• Savage Arms MSR 15 Patrol Review

    We know you have been waiting for this article here at Savage Shooters, a review of the newest rifle from Savage Arms and a major departure from their usual bolt-action barrel nutted based offerings. For that reason we took our time and really put the MSR15 Patrol model through its paces and made sure the rifle performed to the standard we expect from Savage. We were not disappointed. Savage's MSR15 Patrol AR-pattern rifle performed well through not one but two training courses of a 1,000 rounds each, several bench testing sessions, as well as a friendly run and gun grudge match in the Nevada desert. Total round count ended up somewhere around 4,000 rounds.

    This Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR), like all AR-pattern rifles, has a barrel nut so we welcome it to the brother hood of the barrel nut. Even though the AR market is full of competitors - some of which have long pedigrees - the Savage offering should be taken seriously because itís not your standard budgeted AR offering. One of the benefits of being acquired by Vista Outdoors is that it has given Savage the opportunity to collaborate with other Vista Outdoor companies when designing the MSR. Working with BLACKHAWK!, Savage came up with a very impressive and modern interpretation of an AR pattern rifle. Basically itís very similar to other companies M4 offerings but with some very nice upgrades normally seen in higher end AR lines while remaining price conscious. For our test rifle Bushnell provided the optics from their AR/223 riflescope line in 1-4X 24mm. Weaver provided one of their SPR 30mm Optics Mount bases and Federal provided some of the ammo for testing. All three are members of the Vista Outdoor family.

    The MSR15 patrol has a Mil-spec forged upper and lower made from 7075-T6 aluminum, hard-coat anodized finish in matte black. The model we reviewed did include the forward assist and the enhanced Mil-spec trigger, but Savage also has a MSR15 Patrol that has no forward assist and a Mil-Spec trigger and the MSR15 Recon model that has a custom forged lower receiver (we did not review ether of these models). This means it will be easy to buy any of your favorite aftermarket upper and lower parts and swap them out on the MSR15. The trigger, which pulled around a crisp 7.5 lbs. for us, was better than your standard budget AR offering and for a rifle that is to be used as a patrol rifle or truck gun it is more than up to the task, but not as nice as the Savage AccuTrigger found in the bolt action rifle lines or the many variation of custom AR triggers on the market. The rest of the lower parts are all standard and what you would expect to be on AR based rifle except that the trigger guard has been replaced with a curved polymer version that allows for gloved operation. The bolt is your standard AR bolt carrier group made of Carpenter 158 steel. We noticed even after 4,000 rounds it is still black with no signs of excessive wear. Lastly, the MSR15 Patrol we evaluated we had the forward assist and the standard AR dust cover, components other AR manufactures often eliminate to cut costs.

    The MSR15 is a direct-impingement semi-auto that would make Eugene Stoner proud of his original design. Itís driven by a 16 1/8-inch 1:8 Right-hand twist barrel with 5R rifling and Melonite QPQ finish, Mid-length gas system and chambered in 223 Wylde target chamber for use with 223 Rem. or 5.56x45mm ammo. The 5R rifling did keep fouling down as advertised, reducing the down time for cleaning after long training sessions and giving consistent performance and shot placement regardless of how many rounds had gone through it in a session.

    The Melonite QPQ finish is where some AR purists will say "if itís not chromed lined then itís not a battle rifle," but the Melonite process leaves the barrel harder than chrome lining which means its longer lasting, has a lower coefficient of friction, and unlike a plating it chemically alters the barrel surface so itís not just the chamber and bore itís the whole barrel that is protected. The fact that Savage went with a Mid-length gas system speaks volumes on how they planned to make this a rifle that will last several thousands of rounds. Even though a carbine length gas system would have been adequate, it's designed for rifles with a barrel length between 10 and 15 inches and the only reason most AR carbines have the carbine length gas system is to be more like a military clone. Using the Mid-length gas system does two things: first, it reduces the wear of the components as the rifle cycles a little slower and less violently, and secondly it adds two inches to the site radius which adds precision to the open sights. This is where Savage placed its custom A-frame gas block front sight that is adjustable like a Mil-Spec sight but with cleaner lines and no bayonet lug. It works nicely with BLACKHAWK! Flip-up sight that is standard on the rear of the MSR15 Patrol. Last but not least, like all modern M4 clones the Savage MSR15 Patrol has M4 feed ramps, a threaded barrel with standard 1/2X28 threads per inch (TPI) and A2 style flash hider.

    Like stated early this rifle has some collaboration with BLACKHAWK! Besides the rear sight, the furniture that adorns this rifle is all BLACKHAWK! and its not only functional polymer furniture, but it's attractive as well. The BLACKHAWK! KNOXXģ AR pistol grip is pleasant to grasp and well textured without being to abrasive. My only complaint is that it does not come with a plug or door to allow storage of small parts or batteries. (This is where I like to store an extra firing pin). The BLACKHAWK! AXIOMô Carbine stock sits on a standard six position carbine buffer tube with the standard carbine buffer. The stock has four QD mounting points and a slot for a strap based sling. I fitted the stock with a Magpul QD Paraclip Sling Mount to use with my favorite single point sling, but I know I need to upgrade to QD sling since this is being seen on more and more AR platforms. The mid length BLACKHAWK! AXIOMô forearm extends beyond the front sight and is held in place by a standard Delta ring and triangle handguard cap. This is one of the best two pieces forearms I have seen on the market as it allows for the more aggressive ďCĒ clamp hold favored by competitive shooters but is just as comfortable to shoot from more traditional holds. The AXIOM sports four M-LOK slots on the bottom and five slots on each side to accommodate your favorite hand stop, flashlight or other forearm accessory. There are also two additional QD mounting points for more sling configuration options.

