First Look: Benelli MR-1 Autoloading Self-Defense Carbine

By Randy Wakeman

Benelli MR-1 Autoloading Self-Defense Carbine
Illustration courtesy of Benelli.

New for 2010 is the Benelli MR-1 .223 autoloading tactical carbine. This “black rifle” uses the Benelli ARGO system. This basic platform of the Benelli design was originally sold to law enforcement only as the Beretta Rx4 Storm in 2005, but has not been available to the general public. The ARGO gas system is used on the Benelli M4 Super 90 (M1014 Joint Service Combat Shotgun) and also on the Benelli R1 high-powered hunting rifle line since 1993. So, it is fair to say that this basic gas system has already been used successfully in everything from 12 gauge shotshell to .300 WinMag with several notches in-between. The MR1 is chambered for 5.56 NATO / .223 and accepts standard M16 magazines.

The published specifications are:

    ·        ITEM NUMBER: 11800

    ·        ACTION: Gas operated autoloader (ARGO)

    ·        CALIBER: .223 Rem.

    ·        BARREL LENGTH: 16"

    ·        TWIST: 1 in 9", right hand

    ·        STOCK: Black synthetic w/tactical pistol grip

    ·         SIGHTS: Military-style aperture sights with picatinny rail.

    ·         OVERALL LENGTH: 37.1"

    ·        WEIGHT: 7.9 lbs. (w/o magazine)

    ·        OTHER FEATURES: Hard chrome lined bore; Rotating bolt.

    ·         MSRP: $1299

The “AR” design was filed for patent by Eugene Stoner back on Aug 14, 1956. In September, 1960, US Patent #2951424 was granted. In the last fifty years, the M16 has seen its ups and downs, with more downs than ups. While Fairchild Armalite sold its rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 back in 1959, the AR15 went from a light, sub- 6 pound rifle to a bloated 9 pounds or more with all the goodies hanging off of it. The original AR-15 had a 1:14 rate of twist barrel, changed to 1:12, and changed again to 1:7 in the M16A2 (Colt Model 645).

Accuracy of the .223 round has not been an issue, but reliability has been a different story. There has been military confusion over propellants, whether to chrome plate the bore and barrel, whether to add a forward assist or not and so forth. It could well be the subject of several books, but the “gas impingement” design of the AR means that gas spews directly onto the bolt and into the breech, with bolt fouling and reliability issues plaguing this design for years. Dick Culver'sThe Saga of the M16 in Vietnam should be required reading for everyone interested in some of the background.

Over the years, I've owned and shot a variety of AR platform rifles and have been less than pleased. Often used as blasters, plinkers and fashion statements, too often they have amounted to clumsy, filthy little tricks. The same goes for any number of SKS rifles and Ruger Mini-14 and Mini-30 carbines. The Rugers have never been accurate enough to give me any great satisfaction.

The Benelli MR-1 promises a lot more. Right out of the box, I was impressed with how effortlessly it shoulders and how instinctively the button safety is to use. I was also impressed with its 5.5 pound trigger that breaks crisply after initial take up. The 1:9 rate of twist barrel is generally considered very capable with 40 to 60 grain projectiles, though there are a few exceptions.

Out of the box, it is essentially good to go with its peep sights. With the one piece rail already in place, you can mount whatever other sighting system you wish without much effort. If you want to hang more goodies off of your MR-1, Benelli has a “Tri-Rail” forend attachment that gives you the ability to mount up to three more enhancements.

I like the MR-1's fast handling and the way it comes to the shoulder quickly and intuitively. It might just be the most reliable .223 Remington defense rifle available today. Its superior design makes it far more appealing than most of the other black rifles on the market.

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Copyright 2010, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.