Mossberg Patriot Predator in .243 bolt-action - test & review
- Credit: Archant
Our tester “Broadsword” takes the Mossberg Patriot Predator .243 out on test - priced at just £535, you can’t really go wrong!
More often associated with pump-action shotguns and cheap .22 rimfire rifles (in my mind at least), Mossberg is an American firearms maker, dating back to the early 1900s, that continues to produce guns for the people that really use them. Often, the aesthetics or frills are omitted – these are simply good, honest, workaday firearms. That sounds a bit flippant but simple is often better, especially when the price is appealingly low so that the addition of a sound moderator and scope/mounts still makes for an affordable rifle set-up.
Enter the Patriot rifle range in 2015. Essentially, this is a budget rifle with some nice hunting features, and comes in an array of models and calibres. On test, we have the Predator version, which, as with all the other models, comes without sights and instead has a one-piece Picatinny rail. You also get a matt, durable finish; fluted barrel and bolt; a detachable five-shot, fully-synthetic magazine; and Mossberg’s Lightning Bolt Action trigger (LBA).
Completing the package is a ‘Dark Earth’ coloured moulded synthetic stock, forming a very trim and lightweight 6.5lb walk-and-stalk rifle – or, as Mossberg say, a ‘predator’. The Patriot is an American-made rifle that targets the entry-level hunting market for only £535. You can also order a walnut stock version called the Revere for £925 or a Cerakote camo version for £620.
Let’s start on a positive. I like the colour; a matt Dark Earth is how Mossberg describe it and it’s nice to have an alternative colour to black or green. Construction is a one-piece injection moulding and as such it is lightweight – although it is on the flexible side. This has been negated (especially in the forend) by internal ribbing to reduce flexibility. It still does move and with a small and quite uneven gap between barrel and stock, irregular pressure points due to finger pinching or shooting off a bipod might be an issue, affecting the barrel harmonics and thus accuracy.
The action is bedded straight onto the plastic stock without pillars or bedding material. Remember, it’s a budget gun, but it does all fit together nice and snugly. The recoil lug is quite large and is quite secure in its mortice in the stock.
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The dropped cheekpiece to the left side is moulded in, as are the stipple effect panels on both the forend and pistol grip, which actually make for a comfortable hold, although a tad short at 13.75” for length of pull.
I like the overall textured finish; and weighing in at only 6.5lb it makes for a fast-handing rifle in the field and the moulded-in trigger guard is a cheap alternative to metal that won’t rust! No doubt it is waterproof and you can always bed it later if you so wish.
Again, there are parts I like, especially the slim profile with cut fluting to the 22” barrel – that 22” ensures it’s very lightweight. There are pros and cons to this obviously. Yes, it’s light, but the recessed muzzle at 0.615” in diameter has to be flared out to accept a thread for a sound moderator if it is to sit squarely on the barrel when fitted. The fluting reduces weight and might aid a little with cooling, which is essential on a slim-profile barrel as it will heat up very quickly and accuracy will be adversely affected.
You have a 1 in 10 twist rate, so fine for projectiles up to 100gr and 22” is a good comprise length, as we all know .243 Wins with short barrels can be contrary in what they like to shoot.
Reminiscent of the Savage 110 rifles is the head spacing system, which uses an adjustable barrel nut to the receiver, so better than most cheaper guns in this price range. Overall finish is a matt bluing to barrel and action, which suits the steel and finish of the rest of the gun. At present, the calibres available are .243 Win, .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor only and no sights are offered except the one-piece Picatinny rail – which is far better and user-friendly anyway.
Probably the best part of this rifle – not only in looks but functionality too. It looks like a Remmy 700 with that two-level action top, yet has the bolt cam action very similar to that of the Howa Contractor.
The bolt is polished except the spiral/radial fluting which is blued and thus stands out and does look good, which reduces weight and supposedly makes for a smoother bolt with less chance of binding – this is a feature usually found on much more expensive rifles. It does work well but remember to work the bolt fully back to achieve positive results. The floating bolt head has a spring-loaded, plunger-type ejector and a claw extractor that work very well. I also liked the enlarged bolt handle for a better grip.
