US firearms manufacturer Mossberg recently reached the milestone of 100 years in business. Started by Swedish immigrant Oscar Fredrick Mossberg in 1919, the company is one of few manufacturers which has remain family owed, now run by Ivor Mossberg of the fourth generation. Oscar ran the business with the view of Mossberg as a brand being associated with the value-budget end of the firearms market but that’s never been at the expense of building solid, reliable firearms. In the US it’s been said it didn’t matter if you drove a Cadillac or caught the bus to work, you’d still be proud to shoot a Mossberg.
When I was a teenager and looking to buy my first rimfire I didn’t have much money and the budget was tight so I settled on a Mossberg 640K in .22 Magnum, not the flashiest rifle I’ve owned by far, but it served me well at the time. Likewise, I shared the common experience of more than 10 million (yes 10,000,000) other citizens in owning a reliable Mossberg 500 series 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. That turned out to be a great investment as back in 1996, after years of hard use, a bloke named John Howard bought it from me for more than twice what I paid for it.
Grycol International is the appointed agent for Mossberg in Australia and sent me an M464 lever-action rifle in .22LR for review. On first impression the Mossberg appears a traditional timber and steel lever-action but, like many copies of older designs, has been modernised to include use of more current materials and manufacturing methods as well as safety features.
On close inspection the use of cast alloy and modern polymers can be found, as can the addition of a grip and tang safety. There was a time when if you found something cast or plastic (polymer) on a rifle you’d be aghast, but these days we rightfully accept items are built to a price and as long as function, reliability and accuracy standards are maintained we seem happy enough.
The rifle features a traditional grip hardwood timber stock and fore-end which is straight grained and although unremarkable in timber terms, well finished with excellent timber to metal fit. It carries an 18^ (457mm) blued/black barrel slung under a tubular magazine holding 14 rounds of .22LR.
For the record the manual states it’s for the calibre inscribed on the barrel only which in this case is .22 Long Rifle so I guess no .22 shorts or longs need apply. The rifle weighs 5.5lb or just under 2.5kg which for a compact .22 is still hefty enough to feel quite solid at hand. The receiver cover incorporates a typical rimfire 3/8 dovetail rail for easy optics mounting and the rifle comes with a screw-in side hammer extension if you actually do mount a scope.
Standard sighting is by way of a hooded front bead and fully adjustable folding rear leaf sight, height adjustment achieved via a large sprung screw forward of the folding leaf and windage by way of a small screw acting as the sight leaf’s hinge pin along which the sight leaf transverses. The iron sights are surprisingly good and I was happy to find that, even with my ageing eyes, I could still manage centre hits on a 25m target with them.
There’s a loading port starting 75mm forward of the fore-end on the underside of the magazine tube. If you’ve ever used a rimfire with an underslung tubular magazine you’ll be familiar with the drill - you turn a small knurled knob at the end of the tube to line up the retaining pin with the pin slot and draw out the brass magazine inner tube until the loading gate or port is exposed.
You then drop the require number of cartridges, rim down, into the port before returning the inner magazine tube back to the locked position. This process is generally idiot-proof as the loading gate replicates the outline of the cartridge in orientation so bullets must be correctly presented for loading into the magazine. The magazine is basically a tube within a tube, the brass inner having a captive spring and follower and when reinserted into the outer tube the bullets ride the follower up into the inner tube.
For safety the magazine follower is bright orange and can be clearly viewed on inspection through the open receiver when empty. If you look in there and see brass, it’s still loaded, if you see orange the magazine’s empty. Also, in good practice you should still maintain muzzle discipline when loading a tubular magazine. You may be tempted to go rifle butt down and muzzle vertical when loading, but avoid at all costs climbing over the muzzle or even having your hands or fingers forward of the muzzle at any stage. Best practice is to keep the muzzle forward in a safe direction tilted up from the horizontal just high enough for the cartridges to slide down the tube.
In stating the obvious, as a lever-action rifle the rounds are cycled from magazine to chamber by operating the rifle’s lever loop which traverses through a short arc of about 70 degrees on the down stroke, cocking the hammer and releasing a round on to the cartridge carrier. On the back stroke the round is chambered and the rifle ready to fire. On release of the trigger the hammer falls, striking the firing pin which in turn ignites the cartridge, sending the bullet on its way, a sequence repeated as quickly as you can cycle the lever.
The rifle has several safety features both active and passive. As an active measure it incorporates a spring-loaded grip safety, a small protrusion extending below the frame just rearward of the trigger. This is under spring tension and the lever must be actively squeezed to depress it. With lever ajar the hammer is blocked and prevented from falling.
Squeezing the lever depresses the protrusion, removing the block and allowing hammer fall when the trigger is pressed. This prevents out of battery discharge as well as acting as an effective drop safety. There’s also a tang safety which can be operated easily with the thumb, when engaged, in the rear position. The hammer can still fall if the trigger is pulled but the safety prevents complete forward movement of the hammer which is blocked from striking the firing pin.
Of course the hammer can also be used as a safety as when lowered manually it’s blocked from contacting the firing pin and cannot fire until re-cocked. In short it’s impossible for the firearm to discharge unless the chamber is loaded, the safety off, hammer cocked, lever loop squeezed firmly and trigger depressed.
After a little work with the iron sights I got serious and mounted a 2-7x33 Leupold Vari-X Compact I had kicking around - I have several of these on .22s and find them a good pairing for a rimfire. This rifle is what I’d call a plinker, a galley gun, lots of fun with good practical accuracy but forget it if you think you’re going to win rimfire benchrest competitions with one. At 25m groups were tight and a 25c coin wouldn’t stand a chance with just about any ammo tried, move out to 50m and groups start to open up a little but not enough to miss anything you’d likely be shooting at.
I have a small swinging plate rack I made with three 100mm x 6mm flat bar sections about 150mm long, welded on rods hanging off a crossbar. At 50m I could keep them all swinging under rapid fire so long as there was ammo in the magazine tube - great fun. The Mossberg M464 lever-action .22 rifle at the time of writing has an RRP of just $655 which represents great value. More at grycol.com.au.
Rifle: Mossberg M464
Capacity: 14-round tubular magazine
Barrel: 18^ round profile (457mm)
Twist rate: 1:16
Sights: Bead front adjustable rear blade, 3/8 dovetail for optics
Barrel finish: Blued (black)
Stock finish: Traditional timber straight grip
LOP: 13.875^ (352mm)
Weight: 5.5lb (2.49kg)
Overall length: 35.75^ (908mm)