By Todd Burgreen
Photos by C.R. Newlin
Any mention of Barrett in the context of firearms immediately brings forth an association of their .50 BMG rifles. Multiple model types of Barrett .50 BMG rifles have been brought forward since Ronnie Barrett created the M82 in 1982. The Ronnie Barrett saga of one man’s vision coming to represent a whole new class of weapon that harnessed the brute power of the Browning .50 caliber round is a thing of legend.
Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, based in Murfreesboro, TN was founded in 1982 and was centered on Ronnie Barrett's idea of a shoulder-fired .50 BMG rifle. Many are familiar with the Barrett story thanks to several documentaries and articles that have been featured since 1982. Barrett’s first conventional military success was the sale of about 100 M82A1 rifles to the Swedish Army in 1989. World events then transpired to give Barrett a major impetuous towards success in 1990, when the United States armed forces purchased significant numbers of the M82A1 during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq. About 125 rifles were initially bought by the United States Marine Corps, and orders from the Army and Air Force soon followed. Barrett M82 rifles have been bought by various military and police forces from allied/friendly governments, such as Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and others.
This leads us to the adage of if you want it done right, do it yourself. This might be the unofficial motto for Barrett AR-type rifles, precision bolt rifles, and lastly a stable of multiple .50 BMG models. This article will feature the Barrett take on the AR platform – the REC 7 piston driven AR. The same Barrett quality and attention to detail in providing accurate, rugged, and reliable weapons such as their .50 BMG rifles was turned toward improving the AR. In fact, Barrett was so keen to improve the AR platform the first REC 7 introduced was chambered in the 6.8 SPC cartridge. The 6.8 SPC is considered by many to be superior in downrange performance to the more typical AR 5.56mm chambering. Barrett’s business sense prevailed with a 5.56mm chambered REC 7 introduced not too long after the 6.8 SPC chambered version. The REC 7 evaluated herein is chambered in 5.56mm.
It is no secret that the AR is not only the best selling civilian and law enforcement rifle in the U.S., but also gaining popularity around the world with the U.S. equipping/training so many armed entities. This has caused many manufacturers to jump on the AR bandwagon in recent years by offering their versions. Whether or not piston-driven ARs are superior to their gas impingement brethren often generates heated discussion. One thing that is not debatable is the number of manufacturers rushing to create piston-driven ARs even if traditional AR models already exist in their production line-up. The REC 7 designation stands for “Reliability Enhanced Carbine 2007. Interestingly, the REC 7 is Barrett’s second AR pattern rifle; the first being the Barrett M468 rifle, which employed a direct gas-impingement system and has been discontinued from production. This would seem to indicate where the Barrett brain trust weighs in on the benefits of gas piston versus direct impingement.
The REC 7 utilizes Barrett’s patented two-position self-regulating short stroke gas piston operating system ensuring reliability in the harshest theaters of operation. Barrett has sought to engineer a complete solution to the deficits found in the direct impingement AR family of rifles and carbines and was an early innovator in the AR gas-piston surge. The principal improvement comes from eliminating the venting of hot, carbon-laden gases into the receiver and bolt carrier group. This reduces the cleaning requirements associated with direct gas-impingement ARs. It also means the bolt carrier group and associated springs are not subjected to the searing heat of the tapped gasses; this being one of the major causes of small parts failure. The Barrett spring-loaded piston is a one-piece 17-4 stainless steel rod that weighs 3.5 ounces and is 12.25 inches long. Total forward and rearward movement of the piston is approximately one inch. The gas system and fore-end are of mid-length dimensions, rather than the shorter standard M4 carbine length, with the rifle’s gas block located roughly 9.5 inches forward of the front face of the upper receiver. This is two inches farther than that of an M4 carbine gas system. This provides for smoother operation with the gas port located in a position more similar to a mid length upper versus M4. The bolt carrier is machined from a monolithic block of 8620 steel with an integral piston strike face. The bolt is designed specifically for use in the piston operated REC 7 and not just adapted from a direct gas bolt. The bolt’s gas-ring-free design is easy to clean. Every bolt is proofed and magnetic-particle inspected to guarantee reliable performance. At the heart of the Barrett short stroke gas operating system is a nitrided, two-position, forward-venting gas plug that retains the piston. The settings are standard and suppressed. The op rod piston can be accessed through the front of the gas block without removing the handguard so optical sights or laser devices do not need to be zeroed after routine maintenance. The REC 7 upper and lower receivers are forged from 7075 aluminum and then hardcoat anodized. A single-stage trigger is standard. A Mil-Spec A2 flash hider is fitted to the 16-inch free-floated, hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrel with M4 feed ramps machined into the receiver and the barrel extension. A Magpul MOE adjustable buttstock is fitted to the REC 7. The REC 7 weighs approximately 7.5 lbs and measures 33 inches with stock collapsed and 36 inches extended. A Daniel Defense Omega X forend completes the no-nonsense Barrett fighting carbine.
