Those of you that have been following Sniper Central over the years know that we have reviewed a good number of rifles built by Tactical Operations in southern California. Every one of them has been an exceptionally well made high end custom tactical rifle that performs as good as they look. We actually own several of them here at Sniper Central, as well as many other rifles, and they have continued to perform very well over prolonged use. But, it has been a few years since we last reviewed one of their rifles and over that time they have introduced some new features and changes to their latest lineup to keep them at the forefront of tactical rifle performance. The rifle we are reviewing this time is their new Delta-51 platform that focuses on lightweight and portability without sacrificing capability.
When we first removed the rifle from the case, we noticed the traditional TacOps green and black motif and it still looks good, as does the detailed engraving, fit and finish, and typical TacOps attention to detail. But with this new Delta-51 model, the most striking thing you notice happens when you pick the rifle up. Here at Sniper Central we handle a lot of long range tactical rifles and a twelve to fourteen pound rifle is now more the norm than it is the exception and that was the big surprise with this Delta. It is very light, compact and portable. When we first saw the adjustable cheekpiece, the spacer system and the Universal Night Sight (UNS) mount up front, we were expecting another hefty rifle, but it is not. That is what TacOps primarily focused on with the development of this new specialized tactical rifle. But they didn’t want to just build a light rifle, they wanted to do it and still keep the added features and the exceptional accuracy. In order for them to do that, it had to be done without using a carbon wrapped barrel or other newer technologies that does not produce the level of precision they required. So the old and proven way was the only way for them.
The first area where weight was able to be saved was with the stock construction. The standard Delta platform uses the McMillan A3 stock, but for this new version TacOps elected to use the A3 with the McMillan Edge technology which includes their Edge graphite shell and Edge lightweight fill. TacOps uses this version for its extra strength and much lighter weight than McMillan’s traditional fiberglass construction. The Delta buttstock incorporates McMillan’s spacer system that provides a solid buttstock with an adjustable length of pull. There is only a thin rubber pad, which may lead to a bit more felt recoil than a fixed stock with thick recoil pad. A 1″ Decelerator pad is optional and can be selected instead of the thin pad, or even in addition to the thin pad so it can be switched out as needed.
TacOps also elected to use the McMillan Clamp Bar adjustable cheekpiece that has the easy to use tightening wheel on the right hand side of the buttstock. There is up to 1.5″ of vertical adjustment and the wheel clamps down and locks the cheekpiece firmly in place. The entire stock, including the cheekpiece, is finished by TacOps with an epoxy OD Green paint and if it is used without the provided strapon cheekpad, it can be a little slick. This is especially true with sweat thrown into the mix. The cheekpiece itself is wide and rounded and is comfortable for just about any shooter.
The pistol grip on the A3 is nearly vertical and very well designed making it very comfortable to shoot and it places the trigger finger in the correct place for good trigger control. TacOps applies their signature texturing to the pistol grip and forearm area and finishes that texture in black to contrast the green finish of the stock. That texture on the pistol grip provides a very good gripping surface in any weather condition, yet is finished so that there are no sharp points or edges. It has a very nice feel to it.
The top of the pistol grip area behind the tang is flat and textured with easy access to the traditional two position Remington safety. The tang itself is marked with a red “F”, for fire, and a white “S” for safe. The contrasting colors look great and provide a very finished and professional look to the rifle. Of course those markings also provide an excellent visual reference whether the rifle is on safe or not.
TacOps rifles have always used the trusted Remington 700 action as standard, but they also will build one of their rifles with any of the new custom actions that fit the Remington footprint. The Delta-51 we are testing here was built using a Remington action that went through TacOps extensive blueprinting and truing process. The complete list of things that they do to the action is proprietary and their trade secret, but it is sufficient to say that it is a long list and very thorough. It becomes obvious of just how reworked the action is when you examine the action closely. Everything is polished and finished beyond what any normal Remington action is. When talking to Mike R. at TacOps, he indicated that in reality, the action is just there to guide the round into the chamber. The real performance comes from everything from the chamber forward. The Remington is still popular with Law Enforcement agencies because it is tried and trued and easier to get purchase approval over a custom action.
The bolt is a standard Remington bolt that has itself also gone through the TacOps make over and truing process. They attach their large bolt knob and finish the bolt in the Green-T finish, and Black-T on the bolt knob and shroud. The truing work on the bolt and action rails really shines forth when you cycle the bolt as it is amazingly smooth even without any break-in period.
This Delta-51 uses the normal Remington internal magazine that holds 5 rounds and has a hinged floorplate, though not the factory one. TacOps uses the excellent steel William’s bottom metal instead of the factory floorplate and if you prefer a detachable box magazine, it is also an option. The standard trigger on all TacOps rifles is either the Timney 510 or the very nice TriggerTech triggers, but others are available per customer request.
