AR-15 Review: Del-Ton DTI Evolution
From Gun Digest News, By Gun Digest Editor-in-Chief Doug Howlett -When I first got into shooting ARs, one of the common complaints I heard from a lot of shooting friends who were sticking to their traditional guns (pardon the pun), was that as fun as they might be to shoot, they all looked the same and were aesthetically clunky. To them, they looked at the rich lacquered wood and smooth lines of a classic bolt-action and likened the difference between a traditional rifle and a modern one to that of comparing a mini-van to a luxury sedan. They both got you where you wanted to go and while the former certainly offered a lot of versatility, the latter was just plain more familiar and attractive.
Recently I was invited to try out a new AR-style rifle from Del-Ton, an Elizabethtown, N.C., manufacturer of as they put it, "all things AR." They started out as a shop built to deliver custom rifle kits, rifle parts, upgrades, optics and accessories and evolved into a serious rifle maker that produces both off-the-shelf, ready-to-shoot rifles and builds rifles to the direct specifications of individual customers.
I won't lie. Even when my first love for ARs began to flourish, a part of me agreed with my traditional gun friends that certainly, put one AR next to another and aside from a rail or a flash hider, they for the most part did look the same. Perhaps that's what drew me closer to Del-Ton's display this year at the NRA Show in Houston, where I first spied their DTI Evolution. Let's just say it was as close to love at first sight with any AR I'd ever been.
Rich in Features
The gun's mid-length low-profile design was sleek, a look only enhanced by the comfortable Samson Evolution Free-Float Handguard. And it was light - an almost feathery 6.5 pounds - much more comfortable to hoist and aim than some of the bulkier versions of ARs I have shot over the years.
When the test DTI arrived I was won over even more by the gun's aesthetics. Unlike the all-black version I had checked out in Houston, this one sported a black upper and lower-receiver, as well as black barrel, but the barrel was shrouded in an earth tone Samson handrail with a matching earth-tone grip and six-position buttstock. The Samson Quick Flip Dual Aperture rear sight and folding front sight (also by Samson) were also earth-tone, providing a nice visual contrast with the A3 flat top receiver with white T-marks along the rail in the rear.
Del-Ton designed this rifle with 3-Gun and other shooting competitors in mind and for that audience or anyone looking for a solid-performing, good-looking AR, it's full of features. This is a true 5.56 chambered firearm with a 16-inch CMV chrome-lined barrel with a 1:9 twist. It's a mid-length gas system for fast functioning with a low-profile gas block. M4 feed ramps aid the feeding of the cartridge into the chamber, and the barrel is fitted with an A2 flash hider.
Both upper and lower receivers are mil-spec forged 7075 T6 aluminum that is hard-coat anodized. The construction aids in reducing the gun's weight, while maintaining an excellent level of durability for high-volume shooting and abusive range and obstacle use.
On the Range
On the range, the Evolution, or Evo as some call it, was a joy to carry and shoot given its nimble weight and profile. The Samson Evolution 12.37-inch free-float rail didn't chew the shooter's hands up like some full quad-rail models will, and aided barrel cooling while running round after round through the rifle. In addition, the Magpul six-position buttstock and MOE+ grip are soft to the touch and textured for enhanced grip and cheek-weld.
For testing, I opted to go native and stick to the gun's pure out-of-the-box performance, meaning using no optics and only the Samson flip-up sights. The rear is dual aperture; the front a single pin. The sights required only modest elevation adjustment out of the box. The windage was perfect.
Shooting the flip-up sights, I won't lie; my eyesight at my age is in need of some optical help. Still, peering through a ring at a target 100 yards off, I was able to reliably shoot boiler-room shots that grouped from 3- to 5-inches. Bringing the target into 50 yards, however, and using a steady rest, I tightened some groups into under an inch. No doubt with a dialed in optic, this gun is nasty accurate. When advancing on frequent-fire staggered close-range targets, the rifle managed recoil effortlessly. Spitting out more than 200 rounds in a couple of hours, I never experienced a jam. On a follow-up shoot session, uncleaned from the first one, the gun delivered the same flawless performance.
The DTI Evolution retails around $1,300 - pricier than some over-the-counter models, but much cheaper than similar competition-grade guns. Whether you plan to compete at 3-Gun or simply want a really nice AR for punching targets and scorching predators, the EVO is well worth your consideration.
P.S. - For more great reviews and stories about tactical rifles, accessories and getting the most out of your AR-style rifle, don't miss a single issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. In addition to in-depth articles on all types of firearms, shooting gear, and improving your shooting skills, every issue features stories on the latest tactical firearms. If you're not already a subscriber, check out the offer below and take a moment to become one today. - Doug