August 17, 2022
Time was that a “handgun” was a firearm you packed on your side, and if you needed it, you pulled it out of its holster and held and fired it with one hand (but only if your other hand was injured). But in 1963 Remington unveiled the XP-100, a bolt-action “pistol” based on a modified Remington Model 700 short action, and things haven’t been the same since. The XP-100 had a “stock” made of a nylon from DuPont called Zytel, and it was chambered for a then-new cartridge called the .221 Fireball that was based on a shortened .222 Remington case. This zippy little round had the long-range potential that tied it into yet another new trend of handgun scopes.
The futuristic XP-100 looked like a short rifle, and writer Les Bowman dubbed the new XP-100 a “holster rifle” in 1964. Another writer later called it a “hand rifle,” and that name stuck. The original XP-100 was discontinued in 1965, but various specialized models chambered for “rifle” cartridges were made until 1999. Numerous companies have made hand rifles, and the concept now occupies a slim but fervent slice of the market.
Enter the Christensen Arms MPP
One of the latest versions of this type of firearm is the Modern Precision Pistol (MPP) from Christensen Arms. The MPP is perhaps the quintessential example of this genre, and it has the quality (and price tag) to prove it.
Christensen Arms (CA) is based in Gunnison, Utah, and was founded in 1995. Its mission is the production of guns of the highest quality and with purpose-built features that are a cut above. CA uses top-tier aerospace materials and processes to make firearms that are as lightweight, precise, and accurate as humanly possible. All made in the USA, of course.
The MPP is based on CA’s bolt-action rifle, and its many high-tech features set it apart from the pack. Several companies have chambered such arms for traditional rifle rounds over the years, and the MPP is initially available in .300 Blackout, .223 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Winchester, and the barrel lengths are pretty short. In the same order for the cartridges listed above, they are 7.5, 10.5, 12.5, and 12.5 inches, and the rifling twists are appropriate for these chamberings. They are 1:7 for the .223 Rem. and .308 Win., 1:8 for the 6.5 Creedmoor, and a steep 1:5 for the .300 BLK; this should be just dandy for heavy, subsonic bullets in a suppressed gun. Of course, the barrels are threaded and suppressor ready, and they come with a side-baffle muzzle brake.
I was intrigued by the specs of the MPP and ordered one in .223 Rem. for testing. If anything, the gun in hand is even more impressive than its PR description.
The MPP was created for a highly specialized market. CA says it’s for shooters who need a lightweight, compact arm for back-country hunting or activities where personal protection might be required. To me, it looks like a perfect “truck gun.” The muzzle of the .223 MPP is threaded 1/2-28.
CA says the MPP offers shooters the same accuracy potential in a pistol-chassis system and has the same familiarity as rifles based on the same action since they share many of the same components and features. The button-rifled barrel is made of 416R stainless steel, has a match chamber and a handlapped bore, and is free-floating.
The MPP’s barrel is carbon-fiber-wrapped by CA’s patented carbon layup process that produces a barrel with zero thermal expansion, for consistent accuracy, and which dissipates heat 300 percent faster than a steel barrel. Plus, a carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel is three times stiffer than a steel barrel of equal weight, so there’s less flexing and barrel harmonics, and it provides the accuracy of a “target bull barrel.”
The MPP’s steel action has a Black Nitride finish. The chassis is precision machined from 7075-billet aluminum and has a black hardcoat finish. A V-block bedding system is built in, which is an excellent feature for optimal accuracy. The top of the receiver takes Remington Model 700 scope bases. The bolt is a two-lug fluted design that has a 90-degree bolt lift, and the oversized handle has little spiral flutes. The receiver is fitted with a 0-MOA Picatinny rail for optics mounting, and there is a forward mount rail, a built-in barricade stop, and M-LOK and QD attachment points. A tactical magazine release right behind the magazine well works easily, but isn’t prone to an accidental release that could dump your remaining rounds into the dirt.
The magazine supplied with my .223 MPP is a detachable 10-round polymer magazine from MDT (Modular Driven Technologies) that is AICS (Accuracy International Chassis Systems Co.) compatible.
The flat-blade trigger is from TriggerTech, and it’s a dandy. The pull weight on my MPP was a crisp 2.32 pounds. The ergonomic pistol grip is an MOE-K from Magpul.
The folding arm-stabilizing brace from SB Tactical is a key feature of the MPP. It is extremely strong and sturdy and completely out of the way when folded against the left side of the gun. Folded, the length of the MPP is 23 inches.
When unfolded, the arm brace provides a length of pull of 13 inches, and an overall gun length of 31.25 inches. This gives the MPP the functional configuration of a rifle, albeit a darn short-barreled one.
As received, the MPP checked in at exactly 6 pounds. The addition of a scope and rings brought the weight up to 7 pounds, 0.1 ounce.
Sights and Sounds
A scope is a natural for the MPP, so for testing I mounted a Leupold VX3-HD 2.5-8X 36mm riflescope in Leupold Mark 4 rings because I intended to shoot the MPP as a shouldered arm. While a low-magnification “tactical” type scope or an ACOG would be appropriate, too, this scope seemed like a perfect vehicle for testing the MPP. The elevation turret has a handy zero-stop feature, so if adjustments for range are made in the field, the horizontal crosshair can be returned to exactly the point of the original zero. To say that this optic was bright and clear and that the adjustments worked precisely is superfluous, as we all already know that about Leupold scopes.
