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The Charles Daly Defense D-M4LE (top) and the Stag model 6 Super Varminter (bottom) are two solid new entries to the brimming AR-15 market.
Here's a look at a pair of rifles from two manufacturers who are relative newcomers to the AR-15 market: Stag Arms and Charles Daly Defense (CDD). How do these stand up against the wide array of AR-15s on the market? Let's find out.

Anticipating the 2004 sunset of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, shooters put off buying AR-15s. This caused a stall in business for one of the largest manufacturers of AR-15 parts, leaving personnel and machines idle. Stag Arms President Mark Malkowski took the opportunity to spin off a subsidiary from the precision manufacturing firm which had been making aerospace and small arms parts for over 30 years. A left-handed shooter himself, he saw an opportunity in the market for a true left-handed AR-15, with left-handed controls and ejection.

The Stag Arms model 6 Super Varminter features a stainless 24-inch bull barrel and a good two-stage trigger; with a long-range scope and bipod, it's ready to go.
With a forging made and tools set up to build the left-handed parts, Malkowski had a couple prototypes assembled. The employees of Stag Arms "tested the hell out of" the left-handed rifles, and worked all the bugs out using the first two prototypes. A run of a thousand rifles was made, and sales were fantastic.

After this dramatic entry into the commercial AR-15 market, Stag Arms then turned its attention to more conventional rifle configurations, as well as some new ideas. Based in New Britain, Connecticut, Stag Arms offers a full line of AR-15 rifles in both left-handed and right-handed configurations, along with AR-15 parts. Eighty-percent of the parts in each Stag rifle are manufactured by Stag Arms in New Britain. They primarily serve the commercial market, however, they do have law-enforcement and international customers.

New for 2008 is Stag's model 6 Super Varminter, available in both right-handed and left-handed versions. It is based around a 24-inch

Although a sound suppressor adds a few inches to the overall length of the rifle, the end result is a perfect combination for slaying varmints.
bull barrel, a full 0.925 inches in diameter at the muzzle, which provides added velocity and recoil reduction. The fore-end is a free-floated aluminum hand-guard with a bipod stud at the six-o-clock position. With a standard lower finished with an A2 butt-stock and a flat-top upper, the rifle is ready for optics; the low-profile gas block is out of the way. The rifle comes set up with a two-stage trigger to aid shooter accuracy. The barrel has a one in eight twist to allow use of the heavy 75 to 77-gr bullets and has a 5.56 NATO chamber so surplus and mil-spec ammunition can be safely shot.

From the box, all the Stag needed was a scope, bipod, and a steady diet of varmint-slaying ammunition. I fitted a Leupold 3.5-10x40 mm

The Super Varminter's 24-inch stainless barrel has 1:8 twist, which allows the use of the heavy, higher-BC 75 and 77-grain bullets for long-range use.
Mark 4 LR/T M3 scope in a LaRue SPR mount. This Leupold provides 60 moa of elevation in a single turn and has an illuminated mil-dot reticle.

The Stag Super Varminter comes with a plain crowned muzzle; however, varmint shooters have found that a sound suppressor can help prevent prairie dogs from getting spooked. With this in mind, I threaded the muzzle so the Thunder Beast Arms Corporation (TBAC) model 223P silencer could be used. The standard 1/2-28 thread pattern also

The Leupold 3.5-10x40 mm Mark 4 M3 scope gave about 55 moa of elevation from a 100-yard zero on the Stag rifle, enough to hit anything in 5.56's effective range.
allowed the use of a muzzle brake.

I connected a Harris model "L" bipod to the bipod stud and then handed the rifle to a friend of mine who was heading off to decimate the prairie dog population for a local rancher. Thrust directly into its element, the Stag Super Varminter performed as expected. The 50-gr .223 ammunition from the Wal-Mart value packs shot with sufficient accuracy to pop prairie dogs at several hundred yards.

When I got the rifle back, I headed to the range to do some accuracy testing. With Black Hills 75-gr match ammunition, the Stag would shoot 0.75 moa groups; with 55-gr PMC FMJ, it shot about one moa.

The Stag Arms model 6 Super Varminter is a solid, well-performing rifle at a good price- a good choice for anyone who wants to shoot a semi-auto .223 rifle at long range.
Using computer-calculated ballistic tables, I had no trouble hitting steel plates beyond 500 yards at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico.

Varmint shooting usually involves the use of very lightweight, high-velocity rounds for explosive terminal effects on the small animals. While the Stag certainly could do this just fine, its 1:8 twist barrel is out of the ordinary for varmint AR-15 uppers. However, this enables the use of the heavy 75 and 77-gr loads, preferred for long-range use. The Stag Super Varminter is a viable choice if you want to stretch .223 to its long-range limits in the AR-15 platform.

Overall, the Stag Super Varminter is a solid rifle at a good price. The only criticism I have is that the bolt carrier had some excess friction against the receiver and hammer when new, but this did not cause malfunctions and went away after some break-in. I am delighted that it comes with a 1:8 twist barrel and not a typical slow varmint twist.

Charles Daly Defense has burst onto the scene with its line of high-quality AR-15 rifles; the sample rifle was built right and made of premium components.
Next up is the Charles Daly Defense D-M4LE carbine. Charles Daly is best known for its affordably-priced imported shotguns, cowboy rifles, and pistols, notably various 1911 clones. Its new division, Charles Daly Defense, now offers AR-15 pattern rifles manufactured from 100-percent U.S.-made and mil-spec parts intended for law enforcement, military, competition, and sporting use.

CDD's parent company, K.B.I., sent their new D-M4LE rifle for testing. The D-M4LE has a 16-inch chrome-lined 4150 chrome-moly match barrel with 1:7 twist and M-203 mounting groove, M4 feed-ramps, and a forged "F" front sight base with bayonet lug and sling swivel. The regular D-M4 version is the same except it has a chrome-lined 4140 steel barrel with 1:9 twist. The version I was sent was finished with Daniel Defense free-floating quad-rail hand-guards, a Magpul MIAD grip, a Magpul CTR stock, and a Troy rear flip-up sight.

Attention to detail was evident on the D-M4LE, inside and out: engraving was neat and clean on the receiver; upper to lower fit was proper; and the gas key was staked properly on the bolt carrier.
I wasn't sure quite what to expect from Charles Daly's AR-15 clone, since the company has until now been only an importer, