February 15, 2013
By Joel J Hutchcroft
You've probably already read Layne Simpson's exclusive report on Kimber's new flyweight Mountain Ascent rifle elsewhere on this website. Well, we have another brand-new featherweight rifle to report on. It's Magnum Research, Inc.'s (MRI) new MLR22AT semi-automatic rimfire rifle. And like the Kimber centerfire rifle, the MRI flyweight is outstanding in the accuracy department. More on that in a minute.
Also like the Kimber rifle, the MRI gun weighs less than 5 pounds. Actually, the MLR22AT is rated at 4.25 pounds, unloaded and without an optic. With the Burris SpeedDot electronic sight I installed on it, the nifty, little rifle weighs in at 4 pounds, 14 ounces on my postage scale.
That just seems incredible to me. When I was a younger man, I didn't mind hefting a heavy rifle around. I used to tote my Springfield Armory M1 Garand (9+ pounds) around the family farm and along the creek banks for what must have been days at a time back then and it didn't bother me a bit. Nowadays, I much prefer to walk the fields and fencerows with my 6-pound 28-gauge Ruger Red Label. I guess age has its "advantages." Anyway, this new MRI rimfire weighs even less than my Red Label!
MRI has accomplished the weight reduction with this gun through the use of an aluminum alloy receiver, a graphite barrel, and a synthetic thumbhole-style stock. The rifle is patterned after the Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic, and in fact, it uses Ruger's famous 10-round rotary magazine and Ruger's 10/22 trigger group.
Starting at the forward end, the MLR22AT features MRI's proprietary Magnum Lite barrel that is constructed of a steel liner with "uni-directional" graphite fibers running parallel to the bore's axis. The result is a lightweight yet stiff barrel. The company says the combination is six times stiffer than the equivalent weight of steel and that it dissipates heat 43 percent faster than steel. Typically, MRI's Magnum Lite barrels weigh less than a pound, yet they resemble bull barrels in profile. My sample gun's barrel measured 0.93 inch in diameter at the muzzle and 17 inches in length. It's a straight barrel with no taper, and it has a recessed muzzle crown. The barrel's Benz target chamber is designed specifically for semiautomatics. The Benz chamber has been described as being "tight" in the throat area to enhance accuracy, but "loose" enough in the mouth area to facilitate reliable feeding and extracting in blowback-operated autoloaders.
The receiver is CNC-machined from a 6061-T6 aluminum forging, and it features an integral Weaver-style optics rail. As I alluded to above, I installed a Burris SpeedDot red-dot optic on my sample MLR22AT, and it was easy. All it took was a few minutes to line up the rings with the slots and tighten the screws.
The MLR22AT's lightweight, composite, thumbhole-style stock has a raised comb that's nearly perfect for use with a scope. The stock also has slight palmswells on both sides of the pistol grip, and as such MRI is calling it an ambidextrous stock. Obviously, it's a right-handed gun because the bolt and ejection port are on the right-hand side. Speaking of the bolt, the MLR22AT comes with an oversize bolt handle, which makes charging the carbine quick and easy.
Two more things about the stock: It has a molded-to-fit rubber buttplate, and it is built so as to allow the barrel to fully free-float.
I put eight .22 Long Rifle loads through the MLR22AT, and as I said earlier, it was tremendously accurate. Its best single five-shot group measured a mere 0.25 inch. That's at 50 yards. Four out of the eight loads averaged 0.75 or less, and overall average for all eight loads was 0.88. The consistent 3.75-pound trigger pull and the finely crafted, free-floated graphite barrel contributed to my gun's top-notch accuracy. The enclosed chart summarizes my results.
After putting the MLR22AT through my accuracy shooting session from the bench, I just had to walk the woods in search of trophy treetop whitetails (a.k.a. fox squirrels). Unfortunately, the woodland wildlife was on high alert and though I saw or heard crows, redheaded woodpeckers, yellow-shafted flickers and three species of sparrows, I didn't see a single squirrel. No matter, any day traipsing through the timber — even without getting the game you're after — is a good day. Rest assured this won't be the last time I hunt with MRI's little gem.
The new MRI MLR22AT is wonderfully accurate, 100-percent reliable (I didn't have a single misfeed or failure to eject in the firing of almost 400 rounds), and incredibly lightweight — just right for wandering the woods with.