In recent years, the AR-15-style pistol has become more respected for its use as a personal-defense weapon. However, regular practice with .223 ammo can be hard on the budget. Many shooters have purchased .22 LR conversion kits in an effort to reduce the cost of regular training.
The Mossberg 715P is an AR-style pistol designed for the .22 LR cartridge. On the surface, it looks like an excellent analog to the AR pistol. Although I knew it would not be an exact duplicate of a centerfire pistol, I decided to test one out to see if it would make for a good training tool.
The most distinctive feature of the 715P is that it looks like an AR-style pistol. However, I discovered that other than appearance, the gun bears little in common with an AR pistol. The 715P’s receiver is not visible; it is completely contained within a black plastic shell. It is the shell that gives the gun its distinctive appearance. In reality, the 715P uses the same receiver as the 702 Plinkster rifle. It is just camouflaged within the shell.
Other than the trigger, none of the controls on the 715P match those of an actual AR pistol. For example, instead of a receiver-mounted safety, the Mossberg pistol uses a crossbolt-style safety.
A piece of molded plastic is designed to look like an AR charging handle, but it is only for decoration. To work the bolt, there is an operating handle on the right side of the gun. To lock the bolt to the rear, the shooter pulls the bolt back and presses the bolt in.
An ambidextrous lever mounted on the side of the magazine well serves as the magazine release. Unless the bolt is pulled back and the operating handle pushed in, the magazine is very difficult to remove. Even with the bolt locked back, operation of the lever is awkward at best.
Because the 715P uses a plastic shell on an existing receiver design, field-stripping the gun for cleaning is more involved than some shooters might like. Typical cleaning of the chamber, bore and the inside of the receiver doesn’t require the removal of any screws, but a complete takedown means removing more than a dozen screws and other parts to separate the two shell halves. The process isn’t difficult, and the owner’s manual offers detailed instructions, but it is more time consuming than with some other .22 LR pistols.
Magazines come in two varieties: 10-round models for restricted jurisdictions and 25-rounders for most other states. Both magazines have the look of a polymer AR mag. One magazine ships with the Mossberg pistol.
The blued barrel used on the 715P is 6 inches long and has a 1-in-16-inch twist rate. The barrel is capped with an A2-style flash suppressor. The total weight of the gun is 3.5 pounds unloaded.
An integrally molded quad-rail serves as a handguard and place to mount accessories, such as a white light or laser. The end of the quad-rail has a short stud for attaching a sling and also acts as a forward hand stop. A second sling attachment point is on the end cap, where a buffer tube would be on an AR pistol.
The sights on the 715P are similar to those on a standard AR-15. The front sight is a post, and the rear sight is a wide aperture. Unfortunately, it lacks a small aperture for precision shooting. The front sight is adjustable for height and the rear for windage.
The top of the gun has an accessory rail for the addition of an optic. Mossberg also offers the 715P with a factory-installed UTG 1x30mm electronic sight. Any other red-dot-style sight should also mount on the rail as well.
Recently, Mossberg introduced a Duck Commander version of the 715P. This pistol is functionally identical to the existing handguns. However, it comes standard with the UTG electronic sight and the stock is dipped in the new Realtree Max-5 camouflage pattern. The Duck Commander logo is also engraved on the receiver.
I headed out to the range with the intent of evaluating the Mossberg 715P as a substitute for an AR pistol, as well as for its general shooting characteristics. Before trying to do any training with the pistol, I wanted to make sure the gun would run reliably and was reasonably accurate. When sighting the 715P in, I found that I had to crank the rear sight almost all the way to the right to get the gun shooting to the point of aim. Once adjusted, I found the sights very easy to use and at handgun ranges plenty accurate for getting good groups.
In fact, I found that the pistol was extremely accurate. Shooting from a rest at 25 yards, I achieved my best five-shot group with Remington’s 36-grain Golden Bullet plated hollow-point load—0.88 inches. The Federal and Eley loads I shot were good performers, too, both shooting less than 2-inch groups.
