April 26, 2018
By Steve Gash
Daniel Defense was founded by engineer Marty Daniel in Savannah, Georgia, in 2001, and in the short time since then it has become a powerhouse in the firearms industry. In 2009 Daniel Defense moved to Black Creek, Georgia, where it is now based, and built a 38,000-square-foot plant. In 2011 the company expanded production with the addition of a new 90,000-square-foot plant in Ridgeland, South Carolina.
Daniel Defense makes excellent AR-15-type rifles that aren't your run-of-the-mill guns. They are high-end ARs in a number of calibers and configurations, including one model that is an internally suppressed .300 Blackout gun with a 9-inch barrel. The company also has advanced rail systems, upper receivers, barrels, muzzle brakes, suppressors, and magazines. Daniel Defense's motto is "Stronger, Better, Lighter," and the company says its ARs are where "precision, accuracy, and quality meet."
Engineered to Perfection
One of Daniel Defense's newest AR iterations is the 5.56mm DDM4V7 LW. The DDM4V7 LW has several specialized features that make it tantalizingly attractive to shooters who are interested in quality, fine accuracy, and shooting heavier .22-caliber bullets.
The DDM4V7 LW starts with mil-spec upper and lower receivers that are machined from 7075-T6 aluminum. Both are then Type III hard coat anodized. The lower has an enhanced flared magazine well and a rear QD swivel attachment point. A nice touch is the ambidextrous safety. The upper has M4 feedramps and indexing marks.
The 16-inch barrel is chrome-moly vanadium steel that is cold hammer forged and has a heavy phosphate coating. Significantly, the DDM4V7 LW has a 1:7-inch twist, so all but the heaviest bullets will stabilize with normal loads. In my experience the idea that fast-twist barrels "over-stabilize" lightweight bullets has been conclusively discredited with today's superb bullets, so varmint shooters need not fret about this nonissue.
The action is direct gas impingement, and the gas system is mid-length, which saves wear and tear on the gun, increases reliability, and produces a smoother recoil impulse that reduces felt recoil on the shooter. A Daniel Defense Improved Flash Suppressor is installed on the barrel's 1/2-28 threads. The bolt carrier group is mil spec and chrome lined, and the gas key is securely staked. The handguard is the company's MFR XS 15.0, which is CNC machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and has an uninterrupted Picatinny rail up top and M-LOK attachment points that run along seven positions. The stock is six-position adjustable for length of pull and has Soft Touch Overmolding on the pistol grip and along both sides of the comb. The gun is finished in basic black.
The DDM4V7 LW carbine I received for testing and evaluation weighed 6 pounds, 3.3 ounces without sights or magazine. For my shooting session, I mounted a Bresser Konig 1.5-6X 42mm scope in a Burris P.E.P.R. mount, and with the scope, mount, and an empty 32-round Daniel Defense magazine, the carbine weighed 8 pounds, 12.7 ounces.
I put the new DDM4V7 LW through its paces by shooting a variety of factory ammunition as well as seven handloads. Most handloads had a cartridge overall length (COL) of 2.26 inches. Exceptions were two Hornady 75-grain bullets and the Sierra 80-grain MatchKing (seated to 2.39 inches) and the Nosler 64-grain Bonded Solid Base, which had a COL of 2.20 inches. All loads of 2.26 inches or shorter were fed through a five-round magazine, and all functioned perfectly. The longer rounds were loaded singly with the aid of an Original Bob Sled single-shot adapter. Over the course of testing, there was not a single malfunction of any kind.
Top honors for factory load accuracy went to the Fort Scott Munitions 5.56mm NATO-spec loads with the company's proprietary 55- and 62-grain solid copper bullets; they averaged 0.59 and 0.57 inch respectively. The best .223 Remington load was the Black Hills 69-grain MatchKing load, which produced an average of 0.75 inch and a velocity of 2,643 fps. Second best was the Hornady Superformance ammunition loaded with the company's 75-grain BTHP. It averaged 0.85 inch and 2,641 fps.
The Black Hills ammo with the 75-grain OTM bullet shot under an inch. It is totally counterintuitive, but the velocity of the 75-grain load was 10 fps faster than the 69-grain load.
My best handloading effort was an average of 0.69 inch, and it came with the Nosler 77-grain Custom Competition HP and CFE 223 powder. The velocity averaged 2,365 fps. This bullet can be seated to magazine length (2.26 inches). Close behind, with an accuracy average of 0.73 inch, was the Sierra 80-grain MatchKing HPBT, also propelled by CFE 223. Two other powders that also performed well in the DDM4V7 LW were Alliant Power Pro Varmint and AR Comp, both with Hornady 75-grain A-Max and BTHP bullets.
It pains me to admit it, but the accuracy of my carefully prepared handloads lagged slightly behind the factory fodder. The overall average of all factory loads and handloads was 0.89 inch. Factory loads registered 0.88 inch, and my handloads came in at 0.90 inch. I consider that pretty darn good considering the trigger pull was over 7 pounds and that I was using a 6X scope. Functioning was 100 percent with all loads, and the points of impact between different bullet weights were pretty close together. The barrel picked up little fouling and was easy to clean.
My hypothesis that the 1:7-inch twist would shoot heavier bullets better was confirmed, but only slightly. The top three loads in terms of accuracy were with 77-, 80-, and 69-grain bullets and averaged 0.72 inch. By contrast, the three largest groups were with 55- and 62-grain bullets. At 1.13 inches, they were almost twice as large as the top three loads. That said, none of the loads were what you might refer to as "bad."
As the performance results in the Accuracy & Velocity chart clearly shows, just about any of the loads would be suitable for all but the toughest match competition, and small to medium-size varmints should tread lightly in the DDM4V7 LW's path when its magazine is fully loaded with today's high-tech bonded and monolithic bullets.
Overall, the DDM4V7 LW performed very well. It was 100 percent reliable. It was lightweight yet accurate. It was pleasant to handle and didn't have a bunch of sharp projections sticking out here and there like on many other ARs. It definitely delivered the goods.