The bedding is completed by TacOps and they use aluminum pillars combined with glass bedding, but it is more than just a simple pillar and glass bed job. The process they use insures the least amount of movement possible within the stock. When the bedding is completed, they test every rifle to insure that there is less than 2 thousandths of an inch (.002″) movement.
The Delta-51 does come from TacOps with a set of TacOps own two piece canted scope mounts already installed. TacOps prefers two pieces bases for a few reasons. One is that it allows easier access to the top of the action, and the other is that they indicate people incorrectly think a single piece base stiffens the action, when in reality it adds torqued stresses to the action because the front and rear mounting holes are never 100% aligned correctly. Its the little things like this that add up to negatively affect accuracy. This rifle has their 24 MOA canted bases but they also make them in 34 and 45 MOA cants as well. The nice thing about the TacOps bases is that they a properly spaced and engineered so that the cross slots are in the exact same spot as if it were a single piece rail. This allows a sniper to easily remove a scope from one rifle and put it on this one even if one has a single piece rail and this Delta-51 has the two piece bases. We tested it, and it works.
The forearm of the A3 stock is fairly deep but not overly wide. It is deep enough that one could have a forward spigot installed to use a Parke-Hale style bipod if desired, but the Delta-51 does not. Instead it comes with the Anschutz accessory rail that TacOps prefers and includes a sling swivel stud that can be used to mount a Harris or other bipod that uses a similar mounting setup. The color of the rail matches the rest of the rifle, as does the swivel stud mount. The texture on the forearm feels just as nice as it does on the pistol grip and it is useful when shooting in unconventional shooting positions. Also mounted in the stock is the forward mounted Universal Night Sight (UNS) mount, providing a convenient place to mount a forward night vision device in front of the day optic. The UNS also has the ability to mount side rails and our rifle came with one mounted on the left. These rails can be used to mount other accessories. Of course, the UNS bridges over the top of the barrel without touching it to allow the barrel to remain free floated.
The Barrel itself is a Krieger stainless steel barrel made to TacOps specs using the Remington heavy barrel contour. For those that are not familiar with this particular profile, it is a Palma style contour that starts very thick and then tapers down quickly in a “step” and then is a much straighter heavy profile from there. This is an effective contour for saving weight yet keeping an acceptably rigid barrel for accuracy. The barrel on the Delta-51 is 18″ long and the barrel diameter at the muzzle measures .890″ according to our caliper.
Something fairly unique to TacOps is that they use there own custom designed reamer for their specialized chambering process. This reamer is tailored for the Federal Gold Medal Match ammo, common for LE sniping, but it will also work with any standard .308 and 7.62 NATO ammo as well. The rate of twist is the ever popular 1:10″ twist to stabilize any of the heavier .308 bullets. The barrel on just about every TacOps rifle is threaded for a suppressor which also comes with a thread protect cap with a very deep recess to it. This deep recess is intended to protect the crown even in the event of a major drop or collision of the rifle. The cap is also finished in Black-T to contrast the Green-T finish of the barrel. The engraving on the barrel is very high quality and nice to read.
The overall fit and finish is of the highest quality, which is to be expected from TacOps. The attention to detail on these rifles continues to impress us every time we see a new one. The detail is what sets these rifles apart and everything is examined, which even includes timing the screws so they align perfectly. In fact, even the length of the Velcro straps that they use on their cheekpads is meticulously adjusted. On the other available cheekpads on the market, the straps tend to be too short and look “tacky” when attached. TacOps did not like that so when they designed their own, the straps are extra long and adjustable so that they cover the all the exposed material and look finished when attached. That is just the way they are.
The rifle also balances very well due to its short length and light weight. In fact, when we weighed the bare rifle without optics it weighed in at 9.9 lbs. Of course, compared to a light weight hunting rifle, that is still heavy. But when compared to other similar tactical rifles, it is very light. In fact, we decided to pull out our own Tactical Operations Tango-51, their bread and butter rifle, to compare the two. The Tango weighed in, without accessories, at 9.6 lbs, which was a mere .3 lbs lighter than the Delta-51. So was TacOps successful with their weight savings? Yes, when you look at the Delta and consider it has the spacer system at the rear, a clampbar adjustable cheekpiece, and the UNS forward mount, none of which are on the Tango, then it is obvious of where the success comes in. They have essentially given you a fully featured tactical rifle without sacrificing any weight or portability.
Being lightweight and handy is one thing, but for this rifle to really be considered comparable or better than the Tango, it would have to perform just as well or better. As is the case with all Tactical Operations rifles, the Delta-51 comes with a .25 MOA accuracy guarantee when shooting Federal Gold Medal Match ammo and every rifle comes with a certification target fired at 100 yards by TacOps. The test target that came with this rifle had a group that was one hole and measured an incredible .0015″ center to center. That is impressive.
