When the name Daniel Defense (DD for short) is mentioned, typically very high quality AR rifles come to mind. That all changed when they released their first bolt action rifle, known as the Delta-5, about a year ago. But it was not just another bolt action rifle. DD wanted to take some of the same modular concepts from AR rifles and bring those to their new bolt gun. That included interchangeable barrels to allow for changing the caliber and/or the barrel length to suit the shooters needs without having to purchase a whole new rifle. The rifle is configured as a tactical/sniper rifle and it looked very interesting to us so we ordered one when they first became available. The initial version of the rifle came with a 20″ .308 barrel and that is what we have here for review. Then, as we were preparing to do the review, we discovered the bolt on our rifle was caught up in the recall issued by Daniel Defense for a number of the early bolts on these rifles. So we had to delay the review further to send in our bolt for the recall. Once the bolt was returned, the rifle was then ready to see some action and we were anxious to see how it would do.
The Delta-5 comes from Daniel Defense in its own hard case with foam egg-crate style padding. The accessories that come with the rifle include a few additional spaces for the butt assembly, a 5 round magazine and some additional documentation. It is a robust rifle and the hard case is a nice addition to also include. The finish everywhere on the rifle is very matte and gives the tactical appearance when you first open the case to look at it.
The buttstock on the rifle has a thick rubber recoil pad that not only buffers the recoil of the rifle, but also provides a grippy surface to mate into the socket of the shooters shoulder. The buttpad is adjustable for length of pull but use of those provided spacers and it also can be adjusted up and down. As is normal with spacer systems, it is not a quick adjustment to make length of pull changes, but it is solid once completed. There are also female flush cup attachment points on either side of the buttstock located up near the top allowing for the rifle to lie flat against the carriers back when slung. The buttstock also has a butthook on the bottom in the same pattern as the McMillan A5 stock. This allows for effective hand placement while using a sandsock or other rear support devices.
The cheekpiece is adjustable for height using the hand locking screw device on the right hand side. It is large enough to provide the necessary locking force to hold the cheekpiece in place by just using your hand. With only the single lock, it makes it easy and quick to use, but also allows for the cheekpiece to move if only the single locks becomes lose during rifle use or transport. There are two large screws that go down through the top of the cheekpiece to attach it to the hardware needed for the adjustable mechanism, but you don’t notice the holes during use.
The stock material is referred to by Daniel Defense as carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer. It looks a bit like plastic, but is much more stiff and has a much more matte surface to it with slightly better friction to give your cheek and hand some grip. It is not as firm or rigid as fiberglass or other synthetics such as from HS Precision, but it is much better than plastic or nylon. It reminds us of the material used on the Sig SSG3000 stock. While it does not have the appearance of something like a McMillan, it is certainly not cheap or a Tupper-ware stock either.
The rear buttstock is fitted to the pistol grip with what looks to be more of an attachment than an integral part of the stock design. Normally we would refer to the pistol grip as having a deep thumb recess, but in this case, the buttstock kind of looks like it was just attached to the pistol grip. But that pistol grip is comfortable and nearly vertical. It feels similar to an AR pistol-grip, which makes sense coming from a large AR manufacturer. There is some texturing on the front of the pistol grip and it is contoured to fit your hand with some palm swell in the design. There is also a small ledge, or protrusion, down at the bottom of the grip that does actually help with keeping the hand in place when in use.
The trigger finger is also nicely placed for good trigger manipulation, and speaking of the trigger, we like the fact that DD has elected to go with a proven trigger and uses a nice Timney trigger with its wide and ribbed trigger shoe. These triggers are adjustable from 1.5-4 lbs and our electronic scale indicated that this one came from the factory set to 3.75 lbs. Of course, it broke nice and clean and provides a good interface between shooter and rifle.
The trigger guard is a squared off design that is thick and robust, made of aluminum and housing the DBM setup as well. There is a magazine release lever on the forward part of the trigger guard that is ambidextrous, able to be operated from either side. Simply press the lever forward and down and the mag drops free. The PMags are a good magazine choice as they are rugged, reliable, and reasonably priced. The comes with one 5-round PMag from the factory. They also are available in several different capacity sizes. The mag well hangs down below the bottom of the stock, but it is still relatively easy to get the mags inserted and seated. They do drop free if they are empty, always a handy feature for combat use.
