DM4 Rifle Review – the South African AR-15
The DM4 rifle is a South African assembled AR-15 with some parts manufactured locally. This entry-level AR-15 often strikes interest amongst new buyers, and having owned one for the past 4-years, I found it fitting to write a review highlighting the rifle’s positive attributes. So what makes the rifle stand out amongst its competitors?
Well aside from being partly manufactured locally in South Africa, the rifle has a couple of attractive features when compared to similar entry-level AR-15’s.
- First off, the buyer is able to choose between a 10, 12, 14.5 or 16-inch barrel, rather than the standard issue 16-inch available by its competitors.
- Second, the rifle comes fitted with a modular Keymod forend, which is free-floating and adds a real nice touch.
My particular DM4 is the 14.5-inch version, and has undergone some upgrades which I will discuss below. I will also provide some insight into the rifle’s accuracy and operation, culminating in a final verdict as to whether I would recommend the DM4 as a good entry-level investment or not.
So Who Manufactures the DM4 Rifle?
The DM4 was launched back in 2015 by Diplopoint (Pty) Ltd – a South African company known in the market for their ammo making skills. This was the same year in which my DM4 was purchased, although licensing was only approved the following year.
Diplopoint have since been assembling and producing the DM4 semi-automatic rifle which is sold in a variety of calibers, primarily through Dave Sheer Guns in Johannesburg. While some parts are manufactured locally, such as the barrel which is made by Musgrave, others are imported from abroad and assembled in Gauteng to produce the final product.
DM4 Rifle Specifications
Back in 2015 I was after my first personal AR-15 that I would purchase and license in South Africa. With a budget of around R20k, I opted for the DM4 .223cal with a 14.5-inch barrel and free-floating Keymod forend. The rifle set me back at just under R17k, which left me with a few bucks to spare. This was spent on a Daniel Defense buttstock and pistol grip, as seen in the image above.
Stock & Pistol Grip
The DM4 comes standard with a black synthetic collapsible stock and a plastic pistol grip. The parts aren’t bad for the price, but they are nothing to write home about. The first modification I made to my DM4 was the addition of a Daniel Defense stock and pistol grip, which gave the rifle a pleasant and grippy feel against the cheek and shooting hand.
The rifle comes with a commercial spec buffer tube, which is slightly thicker in diameter to a mil-spec tube. Bear this in mind if you intend on purchasing an after market buttstock. My Daniel Defense stock did require some minor DIY machining, which fits as snug as ever with absolutely no play in the stock – just the way I like it.
The original recoil buffer had some issues – they were made in two separate parts which screwed together. Mine completely failed after 1150 rounds fired, but after emailing Dave Sheer Guns, I was sent a replacement part at no cost – great service. The recoil buffer in the DM4 has since been upgraded, negating this buffer problem altogether.
Upper & Lower Receivers
The rifle’s lower receiver is made by Aero Precision USA, while it is not exactly clear who manufactured the upper. Both are 7075T6 Aluminium Forged, and are of excellent quality.
One thing that I’ve notice turns people away from the DM4 is that the upper receiver has no forward assist. To be quite honest, there hasn’t really been a situation yet where I wish that I’d had one on this particular rifle.
Aero Precision sells a few upper’s with no forward assist, and their argument for doing so is that the forward assist can in some cases further complicate a stoppage. While they do serve a purpose under certain military applications, they are rarely needed in the civilian market, and there has been a few reports whereby a forward assist has caused catastrophic failure to a rifle. More about this can be found in the following video (skip to 5mins 35secs).
The rifle comes with a standard single-stage mil-spec trigger. Nothing fancy and extremely stiff. This is certainly something that should be switched out, as is the case with most entry-level rifles.
While the rifle was originally listed on Dave Sheer’s website as a .223 Caliber, this might have meant that the rifle would struggle with smooth operation when fed with 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges. .223 cal was also clearly engraved into the ejection port cover, and also onto the left-hand side of the upper receiver, with no mention of 5.56mm chambering to be found.
This was one question that I found many new buyers concerned over, with no direct answer as to whether the rifle could safely fire the 5.56mm cartridge or not. Nevertheless, I have fired in excess of over 350 5.56mm cartridges through my DM4, with no issues at all.
Dave Sheer has now listed their DM4 AR-15 variant as .223 Rem and 5.56mm as per their website.
As I’ve already mentioned, the rifle comes with a Keymod free-floating rail system. This is an extremely light and comfortable forend which feels good in the support hand.
A free-floating barrel and forend is a specific design technology used in rifles to increase accuracy. Free-floating a barrel means creating an empty space along the entirety of the forearm so that nothing can disrupt the barrel’s vibrations. If your barrel is unobstructed, these vibrations travel exactly the same way each time you fire a shot, promoting accuracy.
Two keymod compatible picatinny rails are included with the rifle purchase to provide a mounting space for accessories such as lasers, flashlights, down grips and night viewing devices. I found these to be of poor quality, and if expensive attachments are to be used, I’d recommend purchasing aftermarket rails to ensure a more robust and secure fit.
