By Max Archer
Oddly, I find myself back where I originally started my AR platform adventure—back with a 308 DPMS. However, this DPMS rifle has changed drastically. My first AR-format rifle was not an AR15 but a DPMS 308B with an 18-inch bull barrel. My theory was that I could have my cake and eat it too with a little lighter weight and accuracy of a bull barrel in a defense to large game hunting caliber.
The reality of the 9.75-pound rifle was that loaded with optics and a magazine, it leaned more toward the 11-12-pound range and was no treat to carry any significant distance. It was also pretty large compared even to an 18-inch-barreled AR15 rifle, and the little ergonomic differences from the AR15 made smooth reloads slower. There was also the mile-long charging stroke that nixed the use of cooler aftermarket stocks due to interference. Everything on the old DPMS GI version seemed to be specialized to the format, which made adding cool AR15 accessories occasionally aggravating.
The saving grace was that the DPMS 308B was extremely accurate. My second rifle was not an AR15 either, it was actually a one-pound-lighter 8.75-pound DPMS AP4 that was awesome to carry, with a simple red dot, perfect for 0-300 yard shots that did not require perfect precision. I found out then and there that I would sacrifice a little accuracy for less weight to haul on a hunt. Since then, DPMS has continued to be the leader in the .308 AR platform space, with more .308 rifle configurations than any other manufacturer from hunting, to sport, to defense. One of my favorites was the newer Recon model, which seemed to me to be the perfect compromise between my old AP4 and 308B, so I was thrilled to pick up one of the first GII Recon DPMS 308s off the line for testing.
The Concept—Why Another .308 AR Format?
Unlike the AR15 format, there is no “standard” or “milspec” for the .308 AR format, and thus we see several variations that are not compatible in many ways with each other. In some cases, forends and other parts are not compatible either, which means the selection of aftermarket parts can be a pain. The DPMS format has become the most popular .308 AR platform, thanks in part to Magpul LR20 .308 magazines. Armalite’s AR10 platform also continues to be popular, but due to rifle and accessory availability and price, the DPMS format continues to reign.
DPMS believed it was time to take a chance on something completely new that could change the AR .308 world forever . . . the DPMS GII .308 platform. Unlike warmed-over versions of the DPMS or AR10 308 formats, the GII is a completely different .308 format from the ground up. In less than six months, the DPMS design team delivered the GII, which is lighter, more dependable, smaller, more ergonomic and has more compatible AR15 accessories than any other 308 AR platform on the market. These are not their words, these are mine.
During SHOT Show 2014, I had a chance to speak with Adam Ballard, who is the Product Manager for the DPMS line. Adam was key in driving the design and development of the GII DPMS format and was the first to ask the question “If the scaled down AR15 design from the original Stoner design works, why do we need to scale back up so much just to have a .308 format.” Obviously the AR10 was Stoner’s first AR platform rifle that was scaled down to the AR15 format. Bur Adam’s question, posed to his design team, was deeper than “Can we build a .308 around an AR15 5.56 Nato sized chassis and why do we need the extra bulk?”. The team scratched the initial DPMS GI design with the exception of DPMS 308 magazine compatibility and started with the AR15 platform as the base that became the GII format.
By starting with an AR15-dimensioned upper and lower receiver extended only enough to allow clearance for the larger magazine, the team was immediately able to drop weight and deliver a much more compact-feeling format. That design also made the team look at creating an AR15-diameter carrier, which also significantly reduced weight. These smaller chassis dimensions also allowed for a forged 7075 upper and lower receiver which is stronger with less weight.
I will note that DPMS cites “30% lighter than the original” on their marketing materials, but in reality, I think they meant to say “The receiver assembly is 30% lighter”. The old DPMS Recon was 8.95 pounds and the new GII DPMS Recon is 8.5 pounds, which is actually only a 5% reduction. However, that is a gloriously substantial .45 pound weight reduction that almost entirely occurs within the receiver assembly. Drop in a carbon fiber forend and Ace Skeleton stock, and I bet you could get that weigh hovering just over eight pounds.
Over the years, I have become somewhat of a DPMS .308 dependability mechanic who has fixed dozens of friend’s AR format 308s. The original DPMS Gen 1 mags created horrible feeding, functioning and jams. If it had not been for DPMS customer service swapping out sets of mags and the uber-dependable Magpul LR20 mags, I fear that first 308B would have been my last. A dealer literally gave me a used DPMS AP4 that was being sold as non-operational due to its chronic jamming problems. Generally the problem was either a worn extractor or too high ejector spring tension, which would throw brass so far that I would have to get in my truck and drive to pick it up (well a good 15-20 feet anyway). That AP4 needed the ejector spring replaced with the newer/less-tensioned version, and I had a perfectly working DPMS 308. Even though later models greatly improved reliability, many, many early first-generation DPMS .308 rifles were sold cheap because of aneurysm-inducing reliability issues.
