Benelli MR1, Part II: A Look Vs. the AR-15 by Bill Knight and Mike Lamb

I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to assist in the review of a firearm by Randy Wakeman. Randy is unlike many other Gun/Outdoor writers that I know – in that he is NOT full of crap. Randy does write how he sees it, and I appreciate that. Randy has allowed me to give you my opinion of the Benelli MR1 Rifle. Now, I need to start by saying I am not even close to being an “expert” in the category of firearms or anything else for that matter. But, I am a “Common Joe” and conducted my review accordingly. I am not without a few credentials, however.

I have spent about 20 years in the Law Enforcement Profession and have been a member of what many would call a “SWAT Team”. I have been trained in the use and tactical use of many firearms including the AR-15 style rifle. More importantly, I grew up shooting, hunting and fishing. I believe this alone gives me enough credentials to at least tell you what I think. My Father is Tony Knight – the gunsmith that invented the modern muzzle loading rifle the MK-85. I was employed by my Father (making and testing guns) as I trudged my way through an AA Degree in Criminal Justice. This did give me certain advantages over most gun enthusiasts. I have also had the privilege of meeting and knowing (and getting to pick the brain of) several “experts” in the shooting and outdoor industry. I have met some truly remarkable people that have forgotten more on this subject than I will ever know.

I also happen to have a friend that is completely and ridiculously proficient and knowledgeable about firearms to the point I would call him a “Tackleberry.” There are his credentials. We will call him Mike Lambto protect his identity. Mike is a big gun collector, trader and connoisseur. Anyway, Mike and I were able to conduct a side-by-side test of a standard Benelli MR1 compared to a regular AR-15 style rifle, which numerous companies manufacture. The AR-15 came from Mike’s gun vault (yes, vault: not gun cabinet or gun safe). To be fair, I must tell you that I have never been a huge fan of the AR-15/M-4 even when qualifying with one on the gun range. On the other hand, Mike happens to love the AR-15, so I figure the test was unbiased. We both kept an open mind.


Our side-by-side comparison was simple. We shot both rifles using the same ammunition (Federal XM193: common, military ball ammo) at the same type targets at the same distances during the same time of the same day. We shot them both at 50 yards using the open sights in which they came equipped and at 100 yards using the same Kahles scope and Tapco mount. We shot them both using a bench rest and sand bags as well as playing around with each free-handed, shooting floating leaves and twigs in a farm pond at distances out to 150 yards. Both Mike and I were previously familiar with the AR-15, but had to acclimate ourselves to the MR1, which I must say was very quick and easy.

I am not going to bore you with every detail of our comparison, and some mistakes were probably made. Bottom line, you can either use our “two-cents” worth of advice or discard it – doesn’t cost much either way. I will let Mike explain the boring stuff. I found the MR1 to be superior in both handling, and operation. The features on the MR1, including the safety, magazine, bolt release and pistol grip stock are relatively easy to find and use. The Benelli also had a far better trigger than the standard AR-15.

The Benelli also slightly edged out the AR-15 regarding accuracy (open sights and scoped), possibly due to the superior trigger. The Benelli is my answer to the problem of finding a replacement for the AR-15, which I must say I have been looking for. All parts of the MR1 operated smoothly and pieces of the gun that aren’t supposed to move or wiggle –don’t move or wiggle! This is unlike most ARs I have shot.

I would like to see a better butt-stock on this Benelli – it seems Benelli robbed this stock from their shotgun and did not think the MR1 deserved a “rifle-stock”? The comb of this stock is not level. This caused eye-relief problems when mounting the Kahles scope. I would personally mount a scope on this rifle using high, see-through rings so that I may always use the open sights if the scope malfunctioned.

When Mike and I mounted the Kahles scope using high rings and bases, I had trouble getting my face far enough from the scope to achieve a proper sight picture. If I placed my eye at the proper distance – I then could not rest my cheek on the comb of the butt stock. However, using the iron sights alone – the gun positioned perfectly for me.

