One thing piston ARs are known for when compared to direct gas-impingement guns is extra weight because of the additional parts. Barrett's original REC7 tipped the scales at 7.6 pounds, but most of the extra weight wasn't due to the piston parts but rather the nine-inch Daniel Defense Omega-X free-float quad rail handguard.
The new version of the REC7, the Gen II, sports a much slimmer Barrett Enhanced Rail handguard with a KeyMod attachment system. This change dropped the weight of the REC7 from 7.6 to 7.2 pounds. It handles nicely and balances at the forward receiver pin with the stock extended.
The REC7 Gen II has a mid-length gas system. It has a medium-weight 16-inch barrel with a 5.56 NATO chamber and a 1:7 twist, and the bore is chrome lined. The barrel has been magnetic particle inspected. Barrett also offers the REC7 Gen II in 6.8 SPC and an SBR version with a 9.25-inch barrel.
The Barrett's piston is a one-piece design and is manufactured of 17-4 stainless steel. The REC7 Gen II's gas block is chrome lined, and the gas regulator is nitrided for added durability. A 1913 Picatinny-style rail has been machined into the gas block, which is hardened billet steel. It features a continuous top rail and has a two-inch polymer rail section attached at the three o'clock position at the muzzle end.
The rifles are Cerakoted for corrosion resistance and offered in various colors. I received a rifle in OD green to test. They are also offered in gray, flat dark earth and, of course, black. My test rifle wore a Magpul MOE stock, grip and enhanced trigger guard — all in black. Two 30-round Magpul PMags are provided, as is a multi-compartment soft tactical rifle case that is easily a $200 value (Barrett sells them separately for only $99).
The original REC7 had an A2-style pistol grip and an A2 flash hider on the end of the barrel. In addition to the Magpul MOE grip, the Gen II features a modern three-prong flash hider of the type proven to be most effective.
What else has changed? The flip-up sights on the original REC7 were from Midwest Industries, but the Gen II sports nice sights from PRI that are very tough. The new gun also comes with my favorite aftermarket enhanced charging handle: the BCM Gunfighter Mod 4 (medium).
Perhaps most importantly, Barrett got rid of the heavy, gritty, GI-type trigger of the original model and installed a Geissele SSA in the REC7 Gen II. The Geissele SSA is a two-stage trigger that provides a crisp 4.5-pound pull without any more parts than the original GI model. It is the standard for durability and quality when you're talking about lighter-than-GI triggers suitable for hard use. The SSA alone retails for $240.
Piston ARs have become popular over the last few years, and the main advantage being talked about by most people is how they're "more reliable" than direct gas-impingement AR designs. But the fact of the matter is that the main advantage of the piston AR design has nothing to do with reliability but rather heat.
The 5.56 cartridge generates the same amount of heat no matter the rifle it is fired in, but where that heat goes is the variable. With a direct gas-impingement gun, much of it is directed back into the receiver and the bolt carrier group. With a piston gun, gas does not get vented back into the receiver but instead into the face of the piston, keeping more heat away from the user and the carrier group. Cooler parts not only run longer but also last longer.
Taking the Barrett out to the range brought no surprises. It was soft-shooting and ran reliably with everything I fed it, including Wolf steel-case ammunition. Accuracy was more than acceptable, with several brands running close to one m.o.a.
The cost of the Geissele trigger ($240) is roughly how much more the REC7 Gen II costs compared to the previous model, but I think Barrett is offering much more value for the money with the Gen II. After testing the original REC7, I came to the conclusion that while being very expensive it was nearly a rack-grade rifle with only a very few extras moving it away from pure mil-spec. The Gen II has many substantial upgrades. But because it's twice the cost of many direct-impingement rifles that are just as accurate, I think Barrett is charging a lot for the Gen II simply because of the name on the receiver. That said, I like the looks of the Gen II better, and the rifle itself is a much better value now that it has been upgraded.
The Gen II
is almost a half-pound lighter than its predecessor, and the weight loss is due entirely to a new, slimmer fore-end that features KeyMod
is Cerakoting its receivers in several colors, and the bolt carrier group is chrome plated for reliability and easier cleaning.
The Gen II features a modern three-prong flash hider, and the PRI
front sight is built bank-vault tough.