Hands on with the Barrett REC7 carbine

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The Barrett Reliability Enhanced Carbine (REC) really has its roots in the Barrett M468 program during the interest in the 6.8mm Special Purpose Cartridge (SPC) of more than a decade ago. The Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) came to Barrett with the cartridge and said that they were looking for a sort of recce carbine or a Designated Marksmans (DM) rifle chambered in the round, for experimentation. Barrett got to work on the idea and came up with the M468, which is a direct gas impingement AR, chambered in 6.8mm SPC. It had some innovative features when it was introduced to the market, such as the modular handguard, full length top picatinny rail and a gas block that incorporated a ratchet system to accommodate the base of a mounted suppressor. However, the rifle didn’t sell as well as the company hoped, despite being the largest amount of rifles sold in the 6.8mm SPC to the civilian market. The line was then switched to just upper receivers, and then entirely discontinued in 2010.

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But, the M468 left a sort of design spark within the company, because the potential of tapping into the civilian AR market was something that Barrett could not put down. Remember, this was coming from a company that up until the Model 98B and the M468 offered two rifles, in one caliber, and in one color, and that was their entire product line. The .50 BMG M82 and the M95. Today the company has diversified their product line to everything from the famous anti material rifles, to machine guns, precision rifles, and now AR15s.

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Not to be content with the direct gas impingement AR, Barrett set about designing a piston operated AR15 in the REC7 series. Elements from the FAL and the AK designs were incorporated into the piston operated system, which in of itself is extremely simple. It consists of a single spring operated one piece piston that is emplaced in the gas block. This in turn is held in place by a two position (suppressed and unsuppressed) gas plug within the gas block that keeps the entire system in place. Both the tube and the piston can be disassembled via the front of the gas block, pulling it out towards the muzzle. The end of the piston is fluted, to allow gas to work its way out of the system instead of keeping it inside and having that carbon build up. The Barrett gas block also has an integrated picatinny rail on top, that connects with the upper picatinny rail as well. Bolt carrier is an anti tilt carrier as well, thus countering one of the problems with a piston operated system in carrier tilt.

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But Barrett also offers the REC7 in a direct gas impingement form, keeping with the majority of ARs that are operated on the direct gas impingement. This rifle is separate from the piston operated options in that there is only one version of it, and it can come in 5.56x45mm NATO, .300 BLK, and 6.8mm SPC. The piston operated line up includes a standard recce carbine, the flagship REC7 product if you will. Then a DMR version that has a heavier and hammer forged barrel, and finally the REC7 FlyWeight which weighs 5.1 pounds, comes with no sights and a cap on the muzzle threads. This model was designed to be extremely light weight, and be a sort of no frills variant of the product line up.

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Some of the real measurement of an AR product is just how much of the rifle is made in house versus how much of it comes from an outside source. The more parts a rifle has made in the company factory, the more that company has complete control over the tolerances and changes they want to make to that rifle. Currently Barrett machines the rail system, the gas block, the Barrett compensator, the gas piston, and does the bulk of the machining on the barrel blanks when they are received from Krieger Barrels. The barrels are free-floated, hammer-forged, and chrome-lined. However, the company is in the process of bringing production of the bolt into the factory. The attention to detail on the handguard is especially evident, because the company uses scalloped rails for a smoother grip, instead of rails cut at 90 degree angles. Handguards also have steel rather than aluminum QD mounts installed on them. Key Mod sections are on the sides and bottom, while the full length picatinny rail covers the top. The rifles are completely finished and coated at the factory as well. Mapgul components make up the telescoping stocks, trigger guards, and pistol grips, while the company outsources the small parts such as springs, castle nuts, triggers, pins, etc… The charging handles are made by VLTOR and BCM.

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The real question comes into play with, “Why a Barrett AR over any other AR?”. For one, its a Barrett. The rifle is put together with the same quality control and efficiency that also churns out the most successful and adopted anti material rifle in the modern world. The piston operated gas system is one of the more simpler systems around on the AR market, when compared to an H&Ks or Sig Saurs. The company also has a lifetime warranty department that will fix any deficiency found within the rifle over the course of its service life.

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For our day of shooting, we shot the piston operated DMR at ranges from 300 to 500 meters, with all steel targets. Then we moved on to another range and shot the DI REC7, the direct impingement version. On the longer ranges, the DMR rifle performed well, hitting steel targets consecutively. The DMR rifle comes equipped with Atlas bipods, the same bipods that Barrett provides with the MRAD and Model 98B series of rifles. While on the shorter range, the Barrett compensator proved its worth by reducing muzzle rise quite nicely. As is, from the factory, the gun handled extremely well during presentation drills, and there were not any malfunctions over the course of 200 rounds or so.

