My first impression of the Barrett MRAD (Multi-Role Adaptive Design) straight out of the box was that Barrett had designed a beautiful rifle. The rifle I received for my evaluation was a bolt-action chambered for .338 Lapua Magnum.
The concept behind Barrett’s MRAD system, is that it provides the shooter with an adaptable modular shooting platform. The MRAD can be re-configured to a variety of different calibers depending on the mission or application.
The 338 round was initially developed and sponsored by my community (The Navy SEALs) as an accurate long distance round. I’ve fired half a dozen different platforms and I’m personally a big fan of the 338 Lapua round. At speeds up to 2900 feet per second it’s a flat flying killer out to distances of 1500 meters.
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 between 1200-2000 meters along the border of Pakistan but they were just out of reach of our .300 Winmag bolt-action rifles. Chris and I had to settle for calling in close air support air on most of these instances but what I wouldn’t give to go back in time and have the MRAD on patrol back then! I don’t know of any sniper that wouldn’t want a .338 Lapua Magnum in the toolbox.
I was impressed with most characteristics of the Barrett, including the barrel length (24.5” long with a 1-10” Right-hand Twist) and most impressed with the platform and how it is relatively lightweight (14.8 pounds) when compared to other systems I’ve shot. I would like to still see a lighter version under 12lbs in semi-auto.
My local range of choice is at my friend Marc Halcon’s place just east of San Diego, CA. We don’t have too many options for long distance ranges in CA and Marc’s range is one of the few that’s available and within close proximity to central San Diego.
When I got up to Marc’s place to shoot the temperature was hovering around 80 degrees at an elevation of 3000 feet with a slight 2-3 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 openly available 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 software. Barometric pressure, wind (at the shooter, mid way and at target), degree of latitude and magnetic bearing (Coriolis effect) to target are extremely important factors that need to be accounted for when making shots past the 1000 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).
100m Shot Group
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 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 .338 Lapua 250 grain, courtesy of Hornady with an advertised muzzle velocity of 2860 feet per second. Smoking fast and very flat flying round.
The first shot group was on target but I made a slight correction and increased two minutes for elevation and half a minute left for wind to get to center and was ready for a solid three-round shot group at 100 yards. The next group (as pictured) was holding a solid 1 Minute of Angle (MOA) group from the prone position unsupported. I always prefer to shoot un-assisted and after six rounds I was confident in the MRAD system’s deadly accuracy. My assessment was that this is a sub minute gun shot out on the bench however; snipers don’t shoot people on a bench rest.
Another thing I noticed was that the recoil was hardly noticeable and I was able to get an immediate second sight picture. This is very important for any lone sniper that is self-spotting. Most of the SEAL sniper missions these days are long gunman types of environments; the snipers have 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 21st Century and you can’t argue with mission profiles. This why when I worked at the SEAL sniper course, we started training to this standard and ensuring our snipers could self-spot.
The MRAD trigger was smooth, crisp and light, the factory setting is 2-2.5lbs but it sure felt like it was a one-pound trigger. Barrett makes the trigger weight adjustment very easy with and you can adjust 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. The single loading took a little extra effort to feed and seat rounds into the barrel properly with low magazine capacities that are inherent in most bolt-action rifles it’s sometime preferable for a sniper to single load. The feeding issue was definitely a point of frustration for me but it seems like this would be an easy issue for Barrett to address.
I took the rifle back to just under 800 yards and it was shooting very flat and accurate. 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 and I had her on steel at 500 yards consistently and she was very comfortable using the rifle. This speaks highly of the MRAD system in the sense that I re-configured the rifle for a female shooter in under a minute and had a beginner holding on target consistently at 500 yards with no complaints (recoil being a common issue). I wrapped up at 800 yards out of ammo and very satisfied with the rifle.
Post shooting, the MRAD is 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 provide 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.
2. Quality of Manufacturing and Materials
4. Operator Overall Assessment
The Barrett MRAD system comes in at 92 points, which is a solid score. I took off for single load feeding issues that contributes to the overall functionality. I gave high marks for the elegant minimalist design and quality of manufacturing and materials. These are both something that other US manufacturers should pay attention to and learn from if they want to stay competitive in the market. 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 snipers quiver as well as the long-range shooting enthusiast collection.
This article was originally published on the Loadout Room.