I do the best I can to stay current with what is new in the firearms community, but every so often I am surprised by something. Such was the case when I received a call from Del-Ton, Inc, a new manufacturer of AR-15 rifles. I admit to a bit of trepidation when asked if I would be willing to test and evaluate a carbine from this new manufacturer, but every so often you just have to go for it and see what happens. In the case of the new Del-Ton DTI-16 I was glad I did, as it turned out to be one fine piece of gear.
In reality, Del-Ton is not new to the firearms community, having been a major supplier of parts and components since 2000. Del-Ton offers all of the major brands such as Ace, ARMS, Badger, Daniel Defense, Harris, JP Rifles, EOTech, Knights Armament, Magpul and Vltor just to name a few. As the business grew, the folks at Del-Ton realized that they knew as much about the AR system as anyone, so they decided to offer their own version of the black rifle and Del-Ton rifles was born.
Several weeks later my rifle arrived and as I unpacked it I could not help but notice that the gun had the look and feel of a quality rifle. After checking to see that it was empty I examined it for fit, finish and other related “marks” (or lack thereof) of quality. I noted that the upper to lower receiver was very snug and that there was no wobble between the two components. Many people insert rubber gizmos in order to make the gun seem “tighter,” an addition that I have seen cause more problems than solutions, but such an addition was unnecessary on this gun.
My test rifle had a 16.25-inch M4-style barrel, flattop receiver with an ARMS flip-up rear sight, ARMS #41B (B for barrel-mounted) gas block folding front sight, adjustable Magpul CTR five-position stock and was delivered with two 30-round magazines. No tool marks were evident and the black finish was deep and consistent, offering a very business-like appearance and feel.
The word that comes to mind as I examined the Del-Ton carbine was quality. While I had never heard of Del-Ton before this, I could tell they understood what needed to be incorporated into a combative carbine and they did their best to do so. The barrel on my test gun was made of Chrome Moly Steel with a 1-in-9-inch twist and was capped with an A2-style flash suppressor. All Del-Ton barrels are manufactured to this same standard.
This test version can be purchased with or without the detachable carry handle, but I was happy that it came with the ARMS flip-up sights. The new ARMS #41B that came on my test gun solves the problem of trying to fold the well-known triangle shape of the conventional tower front sight. The sight utilizes a rugged spring-loaded angled support system to eliminate getting caught in brush or other environmental or combat-related hazards. The #41B uses a standard front sight post so the sight picture looks the same when being aimed. The sight is also quite rugged, as the assembly is mounted to the barrel like the conventional front sight.
Some debate the merits of folding front sights claiming that one will not be able to get the front sight flipped up in a crisis event. Like many things, this problem would be solved with practice and I admit that I much prefer an optical sight picture that is devoid of a front sight post. The ARMS flip-up rear sight is a model 40 Standard A2 Flip-up rear sight that uses the standard A2 rear sight apertures. It offers windage adjustments in 0.75-MOA and weighs a mere 1.9 ounces.
The upper receiver is forged 7076-T6 aluminum with a standard Mil-Spec-style flattop. The lower is forged from the same aluminum, has an aluminum triggerguard and magazine release button. The fore-end was a two-piece, four-rail aluminum Picatinny system that carries the Del-Ton logo. Rail covers were in place on all but the top rail. When I inquired of Del-Ton co-owner Kassandra Autry if they made their own components I was told, “No we do not, but all of the parts that go into a Del-Ton AR-15 are made in the United States from the same supplier who sells parts to FN [H-USA].” Add-on components like the ARMS sights are all top of the line and desired by most operators.
The Magpul CTR is a patent-pending Compact/Type Restricted (CTR) adjustable stock and is a drop-in replacement for the standard M4 stock body. Designed for stability, the CTR uses a shielded lever and a friction locking system that secures the stock to the buffer tube to eliminate any wobble once locked. The sloping cheek weld offers an improved user interface that varies little from a conventional fixed AR-15 rear stock.
In addition there are ambidextrous sling mounts for QD (quick detach), 1.25-inch loops, a lanyard hole, side mounting slots for cheek risers and a weight of just 1.3 ounces without a rubber or spacer butt pad. Its collapsed length is 7.2 inches without rubber butt pad, while its extended length is 10.5 inches without rubber butt pad.
Truth be told, you will want to add the rubber pad to the rear of the CTR, not to tame the “awesome” recoil of the 5.56mm, but to keep the stock from “walking” on the shoulder during rapid fire. I have seen a number of military operators add Goop or Shoe Goo to the rear of their M4 stock for this purpose, but the CTR rubber pad is a far superior solution. The fact is, I believe the CTR is the best collapsible stock currently available.
