Hunting is a wonderful pursuit. There are places where the hills rise and run wild and woods where an axe seldom has fallen. There are creeks and gentle slopes and squat, moss-covered rocks, places important to sportsmen and sportswomen.
For most, the experience is more important than the shot. For a stalker or hunter, a rifle is simply a tool. Modest, even plain, the hunting rifle is capable of a clean and humane kill at 200 yards, or a little more. If a rifle is light and easily carried, that is a bonus. And perhaps the rifle should be chambered for a readily available cartridge that is easily obtained.
Mossberg’s All Terrain Rifle retails for less than $400—a lot less. That makes it an entry-level rifle, although its performance is above the standard of an entry-level rifle. When you address the issue of obtaining a new hunting rifle, the questions are many. Is it reliable? Even when the function of a bolt gun is considered reliable, we want a rifle that is smooth in operation. We want one that is accurate with off-the-shelf loads.
When purchasing a rifle, our expectations often tie to the amount of cash we spend. In this case, we get a reliable and accurate rifle without the finish and high-grade stock of a more expensive firearm. Just the same, there is pride of ownership in a rifle that performs as well as this one. Modern CNC machining results in precise tolerances. Frankly, if I am taking a rifle hunting, I am not certain I want to knock about the woods with an expensive rifle. I need one that works and is effective.
My personal ATR is chambered for my favorite rifle caliber, the .308 Winchester. I use inexpensive factory loads for meaningful practice and deploy among the most accurate and powerful of rifle loads on demand. For example, I recently sighted in a Simmons scope with Winchester USA 147-grain FMJ loads. While probably intended for use in self-loading rifles for target practice, those FMJ loads are inexpensive and offer good accuracy. Using the box method, I quickly sighted in the rifle, then enjoyed firing it so much that I used the 20-round box on clay birds and the like at 100 yards. The rifle handles quickly; the trigger press is fast and crisp, and the bolt is smooth with a short throw. There really is not much to dislike about this rifle.
This particular ATR is a short action, which simply means my rifle is chambered for a relatively short cartridge, the .308 Winchester. The .243, for example, is also a short action. The .270 Winchester and .30-06 are long-action rifles. The receiver is long to accommodate longer cartridges. The short-action rifle has a short travel, or throw, and is easy to handle and fast in action. It features a blind-box magazine. The safety is handy and positive on the right side of the receiver, a handy location that does not interfere with scope mounting. The 18-inch barrel is light, and the rifle handles quickly.
The last third or so of the barrel is fluted. I like that touch, and while practical advantage may be slight, the look is great. Weight is reduced, and theoretically, heat is dissipated in a long firing session. The stock is what I call a “sporter” style. There is checkering on the pistol grip and fore end that should keep your hand stabilized even if it is cold or sweaty. The stock design helps the eye line up quickly and naturally with the scope’s objective lens. The rifle stock wears an effective butt pad. If you desire, the butt pad features a section you can remove to convert the ATR to a youth model. There are a lot of features in the inexpensive rifle.
You can easily remove the rifle bolt for cleaning by actuating a plunger on the left side of the receiver. The rifle may be an economy model, and the plunger ejector and gas shoulder are good designs. The LBA, or Lightning Bolt Action, trigger has a small blade set in the trigger. That blade locks the sear until the trigger is pressed to the rear. My rifle was delivered from the factory with a decent 3.5-pound trigger. If you prefer, the LBA can be adjusted to about 2 pounds. I have enjoyed good results and have left my ATR rifle trigger as delivered.
When firing for accuracy, recoil seems to run straight to the rear due to efficient stock design. I use a Simmons 3-9 x 40 rifle scope. The rifle is accurate; however, it is a short-barrel economy rifle light enough for easy packing. Just the same, accuracy is good to excellent. As I have often said, modern CNC machinery and technology often deliver a good rifle at a bargain price. With the Winchester 150-grain Power Point, average accuracy for a three-shot group was 1.6 to 2 inches. With the 168-grain match load, a three-shot group often delivered 1 to 1.5 inches. The Winchester Ballistic Silvertip is a credible hunting load that often demonstrates match-grade accuracy, and this rifle was no exception, with the average groups equaling the match loads.
I sighted my rifle for 150-grain loads, and I did not want to change the register. I fired a few of the Winchester 180-grain Power Point loads, confirming they shoot higher on the target, although the sight setting was useful. Recoil was greater than with the lighter bullet loads. Three of those heavyweights flew into a 1.4-inch group. The ATR is accurate enough for hunting tasks to 200 yards.
It is rare for a human to stand up and group three shots into 5 inches offhand at 100 yards, so the absolute accuracy of the rifle, while comforting, is not as important as your skill as the shooter.
When all is said and done, the ATR is well worth its modest price.
|Barrel Length||22 inches; free floating, button-rifled|
|OA Length||42 inches|
|Muzzle||Recessed muzzle crown|
|Rifling||1 to 10 inches|
|Stock||Black, synthetic, checkerd|
|Buttpad||Black recoil pad|
Planning to add a Mossberg ATR to your stock now that you’ve seen the great features-to-price discussion? Share your plans with us in the comment section.