“Evolution” is surely one of the best names for the latest rifle from Elizabethtown, North Carolina-based Del-Ton Incorporated.
Del-Ton may have started small, but the company is now well established as a supplier of AR parts and accessories, as well as outstanding complete rifles. Each new model represents an improvement of the company’s existing line, and the Del-Ton Evolution is certainly no exception.
The name actually refers to the use of Samson Manufacturing’s excellent free-floating handguard and folding backup sights. Nevertheless, this carbine represents an excellent next-generation carbine because of its outstanding quality and many mil-spec features.
The semi-auto, direct-impingement Evolution is chambered in 5.56mm. The 16-inch, chrome-moly-vanadium barrel features a lightweight contour, which helps reduce weight and is sure to be appreciated. The barrel also has a 1-in-9-inch twist rate and a black manganese-phosphate finish.
Chrome-moly-vanadium steel has a high carbon content, which translates to increased strength and a longer-lasting barrel. It also meets mil-spec standards for durability. The 1-in-9-inch twist rate allows the barrel to stabilize a wider range of bullet weights, including very lightweight ones suitable for hunting uses as well as law enforcement or personal protection to help dissipate energy quickly and avoid overpenetration against soft targets. The bore and chamber are also chrome lined for enhanced corrosion resistance and to increase the barrel’s life and reliability.
The rifle also features a Samson low-profile gas block and a mid-length gas system, which is 2 inches longer than that found on an M4-style carbine, providing less dwell time, or the amount of time the bullet spends in the barrel after it passes the gas port and before it exits the barrel. This shorter dwell time reduces the amount of gas and fouling that goes back into the chamber to operate the bolt, helping to reduce wear and tear over time on internal parts as well as perceived recoil.
At the back of the barrel extension, Del-Ton has added mil-spec M4 feed ramps, which are cut wider and lower than on standard AR rifles and help ensure more reliable feeding from the magazine under harsh conditions. The barrel also features a standard threaded muzzle with a removable A2 flash suppressor.
The barrel is left free-floating thanks to the one-piece, 12.3-inch, aluminum Samson Evolution handguard, which has a smooth and fairly narrow profile, making it very comfortable, and accessory rails can be added to the sides and bottom if needed. This makes mounting accessories a very simple affair, and Del-Ton includes two 2-inch side rails and one 4-inch rail at the front on the bottom. The top of the handguard has a full-length rail that mates up with the flattop upper receiver’s for 18 inches of total rail space on top of the rifle.
Allowing the barrel to remain free-floating significantly increases its accuracy potential. With traditional ARs, the handguards come in contact with the barrel at the attachment points as well as where the sling attaches. When pressure is applied in these spots, there is a slight shift in alignment that impacts the barrel and unevenly alters its natural frequency. At long ranges or where pinpoint precision is a factor, this can become an issue.
“Normally when I receive an AR for testing I start thinking about all the upgrades I would like to make … In this case it seems that Del-Ton has read my mind.”
The Evolution carbine also comes with Samson’s excellent folding sights. Built tough from 6061 aluminum and hardcoat anodized, they are designed to withstand harsh conditions. They deploy easily and lock in position. The sights have large, clear buttons on the left side to fold them. The rear aperture sight is fully adjustable for windage, and the HK-style front sight is adjustable for elevation.
The bolt carrier is made from phosphated 8620 steel and chrome lined. The bolt is made from Carpenter 158 steel, which is even harder than 8620, and is both high-pressure (HP) and magnetic-particle (MP) tested. While all companies will pressure test their bolts, some do not bother with MP testing, which is only required of true mil-spec bolts. This consists of using a magnetic field to detect any imperfections in the surface or subsurface of the part, ensuring that only the highest-quality parts are being used.
Del-Ton’s attention to detail extends to the chrome-lined gas carrier key, which is fixed with Grade 8 screws that have been properly staked and sealed. Nearly all manufacturers will stake their gas keys in some way, but a sure sign of quality is a properly staked gas key, which shows that a hammer and punch have been used with enough force to move sufficient metal into the carrier key screws. If these screws are not properly staked, they could become loose under fire.
