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Wilson Combat Recon Tactical Review

by Jason Teague   |  March 19th, 2013 1
Wilson-Combat-Recon-Tactical

The Recon represents all the attributes needed in a well-rounded AR rifle. It's lightweight, balanced, accurate and can handle everything from hunting to defense.

Around every corner you can find an AR-style rifle built to suit any need you may have. Be it hunting or competition, self-defense or a law enforcement application, there is a black rifle that can fit the bill. I really enjoy collecting and assembling ARs in various configurations, but there are times when I like knowing I can grab one rifle to match any role where the gas gun is my preferred choice. The Wilson Combat Recon Tactical in .300 Blackout may be that rifle.

Anymore, how do you build an AR that stands out from the rest? A rifle that as soon as you pick it up it feels…different? Attention to detail applied to any firearm at any price is something that matters to me when making a purchase, especially if the price makes you pay for that detail.

The Recon doesn’t disappoint. Wilson Combat has been a premier 1911 custom shop for years and many professionals use and recommend their pistols. So it should come as no surprise that Wilson’s line of AR rifles equals the quality and performance of its 1911s.

Fit and Feel
Overwhelmingly obvious is how well balanced the Recon feels. Pick it up. It weighs seven pounds sans optics, and gives the perception that it’s lighter than the spec sheet describes. The medium-contour, 16-inch barrel is the perfect diameter that contributes to the excellent balance. Shouldering the Recon makes you want to jump in the truck and head to the range.

The heart of the Recon is the Wilson 416R stainless match barrel. Button rifled and machined with a 1:8-inch twist, this version measured 16 inches. Wilson offers 11.3-, 14.7- and 18-inch barrels with optional 1:7 or 1:8 twist rates. Built specifically for suppressed fire with heavier projectiles, the match-grade barrel handles the supersonic stuff just as well when there is a need to shoot at farther distances. Gas is tapped from the barrel at a carbine-length position via a low-profile gas block. When shooting the heavier loads versus 5.56 offerings, I noted that the recoil from the Recon’s gas system was pleasantly soft.

Fluting fore and aft of the gas block provides a nice cosmetic touch and well executed, but I’ve never really felt it was something that is necessary on a working gun. Fortunately, just as with any firearm Wilson builds, you can have it your way and do away with the flutes if that’s your preference. Finishing off the barrel at the muzzle is Wilson’s Accu-Tac flash hider. Designed not only to reduce muzzle signature, it will not affect barrel harmonics either.

Wrapped around the match-grade barrel you will find Wilson’s proprietary Tactical Rail Interface, Modular (T.R.I.M.) free-float handguard. Following along the popular trend of slim, smooth handguards, the T.R.I.M. system allows the shooter to place the correct rail section length to suit the specific mission. This keeps the handguard narrow and extremely comfortable to handle during a long day on the range. And don’t overlook the dual, integral push-button sling attachment points. They provide ample sling mounting options.

Feeding the highly successful Blackout cartridge into the chamber is an NP3-coated Mil-Spec bolt carrier assembly. Even though Wilson Combat has its own Armor Tuff finish, Wilson partnered with Robar Industries to take advantage of the very durable NP3 plating. According to Wilson, their testing and the testing of others have shown that Robar NP3 plating of the bolt carrier group enhances reliability, lessens cleaning time, improves corrosion resistance and minimizes required bolt lubrication. All of the stated benefits of NP3 simply add to the quality.

The Foundation
Building any quality AR starts with the foundation of a high-quality upper and lower receiver. Wilson Combat’s tolerance specifications allow for a superbly close fit between the upper and lower. There is no perceptible play between the two. No, that doesn’t directly relate to accuracy, but the fit of those close-fitting parts adds to the overall feel of the rifle, giving the shooter a very visceral sense of quality.

Wilson builds each Recon lower with its own tactical triggerguard. Machined from aluminum, it allows for easier access to the trigger and greater comfort for the middle finger if it presses against the base of the triggerguard. It would’ve been just as easy to use one of the many aftermarket triggerguards, but Wilson knew they could design a better mousetrap.

Rounding out the lower is a new pistol grip design that hasn’t been on the market for too long. The grip angle on the new design is straighter than a conventional grip. The concept is that the reduced grip angle provides for better ergonomics based on modern shooting stances with the rifle. I was a bit skeptical that it would provide any huge benefit to how the rifle handled, but kept an open mind. I think if something like this solves a particular problem for your mounting position, then it’s a plus, but I really didn’t see any huge benefit. Nonetheless, it was still very comfortable and provided for storage and a secure grip.

One item that I was particularly interested in evaluating was the Wilson Combat Tactical Trigger Unit (TTU). All components are self-contained and modular in design; the unit simply drops in ready to go. There is no adjustment necessary or screws to come loose. This Recon featured the single-stage model set at four pounds. It was very crisp and tested consistently.

