Hands on with the Barrett MRAD

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The Barrett Multi Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) has been making waves since its inception for the PSR contract competition. Developed from the Barrett Model 98B, it won the NRA’s Rifle of the Year Award in 2012 and is now currently in service with the Israeli and Norwegian militaries. Not too shabby for a brand new design to have already been picked up for service. The rifle comes in a variety of calibers, .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .308 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor. By switching out the bolt heads and the barrel, users can switch between all three of these calibers within the same chassis. Shooters can also pick a barrel length that ranges from 17 inches to 28 inches as well. For our day at the range, Barrett employees brought out a .308 MRAD with a 17 inch barrel installed. We were shooting at steel targets from 300-500 meters, both from benches and from improvised positions the range had set up.

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The history of the MRAD begins with the Model 98B and the interest in the .338 Lapua Magnum in the 1990s, that was really kicked off by Accuracy International with the .338 Lapua Arctic Warfare. Buzz was going around the industry about the potential of the .338 Lapua for long range shooting. Barrett looked into this, and even went so far as to purchase one of Accuracy International’s models to really get a feel on what the better products at the time were made of. This lead to the design on the Model 98, which although never went into production, it paved the way for the Model 98B which was to come out in the early 2000s. Along came the PSR contract, and the MRAD was essentially made for this contract. Barrett lost out to Remington, but the result was that the company had a rifle that it could now enter into the civilian market, with a number of advanced features that might not have been realized on the Model 98B had it not been for the PSR competition.

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The primary differences between the Model 98B and the MRAD are the folding stock, multiple barrel conversion system, and the system of attaching the barrel within the chassis. The Model 98B was not built with a folding stock, and the barrels are rigidly affixed within the chassis. In addition, the MRAD has an adjustable length of pull and adjustable cheek rest. All of these differences were a direct result of the PSR competition.

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My initial impressions of the Model 98B, when I saw it in print, were not very good. I thought the rifle looked like some odd plastic construction, much like an archangel stock on a Mosin Nagant. I didn’t pay it much heed until I saw the rifle redesigned as the MRAD and being entered in the PSR competition, and then I thought that there might more than meets the eye. When I was able to actually shoot it, and take it apart, my eyes were really opened up, with the innovativeness and sheer simplicity that the MRAD has going for it.

To begin with, the rifle is almost built like an AR of precision rifles. Only in that it disassembles into two halves, and really doesn’t even need to be taken past that, you can break the rifle down “shotgun style” by just removing the rear takedown pin. The receiver is made up of two solid bodies of 7000 series aluminum, almost a solid chassis as it were, with the folding buttstock apart of the lower receiver. The barrel is connected to this chassis via a series of screws that allow it to be converted to any of the other calibers available by also switching out the bolt head. Explaining this process of disassembly is easier shown via video, so watch this segment right here from the company.

Further disassembly is completed by taking out the safety. This is similar to an AR style one, and can be reversed for left handed shooters. The trigger and hammer come out easily as well being one fire control group, really showing the simplicity of the design. Folded, the buttstock covers the bolt handle very well and locks in place, the entire rifle is around 32 inches in length folded. Personally I think the 17 inch barrel set up is my favorite because almost the entire barrel is enshrouded by the chassis, up until the muzzle. The bolt has a sort of polymer shroud that encases it within the receiver. This shroud has cuts in it, that allow dirt to fall into, without it caking up around the inside of the receiver body. When the bolt handle is closed, this shroud falls into place along the cut out that allows the bolt handle to ride back. When the handle is opened, the shroud rotates inside and allows the handle to be worked back to the rear. The pistol grip is an AR style grip, coming from the factory with a Magpul grip installed, but you can instal any grip that fits on an AR, onto the MRAD.

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The rifle comes with three picatinny rail segments that are bolted into Barrett’s rail mounting system along the forward sections of the receiver. However on top of the receiver is a full length 20 MOA picatinny rail for the mounting of scopes and night vision devices. From the factory it comes with Atlas bipods, that can lock into place in a variety of angles, in addition to being extendable as well. The rifle doesn’t come with iron sights, but I’m sure the company could put some on if ordered directly from the factory through an FFL. The magazine release button is ambidextrous, and can be activated by the trigger finger while in position. The magazine itself is polymer, and is inserted into the rifle straight up, none of this rocking back and forth nonsense that some magazine fed rifles have to deal with. Magazine capacity is 10 rounds, but this number goes down as the caliber goes up, due to more rounds.

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For our days shooting, we were using 167 grain .308 Lapua ammunition from a bench and prone positions. Targets were steel, and were between 300 and 500 meters. Scope was an 18X variable power Leopold. During the course of fire, the rifle performed excellent, any missed shots were on account of human error entirely. Working the bolt was extremely fast, and getting back on target was even faster. This was mostly due to the fact that the entire bolt is inside the receiver, unlike a traditional bolt action rifle where the bolt is actually coming back into the shooters face every time it is worked.

