Rifle Review, Initial Impressions: DPMS A-15


We’d like to introduce our friend Mike, who brings Kit Up! this guest post. Now, you know how we  link words for certain readers, like this: (grunts, sometimes)? It’s for guys like him. We were as surprised as you will be by how articulate he is for a grunt, which is one of the reasons we used to go support single dancing moms with him.  Please give him a read and extend a proper welcome. He is neither a hippie nor a sissy, nor has he ever gone so far into the cave to find his power animal that he failed to come back out.

Kit Up! A new California compliant A-15 from DPMS















The DPMS A-15: First Review

I recently purchased a DPMS A-15 in cal. 223 from a local gun shop in Northern California and took it to the range to break it in. These are my initial observations.

I originally went in looking for an AR from a different manufacturer [than DPMS], but unfortunately the one the store stocked in my price range didn’t have the features I wanted (a forward assist and an ejection port cover). My ultimate goal was to get an M4 military style rifle like the type I carried in Iraq; the DPMS had those features and was affordable. I have to admit that I didn’t know much about DPMS rifles, aside from knowing an Army buddy who likes their lowers. After examining the rifle, including breaking it down and a function check, I filled out the paperwork, paid for my new weapon, and went home to wait the required 10 days. (Note: all photos courtesy of Boom Operator Ryan.)

The Rifle and First Impressions 

My A-15 has a 16” chrome-moly barrel with a “cut out” for attaching an M203, a six position collapsible stock, and an A3 upper receiver with removable carrying handle and A2 style hand guards. DPMS coats its rifles with a Teflon hard finish and mine came from the factory and gun store without a scratch. The rifle came with its own case, albeit not a very durable one, and included a 10 round magazine, sling, a 25 meter zeroing target, the normal literature and a sticker. Awesome!

Now, as I reside in ‘The Peoples Republic of California,’ I have to adhere to certain firearms laws – specifically the 16” barrel length and the use of a tool to remove the magazine from the weapon (also called a ‘Bullet Button’). After having used an M16 series weapon with a normal magazine release for longer than some of the younger Soldiers in my unit have been alive, manipulating the California compliant DPMS involved a bit of a learning curve. The final constraint is the limit of 10 rounds in the magazine, but like the bullet button one can be dealt with.

So far the only modifications I’ve made are adding a Magpul MOE trigger guard and an ASAP sling adaptor. I may dress it up with a rail system, optics later. The rifle is well constructed, solid and feels good in my hands. Since it’s a brand new, it’s still tight, the edges are still ‘sharp’, but everything moves freely. It reminds me of when I had my brand new M4 issued to me.

I was looking forward to putting some rounds down range.











Range Going Hot

My friends Doc and Boom Operator Ryan planned conduct a zero range for my new rifle.  However a storm was due to arrive on the designated day, and I scrambled to get everyone together before it began to snow. Doc was busy but Ryan was free, so we headed up the hill. It wasn’t as well-planned as we’d originally hoped, but we still managed to put a couple hundred rounds down range to get a feel for the weapon.

Once site, we set up a few gallon milk and juice jugs filled with water, paced off 25 meters, did a final weapons check and got down to shooting. All with a wall of dark grey clouds approaching from the west.

I fired from standing, kneeling, and prone supported and unsupported.  At 25 meters, with battle site zero and no adjustments, the rifle fired a little low However after finding the point of aim I was popping milk jugs and splattered a large grapefruit left on the range in a spectacular manner [Note: in some places shooters prefer to engage old refrigerators and dishwashers dropped seemingly from the sky into the middle of nowhere – true story. We know. We’re from the MidSouth. Duo]

The recoil was smooth and there was no play between the upper and lower receiver that one occasionally finds in older used ARs.  Trigger pull and reset felt the same as my issued weapon. After some slow careful shots to feel the weapon out I tried some ‘rapid’ fire to see if any cycling issues cropped up, and none did.   The weapon fired 200+ rounds without a single malfunction – by no means a definitive stress test, but a good start. With storm clouds overhead, wind picking up and temperatures dropping, Ryan and I policed the range and called it a day.

Final Thoughts

To quote Emil Antonowsky from 1987s ‘Robocop,’ “I LIKE IT!” My DPMS A-15 is exactly what I was looking for in an AR platform and was the right price. I recommend it, and offer only two (correctible) cons if pressed: 1) the buffer tube is not MilSpec, and  2) there is a prominent ridge that encompasses the forward end of the rear stock that dug into my cheek when firing, This too can be replaced, but it would be nice if the lip wasn’t quite as aggressive.

