Wedgetail – man the pumps!

Wedgetail’s latest offering impressed Daniel O’Dea

It wasn’t too long ago if you wanted to buy a new Australian-made firearm you were out of luck. For instance, when Lithgow Arms launched the LA101 in 2013 it had been 40 years since they last designed and built a rifle for the civilian market in Australia and as I recall, within that period there wasn’t anyone else making anything (perhaps Leader Dynamic/Australian Automatic Arms pre 1996).

Thankfully today, despite the regulatory obstacles we now have choices when it comes to Australian-built firearms. Besides Lithgow there’s Southern Cross Small Arms, Warwick Firearms and Wedgetail Industries, to name some of the better known.

I reviewed the Wedgetail WT25 (October 2023), a superbly accurate self-loading rifle, made specifically with Category D professional contract and primary production licence holders in mind. Self-loaders being a niche market here, Wedgetail have also lent their engineering skills to the manufacture of a new pump-action rifle, so catering to the wider civilian shooting market we now have the Wedgetail MPR-308.

Despite any similarities to the WT25, the MPR is a dedicated Category B pump-action. Sadly, regardless of the fact it’s not a self-loader and never will be, at this stage a question remains as to its acceptance under the ridiculously subjective appearance laws in place in states including NSW and Tasmania, so some of us may miss out.

Interestingly enough despite all their other firearms woes, WA shooters have had a win for common sense as it’s approved for sale there as Category B. Noting for the record as a New South Welshman myself, for review purposes I have all applicable permits and licenses for both possession and testing of the MPR regardless of any final category determination in NSW.

In appearance the MPR is near identical to the WT25, main difference being the addition of three rail-type sections which appear to float proud of the front handguard at three, six and nine o’clock, forming the pump slide grip that cycles the action. It appears Wedgetail have taken the proven approach, as with several other recent straight-pull variants, and re-engineered some aspects seen on self-loader designs but reconfigured into dedicated, manually actuated systems.

This doesn’t mean they’ve modified a self-loader to become a pump-action, rather they’ve designed a new gun using similar mechanical concepts and components without the presence or capacity to fit any form of gas system. A gas system is the principal actuation method for the majority of self-loading centrefire rifles and without which you effectively have a bolt-action firearm.

So what exactly do I mean by all the above? Well in the case of the MPR, in place of any gas system is a drive-rod connecting a pump slide to a bolt carrier, the latter having no gas key as it locks on to the rod. The bolt within the bolt carrier has no gas rings, all these parts are proprietor and in no way compatible or interchangeable with self-loader parts. Likewise the barrel has neither a gas port nor provision for same and upper receiver no provision for a charging handle.

The rifle arrived in an impressive optional zip-open soft case which held it broken down to its two major components of upper and lower receiver groups. The case is lined with both a MOLLE system and Velcro pads to secure various pouches and dividers, customization being left to the owner’s imagination based on final fit-out requirements.

A large netted pouch on the upper flap has two zip-up sections holding the manual and some Wedgetail stickers, while the inside has more merch by way of some cool Velcro brand patches. Separate magazine pouches house two supplied 10-round Magpul P-Mags and there’s an optional Wedgetail sling and blast deflector. If presentation counts we’re off to a flier.

Starting with the upper receiver group we have an assembly comprising the receiver and handguard, both CNC-milled from 7075-T6 aluminum. The receiver trunnion extends forward of the receiver face to accept a proprietor barrel extension and barrel-nut interface. Wedgetail’s 13” free-floating front handguard clamps over the trunnion of the receiver seamlessly, to create a continuous top rail for optic and accessory fitment.

Out front, slots are cut along the side and bottom facets of the handguard to create three rail slots in which a small carriage assembly glides forward and aft on self-lubricating polymer bushes. This sits between the inner sides of the handguard and barrel, basically encircling the free-floating chrome-moly barrel and is connected at the top to a stainless steel drive-rod, in turn connected to the bolt carrier. On the outside of each slot and bolted through into the carriage, sit three rail-type sections which form the pump slide. The lower panel is an actual section of Picatinny rail adorned with a silicon cover which can be removed to fit a vertical grip or other accessories.

Back at the chamber end is a proprietor bolt and carrier system which holds an Australian provisional patent. The brilliance of this design is it creates a degree of primary extraction, something that would generally be absent in this style of firearm. That has plagued similarly designed pump-action and straight-pull rifles as it can lead to cases sticking and problematic ejection. Again, although borrowing design aspects for the receiver and handguard interface from the WT25, neither receiver nor bolt and carrier assembly are interchangeable.

