July 27, 2020
There is only one popular precision bullpup rifle on the market — Desert Tech. My first experience with the Desert Tech SRS occurred about 10 years ago. My impression at the time was favorable, but it was early in the product’s life.
Fast forward 10 years, and the SRS A2 is in production. It’s now a mature design that has overcome its initial growing pains. The A2 is an excellent rifle that can quickly change calibers, and it possesses a number of features that should interest any precision shooter.
Odd as this may seem, the most compelling feature of the SRS A2 is the magazine. The standard magazine holds either five or six rounds in a single-stack configuration. Regardless of the cartridge, the magazine footprint remains the same. A magazine for the .308 Winchester is the same size as a magazine for the .338 Lapua Magnum.
The magazine has its own “shoulder” that sits against the cartridge’s shoulder to prevent the bullet’s nose from impacting the magazine under recoil. The magazine’s shoulder frees up a lot of room for the bullet itself, making the Desert Tech magazine one of the most bullet-friendly magazines for very-low-drag (VLD) projectiles sold today.
I bought this SRS A2 because I want to get a barrel for it chambered in .300 PRC and then use it as an extended long-range (ELR) rifle. The .300 PRC chamber design has a tight .308-inch free-bore diameter, so long VLD bullets don’t have a chance to yaw prior to engaging the rifling.
The issue with the .300 PRC is its 3.7-inch maximum cartridge overall length (OAL). It’s quite a bit longer than the .300 Win. Mag.’s 3.34-inch OAL, around which most of the long-action magnum magazines are designed.
One of the best long-action precision rifles made is the Accuracy International (AI) AXMC rifle with its superior 10-round, double-stack magazine designed for the .300 Win. Mag. family of cartridges. This magazine is capable of holding cartridges as long as 3.81 inches. However, ammunition loaded that long will cause a bullet’s nose to impact the forward wall of the magazine under recoil. This isn’t a big deal because the rifle is heavy, and the case-neck tension on the bullet is more than enough to hold it in place. Still, I’d prefer not to beat up a bullet’s nose at any time.
Taking a look at the five-round .300 Win. Mag. magazine from Desert Tech shows an internal length capability of a whopping 3.94 inches. Like the AI magazine, cartridges loaded this long will cause the bullet’s nose to impact the magazine. However, cartridges can be loaded as long as 3.81 inches while still keeping the bullet’s nose away from the magazine wall. This is all due to the way the magazine shoulder rests against the cartridge’s shoulder when rounds are loaded into the magazine.
What this all boils down to is the SRS A2 is the king of the .30-caliber magnums. I’m setting mine up to shoot 250-grain Hornady A-TIPs out of a 1:8-inch twist barrel. It’ll be one of my 2,000-yard rifles. Even with the long 250-grain bullet, I’ll be able to load long and keep the bullet shank out of the case (maximizing case capacity), while still having room to chase the rifling lands as the throat wears. The magazine holds five rounds of .300 PRC, but the ELR game isn’t about shooting quickly or in high volume.
The bullpup design puts the trigger in front of the action instead of underneath it. This has, historically, been both a blessing and a curse.
Repositioning the trigger allows for a much shorter overall package, the biggest advantage a bullpup has to offer. This allows the SRS to have a 26-inch barrel and still maintain a 37-inch overall length. A traditional rifle with a 26-inch barrel will be about 10 inches longer.
Moving the trigger in front of the action also mandates moving the scope closer to the muzzle to maintain proper eye relief. Pushing the scope closer to the muzzle means it is looking over the top of less barrel, reducing the optic’s exposure to mirage.
A form of mirage occurs when a barrel gets hot and those heat waves rise up into the optic’s line of sight. The heat waves distort the image the optic sees, so the shooter has to stop and wait for the barrel to cool.
The SRS A2 puts most of the barrel (and the hottest part of it) under the scope where heat can cause no optical distortion. This means more trigger time and less waiting for the gun to cool.
The bullpup design of the A2 also gives it an unusually long length of pull. Even with no length of pull spacers installed, the shortest length of pull measures 14.5 inches. On a traditional rifle, this would cause a problem because it would be difficult to get the scope rearward enough and close to some shooter’s eyes. However, the SRS A2 has plenty of Picatinny rail available on its integral scope base to pull the scope as close as needed.
The SRS A2 also has an adjustable comb to help align the shooter’s head with the riflescope. There isn’t a lot of comb adjustment because the comb sits directly above the receiver, so the mechanism has little room vertically to operate. However, there is no drop in the comb, and it sits above the barrel’s centerline axis, so very little adjustment is actually needed.