Stay tuned as I’ll post a progress report with more tales from the range. And if you’re a DPMS user, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


About the author: Mike Durand is a U.S. Army Infantry combat veteran of Iraq with over 15 years of service. During his off time he partakes in such manly activities as enjoying the outdoors, target shooting, reading a vast array of suitably impressive topics, military history and of course sipping a good stiff drink while wearing a smoking jacket with his loyal Irish wolfhound at his feet. Actually most of that isn’t true at all. He lives and writes in California with his wife, one year old daughter and four cats. He writes as his kid, pregnant wife and duties allow.

About the Author

The Mad Duo
Richard Kilgore and Jake Call enjoy something of a celebrity status among action figures and 1/1 scale trigger-pullers alike. They are world renowned for their wit, objectivity, keen tactical insight and utter lack of exaggeration or hyperbole. They leverage tens of thousands of hours of training and operational experience to the betterment of all mankind (and shooters). When not saving helpless school children from terrorists, rescuing damsels in distress and removing insurgents from the gene pool, they write, blog and support single dancing moms one dollar bill at a time. This provides much needed wisdom and perspective to the vast community of trigger-pullers that so desperately hungers for it. You can reach them at BreachBangClear.com or FaceBook.com/MadDuo if you're not a SISSY.

40 Comments on "Rifle Review, Initial Impressions: DPMS A-15"

  1. How about a write up of making a CA compliant Ar-15?

    I do like the coverage of "Average Joe" rifles, not guns made out of unobtainium by German elves.

    The really high end stuff is not what high-speed professional trigger pullers buy themselves, it's what the deep pockets SOCOM unit/department procures for them.

    Same with all the other GUCCI stuff. You average SFC and CPT won't be buying a $5,000 nightforce scope, not on his paycheck. The only ones who own them are the rich armchair commandos and the real commandos who didn't foot the bill.

  2. I guess I misunderstood CA gun laws. I didn't think anything like that could be had there like the DPMS with the pistol grip, flash hider, collapsible stock, etc. never heard of the semi-removable mag before. Does this exclude higher end makers like LWRC & Daniels Defense from the market and limit your choice to those willing to "neuter" their products to comply with CA laws?

  3. Hi Mike.Thanks for the review on DPMS. Same here. I didn't know commifornia allowed ARs with pistol grips, flash suppressors, and loading from magazines. I saw bushmaster where you have to open the upper and lower receivers and input the rounds manually into a fixed magazine (5rd or 10 rd). That almost looks like a typical AR except for this bullet mag release and a PMAG 30 rd mag :) . I am not familiar with this mag release. Do you have to put the tip of the round into the mag release button to release the 10 rd mag? It's like come on. Are they afraid of the honest citizen doing a tactical reload? Can you put a rail system on there, how about optics, and forward grips? Or does that make it into an "Evil" Assault weapon? California and Massachusetts laws gets me. I am from the midwest and glad these crazy laws don't exist. Thanks again for the write up and good choice on your purchase.

  4. We don't have flash suppressors in CA, we have "muzzle brakes". Calguns.net is a good forum for CA gun info. If you go to the "Centerfire Rifles" section and look at the first sticky, "How NOT to get Arrested for your OLL", there is a link in the first post to a CA legality flow chart.

  5. How much was it?

  6. As long as the magazine is "permanently installed" and "non-removable" and no more than 10 rounds, then flash hider, pistol grip, collapsible stock is OK by California law.

    The definition of "fixed, permanently installed, non-removable magazine" specifically allows for the magazine to be removed with a tool and the law states that tool can include a bullet.

    Crystal clear? I know its confusing but this author shows it is possible to legally own an AR in the Peoples Republic Calif.


  7. DPMS went out of business and was subsequently purchased by the employees. Since then quality has gone up a good bit.
    Before I wouldn't buy one now I surely would.

  8. TXCitizenSoldier | March 19, 2012 at 7:14 am | Reply

    I've owned a similar model of this DPMS AR for over 2 years now. The only differences looks like my upper has a flat top instead of the integrated carry handle and mine doesn't have to meet those ridiculous CA laws.

    I really like the platform despite a few reliability issues that I've had to deal with. The first problem I had was with the gas block- it wasn't drilled properly so after about 500 rounds spent casings would either fail to extract or eject less than 3 feet away. Had that fixed, and haven't seen those failures since. It wasn't anything I got too bent out of shape about, manufacturing defects happen and it doesn't seem to be a common problem other users have. Recently, I was having some extraction failures (not many, just enough to make it annoying) but upgraded the extractor spring to one manufactured by Bravo Company USA and haven't had a single malfunction since.

    Mike is right on the price point- it's a great, reasonably priced option. Upgrade with a $2 spring and you'll have a reliable weapon. (@Trevor- I paid $720 for mine)

  9. Thanks Mike. I have a couple buddys that bought a few DPMS rifles. Most were good, but one had issues with the gas rings. They shoot well, when the bolt works! Nothing that can't be fixed or upgraded. I used the DPMS lower parts kit in my rifle. Can't be beat for the money. Nice stick!