DPMS wanted to leapfrog many of these issues with the GII models. To slick things up a bit more, DPMS coats the 7075 forged receivers with Teflon to improve reliability, cleaning, speed and smooth functioning.
The GII features Dual Ejectors, which are lighter sprung than the previous GI models. They are so well tuned that while bench-testing the DPMS Recon GII, I could drop the majority of ejected brass into a five-gallon bucket sitting about three feet from me. At least I do not need to strap on a FitBit and plan to go for a walk to look for brass.
DPMS has made a ton of engineered improvements based on customer feedback that are delivered in the Recon GII and other GII models. I believe less carrier mass equals less parts fatigue and a more pleasant shooting experience. As shown, the difference is sizeable between the old and new carriers. The extractor has been improved to last exponentially longer than the old version while increasing extraction reliability. The extractor spring often went south quickly on the big .308s, so DPMS moved over to an elastomer button to function as the spring. After testing, the company discovered that it performed more consistently than a spring in extreme temperatures even after being subjected to many different solvents. Adam told me that they never were actually able to make the elastomer button fail or fall out of spec even after 100,000 cycles on test equipment, way beyond the life of the barrel and other components.
The GII Line has a longer ejection port. Previously the small, short ejection port exacerbated ejector or extractor issues to the point that many imitation DPMS .308 format receiver manufacturers offer enlarged the ejection ports. That one tweak to get spent brass out of the gun greatly enhances reliability, and DPMS followed this design tweak on the GII
Surprisingly, DPMS indicated the older DPMS GI models had issues with gas keys coming loose. I never experienced this with over five 308 DPMS format rifles though my hands. DPMS permanently solved the issue by creating a monolithic bolt carrier that unified the carrier and gas key into one part.
Personally I have never had an issue with feed ramp wear, but DPMS perceived there was a problem due to customer feedback at the military level. The solution on the GII was developing steel feed ramps that should assure that even if you are shooting steel core or depleted uranium tipped rounds, you will never see feed ramp wear.
A short, more compact and lighter format is generally always less fatiguing on the shooter, and the DPMS GII format delivers just that with a package that feels dimensionally like an AR15. The new GII receiver is just ½” longer than an AR15 spec receiver set and ⅝” shorter than the old GI .308 receivers. It may not sound like a lot, but once in the hands, the Recon GII feels like a AR15 not a .308.
As noted above, DPMS has gone to great lengths to shed unneeded weight; the Recon dropped nearly a half pound. It’s the other little touches on the new GII that really make you fall in love quickly with this new format. These include not having to chase brass as far, a larger-feeling finger space inside the trigger guard, a lighter-feeling rifle, and a beveled and heavily flared magwell to improve reload speeds.
Seeing the size and weight of the new GII carrier versus the old GI carrier size and weight validated my speculation and testing of lightweight competition carriers: the original .308 carrier was far heavier than needed. This also means that with the GII DPMS models there is less reciprocating mass moving back and forth, which softens the recoil impulse and overall felt recoil while increasing follow-up shot times.
Although I did not tear down the rifle to measure the gas port diameter, I would suspect that DPMS has reduced the gas port diameter to tune and regulate the gas pressure down a bit. Generally .308s are WAY over-gassed. But judging from the soft recoil, I suspect that the gas port diameter has been tightened down a bit.
Compatibility with More Accessories
From the magwell back, the GII can accept all AR15 accessories and parts, with the exception of the buffer and buffer spring. So all your grips, stocks, receiver pins, triggers, and selectors can all be AR15 spec parts. The receiver is AR15-spec height, which means AR15 spec handguards can fit on this rifle, but it will require a special new GII format barrel nut so not all manufacturer handguards will work.
DPMS GII/G2 Recon .308 Review
With that background on the features and expansive redesign of the new DPMS GII lineup, let’s chat a bit about the DPMS 16” barreled GII/G2 Recon. As noted, the new GII version of the Recon drops .45 pounds, which feels pretty substantial considering all that weight was lost forward of the grip. With a shorter and dimensionally smaller receiver set, the 8.5-pound Recon GII is also more manageable. It weighs less and is now more dependable, far easier to handle and way faster to shoot near the speed of an AR15. In short, I like it a lot… I really like it.
