The Benelli MR1 is a semi-automatic tactical rifle chambered in .223 Rem. or 5.56 NATO.
The MR1 uses an auto-regulating gas operated system (ARGO) modified from Benelli’s M4 or M1014 semi-automatic shotgun. (It’s actually almost identical to the Beretta RX4 Storm). ARGO directs gas onto a piston, which drives the bolt back, whereas other gas operated systems direct gas into a tube on the bolt. Therefore, gas won’t expel inside the receiver, it has fewer operating parts and fewer components to clean. The MR1’s sights use a military style aperture allowing shooters to adjust for windage and elevation. Additional sights can be mounted to its Picatinny rail. It comes standard with a 5-round magazine, but it can use 30-round M16 magazines. Benelli recommends the MR1 for military use and home protection.
|Caliber:||.223 Rem.<br />5.56 NATO|
|Sights:||Military style aperture|
|Features:||Self-cleaning stainless piston system with gas port forward of chamber; accepts high-capacity M16 magazines|
|Stock:||Black synthetic tactical with pistol grip|
|Twist:||1 in 9"|
An Expensive Plinking Gun
I was introduced to the Benelli MR1 when I was visiting my uncle Rudy in Greenville, South Carolina. I planned to go shooting later that day with some buddies and I wanted to borrow his lever-action Marlin 336 (it’s just an amazing gun—dead-on accuracy). Inside his house he has a room dedicated to his gun collection (I think we all have an uncle like this: un-wed, rich businessman who owns a bunch of guns). I mean tons of them. He has a couple of guns safes and wall mounts making it look like a guns store. I’ve probably seen this room a thousand times and his collection still amazes me. Just the idea that in his neighborhood where all the houses look alike, the neighbors all barbecue on the weekends together, and their children play in the streets that uncle Rudy has this huge arsenal. I’m not complaining, it’s just amazing.
Anyway, I saw the Marlin on a rack, but the sleek black weapon next to it quickly caught my eye. At first glance I thought it was a shotgun—the Benelli M4—because I remember shooting it a few years back while I was in the military.
I picked up the MR1 and rode my hand along the handguard and up the barrel. Then I fingered the muzzle and noticed its tiny bore. I quickly glanced down and saw the magazine well.
“What is this?” I asked.
Rudy ran his finger over his mustache, “Oh yeah, that there is a Benelli MR1. It’s their new AR.” He paused for a few moments and leaned in, “Mister One,” he said jokingly.
“The Mister One, huh?”
He nodded his head and curled his mustache with two fingers, “Why don’t ya’ll take it out boy-o? I ain’t fired it yet.”
“Let me know what you think.”
He zipped it up in a soft case and tossed in the five-round magazine that it comes with and a couple Marine Corps issue M16 magazines courtesy of my brother and his two tours in Iraq, and I headed out the door.
We headed out to my friend Mike’s family farm off of Interstate-85, close to Anderson, SC, where we’re allowed to shoot at as long as we don’t mess with the cows. The sky was blue, the grass was dry, and the air was brisk on that December day. Throw on a fleece and it’s perfect shooting weather.
After walking for a few hundred yards through rolling hills and thick rows of trees I found a dried cow’s skull sitting in the grass. I walked over, set it on a log, and thus testing of the MR1 began.
Looks and Handling
Like I said, at first I thought the MR1 was a shotgun because Benelli didn’t seem to change its design all that much. Though some initially question its ergonomics, but I didn’t have a problem. A 12 gauge is completely different than .223. Shooting the M4 it was like, well, shooting a 12 gauge, so something designed to absorb the heavy shot should be capable of handling something significantly less powerful. The recoil on the MR1 was very mild—I mean almost nothing at all, so I don’t think it would be an issue for anyone.
I think what really stood out to me was the charging handle because on the standard AR platform the charging handle is in the rear, but on the MR1 it’s on the side. It kind of reminded me of a .22 semi-auto rifle or something, but in that sense it’s dummy proof. You can easily see how to operate it. It wasn’t good or bad, just different.
Also, its wide fore-end was easy to hold, but seems more suitable resting on a sandbag. I know you can change the handguards out and attach a fore-grip, but I’m not into to all that.
There are actually two common complaints (but they don’t come from me). Some have criticized the low-mounted sights and say it’s fussy with magazines.
The complaint about the sights is that they’re too low, so co-witnessing proves difficult. You’ll have to mount them really low because the MR1 was designed around the iron sights. And the Picatinny rail is only five inches long—not long enough for some people.
Also, I tested the factory magazine and the GI issue magazines and both worked great, but they say you have to careful about aftermarket ones like “Lancer L5, Tango Down and Magpul P-mags.”
The MR1 uses an auto-regulating gas operated system or ARGO, which is what Benelli calls it. It’s basically a piston-driven system, meaning propellant gases are captured into a tube and directed onto a piston to drive the bolt back. The system is supposed to be cleaner than a gas-operating system, and it is. The gases don’t expel into the chamber.
With other piston-driven systems everything is connected to the main rod, so I thought it would be a bitch to remove, but it wasn’t. Turns out you just undo the front nut and pull the handguard off. Then there’s a little notch on the tip of the handguard that you use to unlock the bolt that keeps the system together You twist it off and pull it forward until the bolt catches. Then push on the charging handle into a little notch and pull it on out, too.
Easy as that.
Well, I went back to uncle Rudy and I showed him my scorecard. As usual he chuckled that I write everything down.
Rudy asked, “Well how’d it handle?”
I said, “It’s expensive, and worth it if you want a great, never fail plinking gun.”