The setting can be used in just about any application in which the Recon would find itself. It is clean and crisp enough to allow for precision shooting, but is also heavy enough for field use. Built into the TTU is an exclusive 1911-style Half-Cock Notch that makes the TTU one of the safest AR triggers available and allows the TTU to meet or exceed military specifications for drop safety.

On the back end of this rifle you’ll notice the new Bill Rogers-designed Super Stoc. This is one of the first production guns I’ve seen that uses this stock. At first glance it appears to be similar to most other collapsible-style carbine stocks. Instead, you will find some unique features like the ability to fit both commercial and Mil-Spec extension tubes through the use of a cam-lock system that removes all play commonly found on collapsible designs.

Mounting the stock provided for a very comfortable, slightly flared comb and also comes with built-in sling quick-detach mounting points. Overall, it really added to that feel of quality and close tolerances for which Wilson products are known. Finishing out the Recon is Wilson’s Armor-Tuff finish.

Providing for excellent corrosion and wear resistance, the finish is available in many colors and comes standard on Recons. Armor-Tuff is very aesthetically appealing. All parts coated have a very clean, satin finish that really makes the rifle look great while providing top-notch protection.

Scoped
Rounding out the package is a Nightforce NXS 2.5-10x32mm compact scope nestled in Nighforce’s own Ultralight Unimount. Since the Recon was built as a multirole, do-all AR rifle with a cartridge that can also fill many uses, I wanted a scope that could provide precision as well as a great field of view at closer ranges.

Wanting to keep the weight to a minimum, the NXS compact and Ultralight mount is the perfect choice. The NXS came equipped with a mil-dot reticle, quarter-MOA turrets and the newer night vision-capable illuminated reticle. The scope complemented the rifle perfectly since it did not affect the rifle’s balance.

The Numbers
I had high hopes for the Recon once I got to the range. I would’ve hated for a good first impression to be met with a crash and burn at the range. Even though the Blackout has gained notoriety from its excellent ability to be suppressed while shooting the heavy 208-grain and 220-grain projectiles, I wanted to see what this rifle could do across the bullet weight spectrum.

I started off with Hornady’s 110-grain V-MAX load. Yes, I know it is called a .300 Whisper, but it functions just fine in the Blackout. I followed that load up with Remington’s 125-grain OTM and Accutip offerings. On the heavy side, I ran the 208-grain Hornady A-MAX and Wilson’s own 220-grain HPBT. Though limited on ammo choices, I felt this cross section would still provide for a good representation of ammo that is commonly available.

I did have concerns about impact shift between the heavier bullets and the lightweight stuff, and my concerns were not wrong. After getting my data on the 110- and 125-grain ammo, I put my first 220-grain subsonic load downrange with no impact in sight. After making some adjustments, I discovered that both the 220-grain and 208-grain ammunition shifted almost 13½ inches and 15 inches low and right, respectively, from my point of aim with the lighter ammunition.

I knew there would be a vertical shift, but I wasn’t expecting a horizontal shift. Albeit the groups were good from all ammunition tested, you would definitely have to set this one up with one ammunition selection and purpose in mind.

I really felt that the Recon would make for an excellent hunting rifle with the 125-grain loads. Recoil impulse is very mild for a .30-caliber projectile out of an AR platform. Kids or recoil-sensitive shooters could easily take any medium-size game within 200 yards with the Blackout. The Recon was able to provide subminute-angle accuracy, and its balanced feel and light weight would make for an excellent rig for hunting.

But what about its use as a defensive weapon? I think that American law enforcement might be missing the boat here if they don’t seriously consider the Blackout as a contender for a patrol rifle cartridge. You get .30-caliber performance out of an AR platform. It provides good accuracy at the distances needed for a patrol rifle, and with the right bullet, better terminal performance across the spectrum of barriers a police officer is likely to encounter.

The Recon could easily handle those roles and more. It’s not often that I pick up an AR and really stop and say, “Damn, this is a nice rifle.” Yes, there are a lot of great ARs out there, but the Recon just seems to make sense. It has everything you need in a lightweight and balanced setup. Wilson Combat’s attention to detail and quality components contributes to the overall fit, feel, and performance of this package. Add to it the fact it’s chambered for .300 Blackout and you have a great all-around, multi-purpose rifle.

  • MrSottobanco

    This was an excellent comprehensive article. I am grateful that it was written. I am looking forward to purchase the SBR model. The information in this article helped support my notion that it is a quality firearm. I am glad to know that there is a drastic difference between supersonic and subsonic. I would rather know about it in advance than find out later in the field. Keep up the good work Mr. Teague!

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