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It’s about time I reviewed an AR-15, MSR, Armalite Rifle, Black Gun, or whatever you wanna call it, right? Well, it’s here. The time has come to put in the work of reviewing one of the longest-standing guns in my collection, the Daniel Defense DDM4.
Before we start, I want to tell you the model you’ll see in the pictures throughout this article will be the Daniel Defense DDM4v11. I’ll get into the models and their differences later on, but let’s cover the basics first and dive into the DDM4.
- Daniel Defense History
- DDM4 Overview
- DDM4 Overview
- Factory Accessories
- Mission of the Rifle
- Shooting the DDM4
- Final thoughts
- Daniel Defense FAQ’s
Daniel Defense History
Marty Daniel started Daniel Defense in 2000, but the original products that started Daniel Defense popped up several years prior. Daniel Defense was actually started because Marty wanted a flattop AR upper, and they didn’t exist. He later developed a Picatinny handguard for his AR15, one that at that time didn’t exist because most AR15’s did not have free float rails or handguards. Most of them had plastic handguards and A2 front posts, much like an M16.
In 2002, Marty designed and developed a rail that became the RIS II rail, arguably one of the most popular products that ever hit the AR market. This rail was the centerpiece of the MK18 rifle, one of the Daniel Defenses lineup’s most iconic rifles.
Another thing I found interesting about this company is that, believe it or not, Daniel Defense did not manufacture a fully assembled firearm until 2009.
The DDM4 is the moniker, or preface, for most of the modern Daniel Defense rifles. Every 5.56/.223 Daniel Defense AR version starts with DDM4. But let’s break down the DDM4 Models.
The v1 is just what it sounds like, version 1. There’s nothing wrong with version 1 of the DDM4. It has all the same features as the newer models, but the handguard is Picatinny rail.
If I had to guess, and this is purely a guess, the DDM4v7 or DDM4v7 Pistol is probably Daniel Defense’s most popular model. When the military adopted the M-Lok system by Magpul, most manufacturers pushed the keymod rail to the intellectual graveyard.
Much like the other base models from Daniel Defense, the DDM4v7 has a 15″ rail and a 16″ government profile barrel. It comes in at 6.2 lbs.
The DDM4v7 Pro is a little different from the base model. Namely, what sets it apart is the 18″ Strength to Weight, Cold Hammer Forged barrel. The pro model still features a 15″ M-Lok handguard and the rifle weighs in at 7.40 lbs.
You’ll never guess that that S stands for… short. The DDM4v7 S is the original short barrel rifle of the DDM4v7 family. Its 11.5″ barrel and 10″ handguard offers a convenient little package. The gun has the standard government profile barrel and weighs in at 5.8lbs.
Daniel Defense also created a DDM4v7 P, which is a pistol version of the DDM4.
DDM4v7 LW & SLW
We are gonna cover both of these at once because we didn’t feel that .5 ounces deserved two completely separate sections in this article. LW stands for–you guessed it–lightweight.
The gun is lighter, but we aren’t talking an incredible number. The LW model comes in at 6.05 lbs and has a 16″ barrel with a 15″ handguard. The SLW (super lightweight) model has a 14.5″ barrel that is pinned and welded to 16″ and a 13.5″ handguard. The SLW weighs in at 5.9 lbs
The v9 uses a 15″ Picatinny handguard and a 16″ government profile barrel. The weight of the v9 comes in right at 6.59 lbs.
One of the least popular DDM4 models is the DDM4v11, which features a 15″ keymod handguard and a 16″ barrel. The upper/lowers are virtually the same on the DDM4 models.
The DDM4v11 Pro is just like its kid brother with the DDM4v11 having a 15″ keymod handguard. However, the Pro runs an 18″ barrel and is geared more to precision shooters.
ALRIGHTY THEN. Now, it’s time to get to the good stuff, the actual review of the DDM4. Like I said above, all of the pictures in the article are of the DDM4v11, but I’ve shot and held almost every model listed.
For the most part, the Daniel Defense receiver design is that of a mil-spec upper and lower receiver. Neither the upper nor the lower feature anything structurally outside the norm of what you’d expect on any AR15 style rifle.
One noticeable difference on the upper of the DDM4’s is each upper features the model number in white on the side of the rifle.
Another tell-tell sign you are holding a true Daniel Defense rifle is the bullet casing with the caliber on it just above the Magwell. It’s applied to the upper in the same fashion as the rifle model.
The Daniel Defense lower is only stamped on the left side of the gun with the Daniel Defense logo as well as the serial number, caliber, and location of Daniel Defense.
One thing I feel like I need to mention is that Daniel Defense’s rifle tolerances are insanely tight. With virtually no play in the receiver and the upper, this rifle feels well built.
Daniel Defense uses all cold hammer-forged steel barrels. And they are made in-house at Daniel Defense (and have been since 2009).
I always had fantastic accuracy from my Daniel Defense barrel. My DDM4v11 was a 16″ barrel, and I shot it for years without reliability issues.
I even owned a DDM5 at one point and its barrel and accuracy were also consistent.
The DDM4’s handguard varies depending on the model. The DDM4v11 features a keymod handguard, which quite frankly is on its way out.
It was a short-lived experiment for attachments, but now Magpul’s M-Lok system has taken over the market. As such, the DDM4v7 is now the prominent seller in the DDM4 lineup.
Daniel Defense rifles clearly have a large lineup when it comes to barrel length and OAL. Their PDWs are new, short, and compact.
It really boils down to what size best works for you and your needs.
The DDM4 comes with three types of rail systems: M-Lok, Keymod, and Picatinny. The numbers that typically follow the “v” moniker in the DDM4 name will tell you which rail system comes on the rifle.
The Daniel Defense bolt carriers feature machined 8620 steel, coated in heavy phosphate, chrome-lined, and made in the USA.
The Daniel Defense bolts are machined from carpenter 158 steel, high pressure tested, magnetic particle inspected, and feature the same heavy phosphate coating that the bolt carrier group has. Oh, and it’s also made in the USA.
The DDM4 is a pretty standard bolt carrier group, it features the “DD” logo on the bolt’s side.
Daniel Defense Trigger
The DDM4 stock trigger is a standard mil-spec curved trigger.
The pull weight is approximately 8 lbs.
The wall is only a short take-up and is a crisp, clean break. You can’t expect much from a stock trigger. However, this trigger performs well.
The reset on this trigger is short and pretty consistent with all of the AR15’s on the market today.
My DDM4v11 safety was a metal non-ambidextrous style safety. With that being said, there’s nothing to really write home about on that front. It’s a standard-length safety lever and doesn’t bother my thumb while the selector is on fire.
But I have noticed that new DDM4s are coming with polymer ambidextrous safety. I haven’t had much experience with them except on a DDM5. And I had no issues with it.
The grip for the DDM4 is Daniel Defense’s very own creation.
I have to be upfront and say I fell in love with the Daniel Defense grips the minute I held one. There’s just something to the texture and feel of the DD grips that did it for me.
Now, that may not be the case with you. So be sure to hold one of these rifles for yourself before committing!
DDM4 Brace/Stock Options
The DDM4v11 comes with Daniel Defense’s standard stock.
Most of Daniel Defense’s DDM4 lineup comes with that stock. But some models, such as the DDM4 PDW, come with a custom stock. The DDM4 Pistol has a very similar stock mechanism to the DDM4 PDW SBR.
I’ve purchased the buttstock, grip, and foregrip combo kit for several of my non-Daniel Defense rifles as well.
The magazine release on the DDM4 line is a standard Mil-Spec magazine release. It is not an ambitious release like some would like. But being right-handed, I don’t have any issues with the mag release on the DDM4 line.
The mag well is where I’ll give Daniel Defense a slight ding or criticism.
The DDM4 is a world-class gun. There’s no doubt about that.
But for the love of 2020, why couldn’t they do better on the magazine well?
Now, I realize that the DDM4 receivers are not billet-style receivers. However, most everyone in the game is doing magazine well flares so much better than Daniel Defense is on the DDM4 line.
I mean, a standard AR15 receiver magazine well?! Why DD, just why?!
The changing handle is another one of those “meh” categories for the DDM4. It appears to just be a standard AR15 charging handle. There’s no over size handle on the standard charging handle.
I will make mention of their “Grip-n-Rip” charging handles where are standard on the DDM5 line but not the DDM4v7/11/etc. that I’m aware of.
If that’s changed, please let me know in the comments and I can right this wrong.
Now, let’s talk about factory accessories that come with the DDM4.
GET OUTTA HERE! No iron sights for you!
Unless you purchase a DDM4v1, you are not getting a rifle with iron sights. The DDM4 line comes as a flat top rifle, and it’s honestly not that big of a deal.
Most people will slap on a red dot sight or a 1-4 LPVO and call it a day. Don’t get hung up on not having irons on your AR15 in 2020.
Some of the DDM4 lines such as the v4, v7 LW, V1, 300 S, and a few other models come with a vertical foregrip.
I personally am a big fan of the shorty vertical foregrip and using it as a bandstop. They offer several models, but I found this one to be compact and streamlined just to my liking.
No sling included. But Daniel Defense does get it right by included quick discount (QD) mounts on the rail on the DDM4v7, DDMv411and the DDMv4
Mission of the Rifle
What are you buying the DDM4 for? You may be using it as your home defense rifle or your next primary AR15 for the range and training.
Either way, determining what your mission for the gun is will help you decide on your setup. Here are a few things to consider when you decide what your mission is and what you equip it with:
- Tape Switch
Shooting the DDM4
Shooting the DDM4 line does tend to vary somewhat.
But that’s to be expected because a 5.56 rifle will shoot differently than a 300 blackout rifle, and a 16″ rifle will handle differently than a 10.5″ PDW.
For this, I’m using the DDM4v11 (which I would assume is similar to its keymod counterpart the DDM4v7).
The recoil of the DDM4 is extremely manageable. It’s but a mere inconvenience with the muzzle rises a quarter inch or so on target.
With the semi-modified muzzle device on the DDM4v11, you get less muzzle rise than you do with a standard AR15 A2 muzzle device.
I ended up putting a VG6 compensator on it, and while the confusion was intense, the muzzle rise was virtually eliminated.
The gas system in the DDM4v11 is a mid-length gas system. This probably contributes to the soft recoil when shooting.
The DDM4v11 Pro runs a rifle-length gas system that could reduce your perceived felt recoil even further. But there are some cons to going to a rifle length, namely the 18″ barrel.
The only time I ever experienced gas blowback on a DDM4 rifle is when a suppressor is attached.
The only Daniel Defense rifle I’ve ever suppressed was the DDM5v1, and that was fantastic!
So should you buy that DDM4 you’ve had your eye on?
As always, the answer is it depends.
If you want a rock-solid rifle that is going to feel great to shoot, has great ergonomics and is in the $1,300-$1,600 price point, the DDM4 might be for you!