Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 Review
August 12, 2013
Founded at the beginning of the new millennium, Daniel Defense was focused upon significantly improving the M16/AR-15 system.
Marty Daniel started by designing and making sling loops and rail interfaces in small batches. Within a short time, demand for his components grew to the point he had to devote a small area in the shop of his other business in Savannah, Ga., for Daniel Defense products. Eventually a 38,000 square-foot facility was established in Black Creek, Ga. Substantial capital investments in vertical and horizontal CNC machinery brought Daniel Defense new manufacturing capabilities.
One of these was the manufacture of state-of-the-art barrels. Daniel Defense is now one of only five companies worldwide producing cold hammer-forged barrels. This multi-million-dollar factory barrel cell enables them to produce more than 4,000 barrels a month in multiple calibers and configurations using raw steel bar stock. In addition, Daniel Defense provides MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces to USSOCOM and L85 rail interfaces to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense.
Besides the Black Creek facility, Daniel Defense opened a 90,000 square-foot factory in Ridgeland, S.C. They are, quite obviously, major players in the AR-15 arena. Shotgun News was recently sent a Daniel Defense AR-15 for test and evaluation.
The rifle sent to SGN was the Daniel Defense M4 Carbine, V7 (DDM4 V7). There are several V7 model configurations. Our test specimen was the DDM4 V7 with a 16-inch Mid Length Government Profile barrel. There is also a model DDM4 V7LW with a 16-inch Mid Length Lightweight Profile barrel and a DDM4 V7-300 in caliber 300 AAC Blackout with an S2W (Strength-2-Weight) 16-inch barrel. The bolt carrier group with a properly staked gas key is HP/MPI tested as described below. A Daniel Defense ISR Integrated Gas Block has been installed.
All Daniel Defense AR rifles operate by means of direct gas impingement, in the manner of the original M16/AR-15 series as designed by Eugene Stoner, which eliminates the conventional gas cylinder, piston and operating rod assembly. Basically, this method of operation simply means that the high pressure propellant gases moving up through a port in the barrel just prior to the bullet leaving the muzzle, pass into the gas plug (or "block") and then down a tube to "impinge" directly upon the bolt carrier and start the recoil stroke of the reciprocating parts.
The 300 AAC Blackout (7.62x35mm) cartridge was developed by Advanced Armament Corporation in cooperation with Remington and intended to be chambered in the M4 Carbine. It was supposedly an answer to the perennial critics of the 5.56x45mm NATO round who think a .30 cal. cartridge provides the minimum performance required on the modern battlefield.
In brief, the design goals were to create a compact .30 cal. round for the AR platform; utilize existing magazines to their intended capacity; create a cartridge that matches 7.62x39mm ComBloc ballistics; have adequate barrier penetration; have acceptable sound reduction and flash suppression; and accomplish this in a relatively lightweight envelope with a low recoil impulse. Enticing goals, but this cartridge has met with popularity only within a small group of self-anointed cognoscenti.
The rifle sent to us, a DDM4 V7 with a 16-inch Mid Length Government Profile barrel in caliber 5.56x45mm NATO, weighs 6 pounds, 6.4 ounces (2.9kg), empty and without sights. The overall length of the rifle with the stock fully extended is 36 inches (914.4mm). When the stock is completely collapsed, the overall length is reduced to 32.6 inches (828.04mm).
The cold hammer-forged Daniel Defense barrel has six grooves with a 1:7 right-hand twist and is manufactured from 4150 chrome moly vanadium steel and HP/MPI tested. This latter term signifies High Pressure/Magnetic Particle Inspection. This is nondestructive testing most often using a proof load or overpressure cartridge just prior to the testing conducted on bolts and barrels to locate imperfections, such as fractures, inclusions, stringers or voids. While the consensus is generally favorable, there has been minor disagreement over its true value.
The bores and chambers of all Daniel Defense barrels have a hard chrome lining and the exterior barrel finish is heavy iron manganese phosphate. The barrels are phosphated prior to installation of sight bases or gas blocks, which insures that the entire exterior is properly covered. This barrel is equipped with a standard Daniel Defense flash suppressor, which tests have demonstrated exhibits significantly improved flash suppression over that of the traditional M16A2 birdcage muzzle device.
