For five days I had struggled to remain focused as I chased Dall sheep in the Alaska Range. My guide was easily 10 years younger than me and probably 10 times more fit. I struggled on, however, knowing what the reward could be for using up every ounce of energy I could find. Now it was day six, we knew where at least two legal rams were bedded, and we had a plan to stalk them both. The first ram proved smarter than us and disappeared over the ridgeline before we could get in range. Just minutes later we found ram No. 2 as expected, lying atop a small outcropping covered in grass. There were three other rams with him, and we had crawled through a small saddle and right up on top of them all. I’ve never worked so hard in a lifetime of hunting for such an ordinary 70-yard downhill shot. I’m not sure any hunter can feel the same sense of accomplishment as a man who has just taken his first mountain sheep.
I had an unlikely partner on that particular hunt; a Mossberg 4×4 bolt-action chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum. Skeptical? Don’t be.
The 4×4 was introduced in 2007, two years after the company jumped back into the bolt-action centerfire market with its Model 100 ATR rifle. Both rifles are essentially built on the same, simple platform that has proven to be accurate and dependable. Button-rifles barrels are mated to receivers with a barrel nut that eases the task of headspacing during manufacturing and also serves to sandwich the recoil lug in place. A detachable polymer box magazine holds four standard cartridges or three magnum cartridges. The bolt is of three-piece design. The actual bolt head is pinned to the bolt shank which allows for ease of manufacturing as well. The bolt head houses a push-button plunger and side-mounted extractor. A two-position safety rounds out the design.
The ATR has a 22-inch barrel and was designed for short- and standard .30-06-length cartridges . The 4X4 handles the .30-06 crowd and will also accept belted magnums up to .338 Winchester Magnum and features a 24-inch barrel. The ATR’s stock is a very conventional sporter design while the 4X4’s stock is a bit futuristic. Unique sculpting in the fore-end and buttstock serve to lighten the overall weight of the rifle and give it a Euro look. Synthetic stock models feature a uniquely skeletonized buttstock. Both wood and polymer stocks are wonderfully narrow in the fore-end and wrist.
Don’t assume unfairly that all those “ease in manufacturing” items serve only to cheapen the rifle, a way to cut corners. Ease in manufacturing—something every manufacturer throughout the world considers each time a new product is conceived—keeps costs down and results in a lower price at the consumer level. Mossberg could build high-grade firearms with fancy wood and expensive engraving but at the cost of totally alienating its customer base. The 4×4, just like the 835 pumpgun or any other long arm in the Mossberg line, is designed to give long-lasting service at an affordable price.
I scoped my rifle with an old favorite, a Swarovski 3-10×42 A variable. For the hunt I used Federal Premium ammo loaded with 100-grain Barnes MRX bullets. This unique copper bullet features a core of tungsten and a polymer tip, giving it outstanding weight retention and a high ballistic coefficient. At the range I was able to shoot three shots into 1-inch squares. In Alaska, while shooting off a crude rest, accuracy was consistently in the 1½-inch range, certainly minute of sheep.
I’m giving my sheep-hunting partner a close inspection as I write this. Unlike my boots, knees and elbows, I can find but very minor scuff marks on the barrel, only one of which I can feel and it looks like it may have gone through the blueing. The injection molded stock still looks new.
With scope this rifle weighs a hair over seven pounds. The trigger breaks at just over four pounds on average. Not too bad, but I would prefer it lighter. The latest 4X4s now feature Mossberg’s Lightning Bolt-Action adjustable trigger system. It’s a sear-blocking trigger design made of aircraft-grade aluminum and it is said to be adjustable from 2 to 7 pounds. This enhancement makes the 4X4 all that more attractive in my mind.
A little redo on the plastic detachable magazine wouldn’t hurt my feelings, however. Other than that, I think Mossberg is right on target with the 4X4. It’s a unique rifle that stands out in a crowded market, and it will probably outlast your knees on a sheep hunt.