All About Guns: Mossberg Patriot Predator in 6.5 PRC

Mossberg’s Patriot Predator in 6.5 PRC offers hunters a predator/big-game rifle that delivers performance at a budget-friendly price.

All About Guns: Mossberg Patriot Predator in 6.5 PRC

Mossberg Patriot Predator in 6.5 PRC

A hunting rifle’s sole purpose is to deliver accurate shots with confidence-building repeatability, despite Mother Nature’s challenges. Finding a budget-friendly version that performs well reliably without straining a budget isn’t easy, although testing proves the Mossberg Patriot Predator chambered in 6.5 PRC fulfills the mission.

Heads won’t turn when you break it out at the range, though. Its classic and simple style lacks the fancy embellishments to draw crowds at gun store counters, a fact reflected in a modest MSRP of only $455. Don’t let the price convince you to turn the page, though. There’s a Cinderella story here, and the cartridge performs a large part of this magic.   

Despite the fact the Patriot Predator didn’t ride to my 100-yard range in a horse-drawn carriage, it stole the show. It delivered five, 5-shot groups that averaged 0.92 inch. One measured 0.57 inch, with four holes on top of one another. Two groups came in at barely more than an inch, each with a single bad shot I knew was slightly off the bullseye the moment I squeezed the trigger. 

I’d love to claim it was skill at work behind a new rifle that doesn’t garner much media attention, but if I attended sniper school today, I’d qualify for floor-scrubbing duty in the mess tent—where master sergeants bark insults instead of pampered step-sisters. When I double checked that day’s weather and discovered the annoying wind was gusting to 17 mph, I decided some of the magic is in the cartridge.

6.5 PRC

Hornady introduced 6.5 PRC in late 2017 and on June 2, 2018, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) officially accepted the cartridge. Standardized specifications and maximum pressure are now available for reloaders and manufacturers alike. It has a higher volume casing than the 6.5 Creedmoor, which allows more powder—call it “magnumized” if you like. It’s a little more complicated when burn rates come into play, but the projectile launches at higher velocity. 

The 143-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter load used here illustrates the difference. Using Hornady’s data, it leaves the muzzle at 2,960 fps, whereas the same projectile in the 6.5 Creedmoor departs at 2,700 fps. At 500 yards the PRC projectile drops 36 inches, with the Creedmoor coming in at slightly more than 44 inches (bear in mind the company zeros at 200 in most of its testing). Downrange energy is also higher, making the cartridge more suitable than its identical-diameter alternative for big-game hunting.

But the added velocity also translates to less time for the wind to alter trajectory. Assuming a 10-mph breeze, full value, the PRC at 500 yards deflects 12.9 inches. The same bullet in 6.5 Creedmoor adds another 2 inches to that total. That’s a big difference when hunting, particularly when you’re concentrating on a less-than-large predator downrange and time to dope the wind is a rare commodity. Out to 1,000 yards and beyond the paths separate even farther. 

Hornady also has a 147-grain ELD Match load, although it didn’t arrive in time for me to try it. That brings up the only drawback to this cartridge. Not a lot of sporting goods shops have it on the shelves and sale prices are as rare as glass slippers that fit. It’s not unduly expensive though. Consider, too, most hunters don’t send high volumes of fire downrange in a single day. Keep enough on hand for a season and it’s a viable alternative for pursuing predators. 

Mossberg isn’t the only manufacturer producing rifles chambered for 6.5 PRC. This is the first one I’ve used that digests the cartridge, so odds are good some of the others have similarly sterling results—likely not at this price, though. 

Energy Transfer

The added case capacity improves performance, but also increases recoil. The difference is palpable yet comfortable in the Mossberg Patriot Predator, which weighs only 6.5 pounds. No big magnum shoves are there, although the soft recoil pad undoubtedly gets credit for a lot of the comfort. Putting a brand-new shooter behind the trigger probably isn’t the best scenario, but I’m also confident my 12-year-old grandson wouldn’t complain. 

