The gun world has been witness to several large government contract dramas recently involving the choice and purchase of new guns. It has been raw fuel for internet speculation and suggestions. One area of discussion that gets revived in times like this is “combat rifles.” The opinions about the critical tools of war are as diverse as the guns they support. While names of many companies are thrown around with their latest go-fast gun, there is one that is overlooked: the Savage MSR 15 Recon.

The MSR 15 Recon is an AR-15 platform chambered in .223 Wylde, which allows it to easily and accurately run both .223 and 5.56 NATO. Known for great rifles, Savage has a strong place in the AR market in general. Having gotten my hands on it at the recent Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous in Gateway, Colo., the MSR Recon takes it to a new level.

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“This rifle offers a button-rifled, 16-inch barrel with accuracy-enhancing 5R rifling, a long-lasting Melonite QPQ finish and Savage’s trademark zero-tolerance headspace control,” said Bill Dermody, the Savage Arms marketing director. “These are high-performance barrels you’d have to buy as an upgrade with standard AR-15s.”

Dermody noted the rifles also feature the proven .223 Wylde target chambering that boosts versatility without sacrificing downrange performance.

“Typically, an aftermarket feature popular with competitive shooters, the .223 Wylde allows you to safely enjoy optimal accuracy from both .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition,” he explained.

The question, however, is simple: “Is the Savage MSR 15 Recon a serviceable combat rifle?” Well, let’s break it down and see what makes it tick before we make that call.

Battle Ready

The MSR 15 Recon has several stand out features that make is a serious contender.

First up is the unique rifling. Savage uses 5R rifling. Traditional rifling features a symmetrical series of four to six lands and grooves positioned directly across from each other. The challenge with this is that the 90-degree corners formed where the lands meet the grooves are hard to clean, so fouling tends to build up, eventually degrading accuracy.

In 5R rifling, lands are slightly slanted in a more polygonal shape. By doing that, they’re easier to clean and less prone to collect accuracy-robbing fouling. Plus, lands are lined up across from grooves, cradling the bullet just enough to spin the projectile without unnecessary constriction.

Savage has also taken a hard look at the gas system. The traditional gas system used by the military is a DI or direct impingement gas system.

Problems that have arisen from this design in modern rifles is generally based around the length of the gas tube used in the gun. Many rifles today have 16-inch, mid-length barrels paired with a carbine-length gas system intended for use with a 14-inch carbine barrel. This creates an over-gassed situation that increases recoil and reduces accuracy and durability.

Savage uses a correctly matched gas tube, which eliminates this issue.

Along those lines is the serious treatment that Savage gives their barrels. Any gun sent into combat will see some of the harshest environments and conditions possible. Barrel durability is critical. Savage protects them inside and out of the MSR 15 Recon with an extremely durable surface hardening treatment known as Melonite QPQ. Short for “quench, polish, quench,” the thermochemical nitrocarburizing process produces a long-lasting, non-reflective finish that’s harder than chrome and offers a lower coefficient of friction. This provides wear and corrosion resistance far superior to standard coatings and platings.

The trigger on the MSR 15 Recon also provides a blend of high performance and reliability. Savage has included its AR Blaze trigger system. The system features exclusive surface technology that reduces creep while permanently ensuring a smooth pull and clean break, with no lubrication.

Rounding the rifle out, Savage’s receivers are forged aluminum alloy and the lower is machined. The bolt carrier group and charging handle are mil spec, as you would find on any military rifle. The grip is a Blackhawk Knoxx AR Pistol Grip. The buttstock is a Blackhawk Axiom Carbine Stock. Both have a very comfortable feel — much better than off the rack military rifles.

The handguard is a free float M-LOK design capable of mounting any hardware needed.

Range Performance

Performance-wise, I found the gun to be a shooter. With a hasty set up and zero prep time, I was easily able to get sub MOA groups with a variety of ammo. It weighs 7 pounds making it an average weight rifle and certainly light enough for long term carry and use.

The manipulations on the gun are crisp and clean, while the overall fit and finish of the gun are solid. So, we know it is made of quality, well-thought out components and that it is a shooter. If I was pressed for an answer on our initial question about the gun being a serviceable combat rifle, I would say “yes.” However, I’m adding this caveat: Any gun that is potentially going to be run by our troops needs to have been proven in serious testing.

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There are obvious things that would need to be added to the MSR 15 Recon, such as select fire capability. However, given my experience with many Savage rifles, I would put money on the fact that not only would the MSR 15 Recon survive testing, that it would shine.

In the end, even if it never becomes a contender for government contracts, the rifle is certainly a solid choice for civilians.

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Savage MSR 15 Recon Specifications

  • Action: Direct-impingement semi-auto
  • Caliber: .223 Remington/5.56x45mm
  • Capacity: 30
  • Finish: Matte black hardcoat anodized receiver and Melonite QPQ barrel
  • Barrel Length: 16.125 inches
  • Rifling: 1:8” 5R Right-hand
  • Sights: Blackhawk flip-up
  • Stock: Blackhawk AXIOM Carbine Stock
  • Overall Length: 33.5-36.75 inches
  • Weight: 7 pounds
  • MSRP: $999

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