What is a RECCE Rifle? Meet the Longshot

If you read about or study ARs enough, the term “RECCE rifle” will eventually pop up. But what is a RECCE Rifle? To those unfamiliar, the term “Recce” is shorthand for reconnaissance. From a military standpoint, reconnaissance centers around observing the enemy using a minimalist, highly maneuverable tactical element. These recon units usually generally consist of a small number of highly trained soldiers, deployed for special missions that conventional fighting forces just aren’t built to handle. In modern terms, think DEVGRU (Navy SEALs), Marine Force Recon, Delta Force and others.

Of course, with a small force comes equipment limitations, so versatile, multi-purpose gear is key to getting the most out of what you can carry. In the military world of “standard issue”, that’s not always easy to come by, and throughout history we’ve seen elite warfighters get creative when it comes to their field kit and weaponry.

During the early 1990s, US Navy SEALs serving in Somalia encountered scenarios where they felt that the standard issue M4 carbine was not up to the task when it came to its effectiveness against targets past 200 yards or so. Iron sights or low magnification optics, gritty mil-spec triggers, and chrome lined barrels made for longevity over accuracy all added up to a inadequate tool for precision shooting.

Obviously the SEALs had access to more specialized long range rifles such as the M14, however those large-caliber weapons presented their own physical and logistical challenges. Furthermore, all the things that made them great when long range precision was required also made them impractical for CQB situations.

To overcome these shortfalls the SEAL armorers began outfitting some of their M4 with precision barrels, improved triggers and further in-house modifications to better bridge the tactical gap between dedicated, large caliber sniper rifles and their standard fighting carbine. When coupled with a variable magnification scopes they suddenly had a firearm much more capable of precise shooting at the top ranges of the 5.56 NATO cartridge. The RECCE Rifle was born.

Equipping one or two squad members with these upgraded “RECCE” M4s enhanced the unit’s long range capabilities with a platform that was compact enough to still be effective in CQB scenarios. Also, very importantly, these specially-equipped shooters would be able to share magazines and ammunition with their squad-mates.

Longshot RECCE Rifle

What is a RECCE Rifle?

While similar in many ways, an AR-15 is obviously not a M-16 or M4. However that doesn’t mean the same principles don’t apply. Today’s RECCE rifle has evolved a bit from those early days, but the concept remains the same – a RECCE rifle is essentially a “sniperized” carbine. Think “sniper-lite”. As such, RECCE rifles must adhere to two very general but traditionally opposing characteristics without field reconfiguration or component swaps:

  • Capable of enhanced accuracy at longer ranges compared to a standard issue carbine.
  • Compact enough to still be effective in CQB situations.
  • Chambered to fire the same or compatible ammunition from compatible magazines as other squad members were shooting.

While there are no “laws” when it comes to what specific components a recce rifle must include, there are several features or specific components that are generally accepted as a RECCE rifle needs to have in order to succeed at both roles.

  • Match-grade barrel with a heavy/SPR profile in a 1:8 or 1:7 twist rate (usually 16″ for 5.56 NATO purposes)
  • Precision two-stage trigger
  • Adjustable stock (SOPMOD style stocks are most common, but anything with good cheek weld surface would be suitable)
  • Free-floating handguard (SEALs often used Knights Armament Company handguards, but while they are certainly high-quality, battle-proven products, there is nothing inherently special about them as far as a RECCE rifle’s capabilities are concerned.)
  • Variable power optic (2.5 – 10 power scopes were common, but photos show that many variations of scopes were used depending on what best suited the mission environment.)

That’s not a big list, and if you’re thinking that many AR-15s in the world today include many of those features, you’ll get no argument. But in a world where it was either standard-issue M4/M-16 rifles or big bore sniper rifles, the RECCE carbine was a ground-breaking concept, and it still makes a lot of sense for the civilian AR-15 market. Having a firearm capable of both home defense and precision accuracy is certainly something many owners might appreciate for multiple applications.

RECCE Rifle Drawbacks

The RECCE rifle concept may seem like a perfect blend of maneuverability and precision, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few minor drawbacks that would-be buyers should keep in mind.

