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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
1. BCM RECCE 16 KMR-A
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.
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 KMR-A comes equipped with BCM’s excellent KMR Keymod Handguard, PNT 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.
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.
What’s your take on the BCM?
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.
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
Prices accurate at time of writing
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.
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!