Thursday, October 4, 2012

Magnum Research MLR22AT 10/22 Review

Magnum Research MLR22AT 10/22 Review

As noted in my Ultimate 10/22 Shootout, “..and then the Magnum Research rifle shows up at about half the price of any of the rifles here. Kinda like the guy in the tweaked Nisson 300Z who can keep up and occasionally beat the guys in $1 Million sports cars.”  It does it all at a $599 MSRP.

For the price the Magnum Research is one hell of a head turner.  As my buddy finished off a couple hundred rounds of bulk ammo without a failure and then drilled a set of near single hole 50-yards groups with CCI Standard Velocity ammo, he turned to me and asked “why would I buy anything else?”

ABOUT MAGNUM RESEARCH
If you have watched ANY action movie in the last decade you know Magnum Research.  Their giant semi-auto Desert Eagle pistol in powerful .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .50 AE (Action Express) calibers are often nickel or gold plated and are the kick butt feature firearm of more than a few action heroine and villain.  What you may not know about Magnum Research is that they have a unnoted goal of producing unbelievably accurate firearms.  

This accuracy goal is nothing new, I owned a .22LR Mountain Eagle pistol and it was amazingly accurate... kinda sick about selling it.  Today, Magnum Research’s proprietary graphite barrels have become know as tack drivers from this 10/22 line to their new Blueprinted 700 bolt action rifles.


Magnum Research is also famous for their strategic industry relationships focused on making good production products better than ever.  Recently, a relationship with Walther to produce their MR9 pistol has made a Walther influenced design even better than the original design.

Their Remington 700 blueprinted action centerfire rifles have transformed a standard 700 into an ultralight stunningly accurate big game rifle.  In a similar strategy, Magnum Research has transformed the stock Ruger 10/22 into a price leading custom rifle for just $599 MSRP which should scare the heck out of competitors.

THE MAGNUM RESEARCH MLR22AT BUILD SPECS
The Stock MLR22AT is only $599.  My build included a stock Magnum Research MLR22AT which comes with CNC billet upper receiver, billet machined match bolt, custom charging handle, lightweight stock, and proprietary graphite match barrel with Benz target chamber. I added Bushnell Banner 3.5-10x36MM Rimfire Scope to complete the build; the total build as equipped was only $695 with the optic.  This is about half the price of the top end 10/22 builds I tested.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, & FEATURES
Honestly I was pretty blown away at the capabilities of this rifle considering its price and weight.  Actually the rifle is stupid crazy lightweight.  That crazy light 16" graphite barrel is amazing. A primary feature of graphite is that it delivers near instant heat transmission from the stainless barrel liner. The result is that the barrel runs super cool and maintains accuracy even after lots of sustained fire because of a huge reduction in any heat distortion. The graphite barrel sleeve also adds significant stiffness which further improves accuracy all while drastically reducing weight. This is one barrel and bolt combo I would use again and again on any build.  

It is also by far the lightest of any 10/22 rifles made at an insanely light 4.5lbs and the Banner scope I used only adds another 15 oz.    If you want to keep the weight super low, consider a Bushnell TRS-25 Red Dot sight for around the same price as the Banner scope which will deliver around a 4.7lb rifle.

Showy, the MLR22AT is not, however it is subtlety cool all dressed up in black. The billet machined receiver is every bit as nice as any of the other custom receivers I have tested and contributes overall to a very well made rifle, however the other components do not have the same custom finish and touches of the other custom rifles and components previously tested.

The trigger is a stock Ruger 10/22 unit which means it is far from a premium match trigger, however the “new version” Ruger 10/22 stock trigger is not bad. The fact that the stock MLR22AT could be even better by dropping in a match trigger gets me a bit excited. But as is, this rig can still get you into the .1xx’s" range groups at 50-yards.  

The stock trigger assembly comes with the flat circa 2000 magazine release however a $3 extended Ruger replacement part can solve that issue.  A couple sling studs would have been appreciated, but are $10 and easy enough to drill for and attach yourself.  In reality the only potential show stopper is that that the barrel is not threaded and suppressor ready for those owners.

The bolt is not showy but is an in house precision billet machined part which has all the extra tuning features such as pinned firing pin and correctly dimension-ed face. It is a well finished part, however it does not include the extra little decorative cuts like you see on some other custom 10/22 bolts. The charging handle is big, however perfect for a working mans rifle; I love it.  You can even work the bolt with big heavy mittens in the bitter cold or in my case taking a shot out of the garage at a target of opportunity with welding gloves on.

The Banner 3.5-10x36mm scope is really a perfect magnification range scope for this .22.  Of course it does not have the optic clarity the high end optic, that would be an unfair comparison, however it gets the job done all for under $100.  The scope has features such as an adjustable objective and bullet drop compensating scope turret with various turrets for different rounds to put shots on target all the way out to 150 yards. Once you find the ammo that shoots well, find it on the printed turret chart in the box and drop in the corresponding turret for fast and easy shots at extended ranges.

