If a rifle ever could be truly called “America’s Rifle,” the AR-type rifles and carbines designed by Eugene Stoner some 50 years ago fit the definition to a T. The M16/M4 family of rifles and carbines has been in service longer than any military small arm in United States history and will remain the standard military rifle and carbine for many years to come. The US Army has decided to equip all forces with M4/M4A1 carbines, while the US Marines have settled on the M16 A4 rifle. Because of its longevity, popularity and modular nature, the AR has evolved into the most versatile firearm ever invented.
The original rifle was designed as a 300-yard rifle, but recent versions can “reach out and touch someone” as far distant as 800 yards or more. Carbines are better suited to shorter range engagements, but the fact is that there is an AR for just about every purpose imaginable. AR-type rifles and carbines have become truly modular, although we know from conversations with co-designer Jim Sullivan that the original AR was never envisioned to become what it is today.
The AR can be transformed by changing from one upper receiver to another—rifle to carbine and back again. It is even possible to switch calibers by changing uppers as with the .50 Beowulf, 6.5 Grendel and 6.8SPC. Again, due to its unprecedented popularity, a true cottage industry has developed for manufacture of custom-built ARs—one that caters specialized customers. These smaller manufacturers produce AR-type rifles and carbines, ranging from entry-level guns to very expensive full custom rifles. A recent addition to the burgeoning AR market is DEL-TON, Inc.
We first learned of DEL-TON from a friend who is knowledgeable in the field of ARs. He told us that DEL-TON rifles and carbines were excellent quality and priced competitively. Shortly thereafter, we contacted DEL-TON and had one of their M4 SA carbines fitted with the optional Samson STAR-C handguard. The military special operations community long ago recognized that the basic M4 was lacking in versatility and developed the Special Operations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD) program to make the M4 capable of mounting accessories and thus more adaptable to the many mission profiles that challenge Special Operations Forces. But the SOPMOD program is now 10 years old and technology and industrial design have come a long way since the program’s inception.
With the high quality DEL-TON M4 type carbine as a basis, DEL-TON combined forces with Samson and ARMS, Inc. to produce the enhanced carbine that appears in this article. At first glance, the STAR-C handguard doesn’t appear to free-float the barrel, but it does. The STAR-C is made of 6061-T6 aluminum, is M203 ready and doesn’t interfere with the front sight/gas block. The DEL-TON also came with folding front and rear backup sights from ARMS. These sights fold down out of the way when optics are installed and instantly flip up and lock into place if needed. The DEL-TON modified carbine is ideal for law enforcement or military CQB (close quarter battle), SWAT, police patrol or civilian personal defense, but we always enhance our test rifles to tailor them for tactical use.
One of the first additions we made to the DEL-TON enhanced carbine was Vltor’s patented Modular Firearm Buttstock or Modstock. The Modstock is available in black, flat dark earth and OD green and two configurations: standard and “clubfoot” (facilitates using the off-hand to pull the stock into the shoulder for greater stability) in either collapsible stock carbine or full length. The full-length stock also comes in two versions: A1 and A2, the A2 is slightly longer than the A1. Vltor’s Modstock has many features that are unavailable anywhere else.
Although there are other manufacturers of carbine stocks with waterproof compartments for storing batteries and other small items, other stocks must be removed to access the storage compartments. Vltor’s waterproof compartments can be accessed with the stock on the carbine or rifle. If the user doesn’t want the compartments, simply installing the “cheek weld adapter” can retain standard stock configuration. We like the compartment adapters so much that we can’t imagine why one wouldn’t want them. The compartment adapters provide a flat surface for the best cheek weld we have ever experienced on an AR-rifle or carbine of any type.
Vltor’s Modstock, whether in carbine or rifle version, is absolutely superior to any other we have tested because it is more comfortable, thus enhancing accuracy, while raising the shooter’s line of sight to an ideal level for either open sights or optics. We believe that Vltor’s Modstock is a “must have” for any AR-type rifle or M4-type carbine.
The Modstock also offers several different sling options. The standard M4 sling adapter can be fitted, but the Modstock has a provision for Uncle Mike’s quick detachable sling swivels, one of which is provided with each Modstock kit. The Uncle Mike’s sling swivel can be fitted to either side of the stock.
No carbine is complete without sights and optics is preferred over open sights because they are faster and more accurate. The EOTech Holographic Weapon Sight (HWS) is in widespread use by military and law enforcement. The EOTech projects a laser holograph onto a vertical piece of hardened glass like a fighter pilot’s heads up display. The EOTech possesses a significant advantage over other optical sights in that even with the glass broken, the 65 minute of angle (MOA) circle and four aiming dots are visible.
