x x 44)
Stock:
Kevlar 13 oz.
Recoil Pad:
Pachmayr Decelerator
Trigger:
Jewell
MSRP: $3,995

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
I looked back at my earlier review of the first MG Arms Ultra-Light. Here is what I wrote concerning ‘style’: “I love the look of wood stocks and traditional bluing. However, my personal rifle carried on hunts throughout North America and in Africa wears a dark gray synthetic-stock and rust-resistant finish. The MG Arms Ultra-Light is very stylish, its particular style reflecting its niche as a super-light, and yet incredibly durable, rifle. It will look very good in photos with game taken.” I still agree with that for this second MGA Ultra-Light rifle.

Fit and Finish: * * * * *
The metal and stock finishes are excellent and would stand up well to Georgia rain, Alaska snow and cold, and South African dust.

Accuracy * * * * *
As one of my professors once said, “data are data.” The bar graph shows how very accurate this rifle and ammunition combination is at all distances and off all rest types.

Ergonomics * * * * *
Though this rifle is an Ultra-Light, it balances beautifully when holding it offhand. The reduced weight, even with a mounted scope, means that a hunter who isn’t a triathlete should be able to carry this rifle for long distances and up-and-down mountains without blaming the firearm for their wishing to die.

Reliability * * * * *
This is a precision-made bolt gun based on an excellent action. The bolt, chamber and magazine worked together perfectly.

Overall * * * * *
The appearance, handling and mechanisms of the MG Arms Ultra-Light in 7mm-08 Remington, as with the first MGA Ultra-Light I encountered, is a paradigm of the highest-quality gun manufacturing. The engineering and gunsmithing skills of the MG Arms owners and staff were reflected in the superb skeletonization of parts to reduce weight as well as the wonderfully smooth mechanical workings. Likewise, the stock-design and construction added greatly to a sleek appearance. The stock and metalwork combination produced an extremely easy to shoot, and highly-accurate finished product. Even at the price, MG Arms Ultra-Light is a rifle worth more than it costs.

 

Mike Arnold writes about firearms and hunting at his blog Mike Arnold, Outdoor Writer.

The following people and businesses made this review possible: Kerry and Carol O’Day (MG Arms); Tom McElwayne (Shooters Den); Tracy Ledbetter (Gun Racks for Less); and Lilian Camalet (4StableSticks).

comments

  1. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Articles like this are a great departure from all the political stuff. Reading them makes me feel like a real gun guy who knows what the heck he is reading.

    1. avatar SoCalJack says:

      I’m not a regular commenter, but I visit TTAG daily to get a feel of the political side of our gun culture. I’m more of a handgun guy so this article was a good read as i venture into PRS. I’m thankful for all the TTAG content even the EDC articles.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “I’m not a regular commenter, but I visit TTAG daily…”

        Good to have you aboard.

        1. avatar Orielly says:

          What’s with all these massive 18x scopes? That slab of beef has got to add pounds to a rifle where grams were shaved at an enormous cost. Makes me think the user in this case misunderstood the concept of featherweight as well as the point of the 7mm08 cartridge.

        2. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “Makes me think the user in this case misunderstood the concept of featherweight as well as the point of the 7mm08 cartridge.”

          Not being a rifle guy, I can only speculate. Maybe the idea is following the army method of making everything light so the soldier can carry more stuff that makes the soldier have to carry the same amount of weight as before the latest weight removal was added? You know, ” Every infantryman a complete battalion”.

    2. avatar Wild Bill says:

      And the FUDD Vs Hipster Vs Mall Ninja silliness.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “And the FUDD Vs Hipster Vs Mall Ninja silliness.”

        An average day in the Ministry of Silly Walk.

  2. avatar James A. "Jim" Farmer says:

    Why the 7mm/08 Remington? What is wrong with the 7mm Mauser (7×57)? Also, why so damned many rifle calibers today? This is ridiculous and asinine! Why can’t it be kept simple: “Keep It Simple Stupid!” Various post World War II calibers over-lap each other ballistic ally. For instance the .270 Winchester (1925) vs. .280 Remington (1957). We already have five times too many rifle calibers. With modern bullets, powders, and primers the original smokeless powder rifle calibers such as the .30-40 Krag, .303 British, 7mm Mauser (7×57), 6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser, not to mention the .300 Savage can all be improved. Sometimes less is more. Far fewer rifle calibers would greatly simplify ammo logistics also. In a 1972 book on hunting firearms both the late Jack O’Conner and Les Bowman extolled the virtues of the 7mm Mauser. Including for elk hunting. I figure they both knew what they were talking about.

