My straight-out-of-the-box impression of the bolt-action Barrett MRAD (Multi-Role Adaptive Design) was that Barrett had created a beautiful rifle. In addition to beauty, however, the MRAD provides the tactical shooter with an adaptable, modular shooting platform. The MRAD can be re-configured with a variety of different length barrels and in a variety of different calibers to adapt to specific missions and applications. The MRAD is chambered in .338 Lapua Mag., .300 Win. Mag. and .308 Win. The .338 Lapua is one of my all-time favorite long-range sniper rounds, so that’s what we requested for an evaluation rifle.
The .338 Lapua was initially developed and sponsored by my community (the Navy SEALs) as an accurate and effective long-distance round. I’ve fired half a dozen different platforms chambered in .338 Lapua and I’m a big fan of the round. At speeds up to 2,900 f.p.s., it’s a flat-shooting killer out to distances of 1,500 meters (call it a mile).
I did quite a few sniper patrols in northern Afghanistan with my partner, Chris, in early 2002 with SEAL Team Three, ECHO platoon, and there were quite a few enemy engagements where the .338 Lapua would have come in handy for both of us. We sighted a lot of Taliban and Al Qaeda at ranges of 1,200 to 2,000 meters along the Pakistani border, but they were out of reach of our .300 Win. Mag. bolt-action rifles. Chris and I had to settle for calling in close air support in most of these instances. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and have the MRAD on patrol with us then! I don’t know of any sniper who wouldn’t want a .338 Lapua Magnum in the toolbox.
My shooting range of choice is at my friend, Marc Halcon’s, place just east of San Diego. We don’t have too many options for long-distance ranges in California, and Marc’s range is one of the few that’s available within close proximity to San Diego.
When I got up to Marc’s place to shoot the temperature was hovering around 80 degrees at an elevation of 3,000 feet, with a 2- to 3-MPH wind blowing out of the west. Environmental factors are extremely important when it comes to long-distance shooting. While there are plenty of great ballistic software programs available these days, it’s important for the long-distance shooting enthusiast to have a firm understanding of external ballistics when using this software. Barometric pressure, wind (at the shooter’s position, mid way and at target), degree of latitude and magnetic bearing to target (Coriolis effect) are extremely important factors that need to be accounted for when making shots past the 1,000 meter mark. I’ve held off target with the wind and seen a full-value, right-to-left wind countered by Coriolis effect (spin of the earth).
With an unknown rifle I always start off with a solid 100 yard zero. The Barrett came equipped with a Leupold variable-power Mil-Dot scope that maxed out at 14X. The adjustable stock was very easy to manipulate and made it easy for me to configure it to my exact eye relief and arm length. This is a must-have feature on any modern, sniper-grade weapon, and Barrett did a great job with this on the MRAD. I had four boxes of 250-grain .338 Lapua courtesy of Hornady, with an advertised muzzle velocity of 2,860 f.p.s. This is a smoking-fast and very flat-flying round.
The first group was on the target, but I made a slight correction and increased two minutes for elevation and half a minute left for wind to get to the center, and was ready for a solid 3-shot group at 100 yards. The next group held a solid 1 MOA from the prone position unsupported. I always prefer to shoot unassisted, and after six rounds I was confident in the MRAD’s deadly accuracy. My assessment was that this would a sub-minute gun when shot from a bench—but snipers don’t shoot bad guys from a bench!
I was impressed with most characteristics of the Barrett, including the barrel length (24” long with a 1:9.35” right-hand twist) and the platform’s relatively light weight (14.7 pounds) compared to other systems I’ve shot. Another thing I liked was that the recoil was hardly noticeable and I was able to get an immediate second sight picture. This is a very important attribute for the lone sniper who is self-spotting. Most SEAL sniper missions these days are lone-gunman undertakings, and the lone sniper has to have the skill to self-correct without the luxury of a spotter. Some will argue for the necessity of a spotter, but this is the 21st Century and you can’t argue with mission profiles. That’s why when I worked at the SEAL sniper school we started training to this standard, making real sure our snipers could self-spot.
The MRAD’s trigger was smooth, crisp and light, factory set 2.25 lbs., but it sure felt like it was a one-pound trigger. Barrett makes trigger weight adjustment very easy, and you can adjust it to your liking with 1/16” Allen wrench.
My only complaint was that I had some feeding issues right off the bat while single loading. It took a little extra effort to feed and seat rounds into the barrel properly. With the low magazine capacities inherent in most bolt-action rifles, it’s sometimes preferable for a sniper to single load. The feeding issue was a minor point of frustration for me, but I expect that it will go away as the gun gets shot in.
I took the rifle back to just under 800 yards and it was shooting very flat and precise. I was punching steel silhouettes dead center and taking head shots at this distance with a 2-minute wind hold on the Mil Dot scope. I also had my female friend, Sally Lyndley, with me to take pictures—she’s no slouch and is one of the world’s top fashion stylists (clients include Vogue, Love, Disney, etc.). She has zero shooting experience, but I had her on steel with the MRAD at 500 yards consistently, and she was very comfortable using the rifle. This speaks highly of the MRAD system: I was able to re-configure the rifle for a female shooter in under a minute, and had a beginner holding on target consistently at 500 yards with no complaints. I wrapped up at 800 yards, out of ammo, but very satisfied with the rifle.
Post shooting, I found the MRAD very easy to break down and clean. Access to the trigger housing assembly and lower/upper receiver is very simple, with detailed step-by-step instructions provided in the operators manual.
I recently developed a proprietary 60-100-point scoring system for weapons that I have been using as a valuable analysis tool for consumers. My 100-point system is divided up into four major categories worth 10 points each category. All a rifle has to do to get a 60 is fire consistently, so the top 40 points are what count:
2. Quality of manufacturing and materials
4. Operator overall assessment
The Barrett MRAD system came in at 92 points, which is a very solid score. I took off for the single-load feeding issue that contributed to the overall functionality. I gave it high marks for the elegant, minimalist design and quality of manufacturing and materials—things that other U. S. manufacturers should pay attention to if they want to stay competitive in the marketplace. In this case Barrett nailed it.
The MRAD is a very well made rifle and was a pleasure to shoot. It will make a great addition to any sniper’s quiver, as well as the long range shooting enthusiast’s collection. The MRAD is priced from $6,000 to $6,154 depending on caliber and barrel length. Caliber conversion kits are priced at $1,565, and are offered in the three standard chamberings plus .338 Norma Mag., .300 Norma Mag., .260 Rem. and 6.5 Creedmoor. See the MRAD at your firearms retailer, or contact Barrett, Dept. OT; Tel.: (615) 896-2938; Web: www.barrett.net