Mossbergs ATR Rifle Proves Practical Choice for Hunting
by Scott Smith
Over the last few years it seems that the prices of firearms have approached what many would call outrageous. It is not uncommon to see base prices in the $700 range. This of course doesnt include optics, rings/bases or any other accessories. While I may not consider it outrageous since I shoot the daylights out of the rifles in my vault, what about the folks that use their rifle one or two days out of the year? Its a tough pill to swallow; no matter how long you will own the rifle or how many years it will serve you.
This past year, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, became one of the few companies to buck this trend. New to the Mossberg line this year is the All Terrain Rifle (ATR). These rifles have MSRPs that range from $382-$425. It is my understanding that the worlds largest retailer is selling this rifle for around $300. Top this blaster off with decent optics, sling, and ammo and you have a good hunting set-up for under $600, for that matter under $500. Looks like Mossberg has a receipe for success.
I was pleasantly surprised when my test rifle arrived. Not only did the rifle show up with a Mossy Oak Break-up camouflaged stock, but scope bases come installed from the factory. This may seem like a minor thing, but finding the right bases for a new model rifle can be a task.
Our first look going over the ATR showed Mossberg has stuck to the keep-it-simple-stupid (KISS) principal. Sling inserts are molded directly into the polymer stock. They will accommodate popular bi-pods and sling swivels, so all you need is to add your favorite swivels, sling, and scope with mounts and you are ready to head off to the woods.
Controls on the ATR are kept to a minimum: the bolt, safety, and bolt release. This limits the number of things that you can get hung up and fewer moving parts to break. Again, KISS rules the ATR, which in a field-use firearm is a good thing.
After the initial check of the ATR, the bolt was installed and a pair of B-Square scope rings were added, so a Nikon 6-18 power Buckmaster scope was mounted on the ATR and finally it was bore sighted.
I was pleased with the aesthetics of the ATR once the scope and Ridge bi-pod were installed. With the Mossy Oak Break-up, matte black barrel, bi-pod, and scope, this rifle looked good. Now if it shoots as good as it looks, we may have a keeper.
Before heading off to the range, I installed a Shooters Ridge Rock Mount bi-pod. The chosen version was a 6-9-inch pivoting version. This bi-pod was chosen for ease of use off a bench, and it is short enough to allow the shooter to shoot from the prone position. The 6-inch setting of the bi-pod sets the rifle at the perfect height for me when shooting from the West Elizabeth Sportsmans range.
Okay, now it was time to see what an economy-class-priced rifle could do. Having become spoiled shooting high dollar custom and semi-custom rifles, I was not holding my breath that the ATR would be able to compete. I know comparing a high-end rifle to one that you will find at the various big box outdoor shops and Wal-Mart is like comparing apples to oranges for many people. At least we set the bar for performance quite high and if it comes close, this is one heck of a rifle.
The last item I gathered was a shooters pack/matt from S.O.Tech. This set is a small pack, protective/drag bag, and an additional rest. This is essentially a complete support or shooters rest system, and it is easily transported by the user. I decided to test this out with the ATR and see if it would be useful for the range and the field.
The bag has a Velcro® lash for the rifle to keep it from sliding around and there is a built-in muzzle cap to protect the crown of the muzzle. This muzzle protector also serves as the security strap to keep the front of the rifle from moving around. You can easily insert your rifle in the case because S.O.Tech uses a zipper long enough that the case will actually lay flat. This allows the case to double as a shooters mat, a true multiple use piece of equipment.
The pack is designed to carry your shooting stuff and still be a rest. The two outer pockets are set close enough to be a wedge-type rest. I filled two shot shell bags with kitty litter and put them in the pockets, and they work perfectly. I found that when the main compartment was full, the rest was too high to use from the prone position. It did work great as a rest on a downed tree though.
Last in this kit was a small barrel/forearm rest. It arrives empty and can be filled with you choice of fillersand, kitty litter, dry sweepall will do the trick. This little rest works like a champ off of a bench and for unobstructed shooting from the prone position.
Anyhow, with all the gear in hand we were ready to shoot the Mossberg ATR, so I scrounged up a supply of .270 Winchester ammo. I came up with: two 130-grain loads from Winchester, their Power Point and Silver Tip; 130-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips from Federal; 140-grain Core Lockt Ultras from Remington, and a 140-grain Hornady Interlock BTSP. This seemed like a fair cross section of ammo. Seems like most of my buds who have .270s prefer to shoot 130- and 140-grain bullets; therefore I stuck with that choice of bullet weights.
Gear finally assembled, it was time to get the Mossberg ATR to the range. Having never been a fan of the .270 Winchester caliberplease forgive me, I was raised on .243 Winchester or .30-06 SpringfieldI didnt know what to expect from the caliber. I knew it had a huge devout following, so there has to be something to the .270 Winchester that makes it so popular.
In short order I found the cartridge to be pleasant to shoot and it was capable of good down-range accuracy. In no time at all the Mossberg ATR was punching nice 3-shot groups into the targets I had set up at the 100-yard stand. Nice may be an understatement, all five loads averaged 3/4 inch groups for three shots. Bear in mind this is a rifle that retails for less than $400 on average.
I did not spend hours dialing the rifle cartridge combination, and it was 95 degrees in the shade before we added the humidity to make a pleasant climate to shoot in; &Mac186; minute-of-angle (MOA) isnt bad . . . not at all! For the most part all groups actually had two of the three rounds touching. I am sure if I really took my time, I could have massaged the ATRs trigger a bit gentler and work &Mac251; MOA groups, but I was just sweating too bad for that.
All of the rounds were shot either from the bi-pod or the SOT Packs wedge rest. No heavy duty ultra stable clamp type rests were used; just what one would most likely use in the field. I even ran several groups prone over the SOT pack, and the ATR just kept putting the bullets where the ATR/Buckmaster combo
Okay, so the rifle will shoot at close range; what does it do at longer ranges. The longest shot I could take at West Elizabeth Sportsman is 200 yards (such is life in suburbia today) but we made do. The Federal loaded 140-grain Ballistic Tip performed the best at this distance, averaging MOA at 200 yards. I am certain this is accurate enough for most guys going out after mule or whitetail deer.
Overall I found the Mossberg ATR to be a great rifle. I mated it with a moderately priced Nikon Buckmaster scope to allow the rifle/shooter to perform to the best of their ability. I am certain if the owner of a Mossberg ATR really sat down and shot several factory and quality reloads, he could come up with a rifle capable of &Mac251; MOA accuracy at 100 yards.
The Mossberg ATR is a great rifle for the field; it is light weight, priced well and shoots great. The ATR will be available in .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield for the 2005 season. Rumor has it when the supply meets the demand, other calibers are in the works. I am sure popular calibers like .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester and others will debut in the next year or so.
If you are in the market for a new rifle for the impending big game hunting season, dont break the bank. Check out the Mossberg ATR. I dont think you will be disappointed.
O.F. Mossberg & Sons Inc.
7 Grasso Ave., Dept. GWK
North Haven, CT 06473
1300 Walt Whitman Rd.
Melville, NY 11747
N5549 Country Trunk Z
Onalaska, WI 54650
2708 St. Louis Ave., Dept. GWK
Ft. Worth, TX 76110
870 Remington Dr., Dept. GWK
Madison, NC 27025
3625 Old Potash Hwy., Dept. GWK
Grand Island, NE 68803
427 North Shamrock St.
East Alton, IL 62024
8515 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90016
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