In the 2000 movie The Patriot, rebellious colonists were advised to “aim small, miss small” when shooting at the British. Mossberg appears poised to turn that phrase on its head by aiming big, and scoring big, with its new Patriot bolt-action rifle.
Mossberg is perhaps best known for its pump-action shotguns – most notably the ubiquitous 500 series – but the company has not always come to mind when the conversation turns to bolt-action rifles.
It’s not that the company didn’t make any. Previous bolt-action models included the ATR and 4X4 models. The rifles were lumped by some into that category somewhat condescendingly referred to as “inexpensive rifles,” with all that implies, and their aesthetics didn’t exactly excite those who prefer their rifles in a more classic configuration.
Mossberg set out to change that last year when it introduced its new Patriot flagship bolt-action rifle line in spectacular fashion with some 60 different variants of the rifle. Most new rifles start out with one or two models and the line expands over time, but Mossberg unveiled their entire lineup all at once. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more extensive line of rifles introduced at the same time.
The standard Patriot is – wonder of wonders – a classically styled rifle. At first glance, the rifle’s stock bears a strong resemblance to the instantly recognizable classic Winchester Model 70 stock, and that is not a bad thing. There are far worse designs one could choose to emulate.
At the range, our test rifle, a standard walnut-stocked Patriot, prompted more than one conversation that went like this:
“That’s a nice-looking rifle. What is it?”
Covering the Bases
The Patriot was introduced with a host of options. In addition to the walnut-stocked Patriot, there were models covering every stock preference, including laminate and black synthetic. Short-action caliber choices included 22-250 Rem., 243 Rem., 7mm-08 Rem. and 308 Win.
Available long-action calibers include 25-06 Rem., 270 Win., 30-06 Springfield, 7 mm Rem. Mag., 300 Win. Mag., 338 Win. Mag. and, in a first for Mossberg, 375 Ruger.
In addition to the basic Patriot rifle, there are “Deer Thug” models that sport a Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camo pattern on the synthetic stock and a wide range of Patriot Youth models. There are Patriot Night Train models with black or olive drab green synthetic stocks. A couple of these come with suppressor-ready threaded barrels with removable muzzlebrakes and a neoprene cheek-raising kit with interchangeable inserts. Newer additions to the line are rifles with synthetic stocks sporting the popular Kryptek Highlander camo pattern.
Mossberg also sells the Patriot in a scoped combo package with the Vortex Crossfire II 3-9X40mm scope with a BDC (ballistic drop compensator) reticle, and Patriot Youth models are also available in a scoped combo package.
Mossberg clearly set out to cover all the bases with the Patriot, and the lineup pretty much does so. Whether you’re sniping varmints or busting big game in Africa, there’s seemingly a Patriot for every use and for shooters of all statures.
It took a while to get my hands on a rifle for testing, but that was partly because I was willing to wait for something a bit out of the ordinary. As you might expect, most new rifles rolling out of factories are chambered for the most popular cartridges, such as 30-06 Rem., so I was intrigued when Mossberg’s Linda Powell offered me a chance to test one of the rifles chambered in 25-06 Rem. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I jumped at the opportunity. I have an inordinate fondness for rifles in quarter-bore chamberings, so I was eager to test this one. I’ll let you know how it performed, but first, here’s a closer look at the standard Patriot.
“Mossberg’s attention to detail with the Patriot somewhat surprised me.”
Not Your Daddy’s Mossberg
The Patriot’s good looks are enhanced by the clean, classic lines of the stock, but closer inspection reveals there’s a lot more to like in this gun than you would expect in a rifle in the Patriot’s price range. Collectively, they add up to a package that is, in an aesthetic sense, head-and-shoulders above predecessor Mossberg bolt-action rifles.
Simply stated, this is a good-looking rifle, especially to those of us who have some pretty strong ideas of what a bolt-action hunting rifle should look like.
It starts with the classic lines of the Winchester 70-ish stock, which has a single crossbolt, for added strength, located just forward of the magazine. The grip and forend are not checkered, but have a dark stippling pattern in those areas which contrasts nicely with the satin-finished walnut stock. The stippling also runs along the underside of the forend, providing an enhanced gripping surface in inclement weather. A raised cheekpiece on the stock provides a comfortable cheek weld, and a generously sized rubber recoil pad does a decent job of reducing recoil. Sling swivel studs are in place fore and aft.
The sporter-weight, 22-inch barrel is fluted over its front half and has a recessed target crown. While the barrel wasn’t perfectly centered in the stock, it was truly free-floated along its entire length.
One thing that jumps out at you when you pick up this rifle is its attractive, spiral-fluted bolt, attached to a streamlined bolt handle that provides plenty of clearance for scope mounting. In use, the bolt cycled cleanly, and rounds fed and ejected without issue.
Given the traditional styling of this rifle, I personally would have preferred a box magazine with a hinged metal floorplate, but detachable polymer magazines are all the rage these days, and that’s the direction Mossberg took with the Patriot. Call me a curmudgeon, but I am not a fan of many detachable polymer magazine designs. Mr. Murphy often accompanies us on hunts, and one of his favorite tricks is to snag the latch on a detachable magazine and dump it in the dirt at inopportune times.
The Patriot’s magazine seems tough enough, and it functioned without issue throughout testing. The locking latch is somewhat recessed and protected, but I would still take care when moving through thick brush to not accidentally snag and trip the latch.
