The Mossberg Patriot in .270 Winchester conquers mule deer country.
Mossberg Patriot Review Snapshot:
- With an MSRP of $421, the Mossberg Patriot is a highly affordable, field-ready rifle.
- Equipped with Mossberg's (2- to 7-pound) Lightning Bolt-Action (LBA) Trigger, the Patriot is highly accurate.
- Other features include a Kryptek Highlander camo synthetic stock and 22-inch barrel.
- Chambered in the classic .270 Win., this rifle proved plenty capable for mule deer.
A life of hunting is so often a war of attrition against a series of emotionally draining obstacles until, at long last, hustle and circumstance converge in distinct moments that will define not only the hunt, but also the hunter. So many times, despite our best efforts, that opportunity never arises, which only fuels the hunger that drives us in search of game. When a particular leg of our journey finally ends with meat for the table, a story has been written that will remain with us always.
I’d spent the entire month of September exhausting myself in pursuit of elk, to no avail. Then came first rifle elk season, which ended just the way it began, meatless. So crushing and consistent were the blows — like when another public land hunter walked into my set and drove off a nice 5×5 bull just before I could take the shot — that I began to question my why. Why am I out here? Why do I deprive myself of sleep, camp out in rainstorms, trek through double-black-diamond terrain, and go scouting in the truck at 4 a.m.? Driving down to the grocery store, or buying a side of beef off a local rancher, is a hell of a lot easier, and probably cheaper, too.
In the end, hunting is in my soul. I can’t shake it. So I did what I always do — I loaded up the truck, grabbed my rifle — a Mossberg Patriot in .270 Winchester, with Kryptek Highlander camo stock — and shooting bench, and went to get sighted in for Colorado’s mule deer season. As long as you’re fighting, there’s a chance. Focus on the process. Control what you can control. Failure isn’t going home empty handed; failure is giving up. Character is about what you do after you get knocked down.
Nothing gets me re-energized like the smell of gunpowder from a rifle that produces tight little clusters of punched paper. I call it “aromatherapy,” and it works every time. For one thing, the Patriot features Mossberg’s Lightning Bolt-Action (LBA) trigger, which is adjustable to between 2-7 pounds, breaks evenly and crisply, and is a huge part of the accuracy equation. The other major factor is the barrel, which on this rifle is 22 inches long, fluted and features a matte-blued finish. My first three rounds, which happened to come with Hornady’s 140-grain InterLock bullet in the American Whitetail lineup, produced a miniscule cluster of holes on the target, set 100 yards distant. Measuring less than .80 inch, that first group was a harbinger of great things to come for the Patriot and me.
Not only is the Patriot sleek and comfortable to shoot, it now comes in Kryptek’s Highlander camo. As much as I love a finely crafted wood stock, I’ve got to admit I’m a sucker for the pattern on this rifle. The Kryptek variant is also available in other standard calibers, including .243 Win., .30-06 Springfield, .308 Win. and .300 Win. Mag. Length of pull (13.75 inches) is a little long for my short stature (5 feet, 8 inches), but it was still manageable to shoot, and I did not experience any problem with recoil as a result. The rifle retails for an almost unbelievable $421, which is why the fine folks at Mossberg are never going to see this one again.
I topped the rifle with Leupold’s new VX-6 2-12x42mm CDS illuminated reticle scope, which retails for $1,559. I know, I know. That’s a lot of scope for a $400 rifle, but the old adage, you get what you pay for, is never more true than with premium glass. An absolute champion of low light, the VX-6 has an adjustable, push-button, red-dot illumination system that optimizes accuracy in any light. The Custom Dial System (CDS) turret allows you to send load data to the Leupold Custom Shop, which will build you a yardage-marked elevation turret for quick and easy ranging on targets. We included the scope in our annual Gear of the Year issue in 2016, because it really is that spectacular.
