Having sold my last AR – a LMT MRP – about two years ago, I was a little out of touch with what was available in the AR world even though I’d been fortunate enough to attend SHOT 2013 which gave me an opportunity to handle lots and lots of cool Black Rifle stuff.
As much as I would have liked to, I decided that I couldn’t really justify a top-end and top-priced AR model again but neither did I want to go with an entry level offering so I was looking at the very-crowded mid-level segment of the market.
Ultimately and after a bit of internet shopping, I decided to buy a Daniel Defense rifle. I chose DD because of it’s great reputation and the fact I’d handled one or two at SHOT and therefore had a good idea of fit and finish, and the price point of these rifles which I thought represented really good value.
Having decided on DD, the next step was to choose a model. At first I was confused by the DD model line-up but soon realised that the nomenclature used by DD means that essentially all the 5.56 M4’s are the same with model variances V1 thru V7 referring to sights, rails and barrel weights only. My inner ‘Mall Ninja’ was attracted the Mk18 short-barreled (10″) version because “that’s what they use” but the more practical side took over and I went instead with the V7 as I have no need for full rails and like the somewhat cleaner look afforded by this particular model.
At it happens, Wolverine Supplies had a special combo deal on a DDM4V7 and a Vortex Viper PST 4-16×50 – now I’m not a big fan of Vortex stuff and have written scope reviews in which I said that I think they are somewhat overrated. This time however I thought I’d give Vortex a chance and figured if I didn’t like the scope there are enough Vortex fans out there that reselling it wouldn’t be an issue.
The shopping experience with Wolverine was, as always, very good. I made a phone call to order the rifle combo and one or two small extras like a single point sling, gave my credit card # and that was that. As a bonus, the deal also came with five extra steel E-Lander 5/30 mags and while I have a number of LAR15 and P-Mags from my last venture into the AR platform, free mags are always a good deal and I was pleased to get them.
First impressions of anything are important, and I was pleased to see that DD included a hard plastic case for shipment and transportation. Not the greatest rifle case but a little thing that, to my mind, says something about the manufacturers level of customer service. Upon careful examination of the rifle itself I was certainly not disappointed: fit and finish were excellent and that goes a long way with me. I am quite picky, and have been known to write critical comments where I have been less than impressed but, in all honesty, I can’t say anything bad about the build quality of this product. Upper and lower fit perfectly with not a lick of play between them and the action cycled smoothly ( unlike some I’ve heard about that are ‘gritty’ to start with ) and the trigger was perfectly fine for a factory AR trigger – now please don’t misunderstand me; this trigger is not a Jewel or anything remotely similar but, in my view, it is quite acceptable for a military-style carbine.
This Is What Was In The Box – Including a Free Hat ! :
I guess before moving on I ought to run through some vital stats. All the numbers are taken straight from the manufacturer’s website and are: Length 32.636″, Weight 6 Lbs 6 oz, Calibre 5.56 and ROT 1:7
The rifle comes with the Magpul MOE stock which, while quite sufficient for my needs, I decided to replace. I had a B5 Sopmod on my LMT that I liked but this time I went with the Magpul ACS simply because it was easy to buy here in Canada (Wolverine again). This wasn’t an essential upgrade at all, just more of a personal preference thing.
The as-supplied handgrip was one thing that I wasn’t such a fan of – for sure it is OK but it isn’t the most comfortable for me, so an Ergo grip – which I’ve previously used on AR’s – was immediately ordered and installed as a replacement.
The modular float rail is certainly more comfortable and lighter than other, more bulky, rails and I’m pleased I went with this type of railing system as anything heavier would in my view upset the natural balance of the rifle. As it is the model is just a wee bit nose heavy for my taste but that’s a very minor complaint and I’d bet money that a build with a 14.5 rather than 16″ barrel would be just perfect for daily duty carry or use. I also think that replacing the MOE stock with the slightly heavier ACS may have actually evened things out – so small was the perceived imbalance.
The Rails and Handguard Supplied with V7:
The supplied and the bonus E-Lander mags all fit fine and also dropped freely as did the PMags I’ve dug out of storage. Actually the E-Landers – which I’d never heard of before- looked to be quite good magazines though I did end up selling them simply because I prefer polymer mags over steel ones.
As this was a combo purchase, I ought to comment upon the Vortex scope the rifle came with: As mentioned above, this is the 4-15×50 Viper PST model and it is second focal plane which I much, much prefer. It is a Mil/Mil scope which while not new to me, isn’t my preferred choice as I am a MOA man but Mil is easy enough to use and the important thing is to have matching turrets whichever way you go. Overall, this is quite a nice scope – the glass is clear and other than having a reticule that is a bit ‘busy’ this isn’t a bad piece of equipment. The controls are easy to operate and give the user a good feel and , most importantly, are repeatable – something that can’t be taken for granted no matter how much one pays for glass.
The Vortex Scope:
I think the list on the Viper PST is around a thousand bucks which puts it in contention with Sightron Siii and some other good scopes. Any scope going up against the Siii at the same price point has chosen a tough row to hoe but the PST looks to be up to the challenge. While the scope looks good on the DDM4 and is easily good enough for my needs I would, were I planning to be using this AR a lot, switch it out for my NF NXS 5.5-22×50. Not a fair comparison of scopes but this isn’t really a scope review and I’m just stating what I’d do if I planned to spend a lot of time behind this rifle shooting at any meaningful distance. Since this is a ‘range use only’ toy, what I will do for fun is to put a clone EoTech on this rifle – I say I will put on a clone as I can’t afford to spend the $5-600 on a real EoTech holographic sight. While the $50 clone may or may not work properly at the range ( who cares ) I don’t recommend clone optics for any rifle used for anything other than range plinking and they certainly shouldn’t be thought of as a substitute for the real thing.
Back to the combo as purchased, the scope is joined to the rifle by the Burris P.E.P.R one piece mount. I hadn’t used this mount before but so far I like it, it puts the scope where I want it to be and seems a very solid piece of kit.
Burris Scope Mount (and A.R.M.S Back Up Front Sight ):
Working through three boxes of S&B 55g FMJ at the local range, the rifle worked without a flaw. While AR’s can be very accurate, sub-moa, rifles when properly configured and in the right hands, I feel that a rifle like this is more about making hits than making nice tight groups. If I need to do the latter I have a number of quality competition-ready bolt guns that I can turn to so, at least for me, the AR is about having some fun and yet still being able to make decent hits on a target not random shotgun-spread holes. With the S&B 55g ammo -which isn’t by any means a match grade round – most 5 shot groups came in at 100 m with accuracy around 2.0 MOA which I was fine with. I suspect a heavier bullet would work better in the 1:7 twist barrel and I have lots of 75g AMAX which I can load up for this gun as well as plenty of 69g SMK’s which are also proven performers. I suspect that, for me, accuracy will end up being around 1.5 MOA with proper loads with an occasional one or sub grouping to make me smile. Either way the accuracy – for this type of rifle – will suit me just fine.
The Rifle As Originally Furnished:
And With New Stock and Handguard:
Overall, I am very happy with my purchase. The rifle is more than I expected at the price point and appears to be as well made and finished as my old, beloved, LMT. The Viper PST has surprised me a bit and looks to be a good scope – perhaps not good enough to completely change my views on Vortex but moving them in the right direction.
Are there some negatives about this rifle ? Well, with nearly every firearm there simply has to be some compromise of quality vs price but DD certainly manage this equation well and the only thing I can really point to was the as-supplied grip and even with that I am being a bit petty as there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with it.
So, at days end, I have an AR back in the collection and it is one that I am really pleased to have.
Ready For The Range: