Review: Daniel Defense Delta 5

posted on June 24, 2019
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After years spent in the AR-15-accessory market, Daniel Defense began selling complete rifles in 2009. Now, 10 years after those first AR-15s, the company dominates the MSR market, with sales running neck and neck with longtime industry giants like Ruger and Smith & Wesson. However, the team at Black Creek isn’t slowing down, and the new Daniel Defense Delta 5 showcases a continuing trend of forward-thinking at the company.

Several separate elements collided to spark the development of the new Daniel Defense Delta 5. Marty Daniel, company founder and CEO, recognized a truth about his involvement with the company’s product-development process that needed some attention; namely, he was the product-development process. For years, Daniel Defense’s new-product launches were what Daniel wanted to launch. He needed a product-development team to start slowly replacing his singular vision if the company was going to survive long-term. In addition, several members of the DD team had long discussed the need for a new rifle action that wasn’t just another, “Me, too!” in the marketplace. Remington 700s and Savage 110s were great for what they were, but simply improving on these foundational platforms wasn’t enough. Something more was needed.

Of course, with a rich history and body of experience with the AR platform, it makes sense that Daniel Defense would zero in on modularity as one of the key elements of the Delta 5. Durability is one of the aspects also highlighted in the company’s AR line, thanks particularly to Daniel Defense’s cold-hammer-forged (CHF) barrels. The company is one of the few manufacturers in the industry with its own, in-house CHF machines, and this advantage proved to be a boon in the development of the Delta 5. Finally, a longtime fixture of DD’s AR line has been the ergonomic furniture designed in-house for the company’s guns, and this focus on fit and feel also played an important role when it came to designing the Delta 5.

(l.) Top: A prominent barrel nut is essential for the AR-15-like barrel-swap feature on the Delta 5. (r.) The muzzle features standard 5⁄8x24 TPI threads and includes a thread protector.

At the heart of every gun is the barreled action, so that seems to be a good place to start when examining the Delta 5 design. One of the most-prominent elements of the rifle that screams to observers is the huge, notched nut located just forward of the action. This is one of the core features of the Delta 5, as this gun allows owners to easily change out barrels with only a vise and the company’s proprietary barrel-nut wrench, included whenever anyone orders a spare barrel (additional barrels will cost less than $500). When installing a barrel, simply torque the nut to 55 foot-pounds. A properly torqued barrel nut holds the barrel and its extension at the right spot inside the receiver, so there’s no need to use gauges to check headspace during barrel installation.

While we’re talking about the barrel, let’s get into the specifics. Daniel Defense produces these cold-hammer-forged, Heavy Palma barrels in-house from stainless steel, and the CHF process is what produces the unique texture on the barrel’s exterior. Durability is a big benefit of this process, and during testing, DD engineers noted that they had fired more than 4,000 rounds through a single Delta 5 barrel without seeing any kind of degradation in accuracy. The barrel’s exteriors are also treated with a tungsten-Cerakote finish to match the action and barrel nut.

(l.) Comb height is easily adjusted, as well as cast-off or cast-on. (ctr.) Shallow depressions on the grip aid in thumb placement. (r.) With a 20-MOA-canted rail, the long-range chops of the Delta 5 are evident.

The action is an entirely new design from Daniel Defense. One of the highlights is the integrated recoil lug, which actually wraps around the entire action from top to bottom. The primary job of the recoil lug is to prevent the action from moving inside the stock. Rather than bedding down into the stock itself, though, the action sits inside an aluminum mini-chassis, which features a cut-out at its leading edge in which the recoil lug sits. This mini-chassis then mates with dual pillars integrated into the bottom metal cut to accept AICS-pattern magazines, leading to a fully bedded action and a freefloated barrel.

In addition to an action designed from the ground up, Daniel Defense also tackled the stock design in-house. While this was done partly to address the proprietary nature of the action footprint, designing the stock allowed the DD team to address every aspect of the gun’s ergonomics, step by step. Dozens of different stock designs underwent testing for fit and feel, with special attention paid to the grip in particular. The rear of the grip is designed to guide a shooter’s thumb into the shallow depression on the strong side of the stock wrist. This aids in ensuring that the trigger pull is linear for more-accurate shooting.

(l.) A Sako-style extractor contributes to reliability, and a three-lug bolt provides a short, 60-degree throw. (r.) The unique texture on the Delta 5’s barrel is a result of the CHF process.

Daniel Defense’s design team also aimed to make the stock ambidextrous and easily adjusted to fit a wide range of shooters. Each rifle ships with additional stock spacers, and loosening two Torx screws accessed through a narrow slot in the rubber buttpad allows length-of-pull adjustment. At the top of the stock is an adjustable cheek-piece, which can be raised or lowered with a thumbscrew. The comb can also be adjusted to the left or right or angled to fit a shooter’s face contour, thanks to two Torx screws located on the top of the cheek-piece. The stock also features a wide, flat fore-end for shooting off bags.

(l.) The two-position safety selector will be familiar to many of today’s rifle shooters. (ctr.) Each Delta 5 is equipped with an adjustable Timney Elite Hunter trigger. (r.) M-Lok slots on the sides and bottom of the stock allow for accessory attachments.

Our first opportunity to shoot the Daniel Defense Delta 5 came at the November 2018 rollout of the new gun, and the platform was, I noted at the time, “boringly accurate.” All the attendees assembled were able to reach out at extended ranges with ease, ringing steel at 800 to 1,000 yards with little difficulty. Daniel Defense doesn’t ship this rifle with an accuracy guarantee, but the gun’s designers noted that obtaining .5-MOA groups should be possible with the right loads and, of course, the right shooter.

With that kind of confident statement, though, it seems that obtaining at least sub-MOA performance should be a given for this platform. Though it’s claimed that this rifle can achieve .5-MOA groups or better, I’m definitely not that good of a shooter. That being said, though, the Delta 5 gave me one of the best groups I’ve ever shot, measuring in at .33 inch using 168-grain Hornady Match ammo. Seriously, I never do that, so it’s certainly a testament to the capabilities of this rifle. The factory-installed, Remington 700-pattern Timney Elite Hunter trigger certainly aided in my shooting, providing a wide, serrated face for easy finger placement, a crisp break and short travel.

Overall, the concept of a modular, easily modified precision platform that attracts tinkerers and AR-rifle fans to the world of precision shooting is an attractive one, and I hope to see more caliber and stock options from Daniel Defense and other manufacturers as this rifle takes hold. The Daniel Defense Delta 5 is also capable of impressive performance on the range, which certainly bodes well for its success in the precision-rifle market. It appears the dynamic team in Black Creek, GA, isn’t running out of steam anytime soon.


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