    How about a tutorial on your Paracord Sling? Nice!


  10. Which begs the question… why the **** would anyone want to live in California? :D

    I like the coverage of average guns as well. It's a good change of pace.

  11. Im sorry you have California through osmosis.

  12. Thank you for the warm welcome!

    Yes, California gun laws when it comes to AR and AK type rifles is a bit schizophrenic. (Please note I am not an expert on this. I just comply with the law. If you want to get really into the weeds with this stuff go to calguns.net. They know all this stuff.)


    1) If your rifle has a pistol grip it must require a tool to remove the mag, the mag cannot hold over 10 rounds and it must be at least 16".

    2) If my DPMS lower was stamped DPMS Panther it would be illegal. Because it has the word Panther on it, that's right. Krazy pills anyone?

    The para cord sling was made by a local fellow and sold at the shop where I bought the rifle. I wish I had the still to do that.


  13. Great review and contained, for me, critical minuses as well as the pluses. Well written article and the carbine is a good looking one despite our crazy CA restrictions. I'm curious, what was out of mil spec on the buffer, the weight and spring strength? @Mad-Duo re: dishwashers and refrigerators downrange. A good friend of mine, originally from Louisana, called it "******* Recycling." :)

  14. Good review. I only suggest you get a Magpul butstock for your rifle and move to Oregon Idaho or Washington to escape Dianne Commiestines Communist Republic of Kalifornia. Over Most BIG makers of ARs IE Colt, Bushmaster DPMS, and Olympic Arms makes fine rifles rifles to shoot and compete with in competitions.

    Next time get a standard 20inch rifle make a new review for it here.

  15. A couple of local departments went with Rock River AR15s as a fairly low cost but reliable rifle and I have to say so far I've been impressed. I've shot a couple different rifles out of different purchase orders and they're pretty good. Not sure how they compare to a DPMS, haven't shot one of those, but the trigger break on the RR is nice. As bad as Kalifornia is, though, I think New Jersey might be worse. A friend of a friend lives out there and went in January to request permission to buy a firearm at the local police department. They just last week sent out background questionnaires and scheduled him to come in and "interview" with a detective prior to getting his rifle. No lie.

  16. I recently bought a DPMS sweet 16 upper to mate up to a rock river lower I had… love it. Great accuracy and build quality for the price.

  17. Oh, and the comercial being slightly heavier might be the better at cracking heads. But ***** that I am, I would be hitting him with rubber recoil pad.

    Also remember "Just because it’s a Mil Spec diameter tube doesn’t mean it’s a Mil Spec part."

  18. I couldn't agree more. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Durand and want to extend a big "Thank you!" for his service, but I cannot see a DPMS or Rock River as anything other than a range toy for plinking.

    The difference in quality may not see like much on paper, but if I'm going to stake my life (or my family's) on a rifle then it's going to meet or exceed the TDP.

    Each brand has their place. DPMS range toy? Great! DPMS home defense gun? Not so much.

  19. Johnny Quest | March 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply

    Not quite sure what your post is implying by "they are the #2 manufacture behind Bushmaster of AR riflles".

    #2 in what, quantity? Can't be quality.

  20. Yes_ADoorGunner | March 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Reply

    For all of you poor bas*ards who have so freely (or not) given up your pursuit of happiness and who knows what other Constitutional rights, I feel for you. My condolences.

  21. Rifles are 16" barrel 26" OAL minimum under Fed law. http://www.justice.gov/usao/ut/psn/documents/gunc

  22. I would like to thank Mike for his service and also a good review. I too might see the DPMS as an intro AR but got to give them their props, at least they make a Cali version. Didn't see the Colt, Noveske, BCM, and LMT, ones that were. Heard Daniels has one in works. Another that list them is Windham Weaponry, they are the old Bushmaster employees in Maine. When Bushmaster sold to freedom group and moved to the Remington plant in Ilion, New York.
    I don't think a gun shop employ really had to push him towards the DPMS, as much as there isn't much else to choose from on that states compliant list. Plus if there is something else out there, how long a wait for it to be in stock.
    Feel for you there in California. Your about as bad off as we are here in Mass. To get a carbine legally, without buying a Pre-Ban which comes at quite a premium in this state, I took my Pre-Ban AR stripped out the lower and rebuilt with Post-Ban lower, cutting off the evil bayonet lug. Not sure when we last bayoneted someone in this state. Oh and I'm not suppose to use all those 30rd mags with it. Then I could build a carbine. Post-Bans are only allowed two evil features, with one being able to except a detachable magazine and the other a pistol grip. I guess you could search for a thumbhole stock to get another…? Pre-Ban can have all the nasty extras; flash hider, bayonet lug (why, way too far down to actually use on my 16" barrel), and the worst thing under the sun, a collapsible stock. Plus I can use all my mags again legally on it.
    Ps went with YHM for upper assembly.

