Firearms Tactical

How to Set Up a RECCE Rifle

If you’ve been involved in the world of shooting sports or survivalist prepping, you’ve likely heard the old saying that β€œthere is no one rifle for every scenario.” This is, for the most part, entirely true. A rifle that is set up to drop targets at 400 yards is not necessarily the gun you want to take into close-quarters confrontations. Such a rifle would be pretty hard to come by, given that long and short-range applications require drastically different set ups. Well, the origins of the RECCE (pronounced β€œwreck-ey”) rifle are based in the US military’s attempt to create a weapon with just that type of β€œdo-it-all” capability.

Top-tier operators in the Spec Ops world of the 1990s were looking for an AR platform set-up that would allow them to engage targets in close, as well as at distances of up to 600 yards. As years progressed and the need remained, the Navy (as well as the Army) continued to pursue the creation of such a weapon. This birthed the Mark12 Special Purpose Rifle (MK12 SPR) in 2002. The MK12 SPR is still in use today by the Navy Seals, as well as the Army Rangers. It is an AR platform, modified to meet the needs of both long and short-range engagements.

While building a military replica is an entirely different endeavor, creating a RECCE rifle in the modern world of AR parts and accessories is not hard at all. Here’s what you need and why.


The Recce rifle needs to be long enough to make shots that will reach out and touch distant targets, yet short enough to be maneuvered through doorways and tight alleys in a close quarters battle situation. For this reason, the barrel length of 16 inches is ideal. When it comes to twist rate, you’re going to want a 1:7 twist so that that rifle is capable of launching heavier bullets that will make more of a mark at longer distances. If you are unfamiliar with what rate of twist is, check out our article on understanding rate of twist here.

Note: Traditional RECCE rifles employ stainless steel barrels, because a stainless steel barrel permits greater accuracy. This is because the basic properties of stainless steel make it easier for manufacturers to craft. By forgoing the chrome lining, manufacturers are able to finish the rifling of the barrel with a higher level of consistency. That said, a stainless steel barrel cannot take the same level of abuse or use as a chrome or melonite barrel can.


A short, lightweight handguard is preferable for the RECCE rifle. This is because a lightweight handguard is easier to grip and offers greater mobility in the field. As far as rails that are in this category of thin but strong quality, check into Novesky or Daniel Defense. When it comes to the keymod vs Mlock decision, either type will do just fine. While most manufacturers are leaning toward the Mlock as a result of recent military contracts, the keymod still has plenty of validity in the modern gun market. Also, keep in mind that a RECCE rifle does not require a great deal of rail mounted accessories.

Backup Sights

An important part of the RECCE rifle set up is the addition of back up iron sights. A RECCE rifle is by definition a scoped rifle, however the ability to have iron sights should something happen to the scope is critical. We suggest the flip-up Magpul Mbus sights, as they fold into concealment quite nicely and are good quality.


Having the lightweight handguard on a RECCE setup demands the addition of a foregrip, for better control. Better control helps you put more rounds on target, quicker. There are any number of foregrips on the market right now, from the thicker vertical-grip models such as the BCM Gunfighter, to the more streamlined Magpul AFG2 angled grips. We’re big fans of the TangoDown vertical foregrips. Find something that feels comfortable and go for it.


RECCE is an abbreviation for β€œrecon,” and a great deal of recon happens in places that aren’t the most forgiving or well lit. Running a light on the RECCE setup is a must. Something with a pulse switch is preferable. This isn’t a part to skimp on. We suggest going the extra mile and going with a reputable battle-tested light like a Surefire. It’s worth the investment, as these are rugged lights that can take whatever you throw at them.


Given the reasonable cost of quality ARs on the market right now, your scope will likely cost as much as the rifle. But that is a good thing. To build an effective RECCE rifle, you need a scope that can do the job up close as well as at distance. A scope that goes from 1x to 6x is ideal. A few solid and topnotch scopes to look at are the Stiener M5XI, or the Trijicon AccuPower 1-8×28. The scope on your RECCE rifle is what gives you a real versatility with engaging targets that are both near and far away.


Having a sling on your RECCE rifle is absolutely essential. While the three-point sling is all the rage nowadays for guys looking to compete, that’s not exactly what you need for a RECCE set-up. Again, RECCE is short for β€œrecon,” meaning behind enemy lines and potentially in very adverse situations. A three-point sling is not a great idea in this sort of situation because if you need to transition to your pistol quickly or let go of your rifle to run or go hand-to-hand, the three-point sling tends to send your unattended rifle straight into your crotch. This is less than ideal for any tactical situation. If you’re set on having three-point capability, Magpul’s MS3 Gen2 sling allows you to convert between three-point and two-point.

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