June 19, 2007
By Greg Rodriguez
The bolt-action Model 4x4 from Mossberg delivers tackdriving accuracy and is an affordable, innovative design.
Mossberg has always been known as a maker of affordable, quality shotguns. I own a few and have always liked them, but I was not aware that Mossberg made a rifle until two years ago when a friend of mine who isn't really a gun guy showed up in deer camp with a brand-new Model 100 ATR in .270. He bought it at Wal-Mart, complete with a scope, for $289.
And then I shot it.
The rifle showed promise when my friend shot it. He isn't the greatest shot in the world, but the bullets were landing in nice little triangles. When my buddy had zeroed it to his satisfaction, I took a turn. My first group, with Winchester's 130-grain Power-Point factory load measured around a half-inch. Subsequent groups were equally impressive. I didn't go right out and buy one, but that gun came to mind during several conversations about accurate, affordable rifles.
A year later, I landed in Rapid City, South Dakota, to test the yet-to-be-announced, top-secret Mossberg 4x4 rifle. My expectations for the new rifle were much higher than when my friend unwrapped his shiny new ATR.
I was not disappointed in the .300 Winchester Magnum prototype 4x4. Fit and finish were first rate, and it was an attractive and unique-looking rifle that shot the lights out. I had no trouble shooting minute-of-angle groups with it at 100 yards. Steel targets from field positions out to 250 yards were a cinch with the Mossberg 4x4.
In the field the 4x4's new stock handled like a dream. From prone I took a nice pronghorn ram at a hair over 250 yards. The forend rode my crumpled daypack quite well, and my sight picture was rock solid when the trigger broke. I later took a nice bison bull from offhand with it. I leaned against a tree for the first shot, but the second was an offhand snap shot at nearly 100 yards. The rifle came up on target and hung rock steady on both shots.
Once again, I was impressed after a brief encounter with a Mossberg rifle. And I was excited that I was in line to receive a production 4x4 rifle for more in-depth testing. Four months later I had one in my hands.
The 4x4 Rifle€¨Mossberg's new 4x4 rifle is based on the Model 100 ATR action and is machined from bar stock. Cartridge capacity is four standard or three magnum cartridges in the 4x4's smooth-feeding detachable polymer magazine. The bolt locks up via two large locking lugs, and the right locking lug houses the sliding extractor. A plunger-style ejector is housed on the left side of the boltface. A prominent gas shield on the left side of the bolt protects the shooter in the event of a ruptured case. My sample 4x4's bolt was very smooth with just a minimal amount of side-to-side play.
The safety lever is a small, stamped metal piece situated just behind the bolt handle. It is a two-position affair that doesn't lock the bolt. The safety on my review rifle operates smoothly and positively, with a satisfying tactile and audible "click."
The bolt release is a similarly shaped stamping on the left side of the receiver. To remove the bolt, simply hold down the bolt release and retract the bolt.
The new 4x4 is chambered for .25-06, .270 Winchester, .30-06, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Winchester Magnum. The rifle features a free-floated, button-rifled barrel with a recessed crown. Magnum rifles, like the review gun, come with a 24-inch tube while standard calibers come with 22-inch barrels. The barrel is devoid of sights, but Weaver-style bases are affixed to the receiver at the factory.
The entire barreled action is finished in Mossberg's proprietary Marinecote. Marinecote is a satin nickel finish and is both attractive and corrosion resistant. It is a pleasant contrast to the sample rifle's black stock.
The 4x4's futuristic stock is the most notable difference between the 100 ATR and the 4x4. Its rakish lines, vented forend, and skeletonized buttstock give it a distinctive appearance. The buttstock also has what can best be described as Mossberg's 21st-century interpretation of a Monte Carlo cheekpiece and what I describe as a "real" recoil pad. On the synthetic stock two polymer sling swivel attachment points (you can't really call them studs) and the trigger guard are integral, molded-in parts. (Laminated- and walnut-stocked 4x4s are available.) The magazine catch is recessed into the stock just ahead of the magazine.
As futuristic-looking as it is, the 4x4's stock has some old-school handling qualities. A thin wrist and trim forend contribute to its lively feel. The unusual Monte Carlo-esque cheekpiece aligned my eye perfectly with the Simmons 3-9X ProHunter scope that I mounted on the review rifle thanks in part to its relatively short, 13.25-inch length of pull.
The Simmons ProHunter series features a rugged one-piece tube, high-quality optical glass, and HydroShield lens coating. I particularly liked its eye relief, which is a constant 3.75 inches throughout the power range. On the range I was also impressed with the scope's adjustments, which moved the advertised quarter-inch per click.
Shooting The 4x4€¨Before I get into the results of putting the 7mm Magnum Model 4x4 through its paces at the American Shooting Centers near Houston, I want to say that I am not recoil sensitive, but I realize that many shooters are, so I try to take note of the recoil of every gun and cartridge combination I review. I generally don't find the 7mm Remington Magnum's recoil objectionable in sporter-weight rifles. With the scope, a full magazine, and one of Blackhawk's new Mountain Slings attached, the 4x4 weighed in at exactly eight pounds, so I was not expecting it to recoil excessively. However, I was surprised to find that recoil was even less than I had expected!
The 4x4's excellent recoil pad was a key ingredient in minimizing recoil, but I believe two other factors greatly contributed to its light recoil. First, the skeletonized buttstock is not as stiff as a conventional stock. I believe the resulting flex soaks up a fair amount of the recoil. Second, in my experience, Monte Carlo cheekpieces have always seemed to help minimize recoil in hard-kicking rifles. As unconventional as it looks, the 4x4's stock is an especially effective and comfortable example of the design that really seems to help tame recoil.
I started my shooting review with Federal's 160-grain Nosler Partition load. I've had mixed results over the years regarding accuracy with Partitions, but they've always performed well on game. I planned to hunt with the 4x4, so I wanted to use Partitions after testing "flavor of the month" bullets almost exclusively for the last few years. I was not disappointed. The rifle drove the first three rounds into a neat little triangle that measured just 0.65 inch. Subsequent groups proved the Mossberg's preference for this load--the average for five groups was an impressive 0.72 inch.
I also brought out a few of my favorite accuracy loads to see if I could improve on that mark. First, I fired Hornady's 154-grain InterBond load. The InterBond is a great hunting bullet that is also very accurate. Its average for five groups was 1.30 inches--definitely respectable.
Next, I tried Federal's 165-grain Sierra GameKing loading. GameKing bullets drop deer and pronghorn-sized game like lightning, but I wouldn't use them on anything bigger than a deer because they're just too soft. However, they are consistently very accurate, and I thought they might give the Partition load a run for its money.
- This 0.71-inch three-shot group demonstrates the review rifle's accuracy potential. The 7mm Remington Magnum 4x4 rifle's average accuracy for four factory loads and one handload was 0.98 inch at 100 yards.
The 4x4 liked the Sierra GameKings. In fact, its 0.78-inch, five-group average was almost identical to the Partition's five-group average. And, with a biggest group of 0.89 inch, the GameKing load was more consistent. Still, I would choose the 160-grain Partition over the GameKing by virtue of its versatility on game.
I also put five strings of Winchester's 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip load through the 4x4. The Ballistic Silvertip line has always shot well for me, regardless of caliber, so I wasn't surprised that it, too, averaged close to one MOA. The actual average was 1.22 inches.
Since the sample 4x4 seemed to like bullets in the 160- to 165-grain weight range best, I decided to try a pet handload with the Barnes 160-grain X-bullet over 61.5 grains of Reloder 22. This load exited the 4x4's muzzle at a respectable 2826 fps. My first group with this load showed promise. It wasn't a screamer, but the 0.77-inch group was encouraging. I dug in and shot another group, and it measured 0.69 inch. By the time I finished, I had a five-group average of 0.88 inch. I didn't beat the best factory load, but I was pretty darn close!
Although my previous experiences with Mossberg rifles had been positive, I was surprised at how accurate this 4x4 was. I have tested many rifles that would shoot a favorite load or two into an inch or less, but not many factory rifles can produce sub-MOA accuracy so consistently with a variety of loads. And its accuracy is even more impressive when you consider the 4x4's low retail price.
I liked the new 4x4 rifle so much that I took it to my friend's ranch to hunt pigs. My daughter, Chloe, and I hunted high and low for a sow suitable for the grill, and on the last morning of the hunt I got a shot at one. The big old sow had come into a large oat patch to feed in the pre-dawn, and when I squeezed the trigger, the 160-grain Nosler Partition smashed through both shoulders and dropped her in her tracks.
I came away from that hog hunt with the same warm and fuzzy feelings about Mossberg's new 4x4 rifle that I experienced after shooting that first 100 ATR rifle two years ago. It is accurate, well made, and has several innovative design features. Rare is the economy-priced rifle that inspires "oohs" and "aahs" from serious gun people, but when it shoots as good as the 4x4 does, no real shooter can help but admire it.