Seeing the kind of groups I was getting, another shooter came over and inquired about the pistol. He said he owned the Mossberg 715T, the rifle version of the gun, and that it was extremely accurate. After I let him shoot the pistol, he stepped off the line and called his dealer to immediately place an order for one.
I was pleasantly surprised by the feel of the 715P trigger. There was an expected amount of take-up with a crisp break and only a small amount of overtravel. Inexpensive guns frequently have gritty or heavy triggers, but the Mossberg trigger was excellent. The trigger certainly helped me achieve excellent groups.
“The Mossberg 715P performed very well on the range and I enjoyed shooting it…”
I’ve found that .22 LR pistols can be finicky with ammunition choices. Some loads will run fine in one gun, but not in another. Rarely do I find a gun and ammunition combination that works perfectly. The Mossberg 715P was no different.
At the range I had three .22 LR loads: the 36-grain Remington Golden Bullet, the 36-grain Federal Value Pack and the 40-grain Eley Club. The Remington load ran perfectly in the gun. However, the Mossberg 715P experienced a few failures to extract with the Federal and Eley loads. The problems were not frequent enough to cause me concern, but I would probably stick to the Remington load in the future. Considering the great accuracy I got from the Golden Bullet ammo, I would say the load is a near perfect match for the 715P I shot.
As I would expect, the recoil from the 715P was very mild. There was virtually no pushback and little muzzle flip. Follow-up shots during rapid fire were easy and accurate. Shooting the Mossberg pistol was very enjoyable.
The 715P was not, however, an adequate training substitute for an AR pistol. Very little of the 715P’s operation is equivalent to the functioning of an AR pistol. Magazine changes, bolt operation and even the activation of the safety are all different. I could find no reasonable way to simulate these functions on the 715P in a way that would hone the skills needed to run an AR.
For sighting and trigger control, the Mossberg 715P may work for improving your operation of an AR pistol. In fact, you can add any optic to the 715P that you might run on your AR. In this way, the pistol may help improve shooting performance.
The ballistics of a .22 LR are obviously different than that of a .223 Remington round. Also, the trigger will likely have a different feel than what is on any true AR pistol. But, the shooter can still move and engage targets using his preferred sighting system in a dynamic setting. This may be of value for training purposes.
In and of itself, the Mossberg 715P performed very well on the range and I enjoyed shooting it. Based on its look, I hoped to use it as an AR training tool. Its failure to meet my expectation in this regard is due to an initial misperception on my part. Judged on its own merits, the 715P is a good gun.
The new Mossberg 715P is an accurate, enjoyable handgun that might or might not fit your needs. As a serious training analog to the AR pistol, its usefulness is limited. The controls simply do not match up, and I think most people would be better off getting a dedicated .22 LR upper for their AR pistol.
However, the gun makes a great plinker. With the great accuracy I was able to get, I would be happy to use the gun for pest control or small-game hunting. Additionally, I think the pistol could be a great gun for training new shooters.
First, the .22 LR cartridge has little recoil, and in a relatively large pistol like the Mossberg 715P, the recoil is exceptionally light. One of the frequent objections new shooters have is concern about harsh recoil. This gun is easy on even the most skittish of new shooters.
Second, the peep sights on the Mossberg pistol are easy to use. The wide rear aperture allows the shooter to easily see the front sight and put rounds on target. Getting good hits on paper is important for new shooters to have a feeling of accomplishment. Early successes will make a new shooter more receptive to learning and the sport in general.
With its low recoil, pinpoint accuracy and tacitcal looks, the Mossberg 715P .22 is just plain fun to shoot. It will certainly help make new shooter’s first trip to the range a good one. If you are looking for a plinker or just a cool-looking .22 LR to teach the kids the fundamentals, the 715P is definitely worth considering.
For more information, visit http://www.mossberg.com or call 800-363-3555.