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Best Recce (Recon) Rifles

Recon or "recce" rifles are some of the most versatile and flexible weapons platforms around. Learn what makes these rifles so special, and why they're so popular with the military, law enforcement, and competition shooters.

Reconnaissance by troops on the ground – even in an age with drones and spy satellites that can read a gnat’s horoscope from miles away – will always be an important part of warfare.

Sometimes, highly trained men and women have to sneak into places with minimal gear, observe the enemy, and then sneak back out.

To do this, their gear has to be lightweight, flexible, and reliable, especially their primary weapon.

BCM Recce-16, Running
BCM Recce-16, Running

Enter: the Recon or “Recce” rifle.  Hint…it rhymes with “Becky.”

Recce rifles, or at least their very close cousins, can be seen carried by hunters, and competitors, and law enforcement.

And with good reason.  

There’s a lot to be said for having a light, versatile, accurate weapon that can reach out and touch a target at a decent range.  Most people aren’t going to need to reach out to a thousand yards, or even five hundred yards.  

The recce shines inside 250 yards…especially in environments that requires the shooter to be able to move dynamically and even possibly engage targets at multiple distances.

Table of Contents


What Exactly IS a Recce Rifle?

Developed originally by the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Crane Division for SEALs that needed a rifle with greater lethality than the M4, but in a lighter, more versatile platform than the MK14.  The recce rifle has since gone on to be a valuable addition not only to the soldier’s tool kit, but the civilian’s as well.

bcm recce rifle
BCM’s take on the Recce Rifle.

The recce rifle, or recon rifle, isn’t really a single weapon, but more a genre of weapons designed to meet a specific need.  

They are characterized almost more by their role and purpose than any single feature or set of features.  Think of the word “recce rifle” the way you would think of the word “racecar”.  Technically, any car can be a racecar if you put it on a track and race it against other cars.  

It’s about what you’re doing with it, more than what it is.

thats what she said

The same is true when it comes to recce rifles.  However, like a racecar, there are a few features that, generally speaking, a recce rifle needs to have to be successful.

Recce Rifle Features

While the definition of a recce rifle is usually pretty open to interpretation, it usually needs to have the following things:

  • A full-length top rail
  • A modular or quad-rail handguard
  • A variable-zoom optic (usually a 1-6x, or more recently a 1-8x)
  • A 16-18in barrel (although 14.5 inch barrels are becoming common)
  • A mid-length gas-system, rarely a rifle-length system
  • A lightweight or standard (government) profile barrel
  • A  good sling, often paired with a lightweight bipod

The overall idea is to build a rifle that is lightweight, but also accurate enough for shots out to 400m or so in the event that its needed, but most of the focus is on shots inside of 200 meters.  

The shorter length than say, a special purpose rifle or DMR allows the shooter to make shots at range, while not compromising the rifle’s maneuverability inside of buildings.  Imagine a soldier taking a 300 meter shot from a rooftop before having to clear out the same building and take shots at hallway distances, and then going on to take shots at 50-100 meters once they reach street level.

This is the type of dynamic shooting at varying ranges the recce rifle is designed to facilitate.

The variable zoom optic, often backed up with offset iron sights or even an a small offset red dot in civilian use, allows for the shooter to quickly engage multiple targets at a variety of ranges.  This versatility and ability to quickly adapt to changing situations is the hallmark of a good recce rifle.

It’s this versatility that has also bled over into other areas, such as law enforcement use and even competition.

Events like the Las Vegas shooting and others have demonstrated a need for Law Enforcement to be able to address threats at varying ranges, and rifles like this have entered the LEO realm more and more over the past decade.

Competitors in dynamic “action shooting” sports like 3Gun have also taken an interest in these types of rifles because those competitions often have you engage targets up close before alternating to targets that would be difficult to hit without a magnified optic.

I competed in one event that had a series of clay pigeons at 20 meters and 200 meters, and you had to quickly alternate between the two.  So, 20m shot followed by a 200m shot followed by a 20m shot followed by… well, you get the point.  This not only illustrates the diabolical nature of a 3GN match planner’s mind, but also the type of shooting these rifles excel at.

Best Recce Rifles

Because the actual components and fine detail of a recce rifle can vary so much, if you want one, the best option might be to just build one.  Just follow the parameters I laid out up there, pick your parts, and start building.

Building an AR is a lot easier than you think, and I highly recommend that anyone who is looking to get into the hobby start that way.  Having a base-level understanding of the guts of a rifle is going to make you better equipped to deal with problems it may have, while also allowing you a chance to build exactly the rifle that you want.

Like the Marines say “there are many like it, but this one is mine”, and having the opportunity to truly make a rifle your own is a fun and rewarding experience.

