Bullpup Goodness: The Desert Tech SRS-A1 Covert Precision Rifle
Bullpup rifles, with the pistol grip and trigger in front of the action, have been around for decades. The Steyr AUG, French FAMAS and others have seen varying degrees of success on the world market. But in America bullpups seem to be viewed more as novelty than serious design, and people I know who have experience shooting bullpups usually complain about the trigger pull. I fired a FAMAS in Afghanistan and don’t remember the trigger sucking, although the design felt fairly awkward.
Bullpups haven’t made much of an impression on me, and I’d never given them much thought.
French FAMAS bullpup. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Then a few months back Dan Barnhart of America Grip got me in contact with a company out of Utah called Desert Tech. DT makes, of all things, bullpup precision rifles. I reached out to a company rep, and for a review he sent me their mid-range rifle: a .308 SRS-A1 (Stealth Recon Scout) Covert.
Before I get into the weapon itself, there’s something you should know about Desert Tech. DT isn’t just another of the many gun, training or tactical gear companies to spring up since the War on Terror began. Aside from the company’s innovation and quality, it’s also distinguished by the fact that for patriotic reasons it rejected a multimillion dollar contract offer.
In 2013, back when DT was known as Desert Tactical Arms, the Pakistani government asked DT to supply sniper rifles to their army. Depending on which article you read, the contract would have netted DT ten or fifteen million dollars. The deal was US government-approved, a huge boon to a small company just emerging on the precision rifle market. But DT’s staff talked it over, considered the likelihood of their weapons eventually being used against American troops, and turned the offer down. That’s pretty damn cool.
Now on to the weapon I reviewed. Here are the specs on the SRS-A1 Covert, from Desert Tech’s website:
Calibers: .308 Winchester, .300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua Magnum
Barrel length: 16” (.308), 18” (.300 WM and .338 LM)
Overall length: 26” (.308), 29” (.300 WM), 30.5” (.338 LM)
Weight: 9.95 lbs (.308), 10.2 lbs (.300 WM and .338 LM)
Twist rate: 1 in 8 (.308 and .300 WM), 1 in 9 (.338 LM)
Magazine capacity: 6-10 (.308), 5 (.300 WM and .338 LM)
Max effective range: 900 meters (.308), 1375 meters (.300 WM), 1650 meters (.338 LM)
DT describes the SRS this way:
“The SRS-A1 Covert rifle was purpose-designed for police and military snipers requiring ultimate concealability and maneuverability. Superb ergonomics combined with the core components of accuracy put the compact platform in sync with the frontline marksmen who wield it. At its essence, the 26-inch Covert is a long range tool capable of 1000-yard groupings while remaining nimble enough to convert to a .338 Lapua Magnum punch for civilians and servicemen. It is the most compact sniper rifle on the planet.”
Desert Tech guarantees .5 MOA accuracy with three rounds of their ammo at 100 yards. Here’s what my first three rounds at 100 looked like. The flier was my fault.
DT also offers quick-change conversion kits, allowing the user to swap calibers in sixty seconds. A swap requires only loosening a few screws, turning a key, pulling the barrel, putting in the new one, turning the key back, tightening the screws, sliding off the buttplate, pulling the bolt, inserting the new bolt, and sliding the buttplate back on. Simple. DT guarantees that barrels retain their zero after the swap.
Other standard features include but aren’t limited to a fully adjustable match-grade trigger (for everyone bitching about bullpup triggers), a rapid-elevation rear monopod with fine adjustment, buttstock spacers to change length of pull, ambidextrous capability, and a non-slip cheek pad. Straight out of the box, this is a badass rifle.
But there’s a problem: I’m not a badass precision rifle shooter. Yes I’ve got a little experience, and yes I’ve got a little training, but I was never a military sniper and don’t have the time or money to get into real long-range shooting in the civilian world. I don’t even have access to a range long enough to really test the Covert; the best I could come up with was 400 yards.
Practicing an unconventional shooting position, intended for use in close-range ambushes, that I learned at the 1MOA Solutions Precision Rifle Course.
On the other hand, it didn’t matter. Desert Tech’s rifles have been tested and reviewed by pros, they’ve already confirmed its accuracy, and nobody cares about my opinion on the Covert’s technical capabilities. So what I can do is assess the Covert through my experience as a school-trained Designated Marksman, and gather opinions on it from my SWAT sniper friends. Speaking of sniper friends…
I spoke to two police sniper friends about the Covert. One remarked that the current police sniper philosophy is to shoot from as close as possible, not thousands of yards away; in fact, at his sniper course the furthest shot he had to make was 300. With that in mind, a 900-yard rifle is more than adequate for police work. The other said .5 MOA is plenty accurate for SWAT and thought the Covert would be easily deployable, although his agency has switched to semi-auto rifles for faster follow up shots. But he added, “I know if you do it right you only need one shot.” So he doesn’t seem to have any issues with using a bullpup bolt for a police sniper rifle.
From a regular-dude perspective, what impressed me about the Covert was how much smaller it is than any other precision or DM rifle I’ve ever handled. At 26”, the Covert is shorter than my Radical Firearms RFS-15 with the stock collapsed, and shorter than an issue 29” M4 carbine. It easily fit in a Crye Precision EXP backpack, which means it could be carried in public in a fairly inconspicuous manner without having to assemble it before use.
Deploying the Covert from a Crye Precision EXP backpack. The sloppiness was my lack of practice, not the rifle or gear.
With glass and ammo it’s around eleven pounds, easy to carry as a secondary weapon in an Eberlestock-type pack on patrol without overloading yourself. Compare that with my Afghanistan M14EBR, which was 18.5 lbs loaded/kitted out and 35”, and with the Ashbury Precision Ordnance/Remington Saber M700, which is 8 lbs empty (without scope or accessories) and 41”.
DTs aren’t cheap; the .308 without optics or accessories will run you just under $5000. But for that money you’ll get a precise, fairly light, extremely compact and maneuverable rifle capable of pretty much anything you need in a police situation, and most things you need in military situations. If I had to find something to bitch about, it would be that DT doesn’t offer the Covert in 6.5 Creedmoor. I’d feel a lot more confident shifting between close and long-range targets with a 6.5C than the rainbow-trajectory .308.
Other than that? I got nothin’. The teeny-weenie but highly capable Desert Tech SRS-A1 Covert is Mike Tyson in Gary Coleman’s body. And that’s something every shooter should love.
“People will fail you. But tacos are forever.” Chris Hernandez
GEMTECH (@gemtechsilencer) is a member of JTF Awesome. Find ’em on Facebook, /gemtechsilencer/.
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About the Author: Chris Hernandez, seen here on patrol in Afghanistan, may just be the crustiest member of the eeeee-LITE writin’ team here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a veteran police officer of two decades who spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of Tacos Are Racist, Females in the Infantry – Yes Actually, The Military Within the Military, and several other delightfully opinionated bloviations. He has also penned several modern military fiction novels, including Line in the Valley, Proof of Our Resolve and Safe From the War. When he isn’t groaning about a change in the weather and snacking on Osteo Bi-Flex he writes on his own blog. You can find his author page right here on Amazon.