Up Close and Personal with the Daniel Defense DDM4V9 5.56—New Gun Review

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The black finish is nice, but it stands out against earth tones.

The black finish is nice, but it stands out against earth tones.

By Kenn Blanchard
Daniel Defense
https://danieldefense.com/

 

When I pulled the Daniel Defense M4 V9 (DDM4V9) out of its black plastic case, I had a flashback. Inside was a 5.56mm carbine and a 30 round magazine. While this black rifle was shorter than the M16A1 I was issued during the “second phase” of basic training at Marine Recruit Depot Parris Island (way back in 1980), it was familiar enough. The DDM4V9 has the quintessential AR-15 at its core, but it is fashioned like something just back from a gunsmith, almost ready for competition. The Daniel Defense is a formidable rifle capable of serious multitasking, and it’s what Marine infantrymen 30 years ago dreamed they would have been issued.

The grip has the same padded rubber as the stock and the fore grip.

The grip has the same padded rubber as the stock and the fore grip.

If you cut your teeth on a longer AR platform, like the M16A1 (which has a 20-inch barrel), the DDM4V9 with its 16-inch barrel (and any other carbine-length AR) may feel a bit short. In a world dominated by ubiquitous M4 clones, the Daniel Defense, at first glance, should be familiar enough. The entire rifle compacts down to 32.5 inches. With the stock extended, the rifle is just under 36 inches. The stock itself is glass-filled polymer and has “Soft Touch Overmolding,” which are the sections that adorn the grip, forend and stock that have the DD logo. They actually do feel softer than the average AR furniture and help cushion the blow of recoil. The bottom end of the stock has a curved surface that acts as a perfect rocker for shooters who shoulder their stocks in the low ready position. As such, the DDM4V9 is an ideal rifle for those who are using a single point sling (and it even has built in QD mounts in the stock and at the rear of the receiver). While this may seem like a small thing, it decreases the time it takes to get the gun on target. Any advantage, no matter how small, may make the difference.

The government-profile barrel is 16 inches, chrome lined, MP tested, and mil-spec heavy phosphate coated. It is also cold hammer forged. This process is seen by many as an over-the-top extra and a commitment to quality. A tube of steel is fitted over a mandrel, a negative image of the bore, and a series of hammers beats the barrel down around the mandrel creating the bore diameter and rifling. This doesn’t cut steel away to make the lands and grooves, but compresses the steel. It makes a stronger and denser barrel. And rather than dimpling or fluting the barrel, Daniel Defense leaves the complete government profile.

How much rail do you need on a rifle?  The DDM4V9 gives as many options for optimizing the placement of accessories as you could ask for.

How much rail do you need on a rifle? The DDM4V9 gives as many options for optimizing the placement of accessories as you could ask for.

The hand guard on the DDM4V9 is a 15” DDM4 Rail in hard anodized aluminum. The quad rails allow the owner to affix all kinds of extras: optics, laser pointers, night vision, a bipod, etc. It is really quite a lot of real estate. If you like to put your left hand way up close to the muzzle and pull your rifle to your chest, this is the guard for you. Because the forend is free-floated, it isn’t going to get as hot during those prolonged shooting sessions. And you’ll never find yourself wanting any more rail space, guaranteed. The rails are oriented at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, respectively.

One noticeable addition to the DDMM4V9 is the oversized trigger guard. The bend in the guard allows for larger fingers, or gloved fingers, to fit easily inside the guard. The trigger itself breaks clean, and has very little travel. Compared to average AR triggers, this one feels more like a custom job. It snaps with 5.1 pounds of pressure, which many would consider reasonable for a rifle designed for CQB. As triggers are one of the many modular pieces of the AR platform, those who are looking for long-range accuracy may want to explore options for lighter triggers.

DDM4V917  Even with all this extra aluminum, the DDM4V9 still comes in under seven pounds.  The milling of the rail has been done to cut weight, but not structural integrity.