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “We already have five times too many rifle calibers. ”

      Freedom of choice is hard to live with. Worked with an engineering company whose chief engineer was an immigrant former Russian navy officer. He and his brother came to the US with their families. After two years, the brother took the family back to Russia to stay: too many choices of everything in the US*; Russia was easier because choices were limited and predictable.

      *That, and the fact the brother could never figure out who to bribe to get things.

    2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      How about because similar rifles in both 7×57 and 7mm-08 will shoot a 140grain bullet. The 7mm-08 200fps faster with 1.5 pounds less felt recoil.

      7mm-08 is a great halfway between .308 and .243

    3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      The 7×57 won’t fit in a .308 length rifle action. And since American rifle makers make their rifles in either .308 or .30-06 length actions you have to use an overly long action unless you’re using a European rifle that still makes that in between length action. The 7×57 is a fine cartridge otherwise (as is the 6.5×55) and won’t be going away any time soon. Now the Creedmoor is truly a superfluous cartridge if there ever was one.

    4. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Well, two things:

      1. As Gov pointed out above my comment, the 7×57 is about 7 to 8 mm too long in the OAL (overall length) of the cartridge to fit in a .308-length magazine. This is also about 7mm shorter than a “long action” cartridge could be, OAL.

      This the one of the same things that stands in the way of greater acceptance for the 6.5×55 cartridge.

      2. The 7×57 cartridge is loaded to lower pressures, even tho the case capacity is higher, by about 10K PSI. SAAMI spec for the 7×57 is about 51,000 PSI, and SAAMI spec for the 7-08 is about 61,000 PSI.

      Don’t get me wrong – I think the 7×57 is a fine cartridge, but in the US market, the 7-08 has greater uptake due to the end results.

      As soon as the DOD created the “standard” of the 7.62×51, and we had a big uptick in the cartridges based on the .308/7.62×51 and then rifle makers started cranking out “short” actions… the die was cast. If you want a non-magnum round in a “long” action, then you’ll choose the .280 Remington. If you want the same thing in a short action, you’ll go for the 7mm08.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        Interestingly, the .257 Roberts’ maximum COL is 0.08″ shorter than the .308 (according to my Hornady reloading manual), but you never seem to see it in a .308 length action.

    5. avatar Hannibal says:

      ok boomer

    6. avatar swampcat says:

      I agree with you. The original 7×57 had a 1 in 8 twist to stabilize the best bullet for it for large game hunting and that was the 175 grain bullet. Most 7mm08 guns have 1 in 10 twists and if your going to use lighter bullets you would be better off just using the old stand by the .270 Winchester that has more powder capacity and higher velocity.

      The Ultra light is bad idea as well. The 7mm 08 does give you a healthy belt in the shoulder even in 7 1/2 lb guns and an ultra light would be painful. Using a muzzle break does indeed cut recoil but permanently damages your hearing at 10 times the rate of a gun without a muzzle break. Trying to hold an ultralight steady in the field is an exercise in frustration as well even in the prone position which by the way you seldom get in big game hunting.

      My two favorite calibers are the 6.5 Swedish and the 7×57 Mauser. They both have killed everything on the planet so do you need a caliber that burns over 90 grains of powder to kill big game animals in calibers like say a Shooting Times Westerner in 7mm. No you do not. Under field condtions anything over 200 yards often gets iffy especially in the wind and the 7×57 Mauser and 6.5 Swedish have plenty of power for 200 and even 300 yard kills. Not to mention the much longer barrel life of the non-Weatherby type calibers.

    7. avatar Southern Cross says:

      If you’re going to use a long action (ie .30-06), you might as well use a .270 Winchester or .280 Remington for the extra case capacity.

      The .308 case has been officially necked down to 6mm (.243), 6.5 (.260), 7mm, and necked up to .35. Unofficially I’ve heard of wildcat cartridges covering everything from the 17s to the case diameter. Only the .30-06 has had more variants.

  3. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    Thank you for shooting at 100, 200 & 300yards. This summer I plan to shoot more than 200 yards.

  4. avatar WI Patriot says:

    7mm-08 is a nice middle ground caliber…good for taking just about anything sans largest of game..
    With it’s parent case being .308 Winchester, brass will always be available, even when it’s not…projectiles will not be a problem either…

  5. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    That seems like a nicely performing rifle. Admittedly too rich for my blood but I still enjoy it when great craftsmen do their thing.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      ‘…too rich for my blood…’

      +1. I would have been more interested in a comprehensive review of the scope. There’s a much better chance that I’d find $1100 burning a hole in my pocket for a high quality scope than finding $3k to shave a pound and a half off a rifle.