The rifle comes with a direct impingement (DI) gas system, which is the same as the original AR-15 design. While short-stroke gas piston AR-15’s are available in South Africa, they come at a higher cost. The DI system is often considered to be more accurate than piston-driven rifles, but requires a higher level of cleaning discipline. My DM4 gas system has performed flawlessly to date.
For more information on AR-15 gas systems, read our article titled: AR-15 basics, and how to select the best AR-15 for you.
The barrel is made by Musgrave, who have been proud builders of South African rifle barrels for over 30-years. These barrels are made to Diplopoint’s specifications of course.
I opted for the 14.5-inch carbine length barrel, which is a button-rifled 6-groove barrel manufactured from E19T bar steel, with a 1:9 right-hand twist. Other options in the DM4 line include the 10-inch, 12-inch and 16-inch barrelled AR-15’s.
There is no chrome-lining or Nitride treatment, so a little extra cleaning and maintenance is required in preventing corrosion.
At the muzzle-end of the barrel you’ll find a pretty standard M4 bird cage flash eliminator. I switched this out for a Saimaa Still QD 5.56 Muzzle Brake, which pairs up with a quick detachable Saimaa Still sound suppressor.
Two stamped steel 30-round magazines are issued along with the rifle. They are not bad, and I’ve had no issues with them yet. However the majority of magazines that I use are aftermarket; a fifty-fifty split between 30-round Magpul PMAG and H&K 556 magazines. I also have three 10-round PMAG’s that are used for longer shots when a bipod is fitted to the rifle, offering more ground clearance.
There hasn’t been a single magazine feeding issue to date. So I’m perfectly satisfied in this department.
DM4 Rifle Performance & Accuracy
Since the first round fired I have kept a strict barrel log on my DM4. The rifle is sitting on just over 4100 rounds to date (4105 to be exact), which are a combination of factory ammo, handloads and some 5.56mm surplus ammunition.
The rifle, aside from the recoil buffer issue which I touched on earlier, has performed flawlessly. I haven’t had any feeding issues, and the rifle has performed exactly as I had hoped from the start.
Grouping tests have been performed on hand-loaded ammo, as this is the majority of ammunition which I shoot through the rifle.
My chosen bullet since the start has been the Hornady 55gr FMJ Boat tail. This gives me a proven effective range of around 600 meters with my chosen load, sending the projectile along its flight path at an initial 2970fps.
I decided to re-attempt a load development phase prior to writing this article, and came out with my same initial results. Using two different .223 Remington propellants and 8 different loads, I experienced 5-shot group sizes from 111mm down to 28mm in size. The extruded propellant was not favoured by the rifle, achieving a 49mm grouping at best. So I stuck to ball powder, with my two best groups measuring 33mm and 28mm.
It is safe to say that with a good load the rifle is achieving consistent MOA groupings – real happy with this.
My 55gr Hornady bullet firing at 2970fps gives me around 600 meters of effective range at my preferred shooting area. I’ve proven this time after time, and setting paper targets at the 10 and 25 meters points, I am easily able to transition to steel gongs scattered across various points between 300 and 600 meters. My Vortex low power variable optic makes things even easier, having a 1x magnification for those close range shots, with a switchview throw lever for rapid magnification adjustments for further distances.
I have got my eye on a Sierra 69gr Match bullet which I plan on using for those longer shots, offering greater precision and a little more distance.
I’ve had no issues with the rifle in terms of durability. My shooting ranges are fairly sandy, and I do occasionally shoot in heavy rain. Bravo Tactical Africa has done a good torture test on the rifle, so if you’re considering buying one, I’d recommend watching the video below.
My DM4 Rifle Upgrades
My DM4 is equipped with a few upgrades that not only improve the rifle’s overall performance, but also give the rifle a personalised feel.
- Stock – Daniel Defense Collapsible Buttstock – R1600
- Pistol Grip – Daniel Defense Pistol Grip – R600
- Trigger – JMT Saber Single Stage Trigger 3.5 – 4lbs – R2500
- Muzzle Brake – Saimaa Still QD 5.56 Muzzle Brake – R2000
- Suppressor – Saimaa Still QD 5.56 Sound Suppressor – R8500
- Optic – Vortex Viper PST Gen II 1-6×24 Low Power Variable Scope – R15000
- Mount – Vortex Precision Extended Cantilever Mount – R5000
- Backup Sights – Magpul MBUS Front & Rear Sights – R2200
Since the release of the DM4, many have considered this particular rifle largely due to its attractive price.
Initially it was rather difficult to find good solid information on the rifle system, even when making direct contact with the manufacturer. In many cases, this uncertainty turned AR enthusiasts attention towards other brands that they were more familiar with, but in recent years the DM4 has earned its place amongst South African rifle enthusiasts as a reliable, affordable and highly ergonomic option.
My DM4 has certainly been one of my most enjoyable rifles to shoot, and it has held up in all regards. I would certainly recommend the DM4 as an excellent and affordable entry-level AR-15.
I hope that you enjoyed this review, and if so, please leave a comment below. Until next time.