DDM4V917 Even with all this extra aluminum, the DDM4V9 still comes in under seven pounds. The milling of the rail has been done to cut weight, but not structural integrity.

The DDM4V9 doesn’t come with fixed sights, so I used a set of flip up, Troy Industries sights for the evaluation. Irons on a rifle with this much rail are even more effective, as the front sight is farther out from where a traditional sight post/gas block would sit. At the end of the barrel, just an inch beyond the end of the rail, sits a stainless steel, salt bath nitride finished flash suppressor to crown the thing. Underneath the hand guard, a vertical grip (made out of the same comfortable stuff as the stock) allows for even more hold options. The entire rifle weighs about 6.5 pounds without the magazine. It looks like it would be heavier, but Daniel Defense has machined out a lot of the weight that would otherwise weigh down the hand guard. The DDM4V9 is still an AR, so take-down and cleaning is as easy as it is with any AR-15. There are no strange pins or procedures you have to do to do a function check, clean it, or put it into operation.

The internal workings of the DDM4V9 feature a pinned low-profile, mid-length, direct impingement gas system. The bolt carrier group is the M16 profile. While these are not the fanciest options available for the AR-15, they’re a fine place to start.

DDM4V902  The DDM4V9’s finish has a nice eggshell matte sheen that protects the aluminum receiver.

DDM4V902 The DDM4V9’s finish has a nice eggshell matte sheen that protects the aluminum receiver.

The DDM4V9 is a semi-automatic, 5.56mm NATO. And that was pretty much where the similarities ended with the M16A1 rifle I first fired in Corps. With so many AR pattern rifles on the market, it is easy enough to see that Daniel Defense is a big cut above average. It makes premium rifles. There is no play or excessive rattle on this firearm. The fit and finish are excellent, and just what you would expect from an AR with an MSRP of $1,689.

Shooting Results

As this was my first date with the DDM4V9, I kept things casual. Up close and personal. Shooting the DDM4V9 was as easy and predictable as you’d expect from a gun from Daniel Defense. After pulling it out of the box, I checked the barrel and bolt assembly group, and gave it a light cleaning. It was good to go. I gave it a function check, packed it up in the case and proceeded to the range. The first indoor range I took it to was almost empty, so I took my time and practiced shouldering the gun. After getting it zeroed, I shot it from several different positions during this test. First was from a bench position, then canted, then quickly point shooting. Shooting it outdoors would have given me a little more versatility for this introduction, but it was snowing at the time of this first test and most ranges were a mess.

The long rail sections allow for grip accessories to be placed closer to the muzzle, which can increase stability.

The long rail sections allow for grip accessories to be placed closer to the muzzle, which can increase stability.

The ergonomics of the vertical grip are a lot more comfortable for me than a forward grip on the aluminum quad rails, and it kept me from tucking up with my support hand on the magazine well. Overall, the gun is very well balanced. Its light weight keeps it from over-travel, even when I’m swinging through multiple targets. After reloading the 30-round magazine, I positioned a clean target at the end of the 50-yard range and squeezed off a couple. This is definitely a close quarter battle rifle, though its potential could extend well beyond 200 yards with the right optic, farther with a good scope. As it is, shooting from a standing position, the DDM4V9 is far more capable than I am as a shooter.

I used Independence, 55-grain FMJ ammunition I bought at the range. At the time, it was the only kind they had and the only kind you could use in their facility, but it worked well and there were no issues with feeding or extraction. Not sure if it was the acoustics of the range, or a combination of all the factors, but the blast sounded different. On an inside range, the 5.56 has a deeper thud, like a larger caliber, but without the recoil. As much as I shoot more modern, tricked out ARs, I’m still used to the rigidity of the M16 A1. I realize now that this officially makes me “old school.”

The trigger isn’t much to look at, but it breaks clean and has a short reset.  It is a step above the average AR trigger, for sure.

