Desert Tech SRS-A1 Covert Rifle

   10.05.15

Countless studies have been conducted about the correlation between barrel length and rifle accuracy. Progressive thinking and advancements in ammunition ballistics have demonstrated that the axiom “longer is always better” is simply not true in most circumstances. My focus as a law enforcement (LE) sniper team leader has been on the rapid deployment of firearms that can easily deliver accurate rounds on-target at reasonable distances under less than ideal circumstances. Knowing that the “biggest” gun is not always the best choice in such applications, I am always seeking tools that more effectively meet my team’s needs.

I was given the opportunity to test out a Desert Tech .308 SRS-A1 Covert rifle recently. At 26 inches in overall length, the Covert is specifically designed with LE and military snipers in mind. It is portable, readily concealable, and exceptionally maneuverable for urban operations.

It specs are as follows:

  • Caliber: .308 Winchester (also available in .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum)
  • Overall length: 26″
  • Barrel length: 16″
  • Rate of twist: 1:8″
  • Weight: 9.55 pounds
  • Trigger pull: 3 pounds (adjustable)
  • Capacity: 5-round magazines
  • Price: $5,195 (chassis: $3,595, conversion kit: $1,600)

Because of its compact bullpup stature, some shooters may first dismiss the Covert as a “trick gun” or a study in “how small can we go” with a .308 rifle. Based on our own personal experiences, we as shooters believe (often rightfully so) that there is always a degree of compromise when flirting with one of the maximal end of the design spectrum. “Concept” guns often sacrifice functionality for sex appeal.

The SRS-A1 is no "concept gun" and performs as well as it claims.
The SRS-A1 Covert is no “concept gun” and performs as well as it claims.

The Covert is not that kind of gun. Desert Tech clearly took painstaking measures to produce a robust shooting platform geared towards the real-world end user. Those buzzwords are used so often that they are easily dismissed, but the Covert lives up to its expressed intent with beefy attributes and simplistic design. The rifle combines (as described by Desert Tech) high-impact polymer construction with 7075-T6 aluminum and high-strength steel to make a surprisingly basic, compact precision weapons system on a monolithic receiver/mounting chassis. If you can get past the Covert’s Star Wars appearance, you will appreciate the rifle’s minimalist-but-functional design.

The rifle’s grip is significant without being overbuilt, and has a substantial feel when firing the weapon. As a shooter with smaller hands I found that I had to consciously avoid too much input on the pistol grip. I felt that the grip and stock must be utilized deliberately and aggressively to maintain a strong shooting platform.

The rifle’s bolt is quite beefy and can be operated quickly and efficiently while wearing gloves or in low-light conditions. The fact that the Covert is a bullpup cannot be ignored, and several shooters commented on the learning curve required to become proficient in manipulating the bolt while maintaining a good sight picture for follow up shots. Some of the guys felt that the bullpup design and bolt configuration were too compact in the shoulder pocket, making the bolt manipulation and cheekweld somewhat awkward while cycling the weapon.

After repeated drills with the Covert, the compactness of the rifle became easier and more intuitive to operate. As with any weapons platform, practice builds proficiency.

The manual of arms of the Covert takes some getting used to, but it's fast when you do.
The manual of arms of the Covert takes some getting used to, but it’s fast when you do.

The Covert comes with a factory set three-pound trigger that is adjustable. During the evaluation no adjustments were made to the trigger assembly, and I would describe the action as crisp once the initial slack was taken out of the trigger. The trigger, as with everything about the rifle, responded well when purposed action was made on the part of the shooter to make the shot. In that respect it is what I would describe as a “deliberate action” tactical rifle, and not a competition “race gun.”

Some of the shooting behaviors that I could get away with on my Remington 700 were punishing behind the Covert. The most consistent results from it came when the shooter was actively engaged in deliberately handling the rifle through the shooting process. In other words, with a shorter shooting platform like the Covert, deficiencies on the part of the shooter will always be more pronounced.

The rifle demonstrated considerable, repeatable accuracy, logging sub-MOA groups at 100 yards (with multiple shooters) and reliable hits on steel at distances up to 500 yards. The Covert produced consistent bullet velocities when fired through a chronograph with only slight variances (with a single anomaly contributed to the factory ammunition being fired). See detailed results below. Speeds were recorded using Federal 168-grain Gold Medal Match.

Shot Speed (feet per second)
1 2,475
2 2,468
3 2,486
4 2,468
5 2,481
6 2,469
7 2,501
8 2,478
9 2,486
10 2,469

When considering the more-than-adequate accuracy of the Covert and its incredibly compact footprint, there is little doubt in my mind as to the rifle’s viability as an effective option for tactical precision shooters looking for an incredibly maneuverable, compact, and precise weapon system. In the modern LE climate, low-profile deployment and discretion are always driving factors in the utilization of tactical units. The fact that the Covert can be concealed in a small backpack bodes well for everything from dignitary protection to team overwatch with a reduced “tactical footprint.”

While evaluating the Covert in its expressed capacity as a tactical precision rifle, I couldn’t help the romantic notion of packing the rifle into the backcountry on an extended hunting trip and I would be curious as to whether any rifle hunters have considered the gun a viable option for that task. As I drift outside of my lane, I can only imagine that the Covert would excel in any backcountry pursuits based on the observed attributes of the gun.

In LE sniping, premeditated decisions require total focus and attention on the part of the shooter to get the necessary results. The Desert Tech Covert is a purpose-built compact weapon platform, which requires inherently deliberate attention on the part of the shooter to deliver accurate rounds on-target. The Covert is for a niche group of shooters, who by their very function have to have the utmost confidence in their equipment and training. The Covert delivers reliable accuracy in an incredibly compact design with countless attributes that make it a more than viable option for the LE sniper, as well as the modern sportsman.

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