For our shooting tests, we mounted a Vortex Viper Gen2 PST 5-25x50mm scope using a set of Nightforce 30mm rings on the provided two piece Tactical Operation bases.
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The mounting of the scope was straight forward due to the properly spaced bases and we prepared to head out to the range with three different types of ammunition. Of course we selected the Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr HPBT as well as some HSM 7.62 NATO 175gr M118LR and some Winchester Supreme Match 168gr ammo to try and get a good mix. If you are not familiar with how we test rifles, go ahead and read this article: How we test rifles and scopes.
The weather was, shall we say, “brisk”. Here at the Sniper Central HQ in Montana we were under an early fall cold spell and the morning of the test it was only 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 C). But at least it was sunny. Shooting in the cold is nothing new for us here, but it does provide extra challenges when trying and maximize accuracy during our tests. The thicker and heavier jackets, cold fingers (we try never to shoot with gloves on our trigger fingers), and the heat mirage coming off of the barrel all combine to make it a bit more challenging.
Also, while we did do some shooting with a suppressor attached, we wanted to do the accuracy tests without a suppressor to insure the tests are conducted the same on all rifle reviews. The results from the 100 yard accuracy test were as follows
|Ammunition||Average Group||Best Group|
|Federal GMM 168gr||0.407″ (0.389 MOA)||0.196″ (0.187 MOA)|
|Winchester 168gr Match||0.916″ (0.875 MOA)||0.596″ (0.569 MOA)|
|HSM M118LR 175gr||0.943″ (0.901 MOA)||0.475″ (0.454 MOA)|
As you can see from the results, and as might be expected due to the custom chamber, the rifle loved Federal Gold Medal Match. The rifle averaged well under .5 MOA and was approaching .25 MOA, with multiple groups well under that mark. Oh, and do not forget that this was during cold 19 degree shooting. As we mentioned, we fired the groups without the suppressor attached and with no muzzlebrake and yet the recoil was well managed and followup shots were quick. A lot of this can be attributed to the well designed McMillan A3 stock and how it aligns the centerline of the bore to help minimize barrel jump, even with a short 18″ barrel. Recoil was also surprisingly minimal for a light rifle without a brake.
The other brands of ammo we tested did not perform as well, but even they were able to perform around the .5 MOA area with more potential in store. The trigger on this particular rifle is lighter than we would like for a field rifle, but it was very nice and can be adjusted. Of course, the action is extremely smooth allowing for easy and quick followup shots with rapid bolt manipulation.
For our 300 yard head shot test, we obviously selected the GMM ammo due to its superior performance in this rifle and then dialed in our 300 yard DOPE to bring us on target for the test. There was little to no wind to deal with, just cold and thick air. So without any further delay we setup and fired our three rounds in rapid succession. The rifle was quick to come out of battery and to get back on target and this was manifest in a fairly rapid 18 second time, even when trying to force ourselves to slow down and make the shots count. The accuracy opened up to 2.050″ (0.653 MOA), and if you look at the group you can see that the shots were horizontally strung, indicating likely shooter trigger control issues, perhaps due to the light trigger. The score was till impressive.
|300y Head Target Test|
|Time Score (18 secs)||53.3|
|Accuracy Score (0.653 moa)||91.9|
This ranks the rifle firmly in the top ten on our leaderboard. The amazing thing about all of this is just how short, light-weight and portable the rifle is combined with the exceptional performance. In fact, with everything mounted up including a Tactical Operations Hybrid Suppressor and the Vortex PST scope, the total weight was only 13.9 lbs (6.32 kg), which is on par with other tactical rifles without a suppressor or some of the other accessories found on this Delta-51. With the suppressor attached the rifle was even better to shoot in terms of balance, recoil and followup shots. And that is where the beauty of the rifle lies. It is a well designed complete package.
Compared to a Tango-51, the rifle only weighs 6 ounces more, but includes the mentioned adjustable stock parts and UNS. This is what has caught the eye of multiple agencies that are considering the Delta as their SWS of choice. The performance of the rifle, the portability of the package, and the quality of the build are the major draws to this rifle. When we look at it and ask ourselves if it is a rifle we would utilize in the field, the answer is a resounding yes. As many of our readers know, we try to make it real by insuring the fieldcraft side of sniping is not forgotten as it is the most important aspect of the trade. The Delta-51 is ideally suited for proper fieldcraft and would make an excellent companion.
Yes, long range capability is critical for a sniper teams performance, and the Delta-51 shooting .25 MOA with good .308 ammo makes an extremely capable system. The same rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor shooting .25 MOA would take that amazing capability and stretch it even further. The old .308 workhorse is still completely serviceable and capable of 1000 yard shooting if the operator knows their trade, the 6.5 and others just stretch it further. If you and your team are looking for a portable SWS with extreme performance and your budget allows, check out the Delta-51. That is the one down side, they are not cheap…but then again, quality never is.
Sniper Central 2019