The semi-auto Magnum Research MLR22AT .22LR rifle takes rimfire accuracy to the next level. It's based on the Ruger 10/22 receiver in an improved package.
HERE’S SOMETHING you’ll very seldom hear me say: I couldn’t find a single disagreeable thing about Magnum Research’s MLR22AT. Strip away everything from this particular rimfire, and you’re left with the very familiar and highly praised Ruger 10/22, a foundation that is rock-solid.
The rifle is ridiculously accurate. She’s light, easy to clean, and favors a diet of reasonably priced ammunition.
But before we begin this gun review, allow me some translation of the rimfire’s model designation. MLR stands for MagnumLite Rimfire, while the AT portion of the name reads as ‘ambidextrous thumbhole (stock).”
The foundation for the AT is a Ruger 10/22 receiver and blowback operating system. Standard is the Ruger’s tried-and-true 10-round rotary magazine – same push button behind-the-mag release and forward cut-out allowing fingertip access to ‘pry’ the magazine out, if necessary.
A single screw just ahead of the magazine cut-out connects the stock to the barrel/receiver. The crossbolt safety is located in the forward portion of the trigger guard; a scalloped bolt lock behind and slightly to the left of the magazine release holds the bolt open (press lower) or closed (press upper).
Different, however, from the traditional stock 10/22s are several features unique to the AT. In milling the receiver, the folks at Magnum Research have incorporated an integral Weaver style rail atop for mounting optics. In the rear of the receiver, a hole allows for easy barrel maintenance. The bolt handle on the AT is large – one inch long, and 11/16-inch in diameter – and hollow, i.e. light to allow for sufficient bolt speed with the relatively slow .22LR ammunition.
The barrel, which still attaches to the receiver using the Ruger’s two-bolt V-block locking system, is feather light, weighing approximately 14 ounces. Barrel composition is steel covered with what the company calls “uni-directional graphite (laid) parallel to the bore axis.” The result, they claim, is a lightweight, incredibly accurate bull-style barrel that’s six times stiffer than the equivalent weight in steel.
This, then, reduces barrel vibration and improves accuracy, while simultaneously the graphite composition dissipates heat rapidly. The barrel does sport silver steel caps at both the muzzle and receiver.
In a final boost to accuracy, the AT features a Benz target chamber –by their explanation, a tighter chamber with a shorter tapered throat leading into the first cut of rifling. A reverse false muzzle, I assume, which guarantees the bullet is chambered true, and in line with the bore, rather than canted even slightly.
Rounding out the AT is a polypropylene thumbhole stock, with deep checking and semi-swells on the pistol grip, a high optics-friendly comb, and a uniquely-shaped fore-end designed both for weight reduction, as well as to allow the barrel to free-float.
For testing, I mounted an Alpen Apex XP 4-16×44 scope wrapped in Weaver Quad Lock rings atop the AT’s receiver, and scooped up a variety of .22LR ammunition. With the rifle settled into a Lead Sled, and working at a laser-ranged 25 yards, it took us fewer than 30 rounds to get her dialed in. And when I say dialed in, I’m talking everything inside the half-inch square black diamond at the center of a Birchwood Casey Shoot*N*C target. Everything.
After a half dozen such 5- and 10-shot groups, I left my stepson and stack of ammunition at his side, to his own devices. Eventually he wandered over to where I was shooting digitals, with a perma-smile etched on his face. “Would this even be fair on squirrels?” he asked, showing me his targets. One, a 30-round cluster, measured 3/8-inch from center to center. At one point, he began shooting a single hole, and then using that as a target. “This gun is ridiculous,” he said. “We need to buy it.”
And the boy is right; the MLR22AT is ridiculously accurate if you feed her the proper ammunition. Based on the company’s printed suggestion, we sighted the rimfire in with CCI’s Mini-Mag (36-grain/hollow point/1260fps) ammunition.
Problems experienced? Absolutely none; however, I can’t say the same about some of the other ammunition we tried. The company’s printed material did warn of possible function issues when using promotional or bulk ammunition. They weren’t lying.
This article appeared in the December 3, 2012 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.