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Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Squirreltakular

    I want to see what they did to the Flyweight version to get the weight down so low. That’s pretty awesome.

    • Steve Truffer

      Probably by not throwing rails everywhere, All magpull furniture, no fixed front sight, a light-ish barrel profile (gov’t is just a waste), and weight conscious furniture.
      Edit: the low weight is from a short barrel. They 16 inch version is a bit over 7 pounds.

      • Squirreltakular

        It looks like it has at least a 14.5″ in the photos and video I’ve seen. No way that 1.5″ of barrel is almost 2 lbs.

        • Steve Truffer

          Its an 11.5 that has the low weight. 5 inches off the barrel, handguard, piston and gas tube.

          • Squirreltakular

            Alright. That makes sense.

          • Dylan Dryden

            The Rec7 Flyweight comes with a 16″ barrel.

  • Blake

    Great article, thanks.

    Where’s the Nathaniel F. 6.8SPC fanclub?

  • I really dislike gas block mounted regulators. “Oh look, I’ve discovered that I’m on the wrong gas setting. Guess I’d better get ready to sacrifice part of my handflesh to the bloodythirsty Mesopotamian deity that whoever designed this thing worships!”

    • Roy

      Where else would you put it? The regulator has to regulate the gas and you are only tapping and using it at one point.

      • Squirreltakular

        Didn’t Magpul patent a hybrid system where the piston started halfway down the barrel and the rest was DI?

      • The FNC puts it well away from the gas block, for one. Or you could not have one, like most successful semiauto rifle designs.

        • iksnilol

          A regulator is kinda like a LSHO, not really needed but really nice to have. Especially if using a suppressor.

          • Cmex

            Well said, Iksnilol. It’s useful for things like dealing with progressive fouling, variable ammunition, suppressors, calibrating loads, adjusting recoil, firing rifle grenades, using blanks, and so on. There is a reason why it’s lasted so long on so many high regarded military rifles. While I wouldn’t call a regulator a make or break feature, it’s certainly a useful advantage because it gives you a greater range of ways to adapt your weapon to the situation at hand. It looks to me like the REC-7 is a damn fine weapon.

    • Thomas S

      In many designs, this one included, you can use a round of ammunition to adjust the gas setting. Why are you grabbing it with your hand when it is hot? Hell if nothing else a multitool, knife, stick, anything is better than using your fingers…

      Maybe I am missing something but I have just never found myself in this situation while shooting and been unable to quickly solve the problem without sacrificing my flesh.

      • You can do any number of the things you mentioned, or wear gloves, but it’s still a poor design. Check out the FNC for an alternative if you absolutely must have a regulator.

        • Badwolf

          Is there an AR with FNC type regulator?

          • Chiki Briki

            Not to my knowledge. But you see, Nat gets irrationally protective of his 5.56 MILSPEC M4’s. You know how those “Nyet, rifle iz fine!” types are at least partially joking about AK’s, Nat’s like that about AR’s, but without any humor or self-awareness.

          • You know I’m the guy who wrote this, right?

  • Wanderlust

    My only thought is why not 6.5 Grendel, very nice looking gun though like every other Barrett. Also whats the other non lightweight variant weigh.

  • David Harmon

    It’s not real until they offer a 300Blk variant as well.

  • Division Charlemange

    Direct gas impingement REC.. the ‘Reliable Enough Carbine’.. (not to suggest that novel piston systems are actually substantially more reliable than the DI system that’s seen fifty years of development).

    • TheSmellofNapalm

      Properly built and maintained DI guns are practically unstoppable in the reliability department.

      • Maintenance is key to any machine’s reliability. Sadly most people can’t be arsed to do it in timely fashion.

  • Ryfyle

    AR-15 seems like the generic Coke of the firearms world, almost every company will have it, and they always taste “off” some how.

    • TheSmellofNapalm

      Properly built and maintained DI guns are practically unstoppable.

  • B. Young

    Barrett website says flyweight is 5.5lbs not 5.1lbs as stated in article-not a big difference only amounts to 4oz but if you’ve ever tried to build a true flyweight AR 4oz is a TON! It is a whole quarter pound!

  • Marcus D.

    Lovely rifle, looks solid. I particularly like the gas block mounting system, as it seems much more secure than the typical set screw system.Then again, It is a $2500 ($2200 for the flyweight) rifle, $1900 or so for a complete upper . interestingly, there is only a $30 difference between the DI and the piston systems., but the company does not appear to sell the flyweight upper separately.

    I thought the day of the 6.8 SPC had come and gone, at least according to one post here. Is there an article comparing the 6.8 and the two 6.5 rounds head to head?

  • Cmex

    I like what I see.

  • Mazryonh

    How did the author the recoil of this caliber compared to 5.56mm NATO?