First-time AR-15 buyers are probably pretty excited about the state of the market right now, with prices being slashed right and left to make up for the over-production of rifles ahead of Hillary Clinton’s inevitable inauguration. That being the case it might make sense for buyers to look a little higher up the shelves and check out some of the better equipped firearms that are now in their price range. One such gun is the DPMS Enhanced Tactical RECON.
I seem to recall that Noveske was the first to coin the “Recon” setup for an AR-15: free floating handguards, 16-inch heavy stainless steel (non-parkerized) barrel, and a low profile gas block. The idea was to get as much accuracy as possible out of a short-ish gun.
DPMS is probably best known for their budget priced Sportical series of AR-15 rifles but their newer Enhanced Tactical line seems to be an attempt to move a little more up market. For the RECON they’ve followed the old Noveske formula to the letter, which is both good and bad.
Out on the front of the gun DPMS used a 16-inch heavy profile stainless steel barrel with 1:9 twist rifling. That’s noteworthy, since the gun is positioned accuracy, yet the 1:9 twist would optimize the gun for lighter, cheaper 55 grain 5.56 NATO loads instead of the traditionally more accurate 69 grain and 77 grain loads. Definitely not the end of the world — there are plenty of accurate 55 grain rounds available — but that twist rate will tend to limit the useful range of the RECON.
As you’d expect from any AR-15 manufacturer that’s come under the Remington umbrella, the DPMS RECON sports an AAC 51-tooth three-prong flash hider. Remington understandably wants to encourage gun owners to stay within their ecosystem when looking to add a suppressor. I would have preferred AAC’s muzzle brake, but then again I always prefer muzzle brakes.
The handguard selected for this rifle is short enough that a low profile gas block isn’t required, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that one is added anyway. The point of a low profile gas block is to allow a longer handguard to slide freely on top in a free-floated system but this one is about the same length as a typical mid-length gas system handguard.
Speaking of the handguard, one of the things I liked least about the RECON is the handguard design. These days firearms manufacturers have pretty much chosen sides in the great KeyMod versus M-LOK debate for slick-sided attachment mounting methods.
Remington’s taken things a step further, developing the SquareDrop system which is actually KeyMod-compatible. That design would have been great on this gun, but instead we get yet another full length quad-rail Picatinny setup.
Like I said, DPMS followed the original RECON specs pretty much to the letter with this gun including the quad rail. That was great when Noveske first knocked it out around a decade ago, but the firearms world has moved on since then. Quad rail handguards are one of those things I left back in my college days, along with futons and all-night Starcraft LAN parties.
Everything to the rear of the barrel nut is about what you’d expect. The rifle ships with a set of MOE iron sights, a Magpul stock, Magpul grip, and Magpul P-MAG. Also of note is that the receiver set has all of the requisite M4 features; a dust cover, forward assist and shell deflector. Those are missing on the budget priced Sportical are present — as they should be — here on the next level RECON.
Out on the range I had some assistance from the local /r/AustinGuns group testing out the gun, pumping hundreds of rounds down the RECON’s barrel. The gun functioned flawlessly despite the Texas heat and dirt, but I did have a couple of issues.
The trigger is probably highest on my list of faults. Just like every other “budget” AR-15 the gun ships with a standard mil-spec trigger, complete with a gritty pull and a break that’s harder to identify than the gender of a UC Berkeley liberal arts major. Bad triggers are the #2 culprit to blame for a rifle’s inaccuracy, #1 being a bad trigger puller.
It’s not like it’s an expensive fix either. A very solid ALG Defense trigger retails for right around $60. Putting a sub-standard trigger in an otherwise well-built gun is like putting gearbox from a VW bug in a finely tuned drag racer. It might work, but it limits what you can do.
Nevertheless I took the gun out to the 100-yard range, fed it some Eagle Eye ammunition, and shot a series of groups. I noticed that despite the 1:9 rifling the gun performed very well with the 75 grain projectiles Eagle Eye uses and slightly worse with an “accurate” 55 grain load I had as well.
All things considered, the RECON was surprisingly accurate. There’s a three-round group in there that’s pretty much dime sized, but thanks to that trigger I wasn’t able to keep it together. As-is the gun is definitely capable of shooting 1 MoA groups all day long. With a better trigger I wouldn’t be surprised if you could squeeze out 1/2 MoA groups with boring reliability.
The DPMS Enhanced Tactical RECON is a very good rifle that’s only kept from greatness by a couple of outdated component choices. Having a quad rail handguard is great for attaching all sorts of stuff to your gun, but the shooting world gone on to slimmer designs that are more useful for the everyday shooter.
That mil-spec trigger keeps the rifle from achieving its full accuracy potential. Fixing those two items would make this rifle really shine. The good news is that you, the end user, can remedy those issues for a couple of hundred dollars more and have an absolutely kick-ass rifle.
Specifications: DPMS Enhanced Tactical RECON
Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel Length: 16 inches, heavy profile, 1:9 twist
Weight: 7.65 lbs
Price: $1,129 MSRP (seen in the wild as low as $860 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
About 10 years ago this would have been the belle of the ball. These days it’s a little on the chunky side and could use some slimming down. Still, not terrible.
Accuracy * * * 1/2
Fix the trigger and the rifle would be one of the more accurate offerings in this price range. As is it’s okay.
Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues of any kind.
Overall * * *
Two small changes and this would be a truly great rifle. When you’re competing in the same price range as a DTI Evolution AR-15 which has a better handguard and trigger (albeit a slightly less accurate barrel) the details matter. That said, the DPMS Enhanced Tactical Recon is a rifle with great bones. An excellent choice as a starter gun for new AR-15 owners.