Web Blast Extra: The Barrett REC7 Carbine
A Multi-Mission MVP!
By John Connor
The Barrett REC7 proved to be a real “Winter Warrior.”
he REC7 has been extensively tested in some of the hottest, dustiest, grittiest conditions on earth, and performed commendably. But to my knowledge, it either had not been tested in severe winter conditions, or I just didn’t find reference to any such testing. I can assure you now the REC7 is a primo “Winter Warrior” too.
It wasn’t my choice, but where I live you shoot under the conditions you’re given, and throughout testing I kept in mind this carbine could wind up being pulled out of a cruiser rack by blue-suits engaging bad guys in a Buffalo, New York blizzard, or deployed by North Dakota deputies chasing felons across the frozen flats under Siberian conditions.
Our first shooting session featured ambient temps (measured under overhead cover) ranging from three to eight degrees above zero with gusting winds to 35 mph. I only learned after getting home and thawing out that wind chills were twenty to forty degrees below zero. Aside from the obvious problems of seeing the targets through veils of blowing snow and “diamond-dust” ice, and at 100 yards having to wait to take shots between buffeting wind gusts, the performance of the REC7 was probably virtually the same as if it had been done on a clear, balmy day. With patience, persistence, and a little frostbite, I was able to finally confirm the REC7’s ability to shoot with minute-of-angle accuracy. This was done with Black Hills Ammunition’s 77 gr. match loads. I’m sure other premium rounds could have done as well too, but I simply couldn’t perform to their potential at that time.
Following sessions were done on 13- to 15-degree days with less wind but more snow, plus sleet thrown in just to keep things interesting. In my opinion, a carbine’s innate capabilities in “snap-shooting,” that is, replicating shots taken quickly from standing offhand, kneeling and simulating across-the-cruiser-hood shots is more important than precision shooting from a benched rest. As a snap-shooter, I think you’ll find the REC7 is very well balanced and agile in this role.
As I cycled in and out of the range house to stamp my frozen feet and get feeling back in my fingers, I left the REC7 benched outside for maximum freeze factor. There were zero failures to feed, extract or eject with any of the ammo used. On the Barrett web site, www.barrett.net, info on the REC7 is under a banner reading “Cool Under Pressure.” The system is specifically designed to run cool in extreme heat — I found it runs just fine in extreme cold.
SLiP 2000 EWL (Extreme Weapons Lubricant) kept the REC7 running under deep-freeze conditions.
A Light Lube
Under these conditions I think selecting the right lube is critical, and particularly, not over-lubing the carbine. All I used was a very light wipe — not a “light coat,” but a very light wipe — of SLiP 2000 EWL Extreme Weapons Lubricant, applied to the bolt, carrier and inside the upper receiver. This is a synthetic lube originally developed for large, friction-prone weapons and high rate-of-fire systems like the M249 SAW. If you’re not familiar with SLiP 2000 products, a visit to their web site at www.slip2000.com can be very educational.
Carbon fouling was negligible and easily cleaned up. Basically, I just wiped it off. The Nickel-Teflon coated bolt carrier, in particular, was a breeze to clean.
The REC7’s Nickel-Teflon coated bolt carrier is an anti-tilt design with a very
low friction factor, making it smooth in operation and easy to clean.
Fit, Function & Features
The enlarged MagPul triggerguard really came in handy and worked with the gloves I wore in testing. I urge you to test trigger access and control with any winter gloves you use on duty to make sure their bulk doesn’t cause problems. In addition to checking insertion of your trigger finger into the guard and manipulating the trigger, be sure to test ease of disengaging and pulling your finger out. They are very different dynamics and you don’t want to discover difficulties the hard way at the wrong time.
For gloved hand use, I also recommend if you mount an optic or backup iron sights which tend to “crowd” the rear of the receiver, you might want to replace the standard-size charging handle with an oversized tactical latch like those made and sold by Brownells, or the BCM “Gunfighter” model also sold at www.brownells.com. The standard-size charging handle latch can be hard to “hit” fast and sure with gloves on.
Undoubtedly, the total performance profile of the REC7 is the result of a combination of features. Exactly how much each contributes is hard to gauge. The chrome-lined, hammer-forged free-floated barrel is an example with another “plus”, which both helps explain the REC7’s premium cost, and adds an unquantifiable factor. I refer to the barrel being “magnetic particle inspected (MPI).” Interestingly, I found several very gun-knowledgeable people who didn’t really know what this process is or what it does.
Essentially, the barrel is placed in a highly specialized and extremely expensive machine, which magnetizes the barrel very thoroughly, uniformly and quickly. It’s then exposed to tiny iron particles, typically iron oxide. Wherever a “discontinuity” — a flaw or variance in structure or density — is present, surface or subsurface, the resulting magnetic flux leakage disproportionately attracts the iron oxide. Flaws, which might affect the strength or harmonics of the barrel, detracting from its accuracy and perhaps from its service life, can then be detected. If readings show any significant variance at all, Barrett discards the barrel.
The MPI show isn’t over even at that point. The barrel then has to be de-magnetized, using yet another expensive, and for this process, slow and time consuming procedure. Most weapons manufacturers and barrel makers don’t do this. Barrett recognizes “excellence is expensive,” and their customers expect it.
Here’s the Pride/Fowler M-68 Auto Reflex sight. PFI’s high-profile 33mm
quick-detach mount was rock-solid and great for heads-up shooting.
