The Mossberg MVP Scout shows it can hang with the best the firearms industry has to offer in terms of scout rifles.
To say it was a momentous and historic event would be a gross understatement. In July of 2016, Gunsite Academy, near Paulden, Arizona, hosted its second-ever Scout Rifle Conference, the first being in 1984 when Col. Jeff Cooper gathered the ranks to display the capabilities of his scout rifle concept. I attended the most recent event alongside several industry writers, manufacturers and Gunsite students in order to put the latest scout rifles currently in production to the kind of field test Cooper himself would be proud of.
The mastermind behind the conference was scout rifle aficionado and Gun Digest contributor Richard Mann, who has studied Cooper perhaps more than any other current gun writer. We spent three days going through field drills with scout rifles from Ruger, Steyr, Savage and Mossberg, while one student wielded a Winchester Model 70 customized in Cooper-fashion by gunsmith Jim Brockman. For the duration of the three days, as well as the fourth and final day of scored competition, I’d be using a Mossberg MVP Scout chambered in .308 and firing Hornady’s Custom Lite ammunition with 125-grain SST bullets.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Many folks have argued over the definition of the “true” scout rifle ever since Cooper himself began developing the concept over three decades ago. And a development, after all, is the best way to describe Cooper’s thoughts, since even in published writings he seems to have bounced between different positions. Fundamentally, however, Cooper’s goal was to come up with one rifle that would be the answer to almost any shooting situation. It wouldn’t be the best at any single discipline, but it would be versatile across a spectrum of scenarios encountered in the field. Cooper was looking for that one rifle to rule them all.
What he more or less ended up with was a rifle shorter than 39.37 inches in length; chambered in either .308 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., or .243 Win.; built on a short action; having an 18- to 20-inch barrel, or 22 inches in .243; a good trigger; and weighing between 7.71 (good) and 6.61 pounds (best). In addition, the scout rifle would feature a low-mounted, 2- to 3-power, long eye relief scope with a ghost ring rear sight and post front sight. Because it was built to be carried afield, the scout rifle would feature a Ching sling (named for a former Gunsite instructor), or as we used in the course, a Rhodesian sling made by Andy’s Leather (AndysLeather.com).
The whole point of this design was to produce a rifle that was easy to carry over long distances and periods of time, could be quickly brought to the shoulder for snap firing, and would be deadly accurate from close range out to 300 yards. It would have both an optic and iron sights as a backup.
For the four-day crash course, I’d be carrying the Mossberg MVP Scout, which is built around the MVP platform and features a detachable magazine of the Magpul type. With scope and sling the rifle weighed roughly 8.5 pounds — more than Cooper would have ideally liked, but much better for consistent, balanced shooting, in my opinion. Combined with the Hornady Custom Lite ammo, the extra weight saved my shoulder from taking the same kind of beating doled out by the 6- and 7-pound rifles in our group. After the final competition, I had the chance to shoot some of the lighter rifles, and I was immediately appreciative of the lavish recoil pad and extra pound and a half of the Mossberg rifle.
The Mossberg MVP Scout features a Picatinny rail for easy scope attachment, and the rail runs to the rear of the action to allow for either long or traditional short eye relief scopes. The rear ghost ring sight and fiber optic front post are easily visible in broad daylight, and this particular rifle came as a combo with Vortex’s 2-7x32mm optic. Barrel length is 16.25 inches with a 1:10-inch twist with matte finish. The rifle features a flash hider and Picatinny rail sections at the front of the synthetic black forend for light or accessory attachments.
The first three days of training, headed up by Il Ling New and Mario Marchman, were designed to put all these features to the test. We drilled on snap shooting, as well as short-, intermediate- and long-range work. We shot Gunsite’s famous Scrambler—a speed-based drill on steel targets fired from multiple obstacles and positions—as well as the timed big game walk, which forces you to locate and hit multiple steel targets from various field positions (sitting, kneeling, rested on an object, etc.).
The first thing that stood out to me was the trigger on the MVP Scout; it was remarkably crisp and carried a pull weight of roughly 3 pounds. The Lightning Bolt Action (LBA) trigger is adjustable from 3-7 pounds, built in the same style as the Savage AccuTrigger or Ruger Marksman. A crisp trigger is essential for snap shooting and steady long-range work, and this was proven true again on the course.
For those used to resting your trigger finger along the stock of the rifle underneath the bolt handle, this proved to be an adjustment (every gun has them). There is no three-position safety, and hence no way to lock the bolt down, so if you rest your finger under the bolt and nudge it ever so slightly, you’ll get a click instead of a bang. That’s also a serious consideration when carrying your gun afield. What I and the other Mossberg shooters had to learn was to keep the trigger finger on the top of the bolt, which was slightly awkward when trying to simultaneously manipulate the safety with your thumb, or constantly push down on the bolt handle in between shots to verify the closed position. The upside is that the bolt runs smoothly, allowing for fast follow up shots. More than anything, it’s just something you have to be aware of in the field.
The fourth day was a competition designed by Mann to test the rifles and each of the various features. There were five stages altogether, with scoring based on time and—most of all—hits on target. Cooper was adamant that misses counted for nothing, so a 20-second penalty was allotted for every miss.
On the first stage, we were timed and had to place three shots in the vital zone of a camo/man-shaped paper target at 25 yards; this drill was repeated three times. The second test was with iron sights at 50 yards, on paper and repeated thrice. Third, a shoot-and-load stage in which we fired one round from the seated position, then reloaded a single shell from the top of the action (again, rinse and repeat three times). Fourth, the standing shooter drops to prone and fires three times at the vitals from 100 yards. Fifth, shooters walk a timed field course, locating and hitting steel targets placed at various unknown distances.
At the end of the day, an engineer from Steyr flew in from Europe and won the deal (that’s what we Yanks call a “ringer”), but the top five positions (out of 20 participants) were all separated by only a few points. Jeremy Stafford of Guns & Ammo placed fourth, while I placed fifth; both of us were using the Mossberg MVP Scout. Two students, using Ruger and Steyr rifles, placed second and third. Monte Long of XS Sight Systems shot the entire tournament with irons and a Mossberg and placed a very respectable seventh place. All in all, a very strong showing for team Mossberg.
There’s so much that goes into marksmanship afield, and the Gunsite instructors are as good as anyone at drilling those habits into you. Likewise, you need a rifle capable of performing when your life or hunt is on the line. For around $900, the Mossberg MVP Scout scoped combo is one tough deal to beat. It shot MOA or better all week, functioned perfectly (I had exactly zero issues with feeding or loads all week), and was lightweight enough to carry and shoot for four days straight. The Hornady Custom Lite loads were also flawless and saved my shoulder from undue recoil trauma.
This was my first intensive exposure to the scout rifle platform, but I have to say I’m a believer in the concept. While I’d opt for a bit heavier of a rifle than Cooper preferred—the Mossberg being in my sweet spot at almost 9 pounds, fully outfitted—the concept simply works. Mossberg’s MVP Scout, chambered in the ever-versatile .308, is a great platform for hunting, personal defense, or whatever the wild world throws at you. The rifle is affordable, versatile, and highly dependable—everything you’d expect from a company like Mossberg.
Mossberg MVP Scout
Caliber: .308 Winchester
Barrel: 16.25 in.
Twist Rate: 1:10
Weight: Approx. 9 lbs. (with scope)
Sights: Rear ghost ring, fiber optic front post
Optic: Vortex 2-7x32mm
Stock: Synthetic, black
Trigger: 3-7 lbs.; Lightning Bolt Action (LBA)
Manufacturer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the Fall 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.