That being said, buying an assembled rifle is certainly a valuable option too.  You may have been there, done that when it comes to building rifles and you just don’t care to build another.  You may be a police officer looking to purchase some new guns for use in the field.  

Or you might be like me and just have a case of the lazies and want a gun to arrive fully-assembled and ready to go with no more effort than pulling out your credit card.

Whatever the case may be, here are the best recce rifles around.


at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Bravo Company Manufacturing should be a quickly recognizable name to anyone on the firearms industry, or military.  One of the most prolific manufacturers in the civilian market, BCM, also supplies guns and accessories to the US Military, including SOCOM, the Army, Navy, and the Marines, as well as domestic organizations like the US Border Patrol, and the Department of Homeland Security.

BCM Recce 16 Rifle with MCMR Handguard
BCM Recce 16 Rifle with MCMR Handguard

This extensive experience making guns and accessories that have to perform under do-or-die conditions has brought BCM no end of praise for their work, and their recce rifle offering is certainly worthy of their name.

A veritable showcase of BCM’s “gunfighter” series upgrades, the BCM RECCE 16 MCMR comes equipped with BCM’s excellent MCMR Handguard, nickel boron trigger, and MOD 0 Compensator.  

Coming in at a scant 6lbs unloaded and sans-optic, the BCM RECCE 16 is a true contender for the best off-the-shelf RECCE rifle.

BCM actually took all their design cues on this rifle from the original recce rifles built by the Naval armorers, and set about making a customized and enhanced version that will meet and military or civilian need.

BCM Gunfighter Stock on Recce-16
BCM Gunfighter Stock on Recce-16

All versions of the BCM RECCE feature receivers machined out of forged 7075-T6 aluminum, which are then given a military-style hardcoat anodizing that protects the body of the gun in adverse conditions.  The uppers are all A-3 flattop models, making them absolutely perfect for mounting whatever optics you may need.

Check out our full review here and also our YouTube video:

What’s your take on the BCM?

Readers' Ratings

4.99/5 (1284)

Your Rating?

2. Noveske 5.56MM G3,G2 Light Recce – 16

Noveske is known throughout the firearms industry as one of the best barrel makers around, and with good reason.  Everyone from competitors to military and police sharpshooters wants a gun with a Noveske barrel, but they also make some pretty damn good rifles too.

at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

In keeping with their prestigious barrel-making history, the barrel in the Noveske 5.56mm g3 Light Recce is truly something to behold.  A 16.1” cold hammer forged barrel from Noveske is already going to be one of the most durable and long-lasting parts you can put into a rifle, and this one comes chrome-lined.  

What’s the big deal with chrome-lining?   

Well, it adds an extra layer of protection to the inside of your barrel.  This keeps the rifling solid, and keeps high round counts from wearing it out.  And the lining in this barrel was based on the lining in the M249.  

Yeah, that M249.  This lining is between two and three times as thick as the lining on the standard M4, making this a great gun for competitors, and those shooters who may have to be in the field for extended period of time, without access to an armorer.

3. Falkor Recce 16″ .223 Wylde 1:8 Twist M-LOK Grey

at Rainier Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

If you’re looking for something a little different, and don’t mind paying for it, the Falkor Defense 16” Recce in .223 Wylde might be for you.

Outfitted with Falkor’s unique M-Lok handguard and a flat-top rail, you can customize this beauty to your heart’s content.  You also get a Geissele 3.5 lb Super Dynamic 3-Gun Trigger and a MFT Battlelink Minimalist Stock to make for a very lightweight and fast-shooting rifle.  

You also get full ambidextrous controls, an upgraded charging handle, and a very comfy Hogue Overmolded Grip.

All in all, I’d heartily recommend this one for the competitor who is looking to stand out a bit at their next match, while still maintaining the rock-solid performance, maneuverability, and accuracy of the legendary recce.

Parting Shots

The recce rifle has gained popularity with the military and with civilian competitors over the years, and it’s easy to see why.  A lightweight, accurate, easy-to-use rifle is a hell of a thing to have.  What’s not to love?

What do you think of the recce rifle?  Which of these options do you like the best?  Let me know in the comments below!