The lower also borrows from the WT25 and while it may look very much the same it’s in no way interchangeable, only sharing the trigger-type and a few other minor components. Case in point is an example of the aforementioned re-engineering of self-loading design principals, the MPR using a standard Mil-Spec six-position receiver extension on which to mount the stock.

On the WT25 (self-loader) this part would serve as the buffer tube which would hold a spring-loaded, weighted buffer to retard rearward movement of the bolt carrier system under firing and propel it forward again to cycle the action. With the MPR there’s no buffer, only a spring-loaded plunger and where the receiver mates to the extension itself, it has a reduced diameter specifically designed to only accept the tail on the new proprietary bolt carrier. Built-in-denial features such as this should prevent any concern authorities might ever have of potential conversion as it’s simply not possible.

Assembling the upper and lower receivers is by two simple push-pins and done without tools. Tolerances are kept very tight and there’s no distinguishable play between receivers once assembled. Optic installation is easy via the continuous Picatinny top rail, noting high or extra-high MSR-style mounts being required dependent on optic.

For testing I mounted an Element Optics Helix 4-16 x 44 scope, the 44mm objective housing just clearing the top rail when mounted in a set of Element Optic Acculite 30mm Picatinny ring-mounts. The combination gives a low sight-over-bore relationship with full sight picture immediately apparent on presentation of the rifle.

I’d been pleasantly surprised by the standard of accuracy when I tested the WT25, so with the MPR basically using the same barrel and receiver interface system, expectations were high. I wasn’t disappointed when on sighting-in at 25m, three-shot groups between adjustment produced neat clovers, this using mixed-date head-stamped Australian military surplus 7.62 NATO ammo, some of it from the 1970s.

Moving to the 100m range I fired a series of three-shot groups with various factory offerings, the average overall being 1 MOA with three groups almost half that, one spot-on MOA, one at 2 MOA and one which had the first two rounds in the same hole before I pulled the third out to 1.5 MOA.

That accuracy for this style of rifle could in some part be down to Wedgetail’s trigger. Like most standard AR-type hammer-fall trigger systems, it’s fairly heavy with some creep but in this case, with polished and coated surfaces, any creep is smooth and it does break cleanly. As the rifle uses a standard AR/MSR-type trigger group, there are many aftermarket drop-in replacement units available.

Off the bench and in general use the MPR functioned smoothly and effortlessly, loading, firing, and ejecting without fault. The new patented primary extraction bolt and carrier system must be working, as I experienced none of the sticky case hangups apparently present in Wedgetail prototypes of the rifle prior to this development. The MPR uses positive forward spring tension to keep the action in battery and there’s no forward bolt-lock as found on some non-spring-assisted pump-actions like the Remington 7600/7615 series.

As I’m not the first reviewer of the MPR I’ve seen a small criticism that if you brace the pump slide reward as to pull the rifle into the shoulder, the bolt may come out of battery in which case the hammer falls and the gun fails to fire. I experienced no such issues though I do tend to run this style of rifle with a squarer to target stance with my support arm extended and locked forward.

This also allows you to shorten up the stock so it’s a lesser stretch to run the pump slide. Not a traditional target stance, one more commonly used elsewhere though the MPR isn’t a target rifle either, rather a more modern dynamic hunting firearm where quick follow-up shots are more likely than slow deliberate fire.

I found the MPR a little hard to fault, perhaps I’d like to see the magazines drop free on release as on the sample gun they didn’t and were a little tight in the magazine well. This likely only an issue if you were running IPSC or similar competition, which I’m not sure many would with costs ammo being what they are.

The MPR-308 retails around $3850 for the rifle as standard with a three-port muzzle brake. As noted the blast deflector, case and sling are Wedgetail accessories and at time of writing they’re taking orders to all states except Tasmania and NSW. More at the Wedgetail website.

Rifle: Wedgetail MPR-308
Action: Spring-assisted pump-action
Trigger: Wedgetail single-stage
Calibre: .308 Winchester
Capacity: 10-round detectable box magazine (2x Magpul)
Barrel: Chrome-Moly steel 16” (406mm)
Twist rate: 1:10, six lands and grooves
Sights: Picatinny rail
Upper and lower: 7075-T6 Alloy
Stock: Magpul CTR
Pistol grip: Magpul MOE rubber overmould
Weight: 4.25kg (9.37lbs)
Price guide: $3850 RRP

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