Having been impressed with the finish, fit, and quality of Daniel Defense quad rails in the past, I was intrigued by the company's new M4-style carbine.
One of my former partners needed a carbine for work since the local agency he works for authorizes officers to purchase ARs for duty. He knew I was interested in the DDM4 and offered to let me use it for review. I was much obliged, but let me tell you, I had a hard time parting with it after I was finished putting it through its paces.
Love at First Sight
To start with, the DDM4 ships in a solid polymer gun case. This is a nice change from some of the flimsy ones I have encountered. The black case has the words "Daniel Defense" molded into it, which adds a bit of flair. Seeing that Daniel Defense paid such attention to the case I knew the contents would be even better.
When I opened the case I was greeted by a polymer, aluminum, and steel creation. Over the past few years I have been fortunate to handle more than my fair share of ARs and this one made me take a second to look and simply say, "Damn." I know it's a "black gun," but this one was different; it just exuded quality. Trust me, it's like seeing a '65 Mustang Convertible; you can just tell it is going to rock.
Although the DDM4 is a factory rifle, it looks like it was built by a custom shop. This carbine ships with quad fore rails, a removable backup sight, Magpul MOE adjustable stock, Daniel Defense vertical fore grip, a flared/beveled trigger guard, a flared mag well, and a Magpul 30-round PMAG. I'll look at each of these items more closely shortly.
The heart of any firearm is the receiver and barrel. In this case, the upper and lower receivers are made from 7075 aluminum forgings, which are mil-spec Type III hard coated anodized. This makes for a durable and lightweight receiver. I have yet to see this style of anodizing peel or rub off. If you damage it you have worked at it.
Because the upper and lower receiver fit perfectly together, there is no play once you put in the pivot and rear pins. This glove-tight fit gives you consistent action when the bolt cycles and ammunition is fed into the chamber. No additional accuracy accessories are required to ensure this M4 is tight and accurate.
Attached to the upper receiver is a 1-in-7 twist rate 16-inch chrome-lined barrel chambered in .556 NATO. Like the receivers, the barrel is black-mil-spec black phosphate, to be accurate. The 1-in-7 twist means this carbine will chamber and accurately fire bullets as heavy as 77 grains.
The trigger is crisp and breaks cleanly at four pounds. This coupled with the tight fit of the receivers and quality barrel makes this M4 wicked accurate. The first rounds I fired out of it were with the factory iron sights at 50 yards off my Eagle Industries Range Bag. The first 10-shot group with 60-grain Black Hills V Max was less than half an inch. Feeling lucky, I loaded 77-grain HPBT match load from Atlanta Arms and this load too put all 10 rounds under a half-inch. This is not bad shooting for a blind ole guy.
Getting Down to Details
Now let's discuss the details of the DDM4. The guard is oblong to allow the operator to wear gloves without getting the material caught, like it can on a flat trigger guard. One thing that really impressed me was the lack of any sharp edges on the trigger. Attention to the little details like this makes the rifle what it is, a fine tool.
I like the Magpul MOE adjustable stock installed on the carbine for a couple of reasons. First, it uses a Mil-Spec recoil tube, which is just a smidge larger and more rugged than a commercial one. Next, the stock is designed to fit the operator with a rugged polymer butt pad. This butt pad doesn't slide on slick tactical vests or nylon shirts. Securing the stock to the receiver is a Daniel Defense QD Swivel Attachment. This allows you to mount a one- or three-point sling and is ambidextrous.
Surrounding the barrel is a Daniel Defense Omega X 12 FSP quad rail system. First and foremost, this allows the barrel to be free float, enhancing the accuracy of the rifle. This particular rail system extends past the front sight, allowing you to have a longer and more stable grip on the carbine. The top rail of the X12 FSP mates perfectly with the rail on the upper receiver, providing a solid platform on which to mount any number of optics, night vision devices, or any other aiming accessories.
The left and right sides of the rail come equipped with quick detail swivel attachment points. This will allow for ambidextrous mounting of a three-point sling. To protect the rails and your hands, low-profile rail guards are factory standard. For those of you who like them, a Daniel Defense vertical fore grip is included. It's made of glass-filled nylon and you can store batteries for your light in it.[PAGEBREAK]
Setting Your Sights
Completing the rifle is the backup sight. At first I wondered why a fixed, detachable rear sight was used. I asked the guys at Daniel Defense why a fixed sight and not a flip-up? Simple answer: Larry Vickers thought a fixed sight should be on a fighting rifle. For those who don't know, the guy is a retired real deal Army Delta Operator.
The fixed sight co-witnesses with most red dot optics. Should the sight fail, you are still ready to keep fighting with the iron sights and nothing has to be moved. If you are going to mount a magnifying optic, an ACOG, or variable power combat optic, then install a folding rear (it is not an option from Daniel Defense, but Brownells can fix you right up).
My initial impression of the Daniel Defense M4 was simply that it was cool. I know, how professional? But I liked it. Once I got it out to the range and found that out of the box it was a shooter. I was doubly impressed.
My ammunition used to shake down the DDM4 included the previously mentioned Black Hills 60-grain V-Max, 77-grain HPBT from Atlanta Arms (which is the Army AMU load), 62-grain FMJs from Wolf Ammo, and 60-grain TAP from Hornady. The DDM4 showed no preference to bullet weight, bullet style, or manufacturer; it simply shot them all well.
I mounted Bushnell's TRS-25 1X on an A.R.M.S. 17DR Throw Lever Dovetail Rail Mount and 22M68 Full Spacer. This combination put the micro red dot in perfect alignment with the iron sights.
Once the TRS-25 was zeroed, I wanted to see how well the DDM4 would shoot at 100 yards. It did not let me down and was shooting tight five- and 10-round clusters off my "official" bench rest (aka my Eagle Industries range bag). The size of the groups was less than an inch for 10 shots and a half-inch for five shots. This was repeatable with all of the test ammunition.
The DDM4 ships with one Magpul PMag. As I didn't want to be reloading one magazine all day, I packed up Lancer's translucent L5 magazines. Lancer is a fairly new company, but it is quickly developing a following.
The magazines are approved by the National Tactical Officers Association, and after using them I understand why. They are easy to load and easy to take apart for cleaning, provided you use Lancer's magazine tool. You can even install different color magazine pads (flat dark earth, olive green, and pink). Black is standard.
I also used Lancer's Magazine Cinch. Like the magazines, it's constructed of polymer to reduce weight while remaining durable. This cinch works well on other magazines as well.
After loading the Lancer L5s with a mixed bag of ammunition, I went to work making once-fired brass. I quickly saw why the Lancer L5s are liked; you can visually check your ammo supply, they function flawlessly, and they're about half the weight of metallic magazines.
I fired more than 500 rounds of ammunition through the DDM4 using the supplied Magpul PMag and the Lancer L5 magazines. The DDM4 didn't have any hiccups or issues with either magazine, nor did it miss a beat with any of the test ammunition.
The Daniel Defense M4 is ready for duty right out of the box. If you are looking for a carbine you will have for years to come, give this one a look. If you choose this rifle for duty, you too will have a fine piece of equipment.
Scott Smith is a former federal police officer for the Department of Veteran's Affairs and a contributing editor to POLICE.