Photos by Mark Fingar
Long-range shooting is red hot right now thanks to innovations in optics, ballistic calculators and cartridges that have combined to create an engaging environment where shooting out to 1,000 yards is possible for just about anyone.
Marty Daniel began building a reputation for high-quality and dependable products in 2001 when he started making sling loops and railed forends for the United States and United Kingdom militaries. Then in 2009, his namesake brand, Daniel Defense, started making the AR-pattern DDM4 (V1) and quickly achieved an enviable degree of success.
Unlike most companies that source parts from various suppliers, Daniel has continued to invest heavily into his own company and created a giant manufacturing infrastructure that allows Daniel Defense to create whatever it wants. Even today, not many companies can claim to have their own hammer-forging barrel machines. (Daniel Defense has two.)
Daniel Defense will make industry news again this year with its new Delta 5 bolt-action rifle. The Delta 5 is a significant departure from previous efforts and is a highly original and well-thought-out rifle that caters to the precision rifleman.
Not Another 700
Daniel Defense took its time and designed the Delta 5 on a clean slate. They saw no need to make incremental improvements to a dated action, like Remington’s Model 700. Instead, they designed their own. This allowed the company to offer a set of features that produce unparalleled performance for right around the $2,000 price point.
The action features three bolt lugs on a floating bolt head that puts bolt throw at a short 60 degrees. This makes the Delta 5 a fast-cycling bolt gun.
When the bolt is open, the top lug sits at the 12-o’clock position, and it travels in a raceway that runs inside along the action’s top. Putting one of the lugs up top greatly reduces the possibility of the bolt binding when the shooter pushes the bolt handle off-axis, and you can feel it. New shooters can have difficulty pushing the bolt handle forward while keeping it parallel to the receiver causing it to bind, especially when trying to be quick.
The bolt has a floating bolt head held in place by a single large pin. This approach offers two significant advantages to the shooter. First, the bolt head will always center itself when locked in place behind the barrel. When a one-piece bolt pushes a cartridge into the chamber, it can go in crookedly because the bolt lugs make uneven contact with the lug abutments cut into the receiver. A floating bolt head like the one on the Delta 5 will always equalize between the lug abutments, making it impossible to push the cartridge off-axis in the chamber.
Floating bolt heads are also more precisely made. Making the bolt head separate from the bolt body allows Daniel Defense to focus its machining tolerances solely on this one part. The bolt heads for these rifles can be held to well below .001-inch variation from one part to the next. This means no hand-fitting is required to headspace the barrel. According to Daniel Defense, the resulting savings get passed along to the consumer.
The bolt head also features a .062-inch firing pin hole through which the firing pin fits tightly. These rifles will have no problems utilizing cartridges with small rifle primers.
The bolt head also uses a SAKO-style extractor. It is a large and beefy extractor that does its job well and it is extremely durable. It is located between the two most exterior lugs and does an excellent job of steering cartridges out of the ejection port and away from a scope’s windage turret.
As for the remaining action details, Daniel Defense got things right. The bolt handle is threaded so the user can easily install an aftermarket bolt knob if desired. The bolt stop sits on the side of the action towards the rear. It works by arresting rearward movement of the bolt by way of contact with the bolt lug, which is a most positive arrangement. Some three-lug actions have lugs the same diameter as the bolt body, so the bolt stop sits inside a recess cut into the bolt body. This arrangement accelerates bolt stop failure.
The integral recoil lug is original and performs two valuable functions. The first is the more traditional role of keeping the action from moving in the stock under recoil. The integral recoil lug on the Delta 5 is thick and sits inside a recess in the bedding block. Hence, the barreled action will not move, even under the most adverse conditions.
Unique to the Delta 5 is its integral recoil lug’s presence around the entire circumference of the action. It serves to stabilize the action in the bedding block as well as to keep the receiver’s scope base firmly anchored in place. Daniel Defense took the security of the scope base seriously and used four countersunk screws to attach the base to the receiver. Between the very large screws and the recoil lug at the base’s front, there’s no chance that even the heaviest scope will move from the harshest recoiling cartridges.
The barrels used for the Delta 5 are as unique as the action, even breaking away from the company’s manufacturing convictions. Instead of using Daniel Defense’s durable hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrels, the Delta 5 uses hammer-forged, stainless steel barrels.
The work hardening that occurs in the bore from the forging process gives these barrels even longer life than typical barrels of the same caliber. The harder the bore, the better it mitigates the effects of heat and pressure that occur when firing.
Daniel Defense forges the chamber simultaneously with the rest of the barrel, so there is no chance of run-out between chamber and bore. Ensuring that the two are perfectly aligned with each other helps ensure good accuracy.