Trigger, safety and magazine
The trigger is not bad for this level of rifle and uses Mossberg’s Lightning Bolt Action trigger (LBA) unit. Another incarnation of the safety trigger in trigger system which is safe to use and can be adjusted from 2 to 7lb in weight; on test, this Predator’s trigger broke with a small amount of creep at 3.15lb, so not bad really. The simple two-position, side-mounted safety lever is easy to operate and silent if depressed a little.
The all-plastic magazine is another part that surprised me. Totally weatherproof and hardy in this regard, it also proved un-jammable with its four-shot double stack capacity. This also means when fitted you can top it up through the action if desired. Overall length is 2.80” so longer reloads will not fit (note to self).
Mag release is via a plastic projection from the base of the magazine well and worked with no issues at all, sitting flush in the stock itself.
On the Range
Being lightweight and a bit skittish when shooting from a bench rest, it is best to test the Predator with a soft forend rest and make sure the sling swivel stud does not contact anything on recoil to upset accuracy. Being a 22” barrel, we should be OK in regards to getting enough velocity and hence energy with the heavier 6mm bullets.
I started with factory loads and then refined some reloads to see how accurately the Predator could perform. Yes, you need to watch the forend barrel channel not contacting the barrel and let the barrel cool down for best results. In fact, three-shot groups from that slender barrel were just OK, with the third opening up and the fourth definitely out of group, but it’s a stalking rifle remember, not a range gun.
In the field
I didn’t have a sound moderator to fit the Predator and to be honest during the prolonged ballistics tests it was actually quite nice to go au naturale for a change. The Predator is all about being light and handy, so I did without the mod and put a decent-sized Hawke Frontier 30 SF 2.5-15x50mm scope on it.
I opted for the factory Sako 100gr Game Head Soft Point to see how they performed against some Red deer instead of my usual reloads.
We had been harvesting some red hinds in Scotland and in fact already had two with another test rifle, but now it was time for the Mossy to take centre stage. These hinds are all woodland beasts and large; they grow that way due to the abundant foliage and neighbouring fields which help to fatten them up.
Trudging my way through the birch and bracken and the thick understorey of foliage in the ancient woodlands of western Scotland wasn’t a problem for the Predator. Without a mod fitted, you could carry it barrel-up without snagging a tree branch and its lightweight design was no burden at all. If movement was spotted it very quickly and quietly came up on the sticks and you could ride the safety silently. Also, being a ‘cheaper’ gun, you are not forever worrying about scratching it or failing to crawl through the muddy ditch. By its very nature it allows you to stalk as you wish.
The hinds were getting wise to our tactic of waiting on the field margins so venturing along the woodland trail soon proved profitable. A heavily used trail through the trees and down a long incline allowed us to wait on sticks at first light and ambush the hinds that appear from the fields just as it starts to get light.
I have to say the Hawke Frontier scope acquitted itself well in the dark canopy of trees and the Predator was no effort to hold steady as a large hind without a calf slowly came towards us. A slight take up on the LBA trigger and the Game Head bullet dropped her in her tracks with a neck shot at 65 yards. The Predator had harvested some quality venison without any fuss, which is more than I can say about me, cursing heavily having to drag her back 300 yards to the forestry track – she was huge!
We don’t need our Mossbergs to be pretty; the groups and actual deer taken prove its effectiveness as a hunting rifle. The action is surprisingly good for a rifle at this price point and reliable too. Choose your bullet type and weight carefully and accuracy will be more than good enough for practical field use. Yes, the stock is a bit plastic feeling but it’s totally weatherproof and very lightweight. It works, no fuss!
Name: Patriot Predator
Type: Bolt- action sSporter
Barrel: 22”, threaded 5/8″ X 24 TPI
Calibre: .243 Win (on test)
Overall lLength: 42.25” inches.
Finish: Matt blued
Stock: Moulded synthetic mMatt Dark Earth sSporter
Length of pPull: 13.75
Trigger: Mossberg Lightning bolt action (LBA)
Safety: Two- position side lever
Magazine: Detachable 4- shot in .243 Win
Sights: One-piece Picatinny rail
Weight: 6.5 lbs
Mossberg Patriot | Viking Arms | Tel: 01423 780810
Frontier FFP scope | Hawke Optics | Tel: 01394 387762
F A Andersons | Tel: 01342 325604
Ammunition | N Clark | Tel: 01788 579651