Monday, July 11, 2011

Del-Ton DTI Mid-length 5.56 AR15/M4 Carbine Rifle Review

Del-Ton DTI Mid-length 5.56 AR15/M4 Carbine Rifle Review

DTI is probably not the first name in the firearms industry that comes to your mind when shopping for an AR… in fact it should be a name you look for during your next AR buy.

Over eleven long years ago in 2000, the site launched to offer customers high quality AR manufacturer parts at great prices delivered mail order to customer’s doorsteps.  Today Del-Ton, or better known as DTI, still offers other manufacturer parts at “low price guaranteed” prices, but also its own DTI branded USA made parts as well which are industry leading values. DTI has become one of the most respected builders and suppliers of high value AR rifles and products in the market and even has a customer loyalty rewards program to keep you coming back. One of the major stand out features for me is that every part DTI lists on their site and parts used in their rifles are all 100% USA made.

Del-Ton rifles are made using their own DTI brand of high-quality upper and lower receivers, barrels, and accessories. What you get from DTI is impressive quality, value, option lists, and customer service, all on a rifle 10%-30% less than major AR name brands…enough about the company, how about the rifle?
Although Del-Ton has many set packages, a buyer can choose from their entire line of AR accessories to order the gun exactly how they want it.  Most “standard issue” handguard, grip and stock furniture equipped DTI rifles run around $750 in your choice of A2 (carry handle) and A3 (Flat-top), carbine and mid-length gas block versions and a variety of barrel lengths and configurations.  That same $750 DTI rifle with cooler looking and more ergonomic Magpul MOE ergonomic furniture ups the price to a off the shelf package of $830.  Of course, it’s up to you what you want from an accessories perspective. Pricing a name-brand rifle with the same rifle specs would net a $1000-$1200 rifle and I do like supporting the smaller US owned businesses especially when I know everything is made and assembled right there in the USA.

Unlike many name brand manufacturers, Del-ton DTI lists all the specs of the rifle so you know what you are getting and you know that the rifle is of high quality and assembled with a high degree of attention to detail.

I parted with a portion of my tax refund on a Del-Ton Mid-Length AR15/M4 rifle chambered in 5.56 NATO which will also shoot .223 just fine.  I definitely wanted a Mid-Length system to take a little snap out of the recoil and DTI had the basic $750 Mid-Length rifle package close to my needs; however I "needed" a few upgrades.


Del-ton/DTI’s stock Mid-Length flat-top A3 style rifle build provides a standard 1:9 twist barrel for the 5.56/.223 caliber rifles and functional standard black plastic Milspec furniture.  A rear sight was needed and the Magpul MBUS was priced right.  The Dark Earth color and the looks, comfort, and flexibility of the Magpul MOE stock, handguard, and grip seemed to be an upgrade I could not go without.  Unless you have an aversion to weapon cleaning or intend to subject the AR to extended humidity, a chromed barrel is really not needed and in most cases will adversely affect accuracy.  My expectation was that this gun would be getting knocked around and generally mistreated in the hot and humid confines of my truck, so I wanted the Chrome lining.  A 1:9 twist barrel is just fine for all but the heaviest 5.56 spec ammo, however I also opted for the Mil-Spec 1:7 twist to give the heavier weight bullets I was intending a little more spin and stability. Del-Ton offered this chrome lined 1:7 twist in a heavy profile mid-length barrel so it was a simple option swap and added a few extra days to the delivery time and only added $100 to the rifle. The grand total of the rifle was $930 with the Magpul extras and barrel upgrade. My hope is to pick up another DTI AR in their standard configuration with a 1:9 twist just to show the side by side accuracy testing.

In the checkbox list of everything a quality rifle should have, Del-ton checks all the boxes with:

  • Chrome Moly Vanadium [I upgraded to a Chrome Lined Barrel]
  • M4 Feed Ramps
  • Standard Profile [I upgraded to a heavy Barrel Profile]
  • 16" Length
  • 1x9 Twist [I upgraded to 1x7 Twist]
  • A2 Flash Hider
  • Manganese Phosphated
  • Phosphated under Front Sight Base
  • Taper Pins on A2 F-Marked Front Sight Base
  • Threaded Muzzle
  • Heavy Mid Length barrel
  • 5.56 X 45 mm
Bolt And Carrier:
  • Phosphated 8620 Steel Carrier Assembly
  • Carpenter 158 Bolt MP Tested
  • Heat Treated and Plated
  • Mil-Spec
  • Chrome Lined Carrier Interior
  • Carrier Key - chrome lined, attached with Grade 8 Screws
  • Properly Staked & Sealed Gas Key
  • Mid-Length & Standard Hand Grip [I upgraded to Magpul MOE Kit]
  • Aluminum Delta Ring
  • Single Heat Shield
Upper Receiver:
  • Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • A3 Flat Top With M4 Feed Ramps
  • Hard Coat Anodized
  • Mil-Spec
  • Ejection Port Cover and Round Forward Assist
  • Right Hand Ejection
  • Bore's surface is coated with dry film lube, over the anodized surface
Lower Receiver:
  • Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
  • Hard Coat Anodized
  • Mil-Spec
  • Aluminum Trigger-guard
  • Semi-Auto
  • Aluminum Magazine Catch Button
  • M4 6 Position
  • Reinforced Fiber
  • Commercial Sized Tube
  • 7.0 lbs Empty
  • 36.375" Fully Extended
  • 32.625 Collapsed
  • Hard Case
  • 2 - 30rd Magpul Magazines
  • Sling
  • Cleaning Kit

Fit -
Many folks gauge AR fit by how well the upper and lowers fit together and my DTI rifle did not offer any wiggle between the receivers.  The rest of the parts all fit well and were properly installed.
All the things you would look for in a quality AR ar there, proper castle nut and gas key staking, M4 feedramps, and T-marked Picatinny rail markings.

