Review: Daniel Defense Delta 5
May 31, 2019
Loyal readers of Shooting Times have been reading about Daniel Defense’s excellent AR-type guns—both rifles and pistols—in these pages for several years, so you probably already associate great quality and precision accuracy with the company’s name. Well, now that reputation can be transferred to the world of bolt-action rifles because Daniel Defense’s new bolt-action Delta 5 rifle is impressive.
The Delta 5 combines an all-new action designed by Daniel Defense with an aluminum mini chassis, an adjustable buttstock, a detachable magazine, a Timney Elite Hunter trigger, and a cold-hammer-forged barrel. The rifle also has several unique characteristics, so let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
The Delta 5 is chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, and .308 Winchester. Interestingly, the rifle is a switch-barrel design, so you can order a complete rifle in any of the three chamberings and add barrels in the other calibers. The company says the extra barrels should be available to customers sometime this summer. I’ll get into the barrel-swapping procedure in a minute, but first let’s look at the barrel itself.
Our sample came with a 6.5 Creedmoor barrel installed, and we also received an extra .308 Winchester barrel. The Creedmoor tube is 24 inches long and has a rifling twist rate of 1:8. The .308 Win. barrel is 20 inches long and has a twist rate of 1:10. Both barrels have precision crowned muzzles, and the muzzles are threaded for suppressors. The barrels are stainless steel and cold hammer forged in Daniel Defense’s own barrelmaking facility.
The barrels are held into Daniel Defense’s proprietary action by a barrel nut. Headspace is set at the factory, so no gauges are needed when swapping barrels.
Speaking of swapping barrels, it’s very easy. In fact, the first thing I wanted to do was swap the 6.5 Creedmoor barrel for the .308 Win. barrel because I’m a little bored with the Creedmoor. I know plenty of readers think the 6.5 Creedmoor is the cat’s meow, and I acknowledge it’s a very good cartridge because I’ve fired a lot of rifles chambered for the popular round, but I was more interested in seeing how the .308 Win. would perform in the Delta 5, especially since I had received a box of the new composite-case True Velocity .308 ammunition prior to the rifle’s arrival. (You can read more about this unique ammo in this story.)
Swapping barrels involves removing the bolt, unscrewing two stock screws, lifting the barreled action out of the stock and mini chassis, unscrewing the barrel nut, removing the barrel, inserting the new barrel, installing the barrel nut that comes with the new barrel, securing the barreled action back into the stock, and inserting the bolt into the action. It’s as simple as it sounds, and the whole process takes very little time. For anyone wondering, the barrel-nut wrench comes with the rifle.
The stainless-steel action is mechanically bedded in an aluminum mini chassis that mates with the rifle’s synthetic stock. Pillars are integrated as part of the bottom metal, and they allow metal-to-metal contact of the action to the mini chassis. The unique integral recoil lug is sandwiched between the action and the barrel, and the shoulder extends a full 360 degrees, providing a bedding surface for the scope mount base.
Speaking of the scope mount base, a 6.25-inch-long Picatinny rail is securely bolted to the top of the action with four #10-32 bolts. The rail has 14 cross-slots (every other one is numbered) and 20 MOA of elevation.
The receiver’s ejection port is large for snag-free ejection of fired cases, and the bolt body is 0.69 inch in diameter. It has a rotating bolthead with three locking lugs, and the locking lugs are 0.87 inch in diameter. The bolt has a Sako-style extractor and a plunger-type ejector. Bolt throw is 60 degrees, and the bolt-handle knob is removable.
The two-position safety is located at the right rear of the receiver. The bolt-release lever is located on the left side of the receiver, and it fits flush with the side of the receiver. Depressing it allows the bolt to slide smoothly out of the action with or without the safety engaged.
The action accepts AICS short-action magazines. The one that came with my rifle is made by Magpul and is marked 7.62x51. Its internal length measures 2.89 inches, so 6.5 Creedmoor rounds and .308 Win. fit nicely. The mag holds five rounds, and it functioned perfectly throughout my shooting session. By the way, the ambidextrous magazine release is cleverly located at the bottom of the trigger guard.
The Delta 5 comes with Timney’s Elite Hunter trigger that is adjustable from 1.4 to 4.5 pounds. My rifle’s trigger broke at a crisp, clean 4 pounds, 4 ounces of pull right out of the box.
That number is the average of 10 measurements with my RCBS trigger pull scale.
The carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer stock is Daniel Defense’s own design. It features a 1.13-inch-thick buttpad and a cheekpiece that can be adjusted for height and angle. As it came from the factory, length of pull measured 13.38 inches, but that can be adjusted by installing extra shims that come with the rifle.
The fore-end is configured to accept M-LOK accessories. There are 11 points to be exact, and there is one on the bottom of the buttstock, too. In addition, ambidextrous QD sling-attachment points are located on the fore-end and the buttstock.
A precision rifle like the Delta 5 needs a precision scope, and I used a new VUDU 5-25X 50mm scope for this review. VUDU is a new line of riflescopes made by EOTech, so you know they are rugged and reliable. The VUDU 5-25X has EOTech’s EZ Check zero stop system, a 34mm main tube, and XC High-Density glass. The scope I used had an MD3 reticle located in the first focal plane, but you can have the Horus H59 reticle if you prefer. The illuminated reticle is powered by a CR2032 battery. The scope is 11.2 inches long and weighs 29.5 ounces. It is adjustable for parallax, and it is covered by EOTech’s Advantage Warranty. The MSRP starts at $2,099.
With an empty weight of 8.9 pounds without a scope, the .308 Win. Delta 5 isn’t a lightweight, but it’s not horribly heavy, either. It is heavy enough to be very comfortable to shoot but not uncomfortable to tote afield. And the weight helped make the felt recoil hardly noticeable.
As for how the Delta 5 shot, well, it’s impressive. The 10 .308 Win. factory loads I fired averaged 0.83 inch. That’s for three, five-shot groups with each load fired from a sandbag benchrest at 100 yards.
I fired all loads on the same day, and the barrel was allowed to cool between each group. The bore was not cleaned until after all shooting was completed.
As you can see from the chart, the most accurate .308 Win. ammo was the 175-grain MatchKing load from True Velocity. It averaged 0.69 inch. This is unique ammunition, and one thing is certain: It was extremely accurate in the Daniel Defense Delta 5.
It was also very consistent, turning in single-digit velocity extreme spread and standard deviation figures.
I didn’t shoot any 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition in the switch-barrel Delta 5; however, Tom Beckstrand, who writes for our sister publication Guns & Ammo recently presented his shooting results with a Delta 5 chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor. As you can read in the March issue of G&A, he averaged 0.73 inch overall for five, five-shot groups with Federal Gold Medal Match 140-grain JHP, Hornady Match 140-grain ELD-M, and Winchester Match 140-grain JHP factory ammo. Clearly, the 6.5 Creedmoor Delta 5 is capable of top-drawer accuracy.
There aren’t too many things in life that are more fun than shooting an accurate rifle, so imagine the great time I had shooting the Delta 5. It is one of the most accurate rifles I have ever fired. Incredibly, my best five-shot group clustered all five shots in a ragged hole that I could almost cover with the casehead of a .308 Win. case. A five-shot group that small will brighten anybody’s day.