The Daniel Defense upper and lower receivers, which are CNC machined from raw forgings, are made from aircraft-grade 7075-T6 aluminum alloy. They are finished with black MilSpec Type III hard coat anodizing. The Daniel Defense Float Rail 12.0 is a free-floating handguard. It is CNC machined from extrusions using aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum alloy.
The handguard has integral MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces 3 inches in length at 3 and 9 o'clock at the front. We moved the 3-inch rail interface at 6 o'clock rearward about 4.5 inches for installation of a vertical foregrip. The 12 o'clock rail interface is full length and mates with the one on top of the upper receiver.
The short rails at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock are each retained by an Allen-head screw and a unique oval-shaped nut that precisely fits the 42 oval-shaped vents found in pairs surrounding the handguard. This system is the easiest to install and most secure that I have ever examined. This is another small detail that illustrates the overall excellence of the Daniel Defense rifle series.
AR handguards with abbreviated rail interfaces such as these are now becoming more common, as full-length rail interfaces are not really necessary and reducing their length marginally lightens the system and provides better gripping surfaces for the support hand.
To the left side of the Float Rail 12.0 handguard and the rear end of the lower receiver we installed a so-called Giles Sling, which in my opinion is one of the very best combat slings available. Designed by Giles Stock, a retired sergeant and SWAT team armorer for the Phoenix Police Department, it is manufactured by, and available from, The Wilderness.
The front end of the Giles Sling was attached to the 9 o'clock MIL-STD-1913 rail interface using a Daniel Defense Rail Mount Offset QD Swivel Attachment Point. The rear end of the sling was attached to the lower receiver using a GG&G, AR15/M16 QD Receiver End Plate Sling Attachment.
Fabricated from heavy, 1.25-inch, black nylon webbing with 1.25-inch Delrin buckles, the sling is stitched with heavy polyester thread, which is more sun-resistant than nylon thread. Available for the M14/M1A, Armalite series, Steyr AUG, Colt M16/AR-15 series, Ruger Mini-14, Heckler & Koch rifles and the Benelli and Remington Model 1187 and 870 shotguns, the Giles Sling is also custom-made for other shoulder-mounted weapons, which must be fitted in the shop.
It can be used as a carry, shooting or hands-free sling (in the manner of the H&K combat carrying sling). Most important, the Giles Sling permits the operator correctly and safely to transition to his service sidearm in a combat environment. The Giles Sling costs $22 and is available in black, coyote or olive drab. An important addition is the Slimline Sling Pad at $19.95. The Wilderness sling pad is segmented and has a plastic backing so it retains shape over the life of the sling.
I prefer, if possible, to deploy with a vertical foregrip on both pistol-caliber submachine guns and assault rifles chambered for intermediate-size cartridges. There seems to be an almost infinite variety available now and a number of them are quite good. They are in almost universal use in the Middle East.
Why? Many believe because they control muzzle rise during full-auto bursts. They do when you're firing a submachine gun, but any operator who consistently fires a caliber 5.56x45mm NATO assault rifle in the full-auto mode is severely lowering his hit probability even at fairly close urban combat ranges, increasing the possibility of striking innocent bystanders and wasting his precious ammunition load. The fact is that vertical foregrips provide a more stable firing platform and thus greater accuracy potential when firing aimed, semiautomatic shots.
I especially like the new GG&G SFG-1 Short Vertical Grip, which has become a popular alternative to their standard length Vertical Grip. Compact, with a low profile that does not sacrifice functionality, it's manufactured from solid black Acetal cold polymer for durability and low heat. Lightweight at only 2.8 ounces, its alignment window simplifies installation.
As it came to us, the factory trigger pull weight was 5.75 pounds, adequate for many, but far too heavy for accuracy testing that would maximize this rifle's real potential. As a consequence, we installed a Hi-Speed National Match Trigger for the Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) from Geissele Automatics LLC.