The Barrett REC 7 AR is not marketed as the least expensive AR option with MSRPs over $2,000. All of the Barrett REC 7’s design features are intended for maximizing effectiveness during a fight or realistic training on the range. The key component in a fighting rifle is reliability. No matter how accurate or powerful chambering a rifle is, if it does not work 100% of the time it is a liability. The REC 7 was tested with Trijicon’s latest red dot optic: the SRS (Sealed Reflex Sight). The 3.75 inch Trijicon SRS features 1.75 MOA adjustable intensity red dot. The 28 mm aperture combined with 38 mm objective lens with only minimal housing between the two translates into the SRS providing a relatively large field of view as well as serving to eliminate the tube effect sometimes encountered with red dot optics. The SRS uses a solar panel to supplement the AA battery when in sunlight providing 3 years of run time. The Trijicon SRS weighs 15 ounces including battery and mount.
The basic M16/AR-15 design is hard to improve upon when it comes to launching bullets downrange accurately. The piston-driven Barrett REC 7 is no different. Various ammunition of different makes regularly produced 1.5 inch groups at 100 yards with the REC 7 with the Trijicon SRS mounted. This is advantage of the smaller dot combined with being able to control intensity level. More compressed groups are definitely likely if mounting a high magnification optic. Premium loads from Black Hills Ammunition, Hornady, and Federal were tested. Various kinds of FMJ loads were also used including Federal, Winchester, and Wolf Ammunition 55 gr and 62 gr loads. No ammunition, including full metal jacket surplus ammunition, generated greater than 2.5 MOA accuracy levels. The piston driven REC 7 proved reliable throughout this evaluation with over 700 assorted rounds sent downrange. The Barrett REC 7’s 16-inch barrel combined with 55gr and 62gr bullets produced velocity in the low-to-mid 2,900 fps range when tested over a RCBS chronograph.
The REC 7 was evaluated at Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC). The 16 inch Barrett rifle showed its true promise by performing not only within the multiple 100 yard bays at EVTC firing from barricades and engaging targets, but also back at the prepared firing position line with targets placed out to 300 yards. Numerous drills were run involving magazine changes and moving between barricades simulating cover. A Mayflower Research & Consulting LLC LE/Active shooter chest rig carried four magazines during range evaluations. The Mayflower chest rig was married to a Velocity Systems plate carrier. Steel silhouettes were situated randomly from 20 yards to 110 yards on EVTC Range #2. The Barrett REC 7 and Trijicon SRS red dot made short work of striking various targets in quick fashion. As many “maturing” shooters can attest to, the single focus plane represented by optics are easier to shoot accurately than coordinating front and rear sights.
Several of the more dynamic drills experienced during the T&E showed the Barrett REC 7 at its best; unrelenting reliability even when scorching hot after multiple magazines fired consecutively. The REC 7’s gas piston operating rod system proved its worth in keeping the bolt carrier group cooler and cleaner compared to direct impingement AR rifles. The REC 7 was purposely neglected in terms of cleaning over the course of the review. The Barrett REC 7’s gas piston steadily ejected brass briskly no matter how hard the rifle was pushed. The REC 7’s gas-piston system can be disassembled for maintenance without requiring the rifle’s handguards to be removed, unlike some of the other piston operated ARs on the market. Cleaning methods will be familiar to anyone with a modicum of experience with the AR-15, excluding the gas system portion of the rifle. As mentioned above, the gas piston can be accessed through the front of the gas block without removing the handguard. The gas block is a proprietary Barrett design that allows users to remove the gas piston easily for cleaning by simply rotating a spring-mounted plunger 180 degrees. Once rotated, the rifle’s gas regulator, piston and piston return spring can be pulled forward and through the gas block.
The Barrett REC 7 via prone supported position proved just as efficient against a fluid drained automobile located at EVTC with TacStrike steel popper targets located inside the cab; some of the scenarios involved firing through the front windshield. The Black Hills Ammunition 50gr TSX is a more reliable performer for barrier penetration compared to Match or other high accuracy bullet types thanks to its homogenous construction. Firing the REC 7 from the prone position produced consistent hits out to 300 yards on TacStrike 1/4 Scale steel targets. The 5.56/.223’s flat trajectory aids in making hits out to 250 yards without having to compensate excessively for bullet drop; A 200 yard zero provides for +2 inches at 100 yards and -7 inches at 300 yards.
There are a plethora of AR style rifles vying for consumer attention by individuals, departments, or other entities. The Barrett REC 7 is worthy of consideration considering the attention to detail and quality of materials used in its manufacture. The cliché of “buy right the first time” comes to mind with the REC 7 being a good example.
Sites of Interest
Barrett Manufacturing, Inc.
P.O. Box 1077
Murfreesboro, TN 37133
Echo Valley Training Center
49385 Shafer Ave
Wixom, MI 48393
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