    So how did I test this rifle? Well as stated earlier I put it through its paces. First we picked the ammo that would be used for the bulk of classes. For my high volume AR shooting needs I purchase the Federal 223 REM 55 grain FMJ in the hundred round value packs - not because itís a Vista Outdoor company brand, but rather because its readily available at the local WalMart and it's cheaper than anything else out there for factory ammo. When shooting 1,000 rounds a weekend finding excellent budget ammo can be hard to do, and I happened to have 4,000 rounds of it already on hand.

    In addition to the ammo I need more than the single Magpul MOE 30 round magazine that comes with rifle so I made sure to grab several more Magpul PMAG 30 round magazines, L5 Advanced Warfighter Magazine (L5AWM) and standard Mil-Spec magazines from Brownell and C Products which I had available. Since this was going to be tested at a practical rifle class I went to my local range and sighted in first the open sights at 25, 100 and 200 yard and then added the Bushnell scope and performed a battle field site at 200 yards and checking my point of impact at 10, 25, 50 100, 200 and 300 yards all from the prone position off an MIL-Spec ammo box.

    The first class was a four day practical rifle course focused on shooting targets within the 100 yard and delivering a standard two shots to the chest under time pressure and failure to stop shots to the head of silhouette style targets. This is performed at various distances, positions and states of ready but basically high volume shooting for four days. The only time the course would slow down is in the intentional practicing type 1-4 failures, reloads and moving to cover. Because of the long days of shooting very little cleaning was done other than running a bore snake through the barrel on a daily basis. During this class not a single jam, failure to feed or mechanical failure occurred. The rifle was comfortable to shoot and lighter than other rifles I have used for this class. When bringing it home from the first class it cleaned up easily. The benefit of the R5 rifling was apparent using solvent and with just a few patches it took no time to clean the bore. Everything else cleaned up nicely with some CLP and it was ready to go back out there.

    A month later I took the Savage MSR15 back to a night time version of the same class with the added difficulty of shooting at night with a flashlight where I used a hand held Surefire 6PX Tactical flash light. Again no failures or other issues occurred. The MSR was light, did not fatigue me to use, was a pleasure to shoot all 1,000 rounds, and again cleaned up very easily.

    Then I took it to some of my favorite BLM land where some friends and I set up steel targets over a ľ mile course and run from shooting position to position to find who could do it the fastest (First hits are key because the rule is simple: no moving to the next shooting position until a hit is recorded on the target). Well I did not win but that was not the MSR's fault. Age has affected my agility and some of my young friends, even though they may have missed more, could run faster between the targets. The MSR was lighter than any of the other rifles there and was as accurate as or even more accurate than other rifles used that cost three time as much. Once again the Savage showed no failures, jams or other issues, not even a single light strike or failure to feed. It's safe to say this rifle is durable and easy to maintain under every use.

    Now it was time to test accuracy. Holding to the battle rifle concept we performed accuracy testing as follows. Starting with a clean rifle we fired two 30 round magazines within 5 minutes at a 50 yard target from the standing position. We then dropped to the prone position, loaded a 5 round magazine of the designated ammo to test and shot a 5 round group at a 100 yard target. Here is where we get some interesting results.

    First, all 30 round magazines where loaded with the Federal 223 REM 55 grain FMJ from the value pack.

    • The first ammo tested was Federal Premium 223 REM 69 grain Sierra Matchking BTHP. It gave a respectable 1.5 inch group with a flyer.
    • Then we tested the Federal Fusion MSR 223 REM 62 grain and it produced a 3 inch group - not once, but three times we tested it.
    • The third ammo tested was the American Eagle 223 REM 50 grain JHP and again a 1.5 inch group with a flyer.
    • The fourth ammo was the budget ammo that a number of shooters use at the range and it was the TULAMMO 223 REM 55 grain FMJ steel case. It gave use the worse groupings at a consistent 4- inches over several attempts.
    • The last tested was the Federal 223 REM 55 grain FMJ used for training and the run and gun and it gave us nice 1.5 inch groups with a single flyer.

    What I learned was that I always seem to pull the first shot causing a flyer, but once I settle down the rifle was up to the task. The Tula and Fusion ammo were not the best performers for this rifle, but for hitting a chest size target from the prone position both are plenty acceptable for battle rifle needs.

    So how does the MSR compare to other AR's in a market full of AR clones? The MSR patrol is a solid budget conscious choice that comes with many upgrades such as the enhanced trigger, R5 rifling in the barrel and a flip-up rear sight you see on more expensive models while not looking like every other M4 clone out there thanks to the unique and attractive BLACKHAWK! Furniture. As Savage Arms first foray into this market and the quality at which these rifles are built, it's safe to say Savage has given us a very solid and reliable AR alternative.

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    Contact Information
    Savage Arms
    100 Springdale Rd.
    Westfield, MA 01085

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