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Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • TVOrZ6dw

    I’m not clear on why so many different calibers. What are the roles this rifle is supposed to adapt to?

    • Mike N.

      Simple. The PSR contract specifically called for a rifle that could be switched between .308 Win. (standard on the M24/M40 sniper rifles), .300 Win. Mag. (used on the Mk13), or .338 Lapua Mag. (just a good idea past 1,000yds). The .300 Win. Mag. load used by the military is a super hot load (brass good for one firing) that tried to get all benefits of .338 without having to switch to .338.

      • TVOrZ6dw

        Thanks. Sounds to me like the role is the same- sniper. The different calibers are to give the rifle more range.

        • Thomas S

          Sort of. Different environments and threat potentials. In a closed in urban environment with a max range of 500m against multiple human targets, the .308 is a good choice. More rounds in the mag, less recoil to aid in follow up shots.

          If however you are in open terrain where the rifles legs can be stretched or if you face vehicle targets something like the .338 or the .300WM are a better option.

          This also makes the rifle configurable to the needs of many different militaries around the world who use different calibers. The needs of say a SWAT or HRT sniper who needs lower possibility of over penetration and very high accuracy but isn’t shooting at a great deal of range may also require a different round.

  • Tyler Coleman

    Spelling error .308 Lapua

    • Blake

      I think he meant “Lapua .308 Win ammo”.

    • iksnilol

      Not really, Lapua makes .308 ammo as well.

  • Thomas S

    Having fired both the MRAD and Remington’s offering, I don’t know why the military went with Remington.

    I can only figure it was a cost issue because the MRAD is the better rifle based on what I have seen. Granted, I didn’t do extensive field testing of both.

    • Blake

      Lobbyists…

    • Rob

      Well, Remington screwed the pooch and the contract will be rebid. Production guns did not proform to standard after remington changed the way barrels were made. The contract minimum of remington MSR rifles were purchased. The ASR is the new program, I have no details about what requirements have changed.

  • sb

    so…available for civy market (if not, when?)…and of course how much?

    • Drew Coleman

      They’re available. They are pricey, but they are out there. Saw one at Gander Mountain the other night.

  • David

    Love mine, sweetest shooting rifle around. Suppressing the .338 was one of the better decisions I’ve made. The only thing I don’t like about the current MRAD is the new style hand guards, I prefer the earlier style like you see on mine.

    • Blake

      That’a s sweeeeet rifle…

  • David

    I also noticed you said 10 rounds per mag and down as the caliber goes up. My .338 MRAD mags hold 10 each.

  • Phil Hsueh

    That’s a pretty sweet looking rifle, wouldn’t mind getting one except that I know that it’s way out of my budget.

  • Alvar

    Norwegian Army MRAD setup.

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    No groups?

  • Exoskeleton

    Built like a tank, weighs as much as one as well unfortunately.

    The bolt in sleeve design that keeps all the holes closed is one of those, “why didn’t I think of that!” ideas. But as most designs, it has its advantages and disadvantages.

    The bolt head design is also very innovative (don’t know of any other previous weapons that use the same locking lug design). The way the lugs are designed allows it to have very positive primary extraction without sacrificing lock up bearing surface. Yes, it does result in a complex geometry that makes it almost impossible for after marking blueprinting etc, but I presume with Barrett’s quality and after service support you won’t need a private gunsmith to help you squeeze out the last bit of accuracy out of the system.

    One thing that I should mention, and I must add that it is only my observation/theory/speculation, is this. When they marketed the MRAD way back in 2012, they said calibre conversion is possible by only changing the barrel, bolt head and magazine. At that time only the 338LM was available. Later on when the 308 Winchester conversion became available, you had to buy a new bolt and sleeve as well since, if my observation is correct, they reduced the bolt diameter from what was most likely 30mm to about 26mm. All this is sorted out now with the new MRAD’s I think, but I would not have been happy if I bought one of the first MRAD’s. But then again, maybe Barrett fixed the problem free of charge if this was a problem in the first place.

    New PRACTICAL and FUNCTIONAL innovation in bolt action technology is almost impossible and yet Barrett managed to do just that, I take my hat off for the team behind this refreshing design.

    Exoskeleton

  • Holdfast_II

    ” The rifle comes in a variety of calibers, .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .308 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor. By switching out the bolt heads and the barrel, users can switch between all three of these calibers within the same chassis.”

    Three or six?

  • Wanderlust

    I really like that they make this in 7mm mag. I dont know if price will ever drop to the point I can afford this but that would make a pretty neat gun.