The stock itself was light and sturdy and an excellent interpretation of a Boyds Evolution stock but far lighter and due to the weight, I like it better on this rifle. The Magnum Research MLR22AT packs a lot of great components into this rifle that I would use in future builds, however they are already conveniently packaged into an affordable ready-to-go rifle. This is a scary efficient rifle that puts the upgrades where they matter.

ACCURACY
My opinion on the accuracy of this rifle has changed since my initial accuracy testing. In my first fourteen recorded groups, the rifle preferred non-match grade ammo and shoots its best groups with the quality HV stuff like T-22, Mini-Mags, and CCI Standard Velocity.  


This rifle delivered a personal best .167" group at 50-yards with inexpensive T-22 ammo. Actually it delivered a .211" group and I found that hard to believe and then shot the smaller group on the re-shoot.  Although the MLR22AT produced the best groups of all rifles in my initial testing, it also delivered groups which were larger than the other 10/22s within this class of accuracy. Maybe I started recording groups too early before the rifle had broken in, however as I shot groups with the rifle informally over the last couple months I have noticed that the initial groups I have recorded in the below spreadsheet do not tell the entire story. As I add more groups to the spreadsheet, you will start to see a rifle that shoots well with a broad range of ammo including the match grade stuff. Has it shown to be "the" most accurate 10/22 I own? No, but really freaking close and it does not complain and shoots well even when I feed it bulk ammo.

The widely available CCI Standard Velocity rounds have become my favorite round as they consistently deliver 10-20 shot groups of only .5” at 50-yards.  Rejoice and do a little dance, you don't need to buy expensive .22 ammo to have a rifle that shoots well. Accuracy Results were posted here in this Google Docs spreadsheet.

One thing I liked best was that I have yet to have a non-ammo related malfunction with this rifle which I cannot say with some of the other super tight chambered match grade 10/22 barrels.  


The question you have to ask yourself is whether you want a custom $1200 showy match rifle that shoots match ammo really well or two rifle for $1200 which are light, includes most of the asked for features, shoots Mini-Mags and CCI Standard Velocity ammo really well, and is ready for the next level trigger upgrade whenever you are.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Top to bottom this is an awesome super accurate and reliable setup, however it does not have the finish quality and refinement of the Force or Kidd custom 10/22s. It is clear to me that Magnum Research wanted to produce a competition killer at a very competitive price and they did.  It makes you wonder why you would buy a heavy cumbersome expensive rifle. For a first 10/22 for especially for kids this would be top of my list.  


Generally new shooters have a tough time managing heavy rifles anyway, so this makes it just that much more friendly for new shooters. The MLR22AT is far from a beginners gun and will hang with the top end rigs almost shot for shot and do it will less expensive ammo. It packs everything on an owners ultimate 10/22 wishlist with the exception of a match trigger all in a $599 rifle. When you have the money, add a match trigger and it is everything you need in a package you will not be terrified to use.

Generally I say that a trigger is one of the top accuracy upgrades, however they pretty much proved me wrong with the capabilities of this stock trigger equipped gopher getter. Though the trigger is stock, the rifle still delivered some outstanding groups and continues to do so. I believe Magnum Research has chosen a sweet spot that lives in an area where a rifle gets used, scratches, scraped, bumped, and flogged in the field, on the range, and even serve as a light training rifle youngsters. This rifle has proven its accuracy potential can hang with the big names of 10/22 precision all in a package you are not afraid to use. The best part is that if you are dead set on spending $1200 for precision 10/22s, then you could buy a set of these...


SPECS
Stock Magnum Research MLR22AT comes with CNC billet upper receiver, billet machined match bolt, custom charging handle, lightweight stock, proprietary graphite match barrel with Benz target chamber. Bushnell Banner 3.5-10x36MM Rimgire Scope - Total $695 as equipped with optic.  

SOURCES
Magnum Research
http://www.magnumresearch.com

3 comments:

Greyman said...

Good read, nice gun. I am searching for a better than average 22, for my use and to train my brood of seven, but I don't want, nor can I afford to enter into a custom price range to fill the bill. I would consider building a gun up from scratch, perhaps with the Boyd stock you wrote about (tactical black) and looking for what barrel would be worth the cost. But I have now read two articles about great little guns at reasonable/semi-reasonable price points, this MR and the Feddersen Tennessee Ridge Runner 10/22 - $465. Given a choice to purchase one of the above, or build, possibly with a barrel from either, what would be your thoughts? Your advice would be much appreciated.
greyman@earthlink.net

Major Pandemic said...

Thanks for being a reader. Both would be my choices for the purpose you mentioned. At this point i would buy vs built. I have heard parts are too hard to come by now withthe crazed anti-gun situation. The kids will find the lightweight MLR22AT easier to handle and you will spend more than the cost of the complete rifle to get and assemble yourself.

chad stelse said...

Great article! I just bought this rife today because I don't have a plinker in my collection, I'm very excited to take it out in 10 days. I plan on upgrading the trigger when I get it!