DANIEL DEFENSE MK18 5.56 SBR COMBAT CARBINES

There are a lot of companies making black rifles these…

There are a lot of companies making black rifles these days, and it is often hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, one name stands out from the crowd: Daniel Defense. Founded in 2001 by Marty Daniel, the company’s slogan of “Lighter, Stronger, Better” is more than just words. When Daniel Defense started out it had one product, a sling adaptor. From there the company expanded to other accessories, including a new rail for the M4. The Rail Interface System, or RIS II, was designed to meet a request from the U.S. Special Operations Command. Specifically, it provided a free-floated barrel and the ability to mount an M203 grenade launcher. After extensive testing, USSOCOM selected Daniel Defense as its sole source provider for rails. Over 10 years later, Daniel Defense is still delivering RIS II rails to USSOCOM and other military units, with more than 15,000 DD MK18 rails being delivered to date.

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Off-hand, the MK18 SBR handled well and seemed perfectly balanced. From the bench, the rifle was accurate and ran flawlessly.

How tough are Daniel Defense rifles? If you visit their website or surf the net you have probably seen Larry Vickers’ torture-test video. Larry spent over 20 years in the U.S. Army and was a member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta for the majority of his career. Besides owning his own training and consulting firm, Vickers is also a consultant to Daniel Defense. In the video, Vickers takes a DDM4 carbine and buries it, sinks it, shoots it, runs it over, blows it up and drops it from a helicopter. After each evolution, the rifle was fired to evaluate reliability and accuracy. The results speak for themselves. Check out daniel defense.com/torturetest.

From its humble beginnings, Daniel Defense has grown to a staff of over 130 employees. While keeping their original 38,000-square-foot facility in Black Creek, Georgia, the company will be opening a 90,000-square-foot production facility in South Carolina in late 2012. What sets DD apart from others is its total commitment to quality. It manufactures nearly every component of their rifles in-house, including barrels, upper and lower receivers, bolts, fire control parts, pins and detents.

A quality barrel is at the foundation of every Daniel Defense rifle. All of their mil-spec barrels are cold-hammer-forged through intense hydraulic pressure that is applied at opposing angles by carbide steel hammers. During the hammering process, a mandrel is inserted into the bore. The hammers shape the barrel’s chamber and its lands and grooves around the mandrel, creating a defect-free bore and consistent chamber. Every barrel is MP-tested to ensure there are no hidden flaws or fractures.

Daniel Defense offers a wide selection of M4 rifles in carbine- or mid-length gas systems. However, what attracted Tactical Weapons’ attention was their MK18 SBR. The MK18 is an all-out clone of the carbine used by USSOCOM and features a 10.3-inch barrel. While the company offers select-fire rifles to government agencies, our test rifle was an NFA-approved semi-automatic. This allows the MK18 SBR to be sold to any qualified buyer through the customer’s local FFL/SOT dealer.

Rifle Details

The MK18 upper receiver is machined in-house to military specifications and features M4 feed ramps. The bolt carrier group is MP-tested and, as it should, has a properly staked gas key. The 10.3-inch barrel is forged from chrome-moly-vanadium steel with a 1-in-7-inch twist rate. The bore is chrome-lined, and the exterior is coated with a mil-spec phosphate. Every barrel has identification markings that include the company’s initials, the method of rifling, the MP stamp for MPI testing, the caliber, the twist rate and the born-on date (month and year). The flash suppressor is a DD design similar to a standard mil-spec A2 unit.

The MK18 RIS II rail is secured with six screws for easy installation and removal, and mates to the upper receiver to allow for a continuous rail. The side rails are secured using three flathead screws, and every other rail slot is numbered. The design of the RIS II is both lightweight and low profile. Our test rifle came with a polymer vertical pistol grip and ladder covers. The lower receiver on the MK18 is also machined to mil-spec and features a quick-detach swivel attachment point. The manufacturer’s markings have been engraved instead of roll-marked. This gives the lower a very clean and crisp appearance. The pistol grip is of the standard mil-spec A2 style. A sharp eye will also notice the flared magazine well and Magpul enhanced triggerguard. The enlarged and beveled magazine well enables faster and cleaner reloads. The internals are mil-spec, and the trigger pull measures 7.5 pounds with some slight grit during take-up—we did notice that the trigger got progressively better as we put more rounds through the rifle. The Magpul MOE stock is standard equipment on the carbine.

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