  23. Chuck Haggard | March 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  24. Chuck Haggard | March 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Reply

    I have no idea what happened to the first posting.

    Good luck with your DPMS. I hate to say my experience, and that of many other trainers such as Pat Rogers, has not been good. The DPMS guns crap the bed so often I can not recommend them to anyone for any reason, even plinking.

    Broekn bolts is a common problem with DPMS guns, just one example of my experience with them.

  25. That's not true. I built myself a Mk18 mod1 replica like we had at work. I knew countless E-4s that spent bonus and deployment money on Nightforce scopes and expensive custom GAP/Surgeon rifles. CPTs make pretty good bank.

  26. oregon and washington…

  27. I have a Rock River A4 upper on a no-name lower here in California, and have shot maybe three thousand rounds through it without any failure of any kinda. I guess it is a "hobby gun" since I am not defending the local mall with it, but I trust the **** out of it. Maybe I would feel differently if I was carrying it in mud and dust and used high rates of fire though.

    And as a fairly reasonably priced option, their two stage trigger is worlds better than a stock single stage. Just my taste though.

  28. I stand corrected. 30" OAL minimum is, indeed, a state standard (in California and 2 other states where I had to maintain SA on state (and local–blech) gun laws). Thanks.

  29. Johnny Quest | March 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Reply

    Bushmaster, DPMS, and Olympic are Bushleague. You cannot even mention them in the same breath as a Colt. Spend the money up front and get a quality AR.

  30. Johnny Quest | March 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply

    They are available right now at several distributors. G&C tactical has them for sure. As previously state, BCM, Daniel Defense, and Noveske are other top shelf makers.

    Nevertheless, DPMS isn't any good whether it be three months or three days. Buy quality fellas, particularly when your life may depend on it.

  31. Johnny Quest | March 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Reply

    typo, it is G&R tactical

  32. From your G&R Tactical:
    Colt SP 6920CA M4 16" CA Legal (OUT OF STOCK)
    Sorry! Manufactures do not give ETA's.
    We have no availlabillity dates for out of stock items.

  33. Same for:
    Colt SP 6940CA M4 16" CA LEGAL (OUT OF STOCK)

  34. Johnny Quest | April 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply

    That is a good sign!! Means people are getting the message and buying quality rifles. Grant gets 'em in regularly, but he is not the only one that has them.

  35. The Colt is no better than the DPMS in my opinion and I have used both side to side. I have never had a FTF through thousands of rounds because I keep it clean. I have never replaced a part. They are the same rifle except for the pin sizes. Go buy you a high dollar Colt if you want. You still can get a very nice rifle for alot less money.

  36. Nice thoughts on the gun. I purchased a DPMS Sporticle with the intension of having a flat top that I could equip the way I wanted. I like the platform having used the old style M16 to me this was an upgrade even without full auto. I have a Magpul butt stock and Yankee Hill quad rail forearm, Magpul MOA flip up sites and a Vortex Sparc red dot. I wanted to see how long it took before it started malfunctioning so I did not clean the rifle after I used it 12 times and about 2000. Well to date no malfunctions and I did finally clean it because I get self cautious about having a dirty tube. I am now in the process of getting parts together to build a mil-spec rifle for fun. There is a local gun smith willing to teach me. It will be fun.

  37. Not quite sure on those that diss DPMS on quality, I own a 6.5 Creedmoor LR-15….rifle is amazingly accurate, placed a Springfield Tactical scope on it and dust 'yotes out to and beyond 500 yards all day. Rifle is well fitted, heavy as hell however, not your walk in the woods weapon. Recently purchased the A-15 DPMS in 223/5.56, 500 rounds in, damned good accuracy for a 16 inch barrel, zero malfunctions. But I guess having not purchased a Mercedes name product and spent thousands of dollars, I shouldn't being having these results.

  38. Hi there everyone, it’s my first go to see at this website,
    and piece of writing is really fruitful in favor of me, keep
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  39. I have had a DPMS I bought when I was in Oregon just 'cause I wanted something with a bit more range and accuracy than my .45 1911A1 clone on camping trips. Never had any problems with it. Left it in storage up there when I came down to Kalifornia to be caregiver for my Mom. Kinda anxious to get back up there and pop some more rounds through it.

  40. Just won an AR15 .223 at a Friends of NRA auction and dinner. I'm interested in carrying the AR in front, military style and having the Magpul ASAP sling adapter installed. So, what sling should I use?

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