Bill Geissele makes the best combat and competition triggers for AR-type rifles bar none. I have Geissele triggers in all but two of my over two-dozen AR-type rifles. Many rifle instructors that I know have installed Geissele triggers in all of their ARs. While the Geissele Hi-Speed Match trigger was designed for NRA High Power Rifle competition, it's a perfect addition to any Sniper Weapon System based upon the AR configuration.
Its I-Beam profile lightens the hammer while retaining all of its inherent strength. It has a 50-percent lock time reduction over a standard hammer (4.4 ms versus 10 ms). Its smoother hammer strike decreases any impact disturbance to the upper receiver and barrel. No lightened springs are used to achieve results, as the high-strength hammer and trigger springs are conventional.
Both sear engagement and second-stage weight are independently adjustable, as is the overtravel. A separate, removable disconnector provides detailed cleaning ease. The trigger bow is moved forward .1875 inches to reduce finger crowding. This is a two-stage trigger mechanism and the short first stage is followed by an exceptionally clean and sharp second-stage let-off, which has been adjusted on our specimen to precisely 2.5 pounds. This is too light for some, but not experienced shooters who are invariably extremely trigger sensitive. The Geissele Hi-Speed DMR Trigger is designed for tactical and military shooting where trigger pull weight is not regulated. For readers desiring to install this spectacular trigger on another AR-type rifle, the price, if ordered directly from Geissele Automatics, is $279.
The M16A2-style pistol grip has deep longitudinal grooves along its rear face and a finger swell an inch below the trigger guard. It was a decided improvement in human engineering over the original M16A1 pistol grip.
Daniel Defense uses the Magpul MOE (Magpul Original Equipment) buttstock on their V7 series rifles. Available in either MilSpec or to commercial specifications, the MOE is Magpul's basic collapsible stock and most popular.
A 30-round Magpul magazine is also included. Available in either black, green or flat dark earth in 20- or 30-round capacity, Magpul magazines feature a four-way, anti-tilt follower that enhances feeding reliability, a constant internal curve for consistent round stack regardless of round count, a true 20- or 30-round capacity that eliminates the need to down-load, and a floorplate design that aids in magazine extraction from pouches and eases disassembly.
The lower receiver's magazine well is both enlarged and flared to facilitate installation of magazines under high-stress environments. The trigger guard can be rotated downward by removal of the roll pin at its rear for use with gloves.
The controls on this rifle duplicate the type and location of those found on the M16 military rifle series. They are not ambidextrous. On the left side of the DDM4 V7 lower receiver is the vertical bolt hold-open release lever and the fire selector lever. The 12 o'clock position is marked "SEMI" and the selector's 9 o'clock position is marked "SAFE". While these symbols are repeated on the right side, the selector lever is absent. The selector cannot be rotated forward to the safe position unless the trigger mechanism has been cocked. The magazine catch/release button is located on the right side, protected from accidental release by an integral three-sided guard just to the rear of the magazine-well.
The upper receiver has the usual obligatory M16/AR-15 features on the right side: a spring-loaded dust cover over the ejection port, an M16A2-type empty case deflector immediately to the rear of the ejection port, and the ubiquitous, but never used, "bolt forward assist." Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 rifles are furnished with a conventional M16/AR-15 series charging handle.
The manufacturer's suggested retail price of the DDM4 V7 with a 16-inch Mid Length Government Profile barrel in caliber 5.56x45mm NATO is $1,509, complete with one Magpul 30-round magazine and a black plastic storage case, but without sights. While the case provided is certainly serviceable, those wishing to accessorize this rifle may want a more sophisticated carrying/storage container.
The Wilderness Premiere Gun Case should be checked out by anyone purchasing a rifle such as this and then spending an almost equal amount to add a top quality optical sight and all the other accessories normally associated with an AR-15-type rifle.
Of hybrid construction that makes it both soft and yet very rigid, this high-end, discreet rifle, carbine and shotgun case is custom made to your requirements and delivery takes from seven to 10 days.
The options available are not only numerous, but brilliantly executed, and the weapon is suspended within the case by attachment to MOLLE-compatible PALS sectioned webbing bars. With most discreet-type cases, the weight of the weapon will invariably pull the soft structure of the case down from inside and deform it.
