By Greg Rodriguez
Recently I traveled to Wyoming to test a new rifle from, of all people, Mossberg. Sure, Mossberg makes great shotguns, but it isn’t the name that comes to mind when the talk turns to hunting rifles.
I’d shot the company’s 100 ATR before and thought it was a heck of a gun for the money, but I’d never hunted with a Mossberg rifle. That changed later that week when I used a prototype of the 4x4 to bag a pair of fine trophies.
The first animal to fall to the new gun was an odd-looking pronghorn buck with horns that grew forward rather than up. I’m partial to freaks, and it was my shot, so I slipped out of the truck to see if I could get within range of the antelope.
Mossberg’s Dennis Kendall and I used the cover of a brushy coulee to get close to a herd that numbered well over a hundred animals in scattered groups. We belly-crawled to a low rise that gave us a commanding view of the herd and searched for the buck. We found it feeding in the middle of a small bachelor group.
I eased into a solid prone position and settled the rifle onto my pack, then hit the buck with my rangefinder. Two hundred fifty-five yards isn’t a long shot in pronghorn country, but the ever-moving herd made getting a clear shot difficult. I stuck the crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder and waited patiently for him to step into the open. When he did, I touched the trigger and dropped the buck in its tracks.
The next day, I used the 4x4 to take a fine wooly plains bison after a tough stalk. My first shot took it square in the shoulder. The second took the running bull through the lungs. Once again, Mossberg’s new 4x4 rifle performed admirably.
The 4x4 Rifle
Futuristic lines and a snazzy ventilated fore-end make it clear the 4x4 is not your father’s Mossberg. Still, the nicely figured wood on the wood-stocked version will appeal to rifle purists, while the laminate and synthetic-stocked variants will appeal to those in the market for a rugged working rifle. My test rifle was the synthetic-stocked version with a silver finish chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum.
The 4x4 rifle starts with a rugged action machined from solid bar stock. Its detachable polymer magazine holds five standard or four magnum cartridges. The magazine on my test rifle fed cartridges smoothly and without a hitch.
The bolt employs two substantial locking lugs. The right lug houses a sliding extractor, while a plunger-style ejector is on the left of the bolt face. A beefy gas shield protects the shooter’s face in the event of a ruptured case. The test rifle’s bolt was very smooth.
The two-position safety is a small, stamped metal piece just behind the bolt knob. It does not lock the bolt. The safety on my test rifle operated smoothly and positively with a minimum of effort. The bolt release is a similarly shaped stamped part on the left side of the receiver.
The barrel is a free-floated, button-rifled affair with a recessed crown. Magnum rifles like the test gun come with a 24-inch tube, while standard caliber guns have 22-inch barrels. The barrel is devoid of sights, although some variants do come equipped with iron sights. Factory-installed Weaver-style bases are included with all 4x4 rifles.
The entire barreled action is finished in Mossberg’s proprietary Marinecote, an attractive satin nickel finish that offers superior corrosion resistance. Blued versions are available, but Marinecote would be my choice in a serious hunting rifle.
The 4x4’s futuristic stock is its most distinctive feature. Its rakish lines, vented fore-end and skeletonized buttstock really stand out, as does its post-modern Monte Carlo cheekpiece. Two polymer sling swivel attachment points and the trigger guard are integral molded-in parts. A soft, cushy recoil pad is installed to a 13 1/4-inch length of pull.
As radically styled as it is, the 4x4’s stock has some old-school handling qualities. A thin wrist and trim fore-end contribute to its lively feel, while the futuristic Monte Carlo stock aligned my eye perfectly with the scope.
Once I had a feel for the rifle, I rummaged through my gun safe for a good scope with which to test the 4x4’s accuracy. I selected Simmons’ new 3-9x40 Pro Hunter and mounted it in a set of Leupold quick-release Weaver-style rings.