The action actually sits down in an aluminum mini-style chassis that is removable from the stock. The two action bolts tie everything together, the chassis, the floorplate and the action. The sides of the stock, where that mini-chassis seats, are flat and smooth without any real shape to it and the pistol grip rounds up to the rear tang. On the right side of the tang, in the same location as a Remington, the two position safety is found. Forward is fire, rear is safe. With the safety in the safe position, the bolt does operate as normal for safe unloading of the rifle. The top of that mini-chassis is marked with a white F and S for an easy to see indicator.
That rear tang on the action is quite wide, which matches the somewhat beefy stature of the action. The action appears to be machined from round bar stock, but it is not the same size or footprint as a Remington 700. There is considerable size to the action which gives it a very robust look and feel. On the left hand side there is a significant flat space machined into the action where the markings are located. Just behind that, there is a bolt release button that is flush with the round side of the action. There are a couple of little texture marks on it and you simply press it in on the top and pull the bolt back and out. On the right hand side of the action, there is medium sized closed ejection port with a closed top of the action giving a bit more restricted access to the ejection area. The closed action top, in theory, also makes a more rigid action.
The action design and bolt are both new designs from DD and unique in some regards. The bolt is a three lug design which allows for a 60 degree bolt through instead of the normal 90 degree that is found on a two lug bolt design like a Remington. The bolt head is also free floating, which allows for a modular design, meaning you can change the bolt head diameter without replacing the entire bolt. Some builders also argue that a floating bolt head allows for better cartridge to bore alignment and accuracy, but that one is not easy to prove. The short bolt rotation is nice for rapid bolt manipulation and the large, and uniquely contoured, bolt knob will also help with bolt handling.
The bolt shroud located at the rear of the bolt is an interesting shape with some ridges machined into it, but it looks fine and works as expected. The Delta-5 does also come with a 20 MOA canted Picatinny rail already mounted which will make it nice to not have to find unique rails for the rifle. It is interesting to note that the rail is mounted with 10-32 screws, which are an upgrade from 8-40 screws which are an upgrade from the standard 6-48 screws on most rifles. This is a bit odd because properly mounted 6-48 screws almost never fail and 8-40’s never do. We are not sure why they thought it was necessary to go with 10-32 bolts. But hey, if 8-40 is good, 10-32 is better?
Perhaps the most uncommon selling feature of the Delta-5 is the user interchangeable barrels. This is accomplished via a barrel nut system and fully chambered barrels with a shank. This goes straight to the roots of DD and is very similar to AR platforms. It is intended for the user to actually be able to change the barrels on their own without a gunsmith. The oversized barrel nut is located at the front of the action and there are very pronounced machined indentations in the nut for the barrel nut adapter to grab hold of. That adapter fits a 1/2″ drive torque wrench and is included in the barrel kits. The whole barrel change process involves a few other tools as well, especially one to hold the action, and it is not something that likely will be done in the field. But with the proper tools and setup, it can be done in about 5 minutes by any competent individual in a home shop or garage. The ability to change a barrel or caliber is indeed a nice one, but it is not really something that you would likely do often.
The inletting and fit of the stock around that large barrel nut is not very tight or elegant and looks a bit sloppy, but it works. The forearm of the stock changes shape a bit here as it widens and flattens at the bottom, but tapers in toward the top. The bottom of the forearm slopes up as it moves towards the muzzle which further flattens out that forearm. All along the bottom there are seven M-Lok slots that can be used to attach adapters and mounting rails as needed. The M-Lok slots are another one of those modularity features brought over from the AR world and it does give some flexibility for the rifle. There are also two additional M-Lok slots on each side of the forearm as well as a flush cup receiver hole.
The overall stock design is very tactical in nature with a few unique twists. The material is a bit different and feels a bit like plastic, but it is rigid and while there is not an aluminum bedding block, the mini-chassis incorporates pillars and acts similarly. The barrel and barrel nut are free floated all the way back to the receiver, but when pressure is applied to the forearm of the stock and the barrel, you do notice more flex than you would with a McMillan or other custom synthetic stock. It is good to note that there is enough gap and the flex is limited enough that you will not run into problems with the stock touching the barrel, which is all that matters.
