Review: Daniel Defense V11
May 23, 2016
The Daniel Defense V11 features a 15-inch handguard, buttstock and pistol grip of DD's own design. The skeletonized handguard makes it lighter than it looks.
Daniel Defense has been making quality, dependable rifles for years, but perhaps the incident that has gotten them the most publicity in the history of the company was the NFL refusing to air its TV commercial during the 2013 Super Bowl. Nothing will garner the love and support of AR fans and politically active gun owners like getting unfairly treated by the mainstream media.
Media drama aside, Daniel Defense has continued to turn out quality rifles, and one of their most recent models is the DDM4 V11. That name admittedly doesn't flow off the tongue, and may be hard to remember, so let's simplify it. Every rifle Daniel Defense (DD) makes (except their Mk18 series) they refer to as an M4 (hence the DDM4), and they currently make a number of different models. This is the Daniel Defense V11 model.
While the 15-inch SLiM rail looks nearly as square as a traditional quad rail handguard, it is much lighter. Fat quad rail handguards have become passÃ.
There are in fact a number of different versions of the Daniel Defense V11, with the only difference being the finish. The gray V11 finished in Tornado Cerakote looked very intriguing, but for this article I secured their basic black model. Cerakoted models cost an additional $130.
The standard Daniel Defense V11 sports a 16-inch barrel made of chrome moly vanadium steel. It is cold hammer-forged, with a 1:7 twist and a mid-length gas system. It is MP tested and phosphate coated.
The Daniel Defense V11 barrel sports they company's "government profile"â€”in fact a pseudo-M16A2 profile. The tortured process by which this barrel design came about is typical for the military, as is the less than ideal result. The 20-inch M16A2 barrel is thicker in front of the gas block than behind, and the 16-inch Daniel Defense barrel replicates its dimensions, only switching from a rifle-length gas system to a mid-length.
The DDM4 V11 was not helped by a heavy trigger and a government profile barrel, but Tarr says accuracy was more than acceptable, and reliability was 100 percent.
The last place you want to add extra weight on a barrel is near the muzzle, and as a result, this barrel profile will give you more muzzle whip (decreasing accuracy), especially when hot.
Most people won't notice the difference, however, and those who love GI stuff on their rifles will be very happy. For those of you who will notice the difference, check out the Daniel Defense V11 LW (light weight), which is identical to the Daniel Defense V11 but for a lightweight profile barrel.
The Daniel Defense V11 is a direct gas impingement gun, which I prefer to piston ARs. I also prefer mid-length gas systems. Compared to a carbine-length gas system, a mid-length gas system reduces pressure at the bolt, which reduces wear/bolt speed. As a result of this reduced pressure/bolt speed, felt recoil in a mid-length gas system AR will be slightly less than that of a carbine-length gas system gun, all else being equal. The Daniel Defense V11 also sports an H buffer to further help reduce felt recoil.
Long handguards allow the shooter to get his hand as far toward the muzzle as possible, the better to muscle the rifle from target to target quickly.
The Daniel Defense flash hider is slightly longer than the standard A2. It has a solid bottom and five slots. It is constructed of 17-4PH (precipitation hardened) stainless steel, the same steel used to make the Vulcan cannon. It is salt bath nitride finished, and I like the looks of it. It seems to be at least as effective at reducing flash as the A2.
The bolt carrier is M16 profile. The carrier is chrome-lined with a properly staked gas key, and both the carrier and the bolt are MP tested. The upper receiver features M4 feed ramps.
One of the more distinctive features of the Daniel Defense V11 is the 15-inch SLiM (Slim Lightweight Modular) Rail.
The 15-inch SLiM handguard with KeyMod attachment points also sports QD sockets at the 10 and 2 o'clock positions near the receiver for sling mounting.
This is a KeyMod handguard, with a continuous MIL-STD 1913 T-marked rail along the top and KeyMod attachment points along the length of the handguard at the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions. There are also two QD sling swivel attachment points at the back of the rail at the 10:30 and 1:30 positions.
