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Review: Desert Tech SRS A1

Review: Desert Tech SRS A1

It’s been about a year since I purchased a Desert Tech SRS A1 Gen II.  In the past 11 months I think I’ve run it sufficiently, and in enough varying environments, to formulate an opinion on this weird-looking, long range tack driver. 

Before I get into what I love and dislike about this formidable battle axe, let’s cover what the SRS is, because it’s not a chip off any old block.  It’s a new beast entirely; Generation 1 was the first of its kind to become a real contender in the precision rifle world.  The second generation, which I’m writing about, is a solid refinement of the original.

The premise behind the SRS (Stealth Recon Scout) bullpup platform is to provide a fully-capable, long range sniper rifle in a package much smaller than any conventional bolt-action.  Because the receiver is part of the butt-stock, as opposed to in front of it, the gun is easily six to eight inches shorter than its standard counterparts, given the same barrel length (mine has a 26" barrel).  For military and LEO, this has quite a few tactical advantages, especially in urban scenarios. 

The Desert Tech SRS A1 Gen 2.  That's a long name for such a short rifle!

The Desert Tech SRS A1 Gen 2.  That's a long name for such a short rifle!

Additionally, with a conversion kit, the operator can switch between calibers in a matter of minutes with just one hex key, all while holding a rough zero.  I’ve not converted mine, so I can’t speak to that function.  But I’ve heard that it’s every bit as simple and effective as advertised. 

The SRS is currently available in eight chamberings between 6x47 Lapua and .338 Lapua Mag.  And for what it’s worth, the big brother to the SRS is the HTI (Hard Target Interdiction), and provides the same capability when the customer wants to make even bigger holes in harder targets.  The HTI handles 408 parent cases and the omnipotent 50 BMG. 

I bought this shorty, chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, from EuroOptic.com.  I picked up two extra magazines for it, a Vortex Razor HD Gen II, and the Desert Tech 20MOA scope mount.  The rifle, scope and all components are phenomenally well built and have functioned flawlessly.  The gun is short, and it’s ugly, in a really cool, tactical kind of way.  It’s also the most accurate, forgiving rifle I’ve ever owned.

Going hot

Desert Tech has a ½ MOA guarantee on the SRS.  The barrel is, to my knowledge, a Lothar Walther button-rifled tube, straight fluted and finished with 3/4-24 threads and a beefy thread protector.  I’ll mention that the rifle exhibited significant copper fouling upon purchase, but the Interwebs tell me this is very common among these rifles.  That’s a product of factory test firing, and likely the type of bullet used in the process.  No big deal, it was just a little surprising.    

Thus far, I haven't worked up a hand load for the gun.  I’ve only used Hornady Precision Hunter 143 grain ELD-X ammunition in it, and the SRS seems to love it.  It shoots better than half-MOA all day long, regardless of how dirty the barrel is.  For you nerds out there, this ammunition gives me an SD of nearly 20.  I have to wonder how the gun would perform with a dialed custom load.  So… accuracy guarantee… CHECK.

Recoil is minimal off a bipod, as would be expected from an 11-pound bare rifle shooting a 6.5mm.  Add a suppressor or a muzzle brake and the thing is tame enough for most toddlers.  Being that the muzzle is much closer to your head, it is a touch louder than most 26-inch Creedmoors.  This gun is built for a suppressor.  With that said, I put an SAS Vengeance on it (direct thread) and got a consistent 3 minute POI shift.  Same groups, if not better.

The SAS Vengeance is built to handle the .338 Lapua Mag, so it's a bit overkill for the 6.5 Creedmoor.

The SAS Vengeance is built to handle the .338 Lapua Mag, so it's a bit overkill for the 6.5 Creedmoor.

The trigger is very good, but not stellar.  It’s easily adjusted with a hex key, and will go down to about 1.5 pounds.  Though minimal, creep can’t be entirely eliminated.  I’ve seen folks online compare it to an AI trigger.  It’s a good trigger, but it can’t hang with the likes of an AI or a Jewell.  The trigger on a bullpup, because of the long mechanism at play, simply can’t be refined to that level.

The SRS trigger is easily adjustable for both weight and creep.  

The SRS trigger is easily adjustable for both weight and creep.  

Off a good bipod, this rifle balances beautifully.  There’s substantially more weight behind the pivot point than other precision rifles.  Targets are acquired at blistering speeds, especially on follow-up shots. 

With this rifle I’ve claimed a woodchuck at 750 yards and shot five-inch groups at 1,000 yards.  That’s a feat for a factory rifle with factory ammo.

Ergonomics

Give and take is the name of the game when running the SRS.  As a truly compact sniper rifle, I think this gun absolutely runs away with the prize, but as with everything made for a very specific, extreme purpose, capability comes at a cost.

When running the bolt, your hand nearly touches your shoulder at the back of the stroke.  The bolt throw is pretty rough, too, but no worse than a factory model 700 action.  That’s a product of both the telescoping bolt and the six-lug design (two rows of three).  But engagement is very positive, as is extraction.  And it keeps brass close. 

While talking about the bolt… the factory bolt knob was my only disappointment on this stick.  With a nearly-$5,000 price tag, you’d expect something better than a slick, perfectly round 8-ball-looking plastic knob.  Not a deal breaker though.  I found an aluminum aftermarket replacement I liked for $25. 