Muzzle rise is greater than that produced by a gas-operated .223 Rem., as expected mathematically. You’re still back on target fast for follow-up shots. This platform’s more about precision and it takes time to work the bolt, anyway. 

Stock Options

There aren’t many investment choices in this rifle with this chambering. There’s the flat dark earth version sent for evaluation and another clad in Strata camo. 

Neither is adjustable for length of pull, which is 13.75 inches. Unlike Mossberg’s other Predator versions, this one has an overall length measurement of 44.25 inches—two more than others owing to the longer barrel.

The rifle’s polymer stock is vanilla ice cream plain in a world market that offers a lot more than 31 flavors. That’s OK, though, because the classic look includes all the necessities, leaving the price-hiking flourishes to its competitors.

There’s a pair of sling swivel studs. Subtle, almost understated texturing on the forend ensures solid grip in foul weather or when wearing gloves. It worked well at the range, providing a palpable, no-look-required index for off-hand placement. 

Shouldering the rifle was fast and intuitive from the standing and sitting positions, as well as prone behind a sandbag when shooting for accuracy. The recoil pad is soft, but not tacky enough to collect dirt or hold onto unwanted objects if taking a snap shot.

Barrel and Action

Mossberg’s time-proven twin-lug, push-feed bolt and receiver provide the foundation for the rifle. Here some of the rifle’s added touches to start to show. 

The bolt is spiral fluted and has an oversized bolt handle with texturing to ensure positive foul-weather manipulation. Both are nice touches in a gun at this price point. In evaluating it worked smoothly and there were no failures to feed or stoppages as it lifted and chambered cartridges from the box magazine. The latter is polymer, has a four-round capacity and releases by applying pressure to a recessed paddle toward its front. 

The 24-inch, free-floated barrel and short-action receiver on the sample gun have a matte, metal blued finish. Rate of rifling is 1:8 inches. The Strata camo version’s metalwork is set up identically but features a Patriot Brown Cerakote. A factory-installed, non-integral Picatinny rail makes optic mounting fast and effortless. 

Fluting runs roughly half the length of the barrel, ending on the receiver end.  A barrel crown minimizes the chances of accuracy-robbing nicks up front and ends with 5/8x24 threads per inch to ease muzzle-device installation. The gun ships with a thread protector. 

The two-position safety is on the right side of the receiver, with the bolt release on left. The layout may not be cutting-edge complicated, but it’s classic in position, works well and field-expedient uncomplicated. 

LBA Trigger

Mossberg’s LBA (Lightning Bolt Action) trigger has earned headlines for good reason. With it, owners can adjust let-off weight from anywhere between 2 and 7 pounds without gunsmith intervention or dropping in an aftermarket version. It’s another nice touch on the Patriot line. 

The rifle that arrived had an average trigger let-off weight of just more than 2 pounds. The Lyman Digital Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge used to arrive at that figure, however, indicated some of the 10 pulls were in the high 1-pound range. 

If I kept this rifle, I’d adjust the figure up slightly for hunting, just for those times I’m wearing gloves. There’s little sacrifice in doing so, because it’s smooth, creep- and grit-free and a pleasure to use. Yes, other manufacturers offer similar systems, but sometimes travel required by the first trigger (the one with the lightning strike in Mossberg’s case) feels long before it becomes flush with the second one that ultimately releases the firing pin. Odds are good in those tiny confines it’s more feedback from resistance than actual length involved, but Mossberg’s version is smooth and effortless.

Storybook Ending?

The Mossberg Patriot Predator in 6.5 PRC manages to maintain 100 percent mission focus in its design. It’s an accurate and reliable hunting rifle in a classic style that unapologetically shuns unneeded luxury. 

Once upon a time a rifle at this price point, one capable of doing double-duty on predators and big game while delivering sub-moa accuracy at long distance — out of the box — was the stuff of fairy tales. Thanks to Mossberg and the 6.5 PRC, the happy ending is now attainable for all sportsmen, regardless of budget.  


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