October 03, 2022
By Kevin E. Steele
After forty-five years of editing and writing firearms and hunting articles, you could say that I have become somewhat jaded in my likes and dislikes regarding those subjects. I know what I like and what I dislike. Mossberg’s newest Patriot incarnation left me with a positive impression as soon as I picked it up. You don’t read much these days about how a firearm “feels.” But I have found most enthusiasts either like or dislike a gun’s feel as soon as they lay hands upon it. I have always favored Colt revolvers over S&Ws for this reason. A Colt just feels better in my hand; likewise, a 1911 feels better than a P-35 Hi-Power. A trim Rigby bolt-action rifle feels better to me than a Remington 700. At first grasp, Mossberg’s Patriot LR Hunter just felt right in my hands.
We were hunting a big spread south of Fort Davis. I joined Mossberg’s Linda Powell, Bushnell’s Matt Rice and Federal’s Mike Holm, along with a few of my competitive scribblers. Our intent was to cull some of the ranch’s over-productive aoudad and to hopefully shoot a nice whitetail buck. I was handed one of the new Patriot LR rifles for the first time at the range. It was obvious to me that the rifle was designed from the ground up with long-range shooting in mind, which features that include:
Contoured to aid in long-range shooting, the Patriot LR’s stock features a raised Monte Carlo comb combined with a high one-piece Picatinny rail that precisely positions the rifleman’s eye behind the scope’s ocular lens and permits mounting large-objective-bell scopes (50mm and up). Also, aluminum bedding pillars mate the barreled action to the wood stock which in turn is coated with a special polymer in a gray spiderweb pattern. The stock also features a semi-vertical pistol grip that aids in shooting from bags, backpacks or tripods, along with a complementary flat-bottomed forend fitted with dual swivel studs. These permit the simultaneous use of both a sling and a fixed bipod. Length of pull measures 14 inches.
Patriot LR’s are available with 22-inch barreled actions in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester. Twenty-four-inch barrels are standard on magnum models for the 6.5 PRC and the .300 Win. Mag. All barrels are half-round and half-fluted. Muzzles are threaded 5/8x24 for use with suppressors. The rifle’s fluted bolt is fitted with a large teardrop-shaped bolt handle that aids in engagement and cycling with or without gloves. Mossberg’s proprietary LBA trigger is user adjustable from two to seven pounds. Detachable box magazines are standard. Capacities vary depending upon caliber. My rifle was chambered for Hornady’s excellent 6.5 PRC cartridge and held 4+1 rounds.
Our rifles were fitted with Bushnell’s top-of-the-line 4500 4x Elite scope. With a 4x magnification power range of 4-16, a 30mm tube and a 50mm objective lens, the optic was ideal for maximizing light-gathering ability along with engaging targets out past 500 yards. Side-focus parallax adjustment from 50 yards out to infinity was an added bonus. Eye relief measured a generous 4.4 inches and exterior lenses are treated with Bushnell’s EXO water repellant coating.
My old buddy Mike Holm, Federal’s centerfire rifle and pistol ammo product director brought along a generous supply of Terminal Ascent loads. One of the best currently available hunting projectiles, Terminal Ascent excels in optimizing both long-range accuracy and terminal effect on game in close and far away. The Terminal Ascent load for the 6.5 PRC uses a 130-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps. The hightech projectile has a G1 BC of .532 and when zeroed at 200 yards drops 9.6 inches at 300 and 25.5 inches at 500. Exterior conditions were 80 degrees at 1,200 feet elevation.
Our range session proved the rifle/scope/ammo combo to be very capable. After zeroing at 100 yards, I also chose to set my elevation turret for 300 and 500 yards so that I could “dialin” as necessary. Five-hundred yards has long been my personal limit when shooting at big game. Not because I can’t hit farther away under proper conditions when using the right equipment, but simply that past 500 yards too much can and eventually will go wrong. Wounding and potentially losing an animal to satisfy one’s ego isn’t ethical in my view. I choose to limit my “way-out-there” shots to steel plates.
IN THE FIELD
With our gear checked out, it was time to board the hunting trucks and head out into the desert. The hunt honcho was Steve Jones, whose Backcountry Hunts has an established forty-year reputation as the “go-to” outfit for big-game hunts in west Texas and New Mexico. I was paired with one of Steve’s ramrods, Robert Curry, a great hunter who I have had the pleasure of hunting with several times over the years.
Within moments of leaving camp, I was astounded to see a. heavy, wide mule deer buck standing skylined atop a rimrock butte that rose a hundred feet or more above the two-track. Unfortunately, mule deer were not on our dance card and after admiring the buck for a bit we moved on.
Aoudad ewes were our primary prey. This property had a population that far exceeded its carrying capacity and the aoudad were now posing a threat to the survival of both the mule and whitetail deer populations. Our job was to thin out the herd a bit.
My first opportunity came as we passed below a high butte. Rising at least three hundred feet above the creek bottom that we were following, the herd of fifteen to twenty aoudad were perched on multiple boulders, spires and outcroppings amid the rust-colored rimrock. I picked out a likely target and ranged her to be 300+ yards distant. Dialing my scope to its preset 300-yard hashmark, I held midshoulder on the ewe and gently pressed the Patriot’s trigger. I lost the ewe in recoil, but from the hollers that Robert and my partner Mike let out, I knew the Terminal Ascent bullet had hit its mark. “She went straight down!” said Robert. “Perfect hit.” Mike replied. Well, this was going to be fun!
Subsequent shots proved the Patriot LR capable of engaging successfully out to 500 yards. At one point, accompanied by Linda Powell, we came upon a herd of the sheep (although more accurately aoudad are a goat-like caprid) at just over 500 yards, up atop the rimrock and across a deep canyon. I handed Linda my rifle (she had opted to shoot a .300 Blackout for closer range work) and told her to have at it.
Dialing the scope to my 500- yard mark, she settled in for the shot and gently pressed the trigger. Once again, the hoots and hollers told the tale. Linda’s shot had been spot-on as the ewe toppled from her perch. Unfortunately, whitetail deer proved difficult to find. Heavy rains had created tall grass and high brush on the ranch and visibility in the cover favored by the deer was extremely limited. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time just before sun-up on the last day of the hunt. We were riding along a cottonwood lined creek and spotted a young eight point right at first light. While he didn’t pose a long-range shot at 160 yards, I wasn’t about to pass him up. He took the bullet low in the chest, ran about twenty feet and dropped.
As you have likely guessed, I was impressed with the new Mossberg Patriot LR Hunter—it now even has a permanent place in my gun safe. If you are looking for a capable rifle for longer-range hunts, at a reasonable price, check it out for yourself. I’m pretty sure you’ll be as impressed at first glance as I was.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.