The central dot is for use from 0 to 300 meters, with the next three down for 400, 500 and 600 meters, respectively when used with the optional EOTech 3x magnifier. In fact, some special operations EOTech users do not even employ the reticle at CQB distances of about 25 meters or less. They simply frame the target in the sight’s reinforced aircraft aluminum housing and shoot it.
All EOTechs are waterproof to some extent, but only the full military versions are waterproof to 66 feet; the rest will take only a 10-foot dive. Our EOTech was the latest M557 military version that mounts via ARMS quick detach (QD) levers. This latest EOTech is powered by two 123 lithium batteries with 1100 hours continuous operating life. The M557 EOTech also features a battery compartment tether so it can’t be dropped and lost. EOTechs can be dismounted and remounted with no more than 1 MOA change in zero.
Optical Systems AN/PVS-22
Since military and law enforcement operations are just as likely to be conducted in darkness, we again fitted Optical Systems Technology, Inc’s AN/PVS-22 Universal Night Sight. Although we have previously reported on the AN/PVS-22 Universal Night Sight, it can be used either as a handheld night vision optic or as a small arms sight.
When used as a night sight, the AN/PVS-22 mounts ahead of the day optic, eliminating the need for an illuminated reticle. Unlike older night vision optics like the AN/PVS-14 that must be mounted behind the optic with an adapter clamped to the ocular and an IR illuminated reticle, eye relief with the AN/PVS-22 is the same regardless of whether or not the night vision device is in use. Sales of the AN/PVS-22 are restricted to military and law enforcement.
We also equipped our DEL-TON Enhanced Carbine with a SureFire M900 vertical foregrip WeaponLight with infrared (IR) filter. The M900 is in widespread use by both military and LE special units and features an intense white light plus low-level LED “navigation lights” that emit very little visible light for moving in the dark with minimal signature. With the IR filter and the AN/PVS-22 in place, the M900 can be used like an invisible searchlight to illuminate and engage targets using the EOTech sight without visible light.
Laser Devices DBAL
Finally, we installed a Laser Devices Dual Beam Aiming Laser-Advanced² (DBAL-A²), whose military designation is Multi-Functioning Aiming Laser System (MFAL) or AN/PEQ-15A. The DBAL-A² provides an IR pointer, IR illuminator and red visible laser pointer. Modes are selected using a rotary switch to select between the visible laser and the various IR modes including IR pointer only, IR illuminator only or both.A low power engagement mode reduces the IR output for indoor and CQB use.
Optical glass generators project different illumination patterns that include circle, square, triangle, plus sign or “T” for target designation and pointing. When used with the AN/PVS-22, the DBAL-A² enables the shooter to illuminate his target with a laser that is invisible to the naked eye. Windage and elevation are adjustable in 0.4 milliradian increments. The DBAL-A2 has optional mounts for MIL-STD-1913 rails – either a thumbscrew or quick detach (QD) throw lever mount for MIL-STD-1913 rails like that of our test unit. The DBAL-A2 is made of 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum and weighs only 8 ounces. Power is from a single Lithium 123 AA battery.
We also tested our DEL-TON with a 100-round C-Mag. The C-Mag adds some bulk and weight to the AR, but eliminates frequent magazine changes, basically carrying over three standard 30-round magazine’s worth of ammo without a reload. Our experience with C-Mags has been that, if loaded properly, they will run just fine. The law enforcement or personal defense tactical engagement that requires more than 100 rounds of rifle or carbine ammo is going to be rare and if one can’t deal with the threat with 100 rounds, it might be time to consider fixing bayonets!
Shooting the DEL-TON M4 SA was typical AR, but made more pleasant by the optional Vltor package. The single-stage trigger had a bit of creep, but broke cleanly at 6.5 pounds—typical AR. Accuracy was excellent considering the fact that we were shooting at 3.5-inch bull’s-eye targets at 50 yards using the EOTech red dot. This isn’t a criticism of the EOTech, but red dot sights of any type are not precision sights. On the contrary, they are intended for quick target acquisition at relatively close ranges from CQB to 100 yards.
We tested at 50 yards because the average law enforcement carbine engagement is actually at much closer distances. The DEL-TON carbine functioned flawlessly and delivered its best shot group with Hornady ammunition. With one called flyer, the Hornady group was just under an inch with four of five rounds almost touching each other. Considering that this enhanced carbine was designed for essentially CQB use, that is excellent accuracy!
Overall, our DEL-TON M4 SA fits the definition of an enhanced carbine to a T. The overall quality is excellent and if our test carbine is any indication, DEL-TON rifles and carbines are worth a close look. The company manufactures a complete line of AR-type rifles and carbines that should satisfy the needs of just about any potential AR user who is seeking a quality AR-type rifle or carbine at a reasonable price.