The trigger isn’t much to look at, but it breaks clean and has a short reset. It is a step above the average AR trigger, for sure.

The DDM4V9 is a tack driver. I systematically put in ten rounds in a nice group. Shooting from a standing position, I could repeat fist size groups at 50 yards with very little effort. After working out the irons, I switched over to an Aimpoint Pro. With the Aimpoint dialed in, you could cover the group with a quarter.

The second time out with the DDM4V9, I shot at an outdoor range and blew through a lot more ammo. I shot different versions of Federal 55-grain 5.56 FMJ that produced identical results. There was no change in accuracy or reliability with the American Eagle brand either. Fifty-yard groups still held in the one to three-inch range. What I did notice was the cost of the different ammo. It was an expensive day. Overall, the carbine just worked. It didn’t matter what you put into it. The Daniel Defense lived up to the hype. We’ve got some nice glass inbound that will allow us to really stretch out the DDM4V9’s capabilities, so stay tuned for some long-range follow up.

As for the rest of the function test, we were pleased. Across the board. When the magazines do run dry, they fall clear of the mag well. For those who regularly use and abuse polymer magazines, this isn’t always the case. An aggressive scuff on the top end of a magazine can burr the polymer just enough that it drags in the well and doesn’t drop free. Aluminum and steel mags don’t have that problem, usually. Even without the quick wrist-snap mag-drop motion, all of my magazines dropped free of the flared well.

The DDM4V9’s magazine well has an aggressive bevel that helps with fast reloads.

The DDM4V9’s magazine well has an aggressive bevel that helps with fast reloads.

Daniel Defense is a relatively new company (at least when compared to Armalite and Colt). The company started out just selling accessories for the AR platform, like rails and accouterments for modular rifles, before making its own line of rifles. For such a relatively young company, Daniel Defense seems to have mastered quality control. I had absolutely no problems with this DDM4V9, yet that’s not always the case with some rifles (even some AR-15s).  Some have issues feeding or ejecting.  Others will be over-gassed.  Not the DDM4V9. So I called the tech support branch of the company to see if there were others reporting problems with this rifle or any information I could glean, but there was none. The tech caught on to what I was trying to do after awhile and referred me to media relations. I didn’t want that, but appreciated the courtesy. On the whole, everyone I spoke with at Daniel Defense was receptive and helpful. It isn’t always that way, either.

The M16A1 I shot back in the day wasn’t made of CNC machined parts that fit together like the gears of a watch. I think the modern M4 carbines are more suited for civilian, military and law enforcement use than the older versions. The DDm4V9’s maneuverability is a big plus. You can mount this rifle into your shoulder quickly. All the controls work and are right where they should be. It’s still an AR. But it is more than that, too. The DDM4V9 should satisfy the needs of modern shooters for tactical and defensive applications, if they can legally obtain one in their state of residence. There are too many states that won’t even allow it to be sold. The DDM4V9 runs afoul of Maryland’s latest impenetrable legislative abomination (SB 281), for example. And it shouldn’t be that way.

The case that comes with the DDM4V9 is basic, but it works. It is a great way to transport the rifle and has plenty of room for magazines and optics.

The case that comes with the DDM4V9 is basic, but it works. It is a great way to transport the rifle and has plenty of room for magazines and optics.

To me, the Daniel Defense M4V9 is the kind of gun you take to show off to your friends. Take a look at the message boards and forums. You’ll find legions of diehard Daniel Defense fans. Even though the rifle may be too expensive for some, new younger shooters especially, the brand has a loyal following that would remain loyal at any price point.

And it is an investment. By the time you buy an entry level AR and slowly trick it out with modifications that Daniel Defense includes in this stock version, the price tag will climb and you’ll lose the volume discounts that allow Daniel Defense to bring a rifle like this to market at this price. The DDM4V9 has everything you would need to compete or protect yourself, out of the box (or it will once you put whatever type of sights you want to use on it). And it is a great platform to build on. The DDM4V9 works. It runs like a thoroughbred racehorse. For the serious shooter or the novice, you can’t wrong with this one.

