ISSC Modern Sporting Rifle Mk 22
- By Pete Moore
- 1 Comments
- Last updated: 20/11/2017
To date, I think I have tested all the 22 rimfire, semi-auto military look-a-like rifles available in the UK and there has been some chaff amongst the wheat! Regardless of their tacticool looks, which is just window dressing, in essence they are all the same under the skin, as it’s just build quality and design features that separates them! Acceptable accuracy with any 22 LR is pretty much a given, but; reliability is paramount given their main use.
With this in mind, back in May 2011, I was sent the Austrian ISSC Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) Mk 22, looking like the FN S.C.A.R. (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) by CPG Designs. It looked the business and was pleasingly not an AR15, but reliability was a big issue, as in under 200-rounds it was a ‘jamamatic’. An issue that went hand in hand with a very awkward stripping procedure. Suffice to say that when it came to selecting this class of firearm, the MSR was not front of house!
Later, Anschütz announced a new semi-auto, 22LR for ‘dynamic shooting’ – the MSR RX 22 TM Precision, which turned out to be a slightly modified MSR. With their reputation for accuracy and reliability I was very surprised when they announced this model. However, I tested one and it was reliable and accurate with its new barrel and better trigger and certainly a bit different from the original. But it did not stay long in their catalogue and swiftly faded from sight.
So, I was quite surprised when speaking to Range Right, the Sabatti importers, that they now also offer what appeared to be the original ISSC MSR. I was told the rifle had been improved, but it says Oxo on the top of buses but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a hot drink there! The rifle looked identical with its aluminium alloy upper and polymer lower, so lets start there before we get into the nitty gritty.
The MSR is a blocky looking rifle with a length-adjustable, side-folding butt with a two position comb. Controls are ambidextrous and very AR15-like, with a 2-position safety above the A2-style pistol grip and the mag button to the rear of the well on the right, with a corresponding lever on the left. The whole 15” of the upper receiver/forend shows a flat-top Picatinny rail, three more sections on the forend at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock allow lights, lasers and grips to be fitted. There a fourth shorter section under the barrel too, I used it for a Javelin bipod with their Picatinny adaptor.
The action is blow back, as expected, with the bolt running in a cage inside the receiver. Practical is the fact that the cocking handle offers six positions, forward, middle or rear of the upper/forend either left or right. It just pulls out and pushes in where you want it, for me forward/left worked best, which allowed me to keep control of the gun with my firing hand.
Much like German Sport Gun (GSG) products, the barrel is not what it appears, as it’s actually a slim, steel, rifled liner with an outer tube to give it the heavy look. Stability is achieved by a screw-on muzzle brake that tensions the inner tube. As I discovered, a ½ x 20 UNF adaptor is available, if you want to fit a moderator.
Feed is from a 22-round magazine (10-shot also available), with pull-down side tabs to facilitate filling. Without doubt the best design for a hi-capacity, 22 LR magazine, as it’s quick, less tiring and allows you to easily position the case rims for 100% feed reliability; another essential for this sort of firearm. Useful is the magazine safety; if the mag is not in the rifle the trigger does not operate. There’s an automatic last round hold open too; always a bonus! However, there’s no external manual hold open/release as you’d find on an AR15. Instead, you have to pull back and release the cocking handle to allow the bolt forward. You can however push your middle finger up into the right side of the mag well where you’ll feel a small metal tag, which, with the bolt held open, pushes up to lock it rearwards.
The butt offers a 1.5”, 3-position length of pull (LOP) adjustment, which is a tad short but workable due to the 15” Picatinny top rail, which allows flexible scope mounting positions. LOP goes from 12.5 to 13.75”. The butt folds to the right, where it pushes down then locks under a large hook that also acts as a case deflector. The ambi safety offers two position – lever up SAFE (white dot) and down to FIRE (red dot) and can be operated even when the action is not cocked. It’s not quite as handy as an AR15 but not bad.
The comb is a bit odd; this horseshoe moulding is controlled by a press button on the left. Even when down and combined with the medium height Picatinny rail means getting down to low-mounted optics is a squeeze. For testing, I fitted the new Konus AS-34 2-6x28mm compact scope, which very much suits this type of rifle. I had to add some Sports Match Weaver to 11mm riser blocks to get it up for a comfortable eye/ scope position, as it sat too low in its integral base. With the comb up, your head is lifted about ½”, which requires some high bases, so not a lot of use apart from NV!
I’ll be honest; I’d seen nothing on the MSR that made it feel any better than the original and I was expecting the same problems I’d had in 2011, but ‘nobles oblige’! Ammowise, I ran the new, high velocity, Winchester, 40-grain M22, average speed 1238 fps and MagTech 22 HV hollow points at around 1200 fps. Surprisingly, it also worked with Winchester 42-grain subs at 1091 fps, though not the sort of rifle I’d take bunny bashing.
Things started as expected, with between 1-3 stoppages per mag full. However, all of them showed an empty chamber, which lead me to the magazine. Inspection showed it dry and graunchy and I cleaned it out and put a tad of oil on the slides, with feed improving dramatically! In all, I put 350-rounds through it and had three stoppages, one was a misfeed and the other two due to the MagTech ammo’s inconsistent priming. Live round extraction is possible, but it does not always come out first time. So overall, pretty reliable!
In use, the MSR feels a bit rattly in the butt and looks a bit plasticky, but mounts and handles easily enough; though none were supplied, you can also get iron sights. The left/forward mounted cocking handle proved ideal for me, but the ability to re-position will doubtless appeal. The forend is reasonably comfortable given you are gripping three rails, I fitted a forward grip and it improved control. The magazines actually fill to 24-rounds, but can give first or second round stoppages until run in. Trigger pull was mushy but workable and broke around 4-5 lbs, accuracy was around the inch at 50m, which is pretty much as expected and good enough for most uses.
Keeping any 22 semi clean is essential for reliable operation, as these look-a-likes tend to get shot a lot and fast, so stripping is mandatory; both my 22s, a S&W 15/22 and GSG StG 44 take about 5-seconds with simple push pins to get the bolts out to access all areas. And it’s here the MSR falls down a little, as everything is screwed or bolted in! The body pins do not immediately push out, as they are a double-ended, screw and shaft design that requires two, thin bladed screw drivers to remove.
With that off, two more Allen screws have to be taken off to remove the butt, then, once inside, you need to remove another to take out the pre-packaged bolt assembly, which itself needs splitting to access all areas for a thorough cleaning. Despite the improved reliability of this model, your average shooter is probably not going to go that far every 300-rounds or so! Plus, steel screws in and out plastic and alloy tends to exacerbate wear. I’d recommend some form of solvent spray to blast the gunk out and maybe a strip down at longer intervals.
I actually quite like the MSR, as it’s visually different and certainly an improvement over the original! The good news is the price as it’s £550 as opposed to £699 back in 2011; so, for the money, a half decent rifle, if you’re looking for this sort of hardware.
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