The model I actually received for testing was not a stock item, but one that the folks at Del-Ton put together for me in order to show me what they can do, sort of a custom version! Autry told me, “We deal through a particular distributor for our stock guns, but if an individual customer wants something set up special from the factory…say they want a 16-inch carbine with a certain fore-end, grip or a set of sights, including optics, we will work with them through their FFL (federal firearms license) dealer. Naturally our distributor gets preference, however.” My test gun was semi-auto-only, which was fine, as I really do not want to go through the hassles required to test an automatic weapon.
Before I headed to the range, I field stripped, cleaned, lubed and reassembled the rifle. A dab of Militec-1 lubricant on the point where the hammer meets the sear will do wonders for an AR action, so I did just that. I also added a Trijicon TA33-8 ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) optic as I believe this to be an example of the best magnified optic currently made. The ACOG comes in a wide variety of sizes, reticle styles and power levels.
The TA33 is a three-power optic that Sales Manager Myles Waterman recommended to me as a good choice for law enforcement operations. The 3x30mm model is designed for law enforcement and military applications where the combination of ample magnification, low light capability and long eye relief are desirable. The TA33-8 3×30 ACOG Scope features dual illumination red chevron reticle that can be ranged out to 600 yards. The ACOG is an internally adjustable, compact telescopic sight with tritium illuminated reticles of varied patterns for use in bright or low light.
The Bindon Aiming Concept allows the user to keep both eyes open while searching for adversaries, but allows the brain to “meld” the optical reticle chevron or dot on target for a quick and accurate shot. Most models feature bright daytime reticles using fiber optics that collect ambient light. The ACOG combines traditional, precise long distance marksmanship with close-in aiming speed.
Although the ACOG has many features that are very advantageous for military use, they were developed by Trijicon without government support. Designed for use with the AR-15 family of rifles in mind, every feature of its design was selected to provide increased hit potential in all lighting conditions without reliance on batteries. For this reason, the ACOG has become the quintessential combat optic of the 21st century.
I fired my first few groups from the 25-yard line to get the ACOG zeroed and then I headed back to 100 yards. Trijicon centers their optics at the factory, so little zeroing was required. As a matter of fact, I was on target at 25 yards within eight rounds. From the outset it appeared that this rifle was going to shoot pretty tight and that ended up being the case.
Using a Birchwood Casey “Dirty Bird” target, I was able to keep five rounds of Federal 55-grain Sierra boat tail hollow point inside the 1-inch red center dot on the target. In the interest of seeing just how much the group would vary when using a different load, I switched to the now famous 77-grain match bullet made by Black Hills for the Special Operations Command. This bullet has produced an incredible reputation for accuracy, reliability and stopping power in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters and I wanted to see how it would shoot in the Del-Ton.
As it turns out, the group was actually tighter than what was fired with the Federal 55-grain. It was an inch or so lower than the 55-grains but in a fight who cares?! The Black Hills group measured just under 0.75 of an inch.
The remainder of my test consisted of firing over 500 rounds of ammo for general function and I suffered no malfunctions such as misfeeds, failures to extract or eject, and the brass cleared the rifle as would be expected. Even when lying in odd positions such as on my side-prone, the gun worked flawlessly. I even threw it in a mud puddle to see if it would jam the gun, but no problems were encountered. It did make a mess, though.
While Del-Ton sent two fully functioning magazines with the gun, I admit to having a strong alliance to Magpul magazines. Magpul has “broken the code” in regards to how to make an AR-15 magazine that will work first time, every time. The magazine is the weak link in the AR system and Magpul has solved this. For those who still want aluminum body magazines, Brownells now offers an aluminum magazine with a Magpul spring and follower inside.
These magazines look exactly like a Mil-Spec magazine, but contain what I feel are the best spring and follower currently available. After the fun was over, I cleaned the weapon and it was as I expected it to be—quite dirty! This is on par for the course for any gas impingement AR-style rifle, so get used to it. One short cut that I have found to work quite well is to have the bolt assembly coated with Robar MP-3 that makes cleaning much easier, but that is for another time.
The invoice that I received for this gun listed it at just over $1,000, which is reasonable considering the quality of the gun’s components and the accessories that were added. Del-Ton also offers a number of rifle kits that can be added to your lower receiver if you are not in the market for an entire gun. Whether you are in the market for components, accessories and upper receiver or a whole rifle, give Del-Ton a close look; this is a company that you will be hearing more about.