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.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

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

  1. avatarzora says:

    That looks awesome, but unfortunately the awesomer the pricier.

  2. avatarSwarf says:

    Needs more buzzwords.

  3. avatarShenandoah says:

    I don’t live in the desert, I don’t go on too many tactical sniping missions and I don’t have $4k set aside for this bad boy…but if met any of those requirements, I’d be all over it.

  4. avatarJoshinGA says:

    4K seems a little steep for a plastic chassis based gun…

  5. avatarjoe says:

    6,000 if you buy 308 and 336… that’s gonna be my christmas gift to myself in 3-4 years

    • avatarpat says:

      Dito…unfortunately in that time frame something shinier will catch my eye….or I’ll get hitched.

  6. avatarAccur81 says:

    I’d love to have one of these in .308 / 7mm / .338 Lapua. Alas, it’s nearly 5K per gun, which is too much for me. The additional barrels run more than a Rem 700 XCR. Still, it’s a cool concept, and I’m glad to hear it has a decent trigger. So if I want a long range artillery piece, I’m stuck with my “svelte” Savage 110 BA.

  7. avatarTom says:

    Weather they realize it or not, Remington cracked the nut on bullpups and their creepy heavy triggers with the EtronX system. May be time to revisit.

    • Isn’t that the funky electronic ignition system? I thought that died a quiet death already.

      • avatarTom says:

        Almost dead. The problem is the cost of the primers. Still, I don’t see why some sort of electronic mechanism couldn’t be developed that strikes regular primers. Probably won’t work to fix the Tavor SAR (rate of fire) but should work fine for a precision rifle. A drawback I see though is the anti’s using it to demand some sort of electronic disabling device.

    • avatarMike says:

      I think Tom is 100% right. The best way to solve the bullpup trigger issue is some form of electronic trigger system. Surely these could be reliable enough today?

  8. avatarLongBeach says:

    Want.

    Wait, I shoot lefty. Sh!t.

  9. avatardrewtam says:

    What happened to the RFB? Wasn’t that a new design bullpup with a good trigger?

    • avatarMax says:

      Yep, because the sear is where it should be: right above the trigger. It’s actually extremely smooth, but there is not a super clear break point and the reset is a little odd (i.e. almost nonexistent…).

      But all in all better than most triggers in general.

      • avatarsdog says:

        my rfb trigger blows my aug’s out of the water.

        • avatarGyufygy says:

          RFBs are like KSGs: a malicious lie spread by people on the Internet to torture the hopes of gun enthusiasts everywhere.

          (Get your sh!t together, Kel-tec!)

        • avatarMax says:

          Haha! Keltec has reigned blessings on those around me! RFB’s and SUB-2000′s (9mm GLOCK mag version no less) are plentiful….

  10. avatarSchizuki says:

    Stealth Recon Scout? Pass. I’ll wait for the Stealth Recon Scout Operator.

    • avatarMax says:

      Stealth Recon Scout Operator for Operating in Operationally Operated Operations

      Yo Dawg, I heard you like Operating.

  11. avatarArdent says:

    Call me a luddite but I’m not sure what this is doing better than a K98. Correction, what is it doing so much better than a $300 rifle that justifies the $3k price? Interchangeability might be nice when you run into a stock of cheap ammo in a particular caliber, but then cheap ammo isn’t exactly what one tends to feed a $3000 precision rifle that needs another $1400 in parts to swap calibers. ($1400, seriously? That’s an entire new (really nice) rifle, and a scope, and a case and a. . ).
    I suppose that in some extreme tactical (fantasy) situation it might be nice if you had a rifle that would readily accept firing a new cartridge almost at will. Except the part where you have to carry conversion kits around, which almost begs whether it might not be better to simply have a decent rifle in each of the available chambering’s. At least then one could arm others with the ones not currently in use.
    Maybe it’s the appeal of requiring proprietary (and surely expensive) magazines that one then gets to sort to determine which is appropriate for the ‘caliber of the day’. Color coding magazines to conversion kits sounds like a great job for my assistant gunner.

    Perhaps I should be devoting myself to a study of which side of the bed I ought to have gotten up on, or perhaps investigating the exact circumstances under which someone relieved themselves on my breakfast media (got to get rid of that urinal shaped cereal bowl). For the moment though I can only think about the solution seeking a problem pictured above.

    Then again, if someone wants to send me one to review, complete with ammo, I’ll get the gun bunnies busy with their P-touches to label all the parts.