The Patriot comes with Weaver-style mounts, which have to be removed for use with Leupold’s Dual Dovetail bases and rings. It’s a simple swap: All you have to do is remove two Allen screws on each base, then install the new bases, which are Remington-700-style in the case of this Patriot rifle. Once the new bases are attached, Leupold rings are locked into place with a wooden dowel; you can then secure the scope with the top portion of the rings.
Loaded for Bear…and Muleys
I put several other loads through the rifle, including Hornady’s 130-grain GMX and SST Superformance loads, as well as Federal’s 130-grain Fusion, 150-grain Nosler Partition, 130-grain Copper, and 140-grain Trophy Bonded Tip. The largest group came in at 1.10 inches, while the consistent average was well under the 1-inch standard. That’s pretty impressive, but highly expected from Federal and Hornady, two ammo manufacturers that never fail to impress.
While any of these loads would perform on mule deer, especially in the tried-and-true .270 Winchester, I opted for the 130-grain GMX when it came time to head afield. I’d never killed an animal with that load and I wanted to see whether it lived up to its billing. Not that it’s always necessary, but I personally feel most comfortable with a bullet that’s going to deliver premium accuracy, reliable expansion and incredible penetration, and solid copper will certainly do that. The GMX is a tipped copper-alloy bullet that leaves the barrel at 3,190 fps and in .270 Win. retains sufficient energy and manageable drop out to 450 yards.
The other load that happens to be one of my favorites is Federal’s Trophy Bonded Tip. I’ve seen it blow through shoulders, penetrate remarkably well and yet still retain a considerable portion of its mass. It’s a highly accurate round, features a bonded jacket/core, and solid rear shank for unparalleled penetration. When I work as hard as I do to find game, I don’t want to worry about the bullet coming apart or failing to penetrate through the vitals — a confidence I’ve gained in the Trophy Bonded Tip.
On to Greener Pastures
I parked the truck and climbed over the first hill I came to. It was an unusually warm morning for late October, and before the sun ever crested the ridge to my back it was nearly 50 degrees in the high country. As I reached the top of the hill, my heart now beating in my chest, daylight crept across the blackened horizon. Cloud cover cast an extra layer of insulation upon the hill country and blocked out the stars. I knelt down amidst the sea of sage and watched as the world awakened.
As soon as there was enough light to make anything out, I spotted several does working the bottom of the valley below me onto the next hillside. I ranged them with my Swarovski 8×42 EL Rangefinding binos at 350 yards. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted something that gets every deer hunter’s blood moving — running does. If there’s a running doe in the rut, there’s a buck not far behind.
Sure enough, a 4×4 came darting across the scene, does scattering in every direction. As quickly as it began, the buck disappeared over the horizon. My heart sank, but I forced myself to stay focused. Control what you can control. I crept closer, shrinking the gap between me and the remaining does down to 215 yards. I sat there for 15 minutes. Nothing happened.
Finally, thank God, he reappeared, working the hillside in a hyperactive frenzy. I quickly dug my Primos Trigger-Sticks tripod into the slope, located the buck in my scope, and prayed for just one pause in his erratic stride. He cleared two oak brush and, for a split second, stood still. I squeezed the trigger, heard the impact. The blast echoed down the valley. Clean press, clean hit. He darted off, maybe 20 yards, then dropped. Blood trailing wasn’t necessary, but there were enormous chunks of lung strewn about his escape route. I later discovered that the bullet had vaporized both lungs and blown the back of the heart off—pinpoint accuracy with phenomenal bullet performance.
I could hardly control my elation. The jagged road of disappointment had led me to this fine moment. Later, when my three sons were helping me field dress and skin the deer, my 9-year-old said, “Isn’t it amazing, Dad? It just takes one moment to turn everything around. And you never know when that’s going to be.” How right he was.
Maybe the best thing I can say about the Patriot in .270 Win. is that I’m buying it rather than sending it back. The trigger is not just good, but outstanding. Same with the barrel, which is a tack driver. It’s an unbeatable package for a rifle with a price tag south of $500. It’s everything you’d expect — and more — from the Mossberg name.
Editor's Notes: This article is from the January 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.