I fired the MPP at 50 yards from my indoor benchrest. For bench testing, I unfolded the arm brace, which now functioned like a buttstock. The fore-end snuggled into my Lead Sled DFT, and the rest was solid as a rock.
Let me offer some serious advice right now: Do not, I repeat, do not fire the MPP without very efficient ear and eye protection. And I recommend shaded glasses.
I examined the MPP’s bore with my Hawkeye borescope, and the lands and grooves were very smooth, and without tears or gouges that can limit accuracy. Then I did my normal 19-round break-in procedure, i.e., shoot and clean after each shot for 10 rounds, then after every three-shot group for three groups. The MPP’s slick bore accumulated jacket fouling hardly at all, and cleaning chores were quick and easy—another mark of a precision barrel. I should note that the MPP owner’s manual states that the MPP “is made with tighter tolerances than other bolt firearm designs” and that a “break-in period of 50 rounds allows machined surfaces (including coated surfaces) to smooth out.”
Despite the current ammo shortage, I came up with a good cross section of factory loads. Oh, fellow hull-stuffers take note: The use of reloaded ammunition voids all warranties, just so you know. Nevertheless, I made a bunch of representative handloads and fired them, anyway.
A quick review of the results chart clearly indicates that the MPP is capable of excellent accuracy. While it didn’t like a few loads, there are enough great groups that the shooter can be assured of finding several loads suitable for hunting, target shooting, and varmint control.
I ended up testing 18 factory loads and 17 handloads. I fired five-shot groups, and I used an Oehler M-35P chronograph, with the midpoint of the Skyscreens 10 feet in front of the gun’s muzzle. The overall group average of all 35 loads was a tidy 0.90 inch. The tightest group average was with the three loads of 5.56 NATO ammo from Fort Scott Munitions, at 0.67 inch. The other 15 factory loads averaged 0.85 inch, and the 17 handloads averaged 0.98 inch. All in all, I’d say the MPP passed the “accuracy” test with flying colors.
This “hand rifle” favored several factory loads. Examples are the 55-grain .223 Remington and the 55- and 62-grain 5.56 NATO loads from FSM, which fired some of the smallest groups of all loads tested. Match shooters might favor factory loads with the Sierra 69-grain MatchKing from either Black Hills Ammo (0.77 inch) or Federal (0.96 inch). Hog hunters should like Federal loads with the Barnes 55-grain Triple Shock at 2,504 fps (0.73 inch) and the Vital-Shok with the 62-grain Trophy Bonded Tip bullet at 2,461 fps (0.83 inch). The speed queen of the factory loads was SIG SAUER’s Performance Elite load with the 40-grain Varmint Tip, a screamer at 2,880 fps that averaged 0.83 inch.
Handloads did well, too. The heavier bullets from Berger and Hornady shot well, as they should with the MPP’s 1:7-inch twist. Appropriate propellants are VihtaVuori N540 with the 73-, 80.5-, and 85.5-grain Bergers and N140 with the Hornady 68-grain HPBT. Group sizes for these four bullets, in the same order, were 0.82, 0.65, 1.06, and 0.77 inch. And Hornady’s 50-grain V-Max over 26.5 grains of CFE 223 registered 2,644 fps and should make prairie dogs quake.
The MPP digested everything I fed it without a whimper, and was 100 percent reliable, as there were no malfunctions of any kind.
I was curious to see what kind of velocity loss occurs from ammo fired in the MPP’s 10.5-inch barrel, so I checked the results from the MPP with the same loads I had previously fired in my Springfield Armory SAINT AR-15 with a 16-inch barrel. In a nutshell, one can expect about a 10 percent loss in velocity going from a 16-inch barrel to the 10.5-inch barrel. My results are listed in an accompanying chart.
Let me relate a few impressions from shooting such a highly specialized, high-quality, short-barreled gun. First, it was 100 percent reliable and plenty accurate. An aggregate group average of 0.90 inch for 35 different loads is not to be sneezed at. Second, the MPP is no lightweight, tipping the scales at a little over 7 pounds, scoped and loaded, but it is compact and can be conveniently carried in a backpack or case.
Then there is the muzzle blast from the short barrel. I removed the muzzle brake for testing; it is not compatible with my shooting setup or me. Still, muzzle blast was, shall I say, significant. I made a “blast shield” that covered the front half of the gun and extended out of my shooting window, and it protected the window, but if anything, it concentrated the muzzle blast and blinding muzzle flash.
This is, of course, would be a non-issue for the typical MPP owner, as the first thing he or she would do is install a suppressor. This gun is literally made for one.
All of this precision comes with a fairly hefty price. The MSRP is $2,295. But you get what you pay for, and you get a lot of high-tech features right out of the box. I doubt that I’m going to jump into the “hand rifle” pond, but the MPP from Christensen Arms is a fine example of this specialized class of firearms. The design and execution of the MPP are top-drawer.
Christensen Arms MPP Precision Pistol Specifications
- Manufacturer: Christensen Arms, christensenarms.com
- Type: Push-feed bolt-action repeater
- Caliber: .223 Rem.
- Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
- Barrel: 10.5 in.
- Overall Length: 23 in. to 31.25 in.
- Weight, Empty: 6 lbs.
- Stock: Composite with folding arm brace
- Length of Pull: 13 in.
- Finish: Black Nitride
- Sights: None, Picatinny rail included
- Trigger: 2.32-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Two-position
- MSRP: $2,295