General, Range Reports

Range Day With the “RECCE”


Today i decided to mix things up by hitting the range with Ascalon, my “RECCE” rifle. In a way, this is a throwback to when I first started this marksmanship journey. This was the configuration I started with. I’ve spent so much time with the 20″ Musket and Elcan combination lately that I thought it would be a welcome change of pace to shoot something different. But it turns out that I just didn’t enjoy the session as much as I have been. I’ll get to that in a minute.

What exactly is a RECCE rifle, and why did I put mine in quotation marks? Well, that’s an interesting story.

In truth, there really is no official designation for a RECCE rifle like there is an M16A4 or Mk 12 SPR. The RECCE, short for Recon, gained popularity around the same time the DMR concept was starting to gain traction (though the rumor is that some special units in the Army had been playing with the concept in the early 90’s). The services were looking to equip a rifleman in each squad with a light caliber precision rifle for support functions. The Army and Marines settled on the DMR and SAM-R concept rifle, with it’s 20″ barrel. The Navy SEALS were already playing with the concept in-house by putting accurized 16″ barrels with variable powered optics on top of their M4 receivers. This was often paired with better triggers. This concept was later lengthened to 18″ and standardized as the Mk 12 SPR. However, many of the teams thought the 18″ barrel and fixed stock were still too long and cumbersome for the type of work they were doing, and continued on with their in-house 16″ barrels and collapsing stocks. The underlying idea is to have a compact precision rifle that can be pressed into an “assault” role along side the M4 for building clearing and other CQB tasks.

There may be no official designation for a RECCE, but there are some generally accepted rules. A RECCE has an accurate 16″ barrel, telescoping stock, and some form of magnified optic on top. There is no set rule on what kind of optic is used. It can be an ACOG, ELCAN, 1-4x, 1-6x, 3-9x, a 2.5-10x (as I have mine set up), or any other usable option. I call mine a “RECCE” because the Centurion Lightweight CHF barrel is not as accurate as the heavier match-grade stainless Douglas/Lilja/Krieger barrels you will typically see. At 1 to 1.5 MOA, it’s still plenty accurate enough for 99% of uses, but the purists will reject it because the profile is too light and it is not capable of the “expected” .5 MOA at 100 meters.

Using this rifle proved to be an interesting experiment for me today; and I quickly found the limitations of the RECCE for my uses. I noted that the 16″ barrel (with BCM comp) has noticeably more concussion than the Musket. Not necessarily to an unpleasant level, mind you, just noticeable. I also noted that I was struggling with eye relief. I’ve spent most of the last year working with a nose to charging handle cheek position, and I had to fight to keep head position further away due to the increased eye relief of the Vortex 2.5-10×32. This can be alleviated by moving the scope forward in its mount (as I did with the TR24), but I didn’t have time to do that in the field today.

My focus continues to be on the standing position, and today I thought I would take advantage of the higher magnification by going straight to the 100 meter range in place of my usual 25 meters. That didn’t work out.

In short, I found that the increased power of the optic and the lighter weight of the barrel actually caused me to have more problems with finding a NPOA and dealing with the swaying of the rifle. I can’t say for sure that I’m actually swaying more, but the increased magnification certainly shows more of the ‘jitters’ and little trembles that come along with unsupported shooting. In a lot of ways, shooting from unstable positions is probably easier with non-magnified or low powered optics. Also, as I wrote up in my discussion about AR-15 barrels, the longer 20″ barrel offers a bit more ‘hang’ on the end of the gun that helps settle things a bit. The light weight of my 16″ makes pointing it very snappy, but it also reacts to little fidgets more severely.

My offhand accuracy continues to be about 8-12 MOA, with a slight favoring to the right side of the target. I want to attribute this to my stance, but I am not positive.

As far as the RECCE configuration itself goes, I don’t want to write it off completely. The few times I used an improvised rest and took a reverse kneeling position, it worked just fine. From these unconventional supported positions, I managed nice tight little clusters. From a bipod prone, I squeezed a 1.25 MOA 10 shot grouping that probably would have been smaller if I had not readjusted my position half way through.

All of that said, I do not think the RECCE is an ideal configuration for practical marksmanship or a “fightin’ rifle.” It is far too specialized for. I do see the benefit of the RECCE rifle as a compact and relatively lightweight platform for providing precision support and observation capabilities, if you need one. It’s limitations could probably be mitigated with the addition of offset mini red dot sights. But, overall, I just don’t think the whole concept meets my needs right now. I expect I’ll be reconfiguring this rifle in the future.

Edit: I should add that I’m talking specifically about the optic choice. I think the RECCE concept will still work for me with a lower powered optic (ELCAN, ACOG, 1-4x, etc.), but the 2.5-10 is too much for the weight/balance of this gun and how I’m using it.

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