Utilizing an innovative aluminum stay system, the Wilderness Premiere Gun Case has a unique hybrid internal frame that supports and suspends even the heaviest rifles without sagging. It's recommended that the weapon be secured on or near the two internal vertical stay pockets to obtain maximum performance from this system.
The Premiere Gun Case provides 360 degrees of padded protection for the weapon with 3/8-inch closed-cell foam. By enhancing the case's protective baffle — the padded strip around the case's inside perimeter and intended to absorb edge impacts — with a rigid polymer reinforcement, the case gains added rigidity and the baffle always remains in position to prevent damage to the weapon and other equipment stored in the case.
Because of the case's firm body, the heavy-duty YKK closure zipper glides smoothly and effortlessly around the case's perimeter, but still permits the case to be fully opened completely flat. Another unique feature is that the zipper ends are attached deep inside the storage compartment with a loop fastener along the bottom of the case's spine, allowing the zipper to be easily replaced if necessary.
To secure the weapon and other equipment to the PALS webbing face, included are two 12-inch ladder-lock nylon straps, two 18-inch ladder-lock nylon straps, three 6-inch hook-and-loop, single-wrap straps, three 12-inch hook-and-loop, single-wrap straps and two plastic glides to ease insertion of the hook-and-loop straps into the PALS webbing. Additional straps of either type are optional. Any MOLLE-compatible pouches or pockets may, of course, also be attached to the PALS interface.
Starting with a base price of $310, we had The Wilderness assemble the following Premiere Gun Case and accessories for our Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 with a 16-inch Mid Length Government Profile barrel: a 1.5-inch shoulder strap for $12.95; a 36-inch case length for an additional $15; a two-tone coyote/ranger trim combination for $12; an outside pocket for $35 and a three-magazine pouch retained in the outside pocket by means of hook-and-loop for $35. This brought the total price of our custom-designed Premiere Gun Case to $419.95, very reasonable for a case of this sophistication and quality.
As a final touch we added a Wilderness Slimline Dump Pouch at $29.95 and the unique Wilderness Stretchable Battery Thing that holds six 123A lithium or AA batteries for $15.95.
To supplement the optical sights we intend to deploy with this rifle, we installed a set of GG&G's new 45 Degree Transition Sights. Easily installed on Mil-Std-1913 rail interfaces using a solid squeeze rail attachment mechanism, the 45 Degree Transition sights do not interfere with primary optical sights. Lightweight at only 3/4 ounce each, all edges have been rounded, and they are manufactured from tough 6061-T6 aluminum alloy billets and then Type III hardcoat anodized matte black per MilSpec.
The front sight has a standard A2 front sight post and is adjustable for elevation zero. A post with a tritium insert is optional. The rear sight has a large open ghost-ring-type aperture for rapid target acquisition and is adjustable for windage zero. If possible, the sights should be installed 7 inches apart. However, because of the GG&G Accucam Quick-Detach MIL-STD-1913 Scout Rail upon which the 5.5-22x56mm NXS Nightforce scope was mounted, we needed a spacing of 8 inches that still proved to be entirely satisfactory.
These sights provide the operator with an entirely different line-of-sight than the optical sight mounted at 12 o'clock. As a consequence, just a quick twist of the weapon permits instant access to them. They're especially valuable for rifles equipped with medium to long-range optical sights, as they provide the instant capability to engage unexpected close range targets. If the optical sight fails, they can be used to engage targets immediately without removal of the optical sight. They sell for $165 and 45-degree backup iron sights are becoming ever more popular with law enforcement and military personnel and in 3-Gun competition.
Vertical foregrips like the new GG&G SFG-1 Short Vertical Grip provide a more stable firing platform and thus greater accuracy potential for aimed shots.
Kokalis selected the 5.5-22x56mm NXS Nightforce scope. Its MOAR reticle is easier to see in low light and more visible against dark backgrounds, he says.
The Nightforce 1-4x24mm NXS Compact Riflescope is the shortest 1-4 power optical sight on the market today; it's ideal for CQB