I mounted a Leupold Mark 5 7-35x56mm scope on the rifle at a mount height of 1.5 inches, and I used about half of the .75-inch of comb adjustment to get into a comfortable shooting position. Between the adjustable length of pull, the lengthy integral pic rail scope base and the adjustable comb, the SRS A2 will fit just about anybody.
A1 Versus A2
From its first A1s to today’s A2s, Desert Tech has made some impressive advancements to make the A2s so much better. The most notable and easily quantifiable of these changes is shedding 2.1 pounds of weight. Knocking weight out of a rifle is no easy task, but the company got there by machining off unneeded material from the rifle.
Seeing the most significant losses were the barrel and barrel extension with deep flutes cut into both. Owners of A1 rifles had been doing this for years, but now it comes that way from the factory. Machining steel from the extension is a great idea because the extra material was doing nothing significant. Since the A1 has been out long enough, the added machine time to cut those flutes doesn’t show up on the sale price of the A2.
The A2’s receiver also saw some additional machine time with relief cuts on the sides and the removal of some internal mass. As far as weight goes, these changes don’t add up to significant weight loss, but they do contribute to the overall reduction.
The handguard saw a significant change with the move to an easily removed M-LOK model. What once required a special tool now takes a 3mm Hex and a T-15 Torx wrench. The ability to easily transition between the full-length 13-inch handguard and a 7-inch handguard allows the shooter to tailor the rifle to barrel length.
Some argue that getting the short handguard is the way to go because it allows the A2 to use anything from a 16-inch barrel all the way out to 30 inches and beyond. With the new system, there is no reason to choose one or the other. The shooter can just buy the appropriate handguard when the time comes.
Being able to easily tailor handguard length on the A2 is important because the bullpup design is harder to work with when shooting positionally. A short, stubby handguard will already make an inconvenient task more difficult.
Like all precision rifles, both ends of the rifle have to be stabilized to shoot accurately. Stabilizing the front end requires resting the handguard on something. The longer the handguard, the easier it is to find a rest.
The 7-inch short handguard is only going to be good for use off a bipod or a tripod. If that’s all a guy wants to do with it, then short is the way to go.
I bought mine with the long handguard because fast field positions are more important to me than the 3 or 4 ounces in weight I’d save by going with the shorter handguard.
At the Range
One of the most debated changes from the A1 to A2 was the move from a fully adjustable (and easily accessible) trigger to an adjustable 1.5- to 7-pound trigger that requires some rifle disassembly. Adjusting the trigger doesn’t happen often, so partial disassembly is a minor inconvenience.
Besides the lack of access to the trigger, my biggest concern with the SRS A2 trigger was how good can a 7-pound trigger be. As it turned out, it didn’t take long for that concern to die. The trigger is excellent and only needs to be lightly adjusted from the factory setting to be exceptional.
Whether fired from the prone, offhand or off a tripod, there’s no weakness. There is a flat section of stock toe (where a monopod would attach) that rides a rear bag well. With a good bipod attached to the forend, stabilizing the rifle is no problem at all.
This is no lightweight hunting rifle, and yet the A2 is still comfortable to shoot offhand. Moving the trigger’s position forward of the receiver puts a lot of the rifle’s weight close to the shooter’s shoulder. Weight holds more comfortably when close to the body.
Where the rifle would not be a great choice to have is for any type of shooting that requires fast reloads while on the rifle. The magazine is close to the shoulder and requires the shooter to come completely off the gun to change the magazine. Combine that level of effort with the fact that magazines don’t drop free, and it’s clear it’s not built for speed.
I bought this rifle several months ago and have always enjoyed shooting it. The unique aspects of the magazine capacity, the ease with which it handles mirage and its extreme portability make it an excellent choice for anyone looking for a long-range precision rifle.
Desert Tech SRS A2
- Type: Bolt-action repeater
- Cartridge: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag., .300 RUM, .338 Lapua Magnum
- Capacity: 5, 6 or 10 rds.
- Barrel: 26 in.; 1:8-in. twist
- Overall Length: 37 in.
- Weight: 9.5 lbs.
- Stock: Bullpup
- Grip: Molded-in light texture
- Finish: Cerakote
- Length of Pull: 14.5 in. (spacer adjustable)
- Sights: None
- Safety: Two-position selector
- MSRP: $4,295
- Manufacturer: Desert Tech, deserttech.com
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