Gun Review: Desert Tactical Arms Stealth Recon Scout (DTA SRS) Rifle

 

If there’s one word that I would use to describe the typical long range rifle, it’s “massive.” Long, heavy rifles with thick barrels that barely fit in the back of a pickup truck. In fact, some of them might be closer to field artillery than rifles. But while they may be accurate at long distance, maneuverability isn’t a feature they have in their repertoire. Desert Tactical Arms saw a need for a maneuverable precision rifle. And to get it done without sacrificing barrel length, they designed a bullpup style gun to make it all possible . . .

Bullpups are becoming increasingly popular these days. One of the most obvious example is the TAVOR SAR, one of the first rifles to come out on the American market in a long time that’s actually a new design. It has made a big splash online and seems to be selling well, but it still has the same issues that have kept us from adopting other bullpup designs. Namely, the trigger sucks.

In most bullpup designs, the actual hammer and sear assembly is mounted well behind the trigger. In order to connect the two, a system of pulleys and levers is used which adds a ton of creep and makes the trigger pull much heavier. The DTA SRS is no different, with the trigger placed much further in front of the action than the firing pin it’s supposed to control. However, through the use of some form of black magic they’ve actually managed to make the thing work.

The trigger on the SRS is, by far, the best trigger I’ve ever felt on a factory-fresh bullpup. It’s light, with just a touch of creep before a crisp and clean break. The trigger even allows you to change the amount of creep you feel before the break — letting you turn your single-stage trigger into a two-stage job if you want.

And given that it’s a bullpup design, it allows you to place a much longer barrel in a much shorter overall package. The gun we were sent to test had a 22-inch barrel, but the overall size was about as big as my M4-style AR-15.

While the design allows the gun to stay small, it does take some getting used to. The bolt throw, for example, is wildly different than any standard bolt action rifle due to its position near your head. I couldn’t get the hang of operating the bolt without moving my head, something that I could do effortlessly with my Remington 700.

One curious design feature was the use of proprietary magazines. There are commercial magazines available for bolt action rifles in short action and long action formats already, but DTA decided to design their own proprietary mags for the SRS. The reason for those proprietary magazines has something to do with this rifle’s claim to fame: you can swap calibers as quickly as changing a tire on your car.

DTA sells conversion kits for the SRS rifle line that allow you to fire everything from .308 Winchester to .338 Lapua Magnum. In order to achieve that level of interchangeability, the magazine well needed to be able to accept all of those calibers. That means the magazine’s exterior remains the same between calibers, but the internal parts change depending on what caliber you’re feeding it. It’s a nifty system, and swapping barrels between the .308 Win barrel and the .338 LM barrel they sent along with the gun was surprisingly easy.

The guys at the shop say that there’s no zero shift when changing barrels. Or, rather that the individual barrels will always return to the same point of aim. I tested it once (and then ran out of ammo), and it worked just fine, returning to within 1/2 MoA.

Speaking of group size . . .

IMAG0083

That’s a six-round group with two low fliers. Four rounds went through that top hole before I started getting sloppy. And yes, this is an actual 100-yard target.

When I took the rifle out onto the long range course, I was nailing the steel plate at 750 yards with no problem. Until I ran out of ammo, that is.

While the gun feels well-polished in general, there are still some minor issues. The majority of the stock is made of plastic, which rather unsurprisingly feels very, well, plastic-y. On an expensive rifle chassis, it felt a touch out of place. Even the grip is molded into the plastic panels, meaning that not only does it feel slightly more slippery than I’m used to, but it seems to have been designed to fit the statistically average hand. And, as we all know, fitting the gun to the statistical average means that it never really fits right for anyone.

DTA SRS, c Nick Leghorn

One nifty feature of that plastic stock, though, is a monopod hidden in the back of the gun. It screws into and out of the bottom of the stock, making for a stable firing position with a bipod mounted up front. It’s a nice touch, and along with the ambidextrous magazine release, really differentiates this gun from others in which the rear monopod is a costly extra that needs to be purchased later.

While the rifle may feel heavy to those who have only fired an AR-15 before, it clocks in at a comparatively svelte 10.5 pounds sans scope. For comparison, Armalite’s new and improved AR-30A1 traditional bolt gun weighs in at over 12 pounds even with its skeletonized stock. In other words, the SRS is a lightweight for a precision rifle. Which is great news for those who need to schlep this thing across fields and over mountains.

DTA SRS, c Nick Leghorn

The Desert Tactical Arms Scout Recon Stealth rifle isn’t trying to be all things to all people. It’s a compact, lightweight rifle designed to fit in small places while letting you reach out and touch someone. It’s designed specifically for that role, and it fills it wonderfully.

Specifications:
Calibers: .308 Win, .260 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lap, 7mm WSM, .300 Win Mag, .338 LM
Action: Bolt
Barrel length: 22 to 26 inches
Overall Length: 32 – 36 inches
Weight: 10.55 lbs – 11 lbs
Finish:  Black
Capacity:  5 or 6 rounds (depending on caliber)
Chassis Price: $3,072
Barrel Kit Price: $1,390

Ratings (Out of Five Stars): 

Accuracy: * * * * *
I have zero complaints whatsoever. One of the most accurate rifles I’ve tested.

Ergonomics: * * * *
While the bullpup design makes it compact and portable, the grip doesn’t really fit me and the mechanics of working the bolt are a little strange.

Customization: * * * * *
Full-length rails and readily available caliber conversion kits means that when you buy the chassis, you get about six different guns in one package.

Overall: * * * *
It’s a great gun. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn close.