 

The BCG of the DDM4V9 is perhaps the most traditional piece of the gun, but it is still built with the precision that has earned Daniel Defense its bulletproof reputation.

The BCG of the DDM4V9 is perhaps the most traditional piece of the gun, but it is still built with the precision that has earned Daniel Defense its bulletproof reputation.

Those who don’t want to hold the rail have other options.  The full sized fore grip is easy to move and comes with the DDM4V9.

Those who don’t want to hold the rail have other options. The full sized fore grip is easy to move and comes with the DDM4V9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This target was shot at 50 yards with the Aimpoint Pro on the DDM4V9.  I shot ten rounds from a basic blade stance and had no problem keeping the group tight.

This target was shot at 50 yards with the Aimpoint Pro on the DDM4V9. I shot ten rounds from a basic blade stance and had no problem keeping the group tight.

The stock adjusts quickly and locks firmly in place.  The padded sections are easier on cheekbones than raw polymer.

The stock adjusts quickly and locks firmly in place. The padded sections are easier on cheekbones than raw polymer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As it is with many AR-15s, a good optic will improve split times and target acquisition.  Many prefer to use risers with optics so they can keep their heads up.

As it is with many AR-15s, a good optic will improve split times and target acquisition. Many prefer to use risers with optics so they can keep their heads up.

DDM4V904  Looking down the angular sides and top of the DDM4V9 allows shooters to orient on target quickly, even before acquiring a sight picture.

DDM4V904 Looking down the angular sides and top of the DDM4V9 allows shooters to orient on target quickly, even before acquiring a sight picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The length of the rail allows long-armed shooters to hold very close to the business end of the gun.  If you’re going to hold this far down, wear gloves.

The length of the rail allows long-armed shooters to hold very close to the business end of the gun. If you’re going to hold this far down, wear gloves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • mfred January 13, 2016, 2:55 pm

    Im sorry but i dont see the reason behind the cost. My brother just picked up this rifle , “only because he swapped off a browning O/U that he only had 600 bucks in ” …. So here it was , the coveted daniel defence rifle , brand new out of the box I finally had a chance to crawl it and see just what made it so sought after….. Never mind . Its a nice rifle , dont get me wrong but its not a $1600-1700 dollar rfile . The fit and finish is no better on the rifle than shit ive built myself , a dpms or a RRA . There was more slop between the upper and the lower than some of the palmetto freedom uppers ive slammed to anderson lowers. The trigger had as much or more creep and catch as a stock dpms unit . its got some fancy rubber coated furniture and a chrome lined barrel . Just one guys opinion .

  • rick cupp June 4, 2015, 3:16 pm

    you people that say they are expensive are crazy you must work at McDonalds or Taco Bell because for that kind of money they sell for it’s the best damn gun I’ve ever ownedand believe me if you could afford one you would have one Daniel Defense rocks

  • Mike Runyon March 6, 2015, 7:40 pm

    I own a DD M4V5 and I’d put it up against anything. I’ve owned several “top shelf” rifles and my V5 is as accurate and is as well made as rifles that cost way more. I don’t run 3 gun or any competitions and the V5 can get a little heavy after adding optics and other accessories but for home defense and shooting with the guys…..it can’t be beat.

  • Stewart May 5, 2014, 11:24 pm

    I’d like to thank the reviewer for such a great written review. I just bought one of these myself and since they are so new there isn’t much written info on them so I did it on a whim. I pick mine up in a week (stupid CA 10 day hold), and am very excited to test it out. I was in the military much more recently than the 80’s, and at least in the 82nd Airborne the standard issue rifle was the M4A1 at the time, so I expect to feel close to home with this AR.