The bolt being farther back is outstanding in some situations and wretched in others.  Shooting prone or off a bench is fine.  But I recently learned at a PRS match that it’ll either be your best friend or your worst enemy.  Off a tank trap, shooting out of the crotch of three crossed 4x4s, (actually, they were 3.5" x 3.5"... just so we're all clear) I was able to manipulate the bolt far better than other shooters could.  Then again, when shooting off an inverted cable spool, I skinned a knuckle.  Because of the three-lug design, the bolt only has a 60-degree throw.   

The adjustable cheek pad is comfortable and easily positioned, again with a pair of hex keys.  It’s plenty long and features a great non-slip texture.  It looks as though it might not be all that secure, or would allow for some flex, but it’s actually rock steady.  Set it and forget it. 

Even with a big scope, I found that I didn't need to raise the cheek rest much at all.

Even with a big scope, I found that I didn't need to raise the cheek rest much at all.

The length of pull is adjustable with three removable half-inch shims that are very easily and securely clicked into place between the stock and recoil pad.  On this note, the butt-pad must be taken off to remove the bolt from the receiver.  This is kind of a pain in the ass, but unavoidable in the bullpup configuration. 

Shims and a great recoil pad make shooting from any position a breeze.

Shims and a great recoil pad make shooting from any position a breeze.

The textured, rubber recoil pad is thick and tough as nails.  It’s also a bit taller than a “normal” rifle, which makes transitioning from a variety of shooting positions a real breeze.  It always feels good, whether prone, off a bench or standing behind a barricade.

The rifle’s length is always an advantage while in motion.  Getting under, over and around obstacles is easier with a short rifle.  With a suppressor, the SRS is about the length of most comparable rifles without anything on the muzzle. 

A few more observations

I noticed that during extended strings of fire, my barrel cools a bit more quickly than some other shooters.  The ventilated handguard helps in this respect, but the fluting helps more.  Or maybe that was a product of me having to change mags more often, and more slowly than most of the guys at the shoot. 

Desert Tech offers two mag sizes: a 6-round and a 10-round.  Both are single-stack, and neither drop from or go into the mag well nicely, especially when dusty.  The 10-rounder is almost too long to be practical.  Forget shooting prone with it.  The mag release is ambidextrous, but so is nearly every other mag-fed bolt action on the market.

The SRS mags are single stack, made of steel, and not all that user friendly.  But they are tough.

The SRS mags are single stack, made of steel, and not all that user friendly.  But they are tough.

Much like the Accuracy International AT and AX rifles and chassis, the polymer grip is not interchangeable.  It’s also fat, and kind of slick.  After running the gun for a while, I no longer mind the thickness because I don’t wrap my thumb around it while firing anyway.  I’m going to put some hockey tape on it to give it some texture. 

But before you get the impression that I don’t like this rifle, let’s talk about the rear monopod.  This thing rocks, and again, goes a long way toward helping the SRS perform its intended task.  Built into the butt of the rifle is a monopod that offers coarse and fine adjustment.  It can be deployed (spring actuated) and adjusted very quickly and very accurately, and is easily manipulated while maintaining sight picture.  It’s almost like using a sandbag. 

The rifle's monopod is awesome.  It deploys and adjusts very quickly, and offers a rock steady rest.

The rifle's monopod is awesome.  It deploys and adjusts very quickly, and offers a rock steady rest.

Another win for the SRS:  more and more custom barrel manufacturers are now making drop-in replacement barrels for this model.  If you burn out your factory barrel and want to try a different brand or some wildcat cartridge, no problem.

The Desert Tech scope mount is outstanding.  It’s rock solid and features an integral bubble level.  It’s made to perfectly align a 56mm objective optic with the top of the rifle.  Just the other day, the rifle got kicked over and landed directly on the windage turret of the scope.  Both the scope and the mount took the hit without breaking stride.  The very next shot at an MOA target at 800 yards confirmed zero.  It helps that the scope is, in my humble opinion,  the best piece of glass available today.  

The Desert Tech Scope mount offers a 20 MOA (or 30 or 40) pitch and includes a bubble level in the rear ring.  The Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 scope is flawless in clarity and function.  

The Desert Tech Scope mount offers a 20 MOA (or 30 or 40) pitch and includes a bubble level in the rear ring.  The Vortex Razor HD Gen 2 scope is flawless in clarity and function.  

In hindsight, I've always had phenomenal results with the Vortex Precision Matched Rings, and I should have saved $200 dollars and went this route.  But if you're adamant about adding some slope to the optic, keep in mind that the SRS has a completely flat top... no built-in slope like many custom actions.

While I’m talking scopes, I’ll mention that the Vortex Razor HD Gen II is everything I wanted in a long-range scope, and more.  I’ll review it in a later article, but suffice it to say it’s the best scope I’ve ever used, in terms of optical clarity and functionality.

If you want a compact sniper rifle that’s exceedingly accurate, tough as nails, easy to shoot, store and transport, then look no further than the Desert Tech SRS A1.  If you’re looking for eye candy, a long range hunting rig, or a dedicated PRS rifle, your money may be better invested elsewhere. 

The SRS does what it was designed to do, and does it well.  

The SRS does what it was designed to do, and does it well.  

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