Unusual for a precision bolt-action rifle is the use of a barrel extension with the hammer-forged barrel. Barrel extensions screw onto the chamber-side of the bore and house the bolt head when locked in place. Since the extensions are installed by the manufacturer, headspace will always be correct because it is set at the time of installation.
The historical downside of barrel extensions on precision rifles is the additional expense that’s attributed to proprietary parts and the time it takes during installation. It can be incredibly expensive, and manufacturers frequently refuse to send extension components out to custom gun builders. This means the rifle’s owner has to buy barrels from the original manufacturer and those barrels can easily cost two to three times as much as an extension-less tube. Daniel Defense’s complete barrel-and-extension combination costs less than $500.
In addition to the affordability of extra barrels, the use of the extension in conjunction with a barrel nut means that there is no need to use gauges when installing a barrel. A barrel nut holds the barrel and extension in place within the receiver. To change barrels, all one needs is a vise and the wrench that Daniel Defense provides with the rifle.
The torque specification for the barrel nut is 140 inch-pounds (in.-lbs.). As long as you don’t use a 3-foot cheater pipe to tighten the barrel down, just getting it good and tight will work just fine. No other production bolt-action rifle anywhere near this price point is easier to rebarrel or switch calibers.
Stocks & Blocks
The Delta 5 uses a mini-chassis that sits inside the stock and hosts the barreled action. The mini-chassis performs two valuable functions. The first is to secure the barreled action inside the stock. The mini-chassis has a V-shaped bottom that contacts the action bottom along both sides. The action screws come up through the bottom metal and thread into the action, sandwiching the mini-chassis between the two sections.
The mini-chassis also provides a home for the bottom metal. The bottom metal hosts AICS-pattern magazines and has the magazine release integrated into the triggerguard. The points where the action screws pass through the bottom are pillars that precisely control the distance between action and magazine.
This design gives Daniel Defense the ability to precisely control the physical relationship between the bolt face and cartridges sitting in the magazine. Precision in this relationship is mandatory for reliable feeding. If you find yourself tweaking the feed lips in a magazine, then the manufacturer failed. The test rifle Guns & Ammo received fed flawlessly.
Daniel Defense makes the Delta 5 stocks from carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer. It is one of the most useful production stocks on the market. The forend has a flat on the bottom that greatly assists in stabilizing the rifle when laid across any number of rests. The forend’s tip has sections of M-Lok molded into it for attaching accessories and a bipod.
The stock has a vertical grip with a mild palm swell that sits comfortably in the hand. There are ridges along the sides of the grip designed to function as thumb rests.
The comb is quick to adjust by means of loosening a thumbscrew. There are ridges in the comb support columns for a C-clip that allows for easy repositioning of the comb after it’s been removed for rifle maintenance. The thumbscrew adjustment is reversible, so left-handed shooters can install it on the left side of the rifle, giving them a clean side of the comb for use as a cheek rest. The comb also adjusts laterally by loosening two screws on the underside.
The length of pull can be adjusted by removing two screws that pass through the buttpad to hold the spacers in place. Loosening the screws allows for spacer insertion or removal. Daniel Defense also puts a quick-detach (QD) flush cup for use with QD sling swivels, or bags, on both sides of the comb near the top of the buttpad.
Daniel Defense installed Timney Trigger’s new Elite Hunter trigger in the rifle. Pull weight is adjustable between 2.4 ounces and 4 pounds and it just might be the nicest trigger I’ve seen on any production rifle — from any manufacturer. It’s hard to believe that a rifle with all of these features at this price still has room in the budget for a trigger like that.
G&A’s test rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor was extremely accurate. After a few get-to-know-you rounds, the rifle produced a .48-inch, five-shot group at 100 yards. After these experiences, I expect the Delta 5 to average between .5 and .75 MOA for five shots at 100 yards across the entire line with factory ammunition. Handloaders will see even better performance than that.
Between the ease of switching calibers, the innovative action design, the phenomenal trigger and the adjustable stock, the Delta 5 is a tremendous value. Those looking to explore precision rifle shooting without going broke will be well served by Daniel Defense’s new Delta 5. Daniel Defense DELTA 5
Type: Bolt action, magazine fed
Cartridge: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .308 Winchester
Capacity: 5 or 10 rds.
Barrel: 24 in., 1:8-in. twist (6.5 Creedmoor); 20 in., 1:10-in. twist (.308 Win)
Overall Length: 44 in. (6.5 Creedmoor)
Weight: 9.5 lbs.
Stock: Polymer, carbon-fiber reinforced
Grips: Vertical w/ thumb rest
Trigger: 2.4 oz. to 4 lbs., adjustable
Manufacturer: Daniel Defense,
This article is also available in our March issue of Guns & Ammo Magazine. Available on Print and Digital (add link to our shopping cart). https://securesubs.osgimedia.com/orderpage_ex8.php?m=gunsandammo&pkey=IBQ3