The Recon was originally intended as an all-purpose battle rifle that could serve perfectly from defense to large-bore 3 Gun to North American large-game hunting all in one package. I slipped on a new Konus Pro M30 1.5x6x44mm illuminated scope and have everything possibly needed for hunting, sport and defense work. It features a standard plex reticle, which with a 300-yard zero can provide accurate 400-yard shots with practice and an understanding of holdovers. The Konus Pro M30 1.5-5×44 packs a lot of features into a $250 street-priced optic with excellent clarity, a wide useable magnification range, etched recoil-proof reticle, large light-gathering 30mm tube and blue reticle dot illumination.
DPMS RECON GII/G2 Features
Beyond the base GII features shared by entire line, the Recon features a 16” 426 stainless barrel with a mid-length gas system to soften recoil with a DPMS Hunter low-profile gas block. The Recon’s heavy H-Bar-style barrel sits in between a bull barrel and lightweight M4 profile. Enough weight to deliver surprisingly great accuracy while being light enough to actually carry on a hunt.
Though I am not a huge quad-rail fan, it fits with the defensive capabilities of the rifle and the free-float DPMS quad-rail offers plenty of rail space to hang your tactical lights, lasers and picatinny-mountable cappuccino machines from. It is durable and well made.
The same features we all loved on the do-it-all Recon carry forward, such as the Magpul MOE pistol grip and six-position adjustable stock, Advanced Armament 51T Blackout Silencer Adapter and Magpul flip up sights. Of special note is the excellent two-stage DPMS trigger, which is one of the best from the factory AR15 triggers I have used. Sure, DPMS did offer OEM aftermarket triggers originally in their old lineup, but I personally like this version a bit better.
Function and Accuracy
Generally, each of the five DPMS 308s I have owned required a bit of break-in time to deliver reliable operation. In the case of the GII/G2, that break-in process ended with the first round when using quality in-spec ammo.
Reliability improvements were obvious after I sent the first 50 rounds downrange without a hiccup or bobble, even with the factory steel DPMS mags. Testing Magpul LR20 magazines delivered the same flawless reliability. Ejected brass was not being thrown 20 feet away, but just a few feet from the port with such reliability that most dropped into a positioned five-gallon bucket I use to pick up range brass. Thank you DPMS.
As expected, the 16” barrel with prong flash hider is loud as hell, but I am sure we could make that even louder with a muzzle brake. The recoil impulse was considerably less than my old AP4 and other DPMS 308 format rifles before I upgraded to adjustable gas blocks.
I will note that the super-cheap steel-cased Cabelas Herter’s .308 ammo gave me some problems. I have had this problem before with most other DPMS Gen 1 .308s, and it is my opinion this ammo was just a hint below SAMI spec and contributes to cycling issues. This inexpensive steel-case Herter’s ammo consistently failed to lock the bolt back and occasionally didn’t fully cycle. I mentioned this issue to my FFL dealer, who is the quintessential hunter, and it aggravated him to no end. “Why would you take a great gun, one that is not cheap, run the cheapest ammo through it, and then bitch about reliability?”, said Mel. “Because I am a writer and someone will say I am full of it when they test it with cheapo ammo and have issues, so I am quoting this conversation for the article – ME. So duly noted, you may have issues with cheap steel-cased ammo, but I had no issues what-so-ever with quality factory brass-cased and mil-spec 7.62×51 NATO rounds. Even less expensive Winchester White box and Wolf steel case delivered perfect functioning. Just stay clear of the Herter’s.
Slipping on my Nikon 8-32x Monarch Optic for accuracy testing delivered consistent 1″ 100- yard groups. With my premium Federal Gold Match, Winchester and Hornady ammo, I could push 100-yard groups between the .75″-1″ range consistently. Plenty accurate for a 16″ barreled 308 Semi-Auto rifle with a 20-round capacity.
I applaud DPMS for the design innovations. Time will tell how the design will be adapted across the industry, but based on what I have seen so far, it should be well received. The rifle delivers superior ergonomics, less weight and a smaller, less bulky size, while retaining DPMS’s magazine compatibility and excellent accuracy standards.
This is one rifle you will be seeing in a lot of future upgrade articles. Love it!!
DPMS GII RECON Specifications
CALIBER: 308 / 7.62 Nato
BARREL: 16″ 416 Stainless, Bead Blasted – Mid length Gas
UPPER RECEIVER: Forged 7075 T6 lvl 3 Anodized, Teflon coated, A3 type
LOWER RECEIVER: Forged 7075 T6 lvl Anodized, Teflon coated
STOCK: MagPul® MOE 6 Position Collapsible Stock
FIRE CONTROL: DPMS 2 Stage
PISTOL GRIP: MagPul® MOE
FRONT / REAR SIGHT: MagPul® Front and Rear BUIS
FLASH HIDER: None – Advanced Armament 51T Blackout Silencer Adapter
HANDGUARD: DPMS 4 Rail Free Float Tube