I also prefer trigger guards and bottom metal on my rifles to be made of, well, metal. It’s all polymer on the Patriot. That’s a necessary evil if you’re trying to make a rifle that’s affordable for the masses, and I can live with that. At least these components on the Patriot appear to be replaceable should you break something. If you were to break a trigger guard on some rifles in this price category, you would have to replace the entire stock.
While the patriot is pillar-bedded, it incorporates an interesting twist with a one-piece magazine well/polymer insert with tabs extending toward both the front and rear of the rifle. The trigger guard screws run through these tabs, and the action compresses against them when the screws are tightened to a factory-specified torque of 25 in-lbs.
In addition to features normally found only on more expensive rifles, like the fluted barrel and spiral-fluted bolt, Mossberg’s attention to detail with the Patriot somewhat surprised me. The bolt handle knob, for example, is knurled for a sure grip. So is the bolt release button.
The safety is a simple two-position design, located just to the right of the bolt shroud and behind the bolt handle. It’s worth noting that it does not lock the bolt handle in place when engaged. You can still cycle rounds to load and unload the rifle with the safety in the on position.
The trigger on the Patriot is reminiscent of the Savage AccuTrigger by virtue of its use of a bladed trigger. Mossberg calls their version the Lightning Bolt Action (LBA) trigger. It’s user-adjustable to a range of approximately 2-7 lbs. The trigger on our test rifle broke at an average of 2 lbs. 4 oz. on my Lyman trigger gauge, so I left it at the factory setting for testing.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about these feature-laden rifles is their prices. Basic Patriot rifles, scoped combos, Deer Thug scoped combos and the youth rifles have MSRPs in the $386-$584 range. Patriot Vortex Optics scoped combos are priced at $552, while the Patriot Night Train models go for $634 to $811.
At these prices, the only real question left for many potential buyers is: How does it shoot?
For testing, I mounted a Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14x50mm scope with a 30mm tube. The Patriot came with a Weaver-style scope base, but I elected to use a set of 30mm lightweight one-piece rings from Talley to ensure a rock-solid setup for testing. Medium-height Talleys provided just enough clearance for the scope’s large, 50mm objective lens and good clearance for the bolt handle.
I expected a bit of velocity loss from the Patriot’s 22-inch barrel, but there wasn’t enough to make much difference with one factory load from Barnes and three Federal Premium loads. Federal’s 115-grain Nosler Partition load actually clocked in at three fps faster than factory-stated velocity over my Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph, while the Barnes 100-grain TTSX load ran 81 fps under the factory benchmark.
Velocity loss was more pronounced with the three Hornady loads, but that was to be expected because the Hornady loads are factory-tested with 24-inch barrels. Out of the shorter barrel, velocities for the three loads were 171-200 fps slower than factory-stated speeds.
Accuracy testing with seven different factory loads yielded mixed results, with the rifle turning in a mediocre performance with a couple of factory loads. Interestingly enough, both of the worst performers used bullets at the heavier end of the spectrum – 115 grains and 117 grains, respectively – and both turned in average 100-yard groups in excess of 2.25 inches.
Only one of the tested loads using heavier bullets – Hornady’s American Whitetail round with 117-grain InterLock bullets – turned in what I would consider to be a good performance. Groups averaged 1.37 inches, with a best group of 0.91 inches.
If you throw out the two loads that didn’t perform well in the Patriot, average group sizes for the five remaining factory loads varied from 1.10 to 1.37 inches. All five of those loads produced sub-MOA best groups measuring a little less than an inch. Bullet weights for these loads ranged from 85 grains for the Federal Ballistic Tip load to 117 grains for the Hornady American Whitetail load.
The rifle did show a certain fondness for copper bullets. Federal’s 100-grain Trophy Copper load produced the best single group, measuring 0.81 inches, while Barnes’ 100-grain TTSX load was close behind with a best group of 0.87 in.
Overall, the rifle did not deliver the kind of tack-driving accuracy I like out of my quarter-bore rifles, but that level of accuracy typically comes at a fairly steep price. With ammo it likes, the Patriot delivered groups ranging from slightly less than one MOA to less than 1-½ MOA, and that’s all the accuracy you’ll ever need for most hunting applications. The rifle looks pretty attractive at the range and in the field, and with an MSRP of just $438 for the tested model, the Patriot represents a real bargain for the hunter on a budget.
Action: Bolt action
Caliber: 25-06 Rem. as tested
Barrel: 22-in. fluted, sporter weight
Trigger: LBA adjustable
Sights: None, Weaver-style bases
Capacity: 5-round detachable magazine
Weight: 7 lbs.
|LOAD||AVG. MUZZLE VELOCITY (FPS)||AVG. 100-YARD GROUP (INCHES)||BEST 100-YARD GROUP (INCHES)|
|Barnes Vor-Tx 100 gr. Tipped TSX BT||
|Federal Premium 85 gr. Ballistic Tip||
|Federal Premium 100 gr. Trophy Copper||
|Federal Premium 115 gr. Nosler Partition||
|Hornady Superformance 90 gr. GMX||
|Hornady American Whitetail 117 gr. InterLock||
|Hornady Superformance 117 gr. SST||
Note: Velocities measured with Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph. All groups fired in wind at 2-8 mph.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2016 print issue of Gun World.