One of the first comments that many make when they first pick up a RECCE rifle is that they can be heavy compared to a similar sized standard configurations. AR’s are all about trade-offs, and a RECCE rifle is no different. The RECCE concept is all about giving up some of a carbine’s maneuverability to gain a large degree of precision.

Accuracy and precision comes from rigidity, and barrels used on military RECCE rifles are often of a thicker profile than the lightweight or government profile barrels found on most general purpose carbines. Add on a scope and maybe a bipod and the weight becomes more pronounced (though certainly not unmanageable). Boost your capabilities further with a weapon light, and you could easily be tipping the scales towards 10 pounds.

However, with careful consideration for budget and quality, steps can be taken to mitigate weight concerns without sacrificing capability.

RECCE Rifle Considerations for Civilians

The main thing to keep in mind is that the RECCE truly is a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none firearm meant to tackle a variety of tactical scenarios that an operator may face in the field. It’s a great choice if you plan to only own one AR-15, but will never beat a specialized platform purpose built for a specific tactical application.

If all you really want is a 50 yard plinker, a RECCE might be overkill for both performance and budget. If you live on a acreage and want a multipurpose carbine that can serve as a defensive firearm while occasionally reaching out to longer distances to keep the local varmint population in check, a RECCE rifle might be just the ticket.

We mentioned a major advantage to the RECCE concept was the ability to share compatible ammo. Clearly that’s important for those in the field, but for civilian purposes it’s not something we would consider critical. Of course having an AR-15 that shoots commonly available ammunition still has many benefits.

Like we said earlier, there are no laws here. The 16″ barrel may be both historically accurate as well as the most convenient for civilian ownership because of firearm laws, but a high-quality 14.5″ barrel (with a pinned and welded muzzle device if you want to stay away from NFA territory) may work great for the distances most civilians will ever need to shoot in a real-world situation, while also making the rifle more effective in a CQB role.

Same goes for the heavy barrel profile; a mid-weight profile may work fine for those shooters who aren’t likely to find themselves in scenarios where they’re firing off hundreds of rounds, transitioning back and forth between long and short range engagements in the heat of pitched firefights. Which is to say, most of us.

As civilians, we also have the luxury of exploring alternate calibers, which may provide superior performance. There will always be trade-offs, but the great thing about DC Tactical is that if you’re looking for a RECCE build that doesn’t conform to the traditional format, we’re happy to build you whatever you’d like. At the end of the day, regardless of the parts used, what’s important is that your RECCE firearm can serve effectively in its dual-role.

The Longshot – DC Tactical’s AR-15 RECCE Rifle

Unfortunately there seem to be a lot a manufacturers out there who treat the term “RECCE” as a marketing gimmick – something to be added to the model designation to justify charging more. But calling a basic AR-15 carbine a RECCE rifle just because it uses good quality components doesn’t necessarily make it so.

If you’re looking for a DC Tactical offers a preconfigured build we’re calling the “Longshot” that leaves no grey area as far as their adherence to the RECCE concept and parts profile. Click here to check out the Longshot RECCE Rifle’s product page.

Longshot RECCE Rifle
The Longshot RECCE Rifle outfitted with a bipod, optic and backup sights (sold separately).

For a little background, the Defender Series is our most popular line, blending performance, reliability and affordability. These models are purpose-built for the defensive-minded shooter looking for a high quality firearm without breaking the bank.

Like other models in the series, the Longshot starts with a base set of parts that feature some well-known and highly-regarded industry heavy hitters like Bravo Company Manufacturing, HIPERFIRE, Ballistic Advantage, CMC Triggers and Magpul, all built upon the foundation of a precision-fit billet receiver set from DC Tactical.

The DC Tactical billet upper and lower receiver set ensures a tight fit with no wobble. Free-floating Handguard? Check. The default handguard for our Defender Series models is a Bravo Company Manufacturing free-floating MLOK rail. BCM makes a great handguard…minimal, lightweight and sturdy. Just what you want when trying to keep the weight of a fully kitted-out precision rifle to a minimum.