It is my opinion the MR1 is the better choice for most people. Let me explain this decision. Most people don’t “train” with their firearms on any kind of an annual basis. Most people don’t receive the training nor can afford to shoot often enough to become more than reasonably proficient with most of their firearms.

Therefore, because of the simplicity and quality used in making the MR1 and with features similar to other popular rifles, less “training” and practice is necessary to become and maintain an adequate level of proficiency. Whether for “home-defense,” shooting for enjoyment, looking good in a gun cabinet or shooting coyotes on the snowy fields of the Midwest; the Benelli MR1 is the better choice for the “Common Joe.” -- Bill Knight

From Mike Lamb:

Bill was right on the money when he alluded to my love of anything firearms so when he called me up and said that he had gotten a Benelli MR1 to shoot and review I must admit that I was both excited and a bit skeptical all at the same time.

I have always had great respect for Benelli. The quality and reliability they are noted for in their firearms are not contestable in my book, but many of my favorite brands have missed the mark when trying to enter the tactical ring so I was somewhat nervous.

Right off the bat I feel compelled to respond to Bill's “Tackleberry” comment. I feel that I am more of an “over-prepared connoisseur” if you will. Bill and I often spend hours arguing the virtues of this gun verses that in a certain situation, with the main point of the conversation being to rib the other one a bit in good fun. In all honesty, we pretty much live to have a laugh at the others’ expense, but are great friends and hunting buddies. Knowing that Bill is not a fan of the AR type rifles and I am, I was prepared to take a good amount of ribbing, as usual, if the AR didn’t out perform the MR1.

First and foremost, I am happy to say that any fears I had were put to rest immediately when I was finally able to handle the MR1 we tested. As Bill noted, I do love my AR’s, having shot thousands of rounds through the platform in various configurations and situations. I was very, very impressed with the MR1 and came to the conclusion that though the MR1 may not be my first choice in a true “tactical” rifle, it would be my top choice for a “sportical” rifle. I am not an expert shooter but know accuracy when I see it, and the MR1 is a very accurate auto loading rifle that is a hoot to shoot. One of the notes I wrote myself on the back of a test target said “I want one, but don’t tell Bill.”

The MR1 is easy on the eyes, its ergonomics are well thought out with the controls quick and easy to master. It has a very familiar feel that allows excellent target acquisition with iron sights. The gun shoulders like Grandpa's old shotgun or the .22 that my Dad taught me to shoot with as a kid, but yet has a very space-aged tactical appearance. I strongly feel that for a shooter not accustomed to tactical firearms the MR1 would be mastered more quickly then the AR15 platform based on this reason alone.
Our test day was eighty-eight degrees with about seventy-five percent humidity, making it just past miserable. The only saving grace was the ten to fifteen mile per hour cross wind that we had to fight. This did cause some issues with our accuracy, but Bill and I did agree that any day at the range is better than a day at work and started shooting.

Right out of the box the MR1 shot a sub minute of angle group at 100 yards, which bested our best groups with our test AR. We took several cold barrel and hot barrel shots with both guns, both scoped and open sighted, and in the end the MR1 did edge out the AR in accuracy every time. Trigger control undoubtedly played a very large role in this. The MR1’s trigger was superior in every way to the standard military trigger in my AR, and in fact would be more comparable to an upscale two stage AR trigger.

Both guns functioned flawlessly shooting the same ammo and several different manufacturers AR type magazines. Also, on a side note, the Benelli 5 round bench magazine is of excellent quality and functioned great in the AR we tested.

One thing I want to stress is, I do not want to say that either gun is superior or inferior, but in our very loosely controlled test environment the MR1 came out on top. I think I can speak for Bill in that we both felt that ether gun held the ability to outshoot us. In the end the Benelli MR1 won a place in my heart, as well as a future spot in my gun vault, by outshooting my beloved AR that day. But remember, don’t tell Bill - I won't hear the end of it. -- Mike Lamb


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