    Lotta haters in the comment section here as well. If you can’t afford one than don’t have on it, if you do your research you will find that there is no trace of anyone who has any legitimate gripe with Daniel Defense, they are a great company who make great firearms. Thanks again to the reviewer for giving me something to read while I wait for this stupid hold to be over.

  • Todd Knudson April 27, 2014, 11:38 pm

    I love how people people bitch that DDm4s are expensive. You want expensive by a Knights, Larue or Noveske! I love my SR15 but I’m hearing good things about this rifle. Might have to try one out next to my Mk18 🙂

  • Todd Knudson April 27, 2014, 11:38 pm

    I love how people people bitch that DDm4s are expensive. You want expensive by a Knights, Larue or Noveske! I love my SR15 but I’m hearing good things about this rifle. Might have to try one out next to my Mk18 🙂

  • Glockmod23 April 21, 2014, 12:48 pm

    1 to 3 inches @ 50 yards !! I’ll Pass.For this kind of money I expect more
    Thanks for the write-up!

    • Rick.300BLK December 22, 2015, 3:37 am

      Lol.
      You don’t read well. He stated he shot that using a blade STANCE with iron sights. Shooting standing up with no support but your limbs.

      Then he stated he put an aim point on it and closed it up to less than the size of a quarter standing up in an unsupported stance. I’ll reiterate on UNSUPPORTED.

      Can you do that? Probably not.

      May want to read that over again just so you’re trackin.

  • JMR954 April 12, 2014, 1:05 pm

    One great thing is they make the replacement uppers if you want to move up to 300 blackout.

  • Charlemagne April 12, 2014, 11:15 am

    “What Marine infantrymen 30 years ago dreamed they would have been issued” is an M14!

  • Joe April 8, 2014, 2:16 am

    Nice rifle but is it DI or piston? If it uses DI gas sys were back to 1962 in MHO. Needs short stroke G-piston to work w/o heat & or soot etc entering the chamber.
    JMO
    Joe

    • Evan April 12, 2014, 1:25 pm

      It’s DI, he mentions that in the article. Daniel Defense, unfortunately, does not make piston rifles. And either Marine Corps boot camp changed significantly or he misremembers, cause I was issued my rifle at the beginning of Phase 1 in 2003.

  • Elkhunter April 7, 2014, 12:43 pm

    Looks like a fine weapon. I only question the price. My personal opinion is that my recently purchased Colt 6920mp was a much better buy. Has what I need, nothing more, and comes with serviceable back up sights. Only added a Vortex strikefire ( on sale) and a $10 Blackhawk sling. I am an old retired guy, so am not really interested in pimping out my rifle. Besides it would only get heavier. Just my two cents, it is easy to get caught up in all the exciting accessories. Sometimes less is more.

  • Marty April 7, 2014, 10:48 am

    Nicely written review, but….. Sounds to me like too much input from Daniel Defense. It seems like the tester has not shot any other AR platforms since 1980. Given all the other quality companies producing AR’s today, such as Rock River, SIG, Delton, Etc., Daniel Defense is a little over rated and over priced.

    • Bryan K. July 14, 2014, 9:18 pm

      I guess if you consider HPT, MPI, and cold-hammer forging, as well as a factory standard Free float rail, “over priced”, then yes the Daniel Defense is “over priced”. As far as “quality” and “Del-Ton” in the same sentence? Pretty sure Del-Ton does not HPT and MPI their barrels, and many of their barrels are 4140 CMV, not mil-spec 4150, and many aren’t even chrome lined — this is spoken as the former owner of a Del-Ton Sierra 316H MOE.
      As for Sig Sauer, good luck trying to get anyone in their tech support department to answer the basic question of “are the barrels MPI or HPI?” I asked 5 different people at Sig, and received 5 different replies.

      Personally, I like to know that my barrel has been pressure-proofed and then MPI tested after to ensure no failures…I feel like it would really suck to be shooting, get a hot round, suffer a microfracture of the bore, then at some later point, have a barrel rupture.

      Do your research before you make “brand X is priced too high.”

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