The Longshot is ready for the sights and optic of your choice (not included). The SEALs originally mounted 2.5 – 10 magnification scopes on their Recce Rifles, though these days some of the most popular choices for civilian shooters are the versatile 1-6 and 1-8 power scopes. Obviously your choice will depend on personal preference, mission requirements and budget. We can get you whatever you’re after and are happy to recommend some options.

Redundancy is always critical, and many shooters will run a set of backup iron sights in tandem with a scope or magnified optic. We offer Magpul’s MBUS flip-up sights as an add-on when purchasing, ready to be deployed in the event the primary optic ever fails or is damaged. Many shooters run this type of rifle with offset iron sights or a scope-mounted reflex sight, allowing them to quickly transition between long and short range engagements simply by canting the rifle.

Bring on the Upgrades

But the Longshot goes far beyond just adding a scope to the Shepherd model. We’ve added a number of great upgrades in order to elevate the Longshot to true RECCE status of precision tactical performer.

Match-Grade 16″ SPR Barrel

Ballistic Advantage Premium Series

Instead of the standard Ballistic Advantage barrels found on our other Defender Series models, we’ve upgraded the Longshot with 16″ 416 Stainless Steel Premium Series barrel specifically engineered for precision shooting. The DMR/SPR profile barrel offers increased rigidity, while fluting helps to further bring the overall weight down.

While the term “match grade” is thrown around haphazardly these days, this is a true sub-MOA barrel capable of outshooting almost any standard Mil-Spec barrel. Chambered in .223 Wylde (compatible with 5.56 NATO) for added performance, it features a 1:8 twist rate capable of stabilizing a wide range of bullets.

The beautiful bead blasted finish offers a unique look that lets people know the Longshot is not some cheap, off-the-shelf plinker. This premium barrel also features a nickel boron-coated extension with M4 feed ramps for more reliable feeding. All-in-all this is a great barrel that’s more than up to the task.

HIPERFIRE Two Stage Trigger

HIPERFIRE X2S Two Stage Trigger

As anyone who’s had the opportunity to shoot multiple ARs will tell you, not all triggers are created equal. Not even close. A basic, single-stage mil-spec trigger might get you by, but their heavy, sometimes gritty pull and break is a total non-starter when precise accuracy is called for. As such, we’ve selected the HIPERFIRE X2S two stage trigger for the Longshot.

HIPERFIRE is known for manufacturing some of the best triggers in the industry, and their X2S series models are no exception. The X2S breaks crisply at 4 lbs (2.5 lb first stage, 1.5 lb second stage) and has a smooth and positive reset. Distinct wall between first and second stages allows for effective “prepping” of the trigger for added control when precise trigger discipline is required, yet still very capable if rapid fire is called for.

This trigger helps put the Longshot in a class of it’s own when compared to similar or even higher priced RECCE rifles on the market.

Magpul ACS-L Stock

Magpul ACS-L Stock

Magpul’s ACS-L is an upgrade to the CTR stock found on our standard Defender series rifles. Bridging the gap between a fixed rifle stock, while offering the flexibility of an adjustable carbine system, it offers great benefits for precision shooters. The ACS-L is designed to offer improved cheek weld and features a storage compartment.

Just like the CTR, the ACS-L stock is adjustable while incorporating a tension lever to lock the stock into position, eliminating much of the looseness or wobble that many carbine stocks suffer from. A traditional sling loop is built in, and the ACS-L can is also outfitted with a QD socket for those who prefer a quick detach sling setup.

Muzzle Brake

The cherry on top is Midwest Industries’ two chamber muzzle brake, which further helps mitigate recoil to help get you back on target for fast follow-up shots.


At just $1299, the Longshot offers the high end quality and performance that you’d normally pay much more for from the expensive big brands. Anyone looking for their first RECCE Rifle, or even just a great all around multi-role carbine for their only AR-15, will love the value here.

Click here to purchase the Longshot RECCE Rifle.

Click here to view the entire Defender Series.

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