The barrel on the .308 version of the Delta-5 is a stainless steel 20″ long heavy Palma contour barrel. The barrel is cold hammer forged, which does tend to produce accurate and long lasting barrels. If you look at the exterior finish of the barrel you will see the spiral contouring on the surface which is a bi-product of the forging process. Those marks are actually a sign that the contour of the barrel was not polished during manufacturing to a smooth finish, but this unfinished look was made popular on the Steyr rifles and it has caught on. Frankly, we think it looks good as well. The Palma contour incorporates a “step” down and then almost a straight contour from there to the muzzle. This contour has become a popular contour for reducing weight yet keeping rigidity and accuracy up. Our caliper indicates the diameter of the barrel at the muzzle is .783″, a bit thinner than a Remington heavy barrel which is .850″ on their 20″ barrels.
The muzzle is threaded for a muzzle device or suppressor using the typical 5/8″-24 TPI thread spec and a thread protect cap is included, though it is a bit smaller diameter than the barrel. We would guess it is a standard thread cap used on their other rifles as well. The shorter 20″ barrel with the Palma contour gives the rifle a handy empty weight of just under 9 lbs and it has a compact overall length as well. All of the metal work, including the barrel, is Cerakoted in a matte black finish that looks very good. There is an overall feeling of ruggedness with the large bolts and screws located throughout and some of the clunkiness of the stock. But it feels ready for duty and has the needed features.
With the detailed look done with the rifle, we needed to prep it for our shooting tests to see how it performed. With the scope rail already mounted to the rifle, it made mounting our test scope easy. For our tests, we used our Vortex PST Gen2 5-25x50mm scope that was already setup for mounting on a rail with some Nightforce extreme duty 30mm rings. We like easy. We completed a basic bore sighting at the range and prepared for the shooting portion of our evaluation. If you are not familiar with how we test our scopes and rifles, go ahead and read about the process here.
The weather was actually a bit warmer than normal for a Montana winter with the temps in the mid 30’s and the sky clear and calm. We selected four different types of ammunition for our test. Of course, we always include Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr HPBT as our default ammo, and with the faster 1:10″ twist barrel, we favored a few heavier loads. Choice 178gr HPBT Match and some HSM 175gr HPBT Match. As our fourth ammo selection, we wanted to test the rifle with some basic M80 style ball ammo and brought along some Fiocchi 150gr FMJBT to see what the rifle could do without match ammo.
While the Delta-5 is not a custom built tactical rifle, it is a higher end sniper rifle that costs around $2000 USD. A typical custom built rifle will guarantee .5 MOA, Daniel Defense guarantees .75 MOA with these rifles, which is better than other mass produced rifles. So, with a factory guarantee of .75 MOA, we got to work to see what our off the shelf Delta-5 could do. The 100 yard accuracy test results are shown below.
|Federal GMM 168gr||.482″ (0.460 MOA)||.312″ (.298 MOA)|
|Choice 178gr HPBT Match||1.155″ (1.103 MOA)||.532″ (.508 MOA)|
|HSM 175gr HPBT Match||.995″ (.950 MOA)||.831″ (.794 MOA)|
|Fiocchi M80 150gr FMJBT||3.495″ (3.338 MOA)||2.790″ (2.665 MOA)|
As you can see from the results, the rifle absolutely loved the Federal Gold Medal ammunition, averaging well below .5 MOA and with some groups getting really tight. It was very consistent and showed accuracy that is on par with custom built rifles. Once we moved away from the GMM though, things opened up. The Choice ammo has never been a great 100 yard shooter, but it does very well with that Hornady bullet at long ranges. The consistency wasn’t there in this rifle, but it did have a single group right at .5 MOA. The HSM 175gr load was very consistent, but the groups were just not super tight. Certainly sub MOA and very capable, just not nearly as tight as the GMM. The M80 ball? Yeah, we really do not want to talk much about that, the accuracy was horrible, and we cannot explain why. Typically it will shoot between 1 and 2 MOA, but out of the Delta, it was no better than a 3 MOA load. Certainly not worth using and perhaps the 1:10″ twist was adversely effecting the light 150gr bullet.
