Desert Tech SRS-A1 Covert Rifle
In my years on the department ’s precision team, I witnessed the evolution of the American sniper rifle firsthand. One of the prevailing trends has been the shortening of the barrel, as snipers sought after a more maneuverable rifle system. Now with the Desert Tech SRS-A1 Covert, the advancement of the modern sniper rifle has indeed risen to a new height.
From the onset of my time on SWAT, we commonly used 24-inch barrels. Those Remington 700s were very precise but were very unwieldy at the range, let alone in the field on a stalk. When I left the sniper team (due to my foolishness in taking a promotional test), we were using 18-inch barrels on short-action Remington 700s with an overall length of 36 inches—still a challenge to deploy quickly.
“Changing the barrel was easy and simple after loosening the barrel nut on the left side of the stock just above the trigger area.”
Unfortunately, Desert Tech was not up and running when I left, but the Desert Tech SRS-A1 Covert offers many of the things our team was looking for. Desert Tech offers its standard bullpup design Scout Recon System in a 16 -inch-barreled Covert model. The overall length of this rifle is 26.5 inches compared to the 36-inch short-action rifle system more commonly used.
The many attempts to solve the overall “length problem” with precision rifles have been largely focused on modular systems that allow the shooter to remove barrels or the simpler method of adding a folding stock, which will get you close to the Desert Tech Covert. However, the Desert Tech lets you keep every part of your rifle intact and ready as soon as you remove it from your pack, case or vehicle. This makes the DT SRS-A1 Covert truly portable, concealable, and maneuverable for urban deployments.
Initial impressions make this look like a “futuristic” compact carbine until you see the large magazine under the stock—and then you realize this is not a 5.56 rifle. Then, looking at the large, oversized, tactical bolt handle, you know you are shooting a bolt-action rifle.
The layout of most of this rifle is different from the traditional short-action rifles I have shot over the years. First, the bolt handle is under the shooter’s cheek rest.
At first, this is a little a slower and more awkward from the norm. However, I was surprised at how quickly it started to feel comfortable. (I have spoken to new shooters who started out on this design and did not know any other way; these shooters had some of the fastest times during bolt manipulation drills on the range.)
Secondly, the box magazine is behind the trigger assembly, as is the ambidextrous magazine release. The magazines are unique to the Desert Tech rifle and offer the ability to change calibers without changing to a different magazine each time.
Finally, the safety is above the trigger guard and is accessible on both sides of the rifle. I found this safety easier to manipulate than the traditional style at the rear of the bolt.
Changing the barrel was easy and simple after loosening the barrel nut on the left side of the stock, just above the trigger area.
I did notice that the QD sling mounts on the rear of the stock stuck out away from the stock approximately half an inch on both sides. I can see why this design was necessary due to the bolt sliding all the way the rear of the stock, but it does add the possibility of catching on clothing or other tactical gear in certain situations.
The newest T&E (testing and evaluation) rifle from Desert Tech arrived nicely equipped with several top-quality accessories.
To start, it came with a Kahles Helia C 3-12×56 riflescope. This was a base unit as it did not have an illuminated reticle, but I was impressed with the ultra-bright image and clarity. The 56mm object provided a great field of view down range.
The scope was equipped with a Horus Vision Reticle that I have not used previously. Having used Duplex and TMR reticles through most of my professional career, I am very intrigued by this reticle’s potential and the shot correction capabilities due to the finely displayed “Christmas tree” style grid.
A Harris swivel bipod that I was very familiar with, having used one for many years, was included. However, I will have to admit after a few shots went downrange I quietly changed the Harris out for the Atlas bipod I had on my own precision rifle. I feel the Atlas’s stability and adjustability are unmatched when shooting from a bipod.
“I was impressed that right out of the case I was able to get sub MOA groups at 100 yards. After a few minor scope adjustments, I was seeing half-inch groups.”
The DT Covert SRS-A1 showed up with two barrels, a 6.5 Creedmoor and a .308, both 16 inches in length in the Covert model. Changing out the barrels takes about two to three minutes the first time you do it, and about half that every time after. Although I have not worked with too many modular barrel systems, this one was very simple and straightforward. All it required is loosening and re-tightening retention screws on the right side and one locking screw on the left side of the rifle.
I was impressed that right out of the case it was shipped in I was able to get sub-MOA groups at 100 yards. After a few minor scope adjustments, I was seeing half-inch groups with Desert Tech’s own 140-grain 6.5 Creedmoor Premium Match Grade Ammunition. As I fired more rounds, I became more and more comfortable with the rearward bolt manipulation.
At the Range
The DT Covert is not “lightweight,” but I found it very well balanced. I have had experience shooting from unsupported shooting positions over the years and with traditional rifle systems. With these rifles, you are trying to find the best way to support the weapon without overly counterbalancing your position. I shot the DT Covert in standing, kneeling and prone positions, and this is where the DT Covert’s compactness really shined.
Looking at the bolt design would make you think shooting this rifle from a support side would be slow or awkward, but that was not the case. I had to lift my cheek off the stock completely to run the bolt; after a few shots, I was able to get back on target. Although I cannot remember ever having to use the rifle on my support side while deployed, anything is possible.
“Other shooters have mentioned concerns about excessive creep in the trigger, but I did not notice any excess play or creep.”
I have not shot many rifles with an adjustable monopod built into the stock. I have long been a fan of using small support rear bags for minor elevation changes. However, I liked the micro-adjustments of using the monopod. The fact that it’s built into the stock is another big win.
Other shooters have mentioned concerns about excessive creep in the trigger, but I did not notice any excess play or creep. The trigger is adjustable, and I felt it broke cleanly and crisply once you took the initial slack out of it.
The Desert Tech Covert delivers reliable accuracy in a solid compact design. This rifle is purposely built with the urban sniper in mind. It will take some traditional bolt-action rifle shooters a little time to adjust to the rear bolt action, but in the end they will be rewarded with a discrete, maneuverable and accurate rifle for their tactical missions.
DESERT TECH SRS-A1 COVERT
CALIBERS: .223, .243 REMINGTON, 6.5 MM CREEDMOOR, .308 WINCHESTER, .300 WIN MAGNUM, .338 LAPUA.COM
OVERALL LENGTH: 26 INCHES
BARREL LENGTH: 16 INCHES
RATE OF TWIST: 1:8
WEIGHT: 9.5 POUNDS
TRIGGER PULL: 3 POUNDS (ADJUSTABLE)
CAPACITY: VARIES PER CALIBER
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the September-October print issue of World of Firepower Magazine.