When Marty Daniel founded Daniel Defense in 2001, he had one product, a sling adaptor. From there Daniel Defense designed the Rail Interface System or RIS II was designed to meet a specific request from the United States Special Operations Command. The RIS II provided a quad rail with a free floated barrel that also gave the user the ability to mount a M203 grenade launcher. After extensive testing, USSOCOM selected Daniel Defense as the sole source provider. Over 12 years later, DD is still delivering RIS II rails to SOCOM and other military units.
What sets DD apart from others is the company’s total commitment to quality. To that end, Daniel Defense manufactures nearly every component of their rifles in-house. This not only includes the barrels, the upper and lower receivers, bolts, and fire control parts but extends to pins and detents. This includes manufacturing their own barrels in-house. Barrel blanks are cold hammer forged through intense hydraulic pressure that is applied at opposing angles by carbide steel hammers. During the hammering process, a mandrel is inserted into the bore. The hammers shape the barrel’s chamber, lands, and grooves around the mandrel creating a defect free bore and consistent chamber. Every barrel is MP tested to ensure there are no hidden flaws or fractures.
While Daniel Defense offers a wide selection of M4 rifles in carbine or mid length gas systems, my favorite rifle is the MK18 SBR. The MK18 is a clone of the carbine used by USSOCOM. While the company offers select fire rifles to governmental agencies, our test rifle was a NFA approved, semi-automatic SBR.
The MK18 upper receiver is machined in house to military specifications and features M4 feed ramps. The bolt carrier group is MP tested and, as it should, has a properly staked gas key. The 10.3” barrel is forged from chrome moly vanadium steel with a 1:7 twist and a chrome lined chamber. Every barrel is stamped with identification markings that include the company’s initials, method of rifling, and twist . In addition, every barrel is stamped to verify that it has been MIP tested and to reflect the month and year of manufacture. The flash suppressor is a DD design that is similar to a standard mil-spec A2 unit.
The MK18 RIS II rail is secured with six screws for easy installation and removal and mates to the upper receiver to allow for a continuous rail. The side rails are secured using three flat-head screws and every other rail slot is numbered. The design of the RIS II is both light weight and low profile.
DD had developed their own pistol grip and stock that is both distinctive and ergonomically friendly. The lower receiver features an enlarged and beveled mag well which enables faster and cleaner reloads. The internals are mil-spec and the trigger pull measured 7 ½ lbs.
When it comes to sights, DD offers some of the toughest fixed sights available. Daniel Defense fixed iron sights are manufactured out of aircraft grade 6061-T6 and then finished with a mil-spec hard coat anodizing. The design of the sights minimizes the footprint on the rail allowing space for additional accessories.
We tested the MK18 with three loads from Hornady, the 55 gr. TAP, 62 gr. TAP, and the 55 gr. steel case training load. No malfunctions were experienced. For accuracy testing, I installed a Leupold MK4 2.5-8X36mm M2 tactical scope with a LaRue SPR mount. The TMR reticle and brilliant light gathering capabilities make the MK4 series of scopes ideal for the law enforcement community. The accompanying table reflects the performance of the MK18 on the range. Note that the 10.3” barrel produces excellent groups at 100 yards.
The MK18 performed well during a number of tactical range exercises. In the past, I have evaluated a number of SBRs with barrel lengths from 7” to 12”. The MK18, with a 10.3” barrel, seemes to be the ideal length. The MK18 was better balanced and, with its light weight barrel profile, tracked easier than other short barrel rifles.
The fit, finish, and performance of the MK18 certainly lived up to my expectations and the company’s reputation. As I have mentioned in previous articles, the SBR market has experienced tremendous growth in the past several years and I don’t see this trend slowing down in the future. The MK18 is an ideal choice for law enforcement, tactical teams, and other end users that require a quality, compact M4 carbine.