The rifle fed without any issues, both from the magazine as well as just dropping a round into the ejection port and single feeding it. The short 60 degree bolt rotation was nice for our rapid fire testing and the contoured bolt knob was comfortable and nice to use. The recoil pulse on the rifle was a bit sharp on the cheek due to the shape and material of the cheekrest. It was the worst with the Choice 178gr load, and more mild with the Federal. That cheek piece also became a bit slick over the shooting session as well, which is not uncommon for smoother synthetic stocks. With the cheekpiece set, a strap on cheekpad could be utilized to help with this.
The mag release up on the trigger guard was not as easy to manipulate as a vertical lever that drops below the triggerguard like what can be found on other DBM setups like the Badger M5. But this design is also not as susceptible to accidental mag drops in the field as the vertical lever. With a little bit of practice, it becomes almost as easy as the other style, its just an odd reach with your trigger finger. The pistol grip shape and contour is setup to promote the firing hand thumb to be located on the same side of the firing hand above the trigger finger instead of wrapping it around the pistol grip. This becomes more necessary with the vertical pistol grips that are becoming popular these days. The setup is very comfortable, though the contour of the pistol grip might feel a little awkward for larger or different shaped hands. Much like a palm swell, some will like it, others maybe not.
We did mount up a suppressor and did some shooting with the suppressor attached just to check accuracy and it actually shot a little better, which is not uncommon for a suppressor. But we do not include test results with the suppressor attached as it takes away from the baseline of the rifle itself. With the shorter 20″ barrel, the rifle is still very portable with the suppressor attached and it would make a nice serviceable package setup like this.
The final shooting test we needed to perform was the 300 yard rapid fire headshot test. The obvious choice of ammunition to use for this test was the Federal that the rifle liked so much. With such good accuracy results with this ammo we fully expected the rifle to perform well and we set the scenario up and prepared for the timed event. Three shots, rapid fire, at a Figure 14 sniper training target from WWII. Without a well defined aiming point, and with the time pressure added in, this is a good test for the overall suitability of the sniper system as a whole. The accuracy is weighted heavier than time, but they both are important. The results are below.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (17 secs)||56.5|
|Accuracy Score (0.302 moa)||198.7|
When firing the test, everything went well with the rifle coming back out of battery and close to back on target. The lighting was good which helped with reticle alignment and the trigger went off when we wanted. The bolt was quick to manipulate which resulted in a good 17 second time. We expected a decent score, but when we went down to retrieve the target, we were standing there staring at a group that measured less than 1″ at 300 yards…all fired rapid fire. It measured .949″, or only .302 MOA. When everything was added up, the rifle was sitting atop of our 300 Yard Leader Board. Yes, we are the first to admit that this test is not the end all of sniper system capability testing and there is some bit of good luck and fortune that comes into play. But good luck and fortune are only possible from a system that can perform.
When the Delta-5 first was announced, we liked what we saw. When it first arrived at our facility, we were honestly a bit disappointed. Primarily because the stock felt a little gimmicky and we did not like the fit, finish and feel of that stock. On top of that, everything felt a little bulky and perhaps even a little crood with the big barrel nut and chunky action. Then we looked at it as a whole and went through the shooting tests and slowly our opinion changed. Yes, its a bit chunky, but that equates to robust and modular, giving lots of flexibility and functionality in the field. Tie that to the performance, with the right ammo, and the rifle does very well.
It is not a custom rifle, and at $2000, it is not a cheap mass produced rifle either. It kind of ends up in the middle, but it is very capable and it does everything we want. Currently there are only two barrels available, the 20″ .308 barrel we tested here, and a 24″ 6.5 Creedmoor barrel. Unfortunately, they are not cheap. Each barrel kit goes for over $500, which is the cost of some lower end varmint rifles. The stock is not our favorite and we are not completely sold on all of the AR type modularity, but there are a lot of other positives with the system as well and we ended up being pleased with the rifle and its performance. Because of that, we have no reason not to offer our endorsement of the rifle based off of what it is, its functionality and its capability.
Sniper Central 2020