By Daniel T. McElrath
I.O. Incorporated, a company also known as InterOrdnance, has been in business more than 20 years, initially importing semi-automatic AK-platform rifles. However, as of 2008, the company began manufacturing its own guns stateside. These now include AR-style rifles, pistols and shotguns, and AK-style rifles and shotguns. The company emphasizes value, bringing plenty of bang for the buck to what is an already crowded tactical gun market.
One of its latest offerings is the MFT Range Package. It consists of a Mission First Tactical-enhanced I.O.-15 accompanied by three 30-round magazines, flip-up sights, cleaning kit and a Drago range bag. What makes the package especially appealing is an NRA-member $200 discount, bringing the package’s normal price tag of $799.99 down to just $599.99.
The rifle can be described as enhanced mil-spec even before one considers the MFT components. It incorporates a nylon-tipped tension screw in the lower receiver to establish and maintain a snug fit should you wish to install a different upper. Moreover, there is a dogleg screw rather than a roll pin to hold the bolt-hold-open button, simplifying changing out the button. Those may seem like small details, but they can be important to tinkerers. Of greater general interest is the fact that the barrel is black-nitrided and features a nickel-boron-coated barrel extension to ease cleaning. The bolt-carrier is likewise black-nitrided, while the bolt head is magnesium phosphate-coated and magnetic-particle-inspected (MPI).
Mission First Tactical, of Horsham, PA, has quickly gained a reputation for producing some of the most-innovative, highest-quality aftermarket accessories for AR-platform rifles. It’s one of the first stops many firearm aficionados make after purchasing “America’s rifle.” Tricking out its rifle with MFT components is, to say the least, a shrewd move on I.O.’s part.
The MFT parts include the BattleLink Minimalist stock, which is lightweight, yet mil-spec and offers multiple sling slots and an angled, rubberized buttpad. The 15-inch MFT M-Lok handguard locks into the barrel nut and resists twisting. The Engage pistol grip is full-size and optimized for one-hand operation of the rifle, if necessary. Further, the texturing promotes good purchase in wet or dry conditions.
The NRA-member price for the package inspired excitement at the deal but trepidation over what such an affordable gun would look like. To say we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. It looks like a much pricier rifle. It’s slim, sleek and tight. The MFT furniture doesn’t just make it look good; it makes it feel good. The handguard is narrow and smooth, making it easy and comfortable to grasp. The slightly flattened contours of the pistol grip provided a noticeable increase in leverage over typical grips, and the buttstock shouldered quickly, adjusted smoothly and offered good cheek weld. Also, the gun was exceedingly comfortable to carry.
I.O., I.O., it’s off to the range we go.
Shooting the I.O. was both easy and frustrating. As stated earlier, the gun handles well and is quite comfortable. Moreover, it exhibited excellent reliability. It fired all manner of ammunition without complaint, and extraction and ejection were strong. However, for all of the rifle’s potential, the gun’s performance was diminished by a poor trigger. Stiff and gritty, it simply was not on par with the rest of the gun. We attempted various techniques as we tried to get used to it, even “staging” the single-stage trigger. Little seemed to help. This is a gun that cries out for a two-stage match trigger. Fortunately, at the savings at which it is offered, such should be well within the consumer’s budget. Also, while the rifle was serviceable with match-quality ammunition, it absolutely hated M193 55-grain ball, despite the do-it-all 1:8 rifling of the barrel.
While it’s impossible to speculate just how much a quality trigger would improve accuracy, it’s difficult to imagine performance wouldn’t rise to equal the quality apparent in the rest of the gun.
The value for which the company strives is nonetheless evident in the MFT Range Package. You get a rifle that’s a step up from mil-spec, one that looks and feels good, and has features promoting comfort and durability. You also get a cleaning kit and gun case. Best of all, if you are an NRA member, you receive a discount that could cover your annual membership and a new trigger and still leave money in your pocket.