DPMS was founded in 1986 but did not start making AR-style rifles until 1993. Since then it has become a major manufacturer of the black rifle, supplying a wide number of chamberings and variations to sport shooters, law enforcement and the military. The company has a reputation for making accurate guns and has certainly enhanced that reputation with the Panther Mark 12, an 18-inch-barreled rifle chambered in 5.56 NATO that performed superbly in testing.
This rifle follows Stoner’s design and function with a direct-gas-impingement action fed from a detachable box magazine, but it looks a little different from Stoner’s original concept with its A3 flattop upper receiver, bolt assist and free-float tube fore-end sporting four M1913 rails with six protective covers. Although it is black, resembles our military arm, is chambered in 5.56 NATO and can therefore fire mil-spec ammunition, this gun deserves a better diet than the typical surplus ammo you may find on the market.
Improvements over the standard AR include a 416 stainless steel match-grade heavy barrel, a hand-filling Command Arms Accessories G27 pistol grip with finger grooves and storage compartment, a Lewis Machine & Tool SOPMOD carbine five-position collapsible buttstock allowing length of pull to be adjusted to the shooter, an ambidextrous safety, a two-stage match-grade trigger that broke crisply at just over six pounds on the test gun, a Midwest Industries flip-up rear sight that is adjustable for windage and a Yankee Hill flip-up front sight that mounts on the gas block. The flip-up front and rear sights can be stowed down out of the line of sight if they interfere with optical sights.
I found the Panther Mark 12 to be a very well-crafted gun. Fit of all parts was excellent as expected. The 7075-T6 aircraft-aluminum-alloy upper and lower receivers are hard anodized and then finished in black Teflon. The stainless steel barrel is black Teflon coated, and the bolt and bolt carrier are heat-treated. The carrier’s interior is hard chromed, and then both are phosphated for a durable finish that helps retain lubrication.
The very accurate 18-inch barrel is heat stress relieved after boring, then is button rifled with six grooves in a one-in-eight-inch right-hand twist. It is again heat stress relieved and terminates with a Panther flash suppressor.
The five-position collapsible buttstock with storage compartments fits very snugly on the buffer tube, eliminating any rattles. The rifle is 35.5 inches long with the stock collapsed and just under 39 inches long with it extended. The gun tips the scales at 8.75 pounds empty.
Options available at additional cost for the Panther Mark 12 are a CRYO barrel, Harris bipod, chrome or titanium bolt carrier assembly and a JP adjustable trigger. The gun comes in a hard plastic, foam-lined carrying case with two 30-round magazines, nylon sling and cleaning kit.
At the Ben Avery Shooting Facility off sand bags at 100 yards and using a Leupold Mark 4 1.5-5X 20mm MR/T Tactical scope, I got down to business to see just how well this rifle would shoot. I was surprised because I rarely get an AR-style rifle that shoots quite this well. What I had expected was no malfunctions, and the rifle delivered in that category. I had not expected sub-minute-of-angle accuracy with every load, but that is what I got, the only exception being just one 1.05-inch three-shot group with Black Hills .223 Remington 77-grain HP loads. The other two groups with the same ammo were .45 and .95 inch. I used bullet weights ranging from 55 to 77 grains, making this level of performance that much more impressive.
Performance details are in the accompanying chart, but the Panther Mark 12 liked the Hornady TAP FPD 60-grain load most, delivering a best group of .33 inch and a best average of three three-shot groups of .59 inch.
If the rifleman is up to the task, this rifle sure is.