The upper and lower receivers, forged from mil-spec 7075-T6 aluminum, include all of the standard AR controls, including the right-side-mounted forward assist, shell deflector, steel dust cover and aluminum magazine release. On the left side, the safety selector and bolt release are in their familiar places. The aluminum triggerguard is also a nice upgrade.
The fit between the upper and lower receivers was firm and exhibited no play, but the takedown pins could still be utilized without tools. The carbine’s finish was smoothly applied and even throughout.
The trigger on the Del-Ton Evolution is also vastly improved over a standard mil-spec trigger. Instead of the usual stiff, single-stage trigger, you get an extremely slick two-stage trigger with light take-up and a very clean 4-pound break, and no creep or overtravel. On the range, this greatly improved my accuracy results. In my opinion, this may be the single biggest improvement Del-Ton has made to any of its rifles.
The Del-Ton Evolution also has welcome features in terms of its furniture, as the lower receiver features a mil-spec buffer tube fitted with a Magpul CTR buttstock. The po-lymer CTR stock is extremely comfortable, ergono-mic and lightweight. The stock can be adjusted to six different length-of-pull positions to accommodate shooters with different statures. The stock also has a friction retention tab to keep the length adjustment where the user has set it, ambidextrous QD sling attachment points and a rubber buttpad for secure shouldering.
Internally, there is an “H”-marked buffer for improved cycling, which most AR carbines do not have. Heavier buffers offer distinct advantages, as they slow down the bolt and bolt carrier travel to ensure proper case extraction and keep the internal parts from slamming into each other with as much force. This also reduces the recoil signature and helps prevent bolt carrier bounce, making sure that when the bolt goes forward it closes and stays closed.
Del-Ton equips the Evolution with a Magpul MOE+ grip, which is very comfortable and slightly larger than the standard grip. It does a good job of filling the hand, and the top portion fills the gap between the lower receiver and the web of the hand for a better firing grip. The MOE+ grip is also rubber coated for a secure hold in inclement conditions and has internal storage space for spare parts or extra batteries.
I tested the Del-Ton Evolution right out of the box and experienced no malfunctions over several days of shooting with no maintenance performed in between. At only 6.8 pounds, the rifle was actually lighter than many similarly equipped carbines and handled easily. The lightweight-profile barrel prevents the carbine from becoming front-heavy, while the weight was sufficient to keep the recoil at a minimum.
For accuracy testing at 100 yards, I fired the Evolution from a sturdy benchrest using a Trijicon TR20-2 AccuPoint 3-9x40mm scope with a mil-dot crosshair reticle. I tested three different types of expanding, high-quality, match-grade ammunition ranging in bullet weight from 60 to 75 grains, and the results were telling.
Clearly, this rifle, with its slower twist rate, had a preference for lighter bullets, and I achieved my best results—an impressive 0.5-inch group—with the Federal Premium 69-grain Sierra MatchKing ammunition.
The 60-grain Black Hills V-MAX rounds also achieved sub-MOA results. Using 75-grain ammunition, group sizes spread to 3 MOA, which is still good. As always, it is best to match a specific load to a specific rifle in order to achieve the best and most consistent results downrange.
Normally when I receive an AR for testing I start thinking about all the upgrades I would like to make in terms of the stock or grip or, most often, the trigger. In this case it seems that Del-Ton has read my mind. With the exception of possibly adding a single-point sling attachment point at the rear of the receiver, there was not a single upgrade or improvement I could think of. For patrol officers, who are often limited by policy and cannot make adjustments to their weapons, this is truly a great benefit.
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The Del-Ton Evolution is an outstanding American-made rifle with a lifetime warranty for the original purchaser. It’s available with black or Flat Dark Earth furniture, and comes with a lock and a 30-round magazine. What’s more, the company continues to impress in offering such high quality at extremely competitive prices, even now when high demand could justify premium pricing.
For more information on the Evolution, visit del-ton.com or call 910-645-2172.
This article is from THE COMPLETE BOOK OF GUNS 2016. To order your copy, please visit PersonalDefenseWorld.com.