Snap-shooting and speed drills were run using Pride-Fowler Industries’ M-68 Auto Reflex Sighting System, aka “Special Ops Auto Sight,” a red-dot unmagnified LED electronic sight. I’m not a fan of the mini-micro red dots currently fashionable, especially on socially serious weapons. I don’t want to have to visually search for my sight. I don’t care for sleek, super-low mounts either, because the head-to-weapon position required blocks out too much of my field of view. I prefer a large-diameter tube set high to facilitate heads-up, both-eyes-open full-field sighting, particularly during movement and engaging multiple rapid-appearance targets. The M-68 is perfect for my needs, and maybe yours too.
The tough, 6061 T-6 aluminum tube is 33mm — one of the largest offered — and is waterproof to 10′ submerged. Clarity is superb. The LED illumination module has eight increasing brightness settings, plus two night vision compatible settings and an auto setting, which engages a photocell sensor to automatically adjust the red dot’s brightness as you move through varied light conditions. The auto setting also features a low-battery warning. When the LED flashes to alert you, you can still use one of the regular settings until you can replace the lithium 3-volt CR2032 “coin” battery. If you’ve been operating on one of the standard manual settings and want to check your battery status, just roll the knob to “Auto.” If the dot flashes, go back to your manual setting, knowing you’ll need to change the battery soon. How long depends on brightness/intensity, but you should get through a shift — or a gunfight. Eye relief is unlimited, so place the M-68 anywhere on your rail you like.
Here’s an interesting note: In the sub-freezing conditions at the range, the cold wiped out the on-board rechargeable battery in my iKam video unit in just a few minutes, and killed the AA batteries in my Canon camera in under 20 minutes. I didn’t even realize until later that the M-68’s battery didn’t fail at all despite much longer exposure. This speaks well of the construction and seals of the unit as well as the battery.
I mounted and dismounted the M-68 several times during testing, taking care to re-mount in the same rail position, and found this sight held its zero extremely well. Elevation and windage adjustments are quick, easy and solid. Thanks to its stainless steel click and drum system (no plastic), you should have no zero-loss problems through hundreds — or thousands — of rounds. Each click is 1.3 MOA.
The M-68 comes with flip-up caps, a kill-flash filter, and low-mount rings. The thick, high-set quick-detach mount shown in the photo is an available option. The unit weighs eight ounces and is 5.625″ long. This is one tough, user-friendly sight.
The U.S. Optics SN-4S 1-4 variable `scope: a multi-mission optic for a multi-mission carbine.
The SN-4S 1-4 power `scope from U.S. Optics is great for inherent accuracy testing. This small, all-American company headquartered in Brea, California, was founded in 1990 and dedicated to providing law enforcement and military users with high quality battle-worthy `scopes built to users’ individual specifications. Although they keep a few models in certain configurations on hand, essentially, every `scope they build is custom-made for the user. You decide on the basic attributes you want, then select options like reticle, eyepiece, windage and elevation knobs, tube finish and color, illuminated (red or green) or non-illuminated, etc. Considering the optics and precision, their current wait times of 6 to 8 weeks for a custom-built `scope is very reasonable.
The SN-4S we used was equipped with a classic crosshairs reticle with thick lines emanating from 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, with fine lines converging on center. Ours offered eleven red-illuminated brightness settings and “off.” When “on,” the entire reticle is illuminated.
This is a front focal plane design, so the reticle grows larger as you crank up the power, and this also means you should have little or no shift in point of impact as you change magnification. Parallax is adjustable and the `scope can be tuned specifically for your vision. Windage and elevation adjustments were .625″ MOA, and the adjusting knobs are completely enclosed and protected by turret caps.
The big 1-4 power adjustment collar is neatly knurled for a good grip and it is gloved-hand-friendly. It rotated as smoothly at below freezing temps as it did when warm.
Our overall impression of the SN-4S was that it would make an excellent choice on a perimeter or area-coverage carbine, using lower power for scanning and higher magnification for positive target ID and precision shots. The generous 3.5″ of eye relief makes it usable on flattop patrol AR’s, though I think it would be even more at home on a SWAT or patrol bolt rifle in .308. That’s where I’ll test it next, so you’ll see it again in a future issue. Meantime, check the SN-4S, other models and the full array of options at www.usoptics.com
Here’s a last look at the REC7, wearing an Urban Sentry sling by Urban E.R.T. Slings.
A Super Sling
I first used the Urban Sentry sling while evaluating the SIG516 Patrol Rifle for the November-December 2010 issue. I mentioned it briefly in the online extension of that review, and have used it frequently since then. The more I use it, the more highly I rate it.
That sling was equipped with QD swivels at both ends. For use on the Barrett REC7, I only had to unsnap the rear attachment section and snap on one made to accommodate the REC7’s 1.25″ loop mount. Front and rear end pieces are available for virtually any sling mounting method, and that’s just one aspect of the Urban Sentry’s utility. It’s a very comfortable, flexible and well-made sling, and other than using one yourself, the only way to appreciate its versatility, speed and security features is to go to their web site at www.urbanertslings.com and watch the demo video.
Urban E.R.T. Slings are made entirely in the U.S. of American-made components, and the company is owned and staffed by cops and military veterans and their families. That, as well as the performance of the sling, means a lot to me.
The Wrap On The REC7
Some AR’s are perfectly suitable for sporting and competitive use. Many are well suited for defensive use as long as they’re kept meticulously clean and well lubed. A very few are made to function in the harshest tactical environments with minimal maintenance, with a maximized service lifetime. The Barrett REC7 is one of those few.