      1. avatar Southern Cross says:

        I put a thousand dollar scope on a $500 rifle. If it didn’t shoot I could always use the scope on a new rifle. Thankfully it did.

        With inflation and exchange rate changes, the scope would cost about two thousand to replace.

        1. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “I put a thousand dollar scope on a $500 rifle.”

          Once saw a bumper sticker that read: “If the bike on top of the car is worth more than the car, you are in Colorado.”

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Cheap rifles are a lot better than they used to be, at least functionally. Really good glass still doesn’t come cheap though.

        3. avatar jwm says:

          Gov. I bought just about as cheap a rifle, Ruger American in .243, as you can get. With a sub 200 dollar Redfield scope on it it makes me look like I know what I’m doing.

          A thousand dollar scope would take it out of my skill level. Mass produced, entry level bolt gun. And it shoots.

        4. avatar Southern Cross says:

          The rifle is a “Frankenmauser” that has been an ongoing project for the last 30 years. I needed a scope that could be adjusted for the distances I shoot competition and do so repeatedly and reliably. It works as it should. I set the elevation to the distance in my notebook and only windage had to be adjusted on the day.

        5. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Jay-dub, I’ve got a Redfield 2-7×33 I’ve moved around from a Mini-14 to an AR-15 to currently a 10-22. It’s a fine scope for the money and I love the accu-range reticle. You can definitely get a lot for a couple hundred bucks these days. But you still get superior glass when you stretch the budget out as well as extra features. I sold my ‘bench rifle’ last year (Rem 700 VTR) and I’m thinking of replacing it with some sort of upgrade. I’m thinking maybe the 700 5-R (.308). Glass wise I’m up in the air on. I’d consider spending about half what this MG/Swarovski cost. If I shop around online I could get the rifle and a Timney trigger for around a grand. That would put my max budget at a $1000 for the scope. I’d like adjustable parallax, and illuminated MRAD reticle (but not one that’s too busy). Something in the max 16-20x range. Haven’t figured what I want yet, but it will be significantly more than $200. Probably make some compromises and spend $500 in the end.

          Like most products, there’s the rule of diminishing returns. For every 10% improvement to the product you double the price.

  6. avatar enuf says:

    $4000 is far out of my hopes and dreams and Cabela’s Card Club Points.

    I’m sure it’s a fine shooter. Put some nice wood on it is all, and I can then be priced out of one by some additional C-Notes 🙂

  7. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I’ve purchased a Howa 1500 barreled action, but haven’t built a stock for it yet.

    I will say, I’m favorably impressed with the Howa 1500 action.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      Killed many many deer with a Howa 1500 in .270 win. Cheap stock was never just right, too short for me. I think the action in a better stock would work well for me, maybe in the future?

  8. avatar Mrs Lead says:

    260 ….everything else is uncivilized

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Hallelujah from the choir here. Although I bought my .260 for the specific rifle, not the specific cartridge. 7mm-08 would have done fine. I always thought a .277-08 would be pretty cool too.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    The 7mm-08 is a sublime blend of substantial power and moderate recoil. Excellent accuracy, handling and game-stopping power can be had from Savage and other gun makers for not a lot of money.

  10. avatar Hoyden says:

    So your Professor was Forrest Gump?

    Great article!

  11. avatar Wally1 says:

    Looks like a nice rifle, Not $4000.00 dollars nice! Not when I can get a Browning, Savage or Ruger for about $1000.00 (or less). Nice to see write ups on guns rather than politics on thanksgiving.

  12. avatar Kap says:

    owned both the 7×57 and 7mm08, in my opinion the 7mm08 has the edge! I use roll your owns and find the 7mm08; Accurate, hard hitting, has a decent range {as far as I can shoot accurately} about 300 yards! I know it can humanely harvest any game animal in America.

  13. avatar Wild Bill says:

    For all those saying the price is too high, get a Howa or Ruger in the same caliber or some other one you like.

    The 7mm-08 is an excellent cartridge as are others, but so what, pick your favorite and STFU about what others chose to shoot unless you’re a commie and in that case you will be happy with the people’s choice, the 7.62×39.

  14. avatar Someone says:

    “The rifle sports MGA’s Super Eliminator muzzle break.”
    For this kind of money I would expect a rifle that doesn’t have broken muzzle.

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “For this kind of money I would expect a rifle that doesn’t have broken muzzle.”

      Splints and bandages come as no cost accessories.

  15. Thank you for shooting at 100, 200 & 300yards. This summer I plan to shoot more than 200 yards.
    درمان استرس بدون دارو

    1. avatar ollie ackbar says:

      You’re welcome, but I’m not buying what you’re selling.

    2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      F**king bot? I hope TTAG can ban this turd.

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