Next, I added one of Blackhawk’s sleek little Mountain Slings. With scope, sling and full magazine, the test rig weighed exactly 8 pounds — the perfect weight for a magnum hunting rifle meant to be carried a great deal. With the rifle complete, I headed to a local shooting range with an assortment of factory cartridges and handloads to put the new rifle through its paces.
The first thing I noticed when I touched off a round was the surprisingly mild recoil. I am not recoil-sensitive, but the 4x4 recoiled considerably less than I expected, given its light weight and magnum chambering.
The rifle’s excellent recoil pad was a key to minimizing kick, but I believe the stock design also had a great deal to do with it. The skeletonized buttstock has a lot of recoil-eating flex. A Monte Carlo cheekpiece, in my experience, also helps to minimize recoil in hard-kicking rifles. The 4x4’s cheekpiece is unconventional looking but very effective.
My first group with Federal’s 160-grain Nosler Partition landed in a perfect little triangle that measured a little over a half inch. Subsequent groups proved the Mossberg’s preference for this load; the five-group average was an impressive .72 inch. Partitions are one of my favorite hunting bullets, so I was pleased to see them shoot so well in the rifle.
The second load I tested was Hornady’s 154-grain Interbond. Interbonds have always shot very well for me, so I was surprised to see it bested by the Partition. Still, its 1.3-inch five-group average was pretty darn good, and the Interbond is a heck of a hunting bullet, too.
Next, I tried Federal’s 165-grain Game King load. Game Kings are one of my favorite bullets for deer and pronghorns, and they’re usually pretty accurate. They shot well in the 4x4 rifle, too. With a five-group average of .78 inch and a worst group of just .89 inch, the Game Kings were the most consistent load in the test gun. Still, the 160-grain Partition would be my choice for hunting based on its superior performance on game.
The last factory load I tested was Winchester’s 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip. This line is one of my go-to selections for accuracy. It shot well, but I was a bit surprised it didn’t do better, considering its past performance. Its 1.22-inch average led me to believe the test rifle has a definite preference for heavier bullets.
Given the test rifle’s preference, I decided to try a load I’ve used many times in Africa — a 160-grain Barnes X over 61.5 grains of RL 22. This load exited the test gun’s muzzle at 2,826 fps. I could load it hotter, but it always seems to shoot well and kills like lightning when I do my part.
My first group measured .77 inch. I have a lot of faith in my pet load, so I focused hard and shot another group. It measured .69 inch. I fired three more equally impressive groups and ended up with a five-group average of just .88 inch — not as tight as the best factory load, but good enough.
Although my previous experiences with Mossberg rifles were all positive, I was shocked at how accurate the test rifle was with such a wide variety of ammo. Many factory and custom rifles can shoot a favorite load or two under an inch. However, very few factory rifles I’ve tested could produce sub-MOA groups with such an assortment of bullets.
Shortly after completing my range tests, I was invited to a friend’s ranch to hunt pigs. The Simmons scope was mounted on another test gun before my hunt, so I mounted a Zeiss Conquest 1.8-5x38 riflescope on the 4x4.
The Conquest is a nice, compact scope with great glass. I didn’t use it in my accuracy testing because I have a hard time shooting tiny groups with a 5x scope. It’s an excellent hunting scope, though, especially in the low light hogs are most often encountered.
My friend and I hunted high and low for an eatin’-size sow. Pig sign was everywhere, but I didn’t get a shot at one until the last morning of the hunt. The plump sow ambled into a large oat patch to feed just before sunrise. It would have been safe had it left a few minutes sooner, but the first sliver of daylight was more than enough for the Zeiss scope. I found the sow’s shoulder and touched the trigger. I didn’t see the pig fall, but the sound of the 160-grain Partition slamming into its shoulders was unmistakable. The hog dropped in its tracks.
Mossberg’s new 4x4 is an accurate and well-made rifle. Its distinctive looks and performance made a lasting impression on me and my shooting buddies. The fact that it sells for well under $400 in the real world is truly shocking, and a nice bonus that makes those smart enough to buy one feel even smarter.
Reprinted from the July 2007 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.