Masterpiece Arms Bolt Action Rifle Review

Masterpiece Arms has been in the machining business since 1973. The company branched into the firearms industry in 1999 with the Defender pistol, modified and stock versions of the M11 and M10. In 2008, Phil Cashin took over the company and expanded their line.

I was asked recently to test and evaluate a new rifle from Masterpiece Arms. Abusing other peoples gear appeals to me so I agreed. Being able to shoot a full custom rifle is even more of a pleasure.

Before I get into the rifle, here’s a little information on the company. Masterpiece Arms has been in the machining business since 1973. The company branched into the firearms industry in 1999 with the Defender pistol, modified and stock versions of the M11 and M10. In 2008, Phil Cashin took over the company and expanded their line. Suppressors and an all new design gas piston semi auto 5.56 mm rifle were added to their line. In 2013, MPA purchased Spencer barrels which are well known in the benchrest community. Soon following was MPA’s first bolt action rifle.

I received for testing one of the companies MPA bolt actions chambered in 308 Winchester. This particular rifle was chambered with a match reamer for Federal 168 and 175 Gold Medal Match. The rifle is based around a Stiller Precision TAC action with an aluminum chassis designed by MPA. The chassis is well thought out with a forward night vision mount, barrier/handstop, picatinney bipod mount, and a rear folding monopod. The chassis also has an adjustable length of pull and adjustable cheek riser. The barrel is 24 inches long with MPA’s own muzzlebreak attached to the 5/8-24 threads. It came with an Accurate Mag 10 round magazine. Total weight of rifle without scope or bipod is 12.5 pounds.

After mounting a 3.5-21 Bushnell HDMR scope, I shot the rifle on multiple outings from 100 to 500 yards. The rifle performed very well during all testing. At 100 yards the rifle shot as well as the user with 168 grain Federal Gold Match. I could consistently shoot 5 shot groups under ½ MOA, most being in the 3/8 of an inch range, if I did my job. I also tested the rifle with Hornady 168 gr match and Hornady Super Performance 165 gr SST. I included two reloads, a load with Sierra 175 gr HPBT in Lake City Match cases over 43 gr of Varget, and a Lapua 155 Scenar in Lapua cases over 45.5 gr of Varget. All match loads averaged at least ½ MOA and the hunting load grouped into 5/8 to ¾ inch range.

I was able to take the rifle to shoot at 500 yards on several occasions. Each time I went, the wind arrived to greet me. On the first day, winds averaged 8 to 16 mph with higher gusts. When we first arrived, the hay field we were shooting in had not been mowed forcing us to shoot from the bed of the truck. The truck bed did not provide the most stable platform, you could feel it move when the wind gusted. Still, I was able to manage several groups in the 3 to 5 inch range at 500 yards with both the Federal 168 gr Gold Match and the 175 gr Sierra reload. The other loads could have possibly been better but the wind and the movement of the truck prohibited better groups.

The second day of testing afforded us slightly lower winds but a much more stable shooting position as the hay field had been mowed. We had an assortment of AR 500 steel targets to go with our target board for group testing. With the lower wind, the 4x8 inch plates were easy to hit repeatedly. The smaller 3x6 inch plate was definitely a challenge but did not come home with fresh paint. Groups on paper were better as I had several 3 ¼ to 4 inch groups at 500 yards. The best group was one 3 shot group, obtained with Federal 168 gr GMM, I was able to get when the wind died. I was getting ready to fire the 4th round but the wind picked back up. I halted firing to drive down and check the group. It was an amazing 1 ¼ inch group at 500 yards.

Chronograph testing showed very low extreme spreads with the Federal and Hornady 168 gr match. The Federal 168 averaged 2709 fps with an extreme spread of 9 fps. The Hornady was very close with a 2707 fps average and an ext. spread of 12 fps. The 155 Scenar reload averaged 2847 fps with an ext. spread of 14 fps. The Sierra 175 reload averaged 2651 fps with an ext. spread of 13 fps. The Hornady Super Performance 165 gr SST lived up to its name averaging 2830 fps with an ext. spread of 24 fps. The last load, an old lot of 2002 Lake City M118 175 gr had the highest extreme spread of the ammo tested, averaging 2699 fps with ext. spread over 51 fps. It also gave me the worst groups, most of the spread being vertical. It’s probably one of the reasons the powder used to load this ammo has been changed since then. I’m sure the newer lots would perform much better.

Overall, the rifle performed great. This MPA bolt action is a little on the heavy side but so is any chassis equipped rifle, especially one with this many features added to the stock. I had shooters from 5’4” to 6”5” test it. The stock’s height and length of pull adjusted easily for all to be comfortable with it. It shot well with the barrel hot or cold on each day of testing. The barrel was also very easy to clean after break in. In my opinion, this rifle would fit the bill for anyone needing a tactical precision rig. With the accessories included on the chassis, all one needs is a bipod and optics for an overall outstanding package. For more information visit Masterpiece Arms

David Barham