  12. avatarensitue says:

    #1 It’s not shootable by a Lefty
    #2 At that price I want a one mile platform
    #3 A solution looking for a problem
    #4 Other platforms excel for less money and at longer ranges

    • avatarTim J says:

      I shoot mine left handed all the time. Its not a problem. I’ve shot it at over 1800 yds with great results so its a mile or more rifle. The big advantages to this rifle are the quickly changeable barrels allowing you to have more than one rifle with just one incredibly expensive scope, one trigger to get used to, and one cheekweld.
      There may be other rifles that will shoot as well and at the same ranges but your idea that this one is range limited isn’t right. It depends on what cal you’re talking about and that is true of any rifle. Its got as much range as any other in the same cal.
      The cost on this is fairly high but only needing to buy one scope saves a lot. Spending $2K on a scope for each rifle makes this one about the same price overall.
      If you don’t own one of these or at the very least have never fired one than your comments are pretty much just fluff.
      TJ

  13. Moment of truth, Nick. Which is your #1 compact long range rifle, this one or the Mcmillan CS5 you reviewed last October?

  14. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Impressive, but the position of the bolt would just drive me nuts.

  15. avatarrevjen45 says:

    For the price of the rifle and one converson kit I could keep the boltgun I bought in the mid-70s (still shots 1 moa) work 3 or 4 weekends of O.T, and buy a Buell. Yeah, apples and oranges but I would rather spend thast kind of $ on a Buell than a rifle for which I would have no use.

  16. avatarLars says:

    What a POS. Another bullpup, really?

    Is it me or are firearms the new ‘pimp me out’ item? Most the garbage on the market that is put on these guns is just that, garbage. Throw it on a inferior bullpup and we now have an inferior piece of garbage.

    Get off your bullpup fetish already. If I wanted to live in a bullpup world I’d move to Israel. Oh wait, they mostly use our M4s over there and I doubt they’d let me in anyway.

  17. avatarAgitator says:

    “Bullpups are becoming increasingly popular these days”

    Thought Steyr USA/Sabre Defense, and MSAR… before they croaked.

  18. avatarGeorge Sibley says:

    Obviously a lot of you are not into precision long range shooting! Had one on order with 308 22″ barrel since Feb. Very accurate rifles and can reach a mile with the 338 barrel conversion. You’ll not accomplish much accuracy or precision with a rifle and good scope for less than 6 grand. And yes, I live in the desert and go out shooting about once a week and half MOA is fun to achieve with any good platform!!!

  19. avatarThe Heretic says:

    AWC/McMillan kind of solved the bullpup trigger problem years ago when they built the AWC-G2A (M1A in a McMillan stock). This wasn’t a perfect rifle, but the trigger was about as good as an out of the box bolt action rifle. It used a bellcrank at the trigger end of a cable to activate the stock M1A trigger remotely by pulling on the cable instead of pushing on it (from the forward mounted trigger). Pulling on one end of the cable then pulled on one end of the bellcrank which then pushed against the the M1A trigger.

    Given what it had to do, it worked fairly well. However, the implementation looked fragile (the parts were not the best), but the idea seemed to work and I never had any trouble with it. Unfortunately I sold the rifle so I can’t provide pics, but it isn’t complicated to imagine for anyone with basic mechanical knowledge.

    I have shot a number of bullpups (not the Desert Recon rifles though) and a lot of them use a long bar of plastic or metal to push against the true trigger and this causes a lot of friction, slop and the bar flexes.

    The Norinco 86s (a bullpup AK) uses a long stiff wire rod to pull on the std AK trigger mechanism and even that is better than the push bar idea (although it is slightly worse than a std AK trigger).

    So, I think that pulling is the key.

    • avatarGeorge Sibley says:

      The DTA SRS bullpup has been rated the best ever designed by several people. Had the local SWAT team shoot my DTA out the range a few weeks ago and they were all amazed at the smooth break and 2.5 lb. pull. If you don’t get one, just leaves one more rifle that someone to appreciate and enjoy!!!
      George

      111

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  21. avatarGeorge Sibley says:

    Just got the new A1 with 260 and 308 conversions and have the 338 on order. Gun is FDE with Vortex Razor HD 5-20X EBR-2B scope in Spuhr 20 MOA mount with Atlas bipod. Love the feel and balance of this rifle (better than the Covert version). Agree with less than 0.5 POI shift with caliber changes. Many precision calibers in ONE rifle, using ONE scope. Will obviously be saving tons of money over buying multiple caliber specific rifles!!!

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