I can tell you all day long that the SLiM Rail is light, but the proof is in the numbersâ€”even sporting a 15-inch SLiM Rail, the Daniel Defense V11 only weighs 6.28 pounds. The rifle is not anywhere as heavy as it looks. With the stock fully extended, it balances over the front takedown pin.
Most manufacturers have gotten away from quad rails because they are square and sharp, and are designing modular handguards that are slimmer and smoother to the hand.
At first Tarr didn't care for the looks of the DD buttstock with rubber overmolded sections, but it grew on him. It was very solid and functional.
The SLiM Rail on the Daniel Defense V11 is very light and strong and provides a bounty of attachment opportunities. But of all the KeyMod and M-Lok and similar rails/handguards I've seen and tested, it is the closest in look and feel to a traditional quad rail.
It feels very square in the hand, and is not nearly as narrow as a lot of the modular rails on the market at 2.125 inches tall (including the MIL-STD 1913 rail) by 1.75 inches. While there are no sharp edges, there are a lot of corners.
The people who worship at the Tactical altar rarely waste an opportunity to badmouth competition guns and gearâ€¦.but the fact of the matter is all of the cool "new" things I'm seeing on tactical guns, like the 15-inch handguard on the Daniel Defense V11, were being tested and proven on competition rifles years if not decades ago.
The pistol grip has rubber overmolding and is one piece with the oversize trigger guard. Tarr wished the pistol grip had more material at the backstrap.
I hope no one has so many accessories to attach to his rifle that they need 15 inches of rail space to fit them all on. No, the real benefit of handguards this length is enabling the shooter to get his support hand as far out on the gun as possible.
Shooting in this manner (a technique developed by competition shooters 20 years before Chris Costa was demonstrating it in Magpul Dynamics videos) allows the shooter to drive the muzzle of his gun from target to target.
Also, there is the matter of leverage the closer your hand to the end of the gun, the easier it is for you to control it if someone tries to take it away from you.
I am 6 feet, 1 inch tall and have very long arms for my heightâ€”in other words I have the build of an orangutan. The Daniel Defense V11's 15-inch handguard is so long that with the rifle shouldered I can extend my left arm and lock my left elbow and still not run out of handguard.
At the rear of the receiver, a great location for single-point slings, you'll find a QD socket. The full name is long, but "V11" will identify it.
Apart from the long handguard, the other eye-catching features on the Daniel Defense V11 are the unique buttstock and grip. They are designed by Daniel Defense and made of glass-filled polymer with textured rubber overmolding.
Most adjustable carbine buttstock levers pivot from the rear, but the Daniel Defense version pivots from the front. It has rubber molding on either side of the cheekpiece, and the rubber at the rear of the butt is aggressively ribbed to reduce slipping.
The Daniel Defense V11 buttstock has QD and traditional sling attachment points accessible from either side. The front of the buttstock's "toe" is curved enough to push it back into your shoulder using your off hand, if you're shooting off a bench or prone. At first I didn't like the look of the DD buttstock, but it's growing on me.
The pistol grip has rubber overmolding on the lower two-thirds of the grip, so the rubber won't rub on your thumb when you're working the safety. It is all one piece with the oversized curved trigger guard, which is smart.
One thing I don't like about the grip on the Daniel Defense V11 is that it provides the same trigger reach as an A2 pistol grip. One reason aftermarket pistol grips (like the Magpul) are so popular is they provide added material to the backstrap, increasing distance to the trigger (and thereby making it easier to shoot with the pad of your trigger finger instead of the joint).
The magazine well is beveled and flared slightly more than you'll find in a standard GI rifle. This will be a popular feature among competition shooters.
The Daniel Defense V11 rifle model is very clearly marked at the left rear of the receiver. One neat feature on Daniel Defense rifles I really like is the QD socket at the rear of the receiver extension, easily accessed from either side of the rifle. The magazine well is slightly flared beyond GI to facilitate smoother reloads.
A lot of people worship at the altar of Mil-Spec, but most of those people seem to be selective. They want Mil-Spec steel in their bolts (even though there are better steels now)â€¦.but then they waver, as a lot of the true Mil-Spec accessories are ugly or out of fashion.
Daniel Defense rifles have always been popular with the Mil-Spec crowd, and this rifle probably will be as well, but much of it isn't GI approved. The handguard, pistol grip, stock, flash hider, even the mid-length gas system are different or better than what the government spec requires. So I'm not entirely sure why the company went with a Mil-Spec charging handle and trigger components on the Daniel Defense V11.
The rule of thumb is that the trigger pull on a rifle should be no more than half of the total weight of the rifle if you want to be able to shoot it accurately. The trigger pull on the Daniel Defense V11 was typical GI, which means gritty and heavy at 8 pounds, on a gun that weighs 6.28 pounds. A smooth 8-pound trigger pull would be excellent for a double action revolver. For a rifleâ€”no matter brand, type, or priceâ€”a gritty 8-pound pull is a severe handicap.
Some of the most well-respected fixed iron sights on the market come from Daniel Defense. Their rear sight tower is very light and features two apertures.
The only people who like Mil-Spec AR trigger pulls are the people who don't know any better. A good trigger would probably be wasted on them anyway. But will those people be buying a $1,599 AR from Daniel Defense? I doubt it.
But Daniel Defense has a problem, which is this: there is no Mil-Spec or "gold standard" for aftermarket/match triggers. I presume because there are so many choices (with no clear victor) they have decided to just stick with standard GI trigger parts.
I suppose that's why they've retained the original GI-type charging handle on a non-GI gun, even though the standard against which all improved charging handles are judged is the BCM Gunfighter Mod 4 Charging Handle, a far superior design.
Note to Daniel Defenseyou're already designing your own flash hiders, handguards, sights, grips and buttstocks. Time to design your own oversize charging handle and improved trigger components. Trust me, if you build it, they will come.
This Daniel Defense V11 does not come equipped with any sights or optics, but for this article I secured a set of Daniel Defense fixed sights. When it comes to fixed aftermarket sights, these are pretty much the standard against which all others are judged. They are machined out of aluminum and finished to match the rifle.
The front sight is skeletonized and features a standard front sight post adjustable for elevation. The flash hider is slightly longer than an A2 model.
The front sight is a fixed post with a serrated front. How much glare the front of the non-serrated front sight post gives off I don't know, but the serrations look very cool. The sight post itself is standard GI and adjustable for elevation, protected by ears.
The rear sight tower is very skeletonized, and only weighs 2 ounces. It offers pure GI featuresâ€”two apertures, adjustable for windage by a dial on the right side that has to be worked with the nose of a cartridge. With the long handguard on the Daniel Defense V11, sight radius was excellent and allows for very precise shooting.
Fixed sights are great if you want to be able to immediately transition to them from your optic. Even if you're using a red dot, a fixed front sight doesn't seem to get in the way. But you don't get pluses without minusesâ€¦a fixed rear sight tower only works with certain kinds of opticsâ€”usually the non-magnified kind.
Most fixed and variable power optics have to be set so far back on the receiver rail there is no room for a fixed sight towerâ€”and even if there is room for it, the tower usually obscures too much of the optic's field of view for either to be useful. Both front and rear sights are secured to the rail by screws, so they do not have a QD capability.
Shooting the Daniel Defense V11 brought no surprises. Recoil was soft and mild, and with the provided Magpul PMag, the rifle ate every type and brand of ammo I fed it without a hitch. Accuracy wasn't bad, although I suspect the groups would have been smaller if I'd dropped in a match trigger instead of struggling with the GI trigger pull.
Daniel Defense is a trusted name when it comes to AR-pattern rifles. With the Daniel Defense V11, you get features not available from any other manufacturer in a dependable, soft-shooting rifle suitable for just about any application.
A black rifle company producing an ad aimed at the Super Bowl crowd is an indicator that AR ownership is trending mainstream in this country, no matter what the gun haters would like to believe. Personally, I want everyone to own an AR- or AK-type rifleâ€¦that way when they come for one, they'll have to come for us all.