Finish - All the parts were consistently and appropriately phosphated or hard anodized. It was nice from a finish perspective that the DTI upper and lower anodizing matched perfectly, however I am of the opinion that parts are all properly finished then it really should not matter whether the parts match beyond a cosmetic perspective.  Throughout the rifles there were no tool marks or burrs and the rifle finish was of very high quality.

Function - The Del-Ton AR15/M4 rifle provides the same functions and feel as any standard AR15/M4 rifle so there are no surprises there. Break-in and before running a little over 500 rounds through the gun, I ran a little over three hours of dry fire drills and the DTI took the beating and always operated perfectly.  Throughout the 100 round break-in the Del-ton seemed a little tight, but never failed to feed, function or fire. At the range, I ran a mixed bag of over 500 round of 5.56 and .223 ammunition randomly loaded into the magazines.  The Del-Ton AR never hiccuped or misfeed a round during the entire testing.

The trigger was a notch above standard M4 quality and feel, meaning it is not a great target trigger feel, however plenty serviceable for a service rifle and was better than most gritty stock AR triggers.  The trigger’s next stop will be a trip to Bill Springfield’s workshot for a $40 triggerjob.  Previous experience with Bill’s handywork on my 308 trigger is sure to turn that stock trigger into a $200 target trigger for all under $50.

Magazines are one of the most critical and sometimes most problematic accessories affecting reliability.  To assure the highest reliability possible DTI includes two Magpul PMAG magazines which have become to poster child of durability and reliability which feed everything loaded into them.  DTI included a note that they were running low on their regular Magpul Pmags and provided me with the windowed versions instead as a substitution - no complaints from me there.

The Magpul forend, grip and multi-position stock provided a huge improvement in ergonomics and upgrade in looks to this decade.

If you are familiar with the standard controls of an AR15/M4 rifle then you will have no surprises with the Mil-Spec DTI-15 with everything in the right place.  My perspective on DTI rifles is that you get a bit more and a higher quality rifle than comparable brand name rifles for less money.  AS listed, obviously the components included in the build are all top quality, however the extras such as the inclusion of two Magpul magazines, a hard case, and a very nice solid steel cleaning kit are extras not included with many brands.

The Magpul and barrel upgrades have performed very well for me.  The Magpul MOE furniture kit is an upgrade that greatly increases shooting and handling comfort and offer the easy addition of a few Magpul Picitinny rails to mount equipment.  The barrel upgrade I ordered is not required for everyone and is a more individual choice for me.  If you are looking for a standard AR and plan to shoot more standard lighter weight commercial bullets which are very inexpensive to shoot, then I would not add the expense of the upgraded barrel.  In my case heavier military style bullets need the extra spin for hunting to provide longer down range accuracy.

One phone call and they walked me through my wish list and took my credit card info.  You can order any firearms parts from any business including DTI and have them shipped directly to your home, as long as the part is not a serial numbered FFL registered part. If it is a serialized FFL registered receiver or complete rifle in my case, the process is still simple.  Order what you want just as normal, have your local gun dealer fax over their FFL information to Del-Ton.  After your rifle is shipped from DTI to your gun dealer, your FFL dealer will call to let me know your receiver or rifle is in and ready to pick up.  Usually your local dealer will charge $10-$25 for the FFL paperwork.  In my case the whole process was quick, painless, and I had a made to order gun in my hands in just under three weeks.

Like many companies, DTI now offers a customer rewards program which accrues points with each purchase.  Add them up over time and you can get free stuff by buying stuff… pretty cool.  I for example now have a little over 900 points that I can use toward my next purchase.

Although every barrel has its own unique accuracy, my general observation has been that 1:7 twist barrels shoot tighter groups with heavier bullets and standard 1:9 twist barrels shoot tighter groups with lighter bullets.  This was certainly the case with the DTI-15 with my optional heavy 1:7 twist barrel.  

I used my Burris Fullfield II 2-14 scope for testing and was able to test a variety of rounds ranging from a handloads to inexpensive and high end factory loaded ammunition.

   WOLF FMJ 62GR = 1.3”
   FEDERAL MATCH 69GR = .82”

I was very happy overall with the accuracy of the Del-Ton DTI-15, however I caution everyone to buy this type of gun based more on reliability vs. accuracy. On that note I have experienced zero malfunctions from the rifle in well over 500 rounds and only two quick clean and lube jobs.  Almost any quality AR will shoot sub-1” groups at 100 yards, it is just a matter of figuring out the ammunition it likes best and from my experience no two rifle barrels are ever the same.

With more realistic rifle optics of a Trijicon 1-4X scope and Eotech 912 the groups obviously opened up without the higher magnification.  With care, the Trijicon 1-4X scope nearly matched the accuracy of my higher magnification Burris scope however I was surprised  to find that careful bench shooting with the EOtech sight would still deliver sub-2” rifle with almost any load even with limited magnification.

The Del-Ton DTI-15 is a great rifle at a low price and from my perspective sacrifices nothing other than a brand name. In my case I added about $200 in upgrades and the rifle came in at $930.  The rifle shot well, had an excellent price, I had a good customer service and ordering experience, it has a lifetime warranty, and is made with 100% USA made parts by people right here is the good old USA.  Maybe DTI should be a household name for you on your next AR purchase.  Nothing but great things to say about this rifle - Highly recommended.


Del-Ton DTI


Unknown said...

Great review....would you bet your life on this rifle?

Unknown said...

I have one and yes I would.