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15 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar

    I think a 15" barrel would be best suited for a Recce Rifle. I had read on somewhere that the Navy Seal recon rifle (Recce Rifle) made by N.S.W.C. (Crane Division) that the only requirement was that it had to have a 16" barrel later on adapting a 14.5" as a standard for L.E. agencies and Security Forces, but N.S.W.C. (Crane Div.) settled on a 15.1" barrel for effective ranges out to 600meters and beyond. just out of curiosity, why do we not see more civilian 15" barrels available to civilians? besides pin & weld, I can not see no reason civilian 15" barrels are not more common considering, they are more like the 12.5" scientific wonder barrel. giving way better ballistics than longer and shorter barrels, until it crosses the 15" barrel that does the same as the 12.5" but better. of which I have no solid evidence, because I for one cannot find a 15" barrel to test and see if it is more like the scientific wonder barrel of a 12.5" miracle barrel length even if I did I probably couldn't afford it

    April 24, 2023 11:56 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Joe John

    Racecar is my favorite palindrome.

    December 22, 2022 7:17 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Gerry McKown

    I feel the "Recce" is form following function. It's a natural progression of the amazing choices we have in hardware, and the work that is asked of it by our excellent military operators. At the same time the sporting public is pushing the limits with the freedom Military Armorers sometimes don't enjoy. I just installed a 1.5x10-24 optic on my Recce with a micro red dot riding canted. Leaving the main optic on mid zoom, there is no more fumbling with the adjustment ring to go from 25 yards out to 250 and beyond. I am very much looking forward to the next iteration of the Recce when the 6mm class of battle rifle becomes the norm. Have fun!, G>

    September 2, 2020 9:10 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Grant Donald

    Aren't we forgetting the Barrett Rec 7 in this list?

    April 21, 2018 4:33 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Lawrence Frank

      I have a rec7 DI......and this was my first thought. Purpose built by Barrette.

      August 14, 2019 9:17 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    So this is basically the military version/application of a 3 gun rifle in the real world. Just a higher power optic and possibly different barrel. My 3G is set up almost exactly like this.

    January 25, 2018 6:44 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Max Haghighi

    I am new to the whole rifle thing and last year I bought a Ruger SR556 Takedown. I know, probably too much rifle for my first one, but when i saw it I just fell in love with it.. My question, in the list of Recce features, everything you seem to have listed matches my Ruger's specs. Does this mean, as long as I add a light and scope, my gun qualifies as a Recce?

    January 24, 2018 2:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Nice weapon! Congrats. It sure seems to meet Recce qualities. Keep in mind, "The recce rifle, or recon rifle, isn’t really a single weapon, but more a genre of weapons designed to meet a specific need." (quote from the article)
      Add a scope (6x with basic reticle is enough), a two-point sling, and light-weight bipod. I do NOT add lights to my weapons because it gives the bad guy a target. I use night vision or, if I must use white light, I hand-carry it at arms length as far from my body as possible.
      So, have you fired it yet?

      January 24, 2018 4:11 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Max Haghighi

        Hi Bill!

        Thanks for the reply and the information you provided. I just wanted to make sure I did understand the article correctly, and it looks like I have.

        I have fired it and I love everything about the rifle, specially the takedown part. After 2 or 3 tries, I can take it apart now in my sleep and it is so convenient to carry from home to car to range in the included carry bag. It never looks like I am carrying a rifle. It looks more like I am carrying a 2 pack of wine! :)

        I have probably put a 1000 rounds through it without a single jam and has never caused any issue. I was looking to get a red dot for it, but I think I might go with what was recommended in this article so I can use it for multiple scenarios.

        Also, I agree with you on the flashlight, I will probably get something that I can use both on the gun and on my hip so if I do not want to be detected, I can keep it off the gun.

        January 24, 2018 4:22 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Ditto Stephen's question?
    And, how about suppressors?

    January 24, 2018 12:43 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    You mentioned greater lethality than the M4 (great), then prroceed to list and show rifles chambered only in .223 & .556. That makes no sense to me. Am I missing something?

    January 23, 2018 8:24 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I'm building one in .300AAC. 7.5" threaded barrel, aero precision upper/lower, and brace. It will likely carry an Omega can, so overall length will be around 14". Hand load subsonic 300 aac for uniformity in the mag drop a decent 6 power on top and call it a day.

      January 24, 2018 5:38 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Sounds wicked. Please post a pic when you're ready. Or, even progress pics as you build it.

        January 25, 2018 6:34 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Matthew Collins

      Hey Stephen, to clarify, the original RECCE rifle was the MK12 Mod 1, which was an accurized M16A4, still chambered in 5.56. The goal was a more accurate, lighter rifle that was better at putting rounds on target at a distance, while maintaining the proper ballistics to put the target down. That rifle went on to, arguably, inspire the Mk14 EBR and other Special Purpose Rifles chambered in 7.62, and other accurized rifles we'd consider the modern designated marksman rifles. Hope that helps, and sorry I didn't make that more clear in the article!

      February 13, 2018 11:06 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        Thank you for clarifying.

        February 13, 2018 12:10 pm
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