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Reasons for an MVP
August 2014
Gerhard Schroeder

I thinned the herd the other day. It didn’t take very long though, before re-investing the proceeds from the Remington 700 Short Action. There is a reason for this.

Catch enough fish for an ample meal, and you still want to hook another. Own a capable 4x4 rig that will get deep into elk country and come back out with one, and I wonder what it must be like to pull some Gs in a Porsche. Live in a comfortable home in the valley, and a cabin in the mountains would be cool. Enjoy some really great sex, and before we’re done panting we ponder how to arrange for such ecstasy again. Fact is that we humans are insatiable!

We should now understand why I want another Tikka T3. Yes, I need to say a few things about them. I already have one in .308 (Varmint), the other 308 is my meat gun; then one in .243 and also a .223. Sold the R700s over the years – you can definitely count me in as T3 fan.

They have a few things going for them: super smooth bolt travel, easily adjustable crisp light triggers, removable magazine (up to 5 shots in 308 class, 6 in 223). Plus Tikka must have figured out how to make a barrel right! My T3s (2 bought new, two used) all have shot into under half an inch. From my .308 Varmint I saved 4 targets with 3-shot groups of under ¼”, each with a different bullet weight (100 gr. Lapua HP, 125 gr. Ballistic Tip, 165 gr. Hornady SST and 180 gr. Speer SP). Stopped after 3 shots because I did not want to ruin that “one hole”. Did I mention that I’m a T3 fan?

Tikka’s website lists a .243 Win. in Varmint configuration. OK, two clarifications: a) that version is not available in the US – two dealers confirmed that; b) I did not really want a .243 Win. I do not like that caliber because the case design is flawed, resulting in short barrel life if you shoot with warm-to-hot barrel; and a .243 Win. is known to cause seemingly unexplained high pressures – read up on it, it’s no secret – had that very thing happen with my T3 – and promised myself that she would get re-barreled if it should ever happen again.

What I want now is a T3 with varmint-thick barrel in 6BR, better yet 6-250 or 6x47 Lapua or 6mm Rem, no, really a 6XC! (I would have settled for any of the others, and planned to have that .243 Win. re-chambered right away). All a moot point. The Varmint model can’t be had here in 6mm anything. Only option would be to find one in .308 or .22-250 and have it re-barreled. And for that you need to locate a gunsmith who can cut metric threads- not many around, I checked. Oh, neither are T3 Varmints with .308 bolt face to be found in every store. None have been on Backpage for months.

Out of all that emerged plan B. If I can only get to a 6XC with varmint-size tube by re-barreling, then what other weapons are there? Right about then an ad for a Mossberg MVP got my attention. (Yes, we’re finally on this article’s subject ). On their website you can find all the available configurations. And several come in .308 Win. – hmm! Soon I had decided on a model. After a few calls it turned out that Randall’s Firearms had a Predator on its way, exactly the model I wanted, with laminated stock and short semi bull barrel.

When it arrived I checked it over, and out came the powerful plastic card. In short, the .308 MVP went home with me because it was cheaper than a T3 (and available), felt very alive in my hands, bolt operated smoothly (clearly not like a T3), laminated stock has meat for an even fatter barrel (should I want to), trigger wasn’t bad as delivered and is adjustable, and best of all the thing has a 10-shot removable magazine, and accepts AR10-type mags! I actually have a need for increased magazine capacity! More on that later. Rewarding Mossberg for coming to market with this great concept played heavily into my decision to purchase.

From the Mossberg website: MVP Predator with 18.5” semi bull barrel; weighs 7.5 lbs, is 40” long. Note how the stock on my gun below is shaped differently, more in-line with the barrel; I prefer such stock as it absorbs recoil better / allows for faster follow-up shots.

Time to get working. Before firing any shot, a couple of procedures needed to happen. My relationship with MVP strained right away when the trigger could not be adjusted any lighter. Again, not bad, but definitely not on par with my T3s. Good was the free-floating barrel, all the way back to the action. Speaking of, the locking lugs took less than 5 minutes to get lapped in. And while on that subject … years ago I followed the “breaking-in the barrel” school (1 shot, clean, repeat x times; 3 shots, clean, repeat x times; 5 shots, clean, repeat x times). Not doing it that way anymore. Instead I lapped the bore with several tight patches and JB bore cleaning compound, followed by enough clean patches to remove all compound.

High-Capacity Bolt Action Rifles

Maybe I pulled my trigger too fast. A few days after the MVP became mine I happened to be in a Big 5 store. In their rack stood a Howa, also a 308, with big box magazine proudly protruding from it. I did not know they come that way. Well, it does not look like they do, according to their website. But aftermarket kits for about 150 bucks are available to convert a short action to accept a 10-round magazine. Bottom line: the MVP by far is not the only option, but probably the least expensive. Here are others I found out about, most in .308 Win., some bigger, and it would not surprise me if there are more:

Ruger Scout Rifle
This is probably the best-known, may have been the first to come to market. I did not consider it for me because getting a different barrel for it is way more complicated.

Conversion Kits
The concept seems simple: change the bottom metal which typically includes the trigger guard and mag tunnel or floor plate. The new one then accepts an included hi-cap mag. They are available for the Howa 1500, Remington 700, FN SPR A1, even a Tikka T3 (gulp, but those were out of stock when I found out, with no option for a back-order). I suspect that none accept an AR10-type magazine, like MVP does. Prices vary, sources of supply vary. If this intrigues you, check it out.

Tikka CTR
Yep, Tikka jumped on that band wagon, came out with a 10-rounder. Have not seen one in a store, but the magazine does not appear to be compatible with a T3. The CTR has a 20” medium heavy barrel. Available in .308 and .260 – what a tease, why not a .243? Well, maybe they know that a .243 is trouble when shot fast and furious – OK, OK, I stop.

Sauer 202
By the way, Dan Martinez alone and entirely is to blame for me to get into this high capacity magazine bolt action business in the first place. Sadly, for some of you who attended our June HSC club meeting it may also be too late. There Dan showed the video that he had forwarded to me previously. It features a wild boar hunt where the hunter fired seven shots from his Sauer 202 to down six porkers as the herd fled across a forest road.
Think about that for a moment. It may be safe to say that most American hunters consider scoped rifles for shooting stationary targets, for resting a scoped rifle as firmly as possible, all in hopes of taking one careful shot. Well, with low(er) magnification, a scoped rifle can also be deadly at moving targets.
The Sauer 202 may well be the Mercedes of such rifles. Their Wild Boar model comes with an 8-shot magazine, in several long action calibers, but not in .308. I had the great pleasure once to run my brother’s .30-06 with 3-shot magazine out of ammo while engaging a boar herd crossing an open field in Germany. Fished a round out of my pocket to make a fifth shot. On another hunt the 3+1 capacity was just enough before the last tusker disappeared in the brush. Here in Arizona I could always shoot more often at the rolling tire thing than my T3 (5+1) spits out. And at least once a year some of us engage in a type of varmint hunting, moving critters, where I’ve run the T3 empty at least once per outing.
If it weren’t for the dollars, a Sauer 202 Wild Boar could be a mighty temptation. Darn good thing it does not come in 6mm Remington!

Almost ready for a session now, just need a scope. The MVP came with Weaver-style bases installed. So, what scope? Come to think of it, this Mossberg has potential to be good for anything except benchrest competition. In my opinion (and in an ideal world) a glass such as the Zeiss 2-10x42 HD5 Conquest with a Rapid Z Varmint reticle, or a Swarovski 1.7-10x42 with BRX would be, well, ideal. They provide plenty field of view at low power and sufficient detail at 10x for anything a .308 is designed to hit. Reality is that my wallet is from this world. So I mounted what was on hand, a proven Leupold fixed power 6x42 with MilDot reticle; had that scope for twenty years. In other words, MVP first had to prove worthy of a dedicated scope.

With 20-round magazine from Magpul

What is this MVP capable of for accuracy, fast shots, offhand shooting, and on moving targets? Those things were on my test plan. Its first time out came during a scouting trip into our 2014 elk country. But I only found time to roughly zero the scope for one load, and plinked a few rounds at rocks across a canyon. Impression was indeed favorable. This also yielded some empty cases ready for neck-sizing only.

Note that we’re in 2014. Components range between scarce to not available. So I took inventory, used projectiles that I normally no longer employ or had only partial boxes of. Similar with powders – saved the types I use in my Tikkas, selected for the first MVP range session what I was able to find in recent weeks at Sportsman’s. My plan was to test various reloads for accuracy.

Then they closed BLM land to shooting due to fire danger. So I took MVP to Ben Avery’s public range. More straining! The rig would not do better than about 2-inch patterns. Frequently enough two shots would land very close to each other, so I held on to hope and kept firing. Until I finally got the great idea and touched the scope. Sure enough, both factory-installed scope bases were loose. Session over, 40 rounds wasted.

Not wanting to have this happen again, I used a few dabs of epoxy under each scope base plus thread locker on the screws during re-installation at home … and sheared off one of the screws. The little thing may have been weakened from recoil – didn’t matter, its head came off.

Counting on the epoxy and only one screw to hold tight the rear scope base, MVP got to go to Ben Avery again. Except this time the fodder was a light diet, only 100 grain Lapua and 125 grain Remington projectiles, and not with full-throttle powder charges, either. Turns out that the mount remained tightly attached. Both loads gave groups right at one inch. In today’s world that may be considered lame. But any further accuracy is overrated in the game fields, certainly so when firing at moving critters. So I loaded more of both.

Eventually MVP got to go on its first varmint hunting trip. There was enough going on that I can say that firing the thing offhand works fine. That kind of shooting is very subjective anyway. So, my take-away is that I did not feel handicapped. For sure the short MVP is agile, easy to carry on the shoulder in the ‘barrel-down” position, very fast to get on target. Stock shape and pad get my approval, soaked up recoil nicely. And in the heat of the action operating the bolt was fast. That was the case with both the factory 10-round and a Magpul 20-round magazine.

I can’t wait to do a side-by-side comparison with my T3. So there may be a part 2 to this. And just to be clear, I have not lost sight of my ‘perfect’ off-season rifle. A varmint-contour barrel blank in 6mm is on order. I stuck some 6XC rounds into the MVP magazine, and they fed just fine. If I decide to swap barrels someday, there may yet be more to this story ...

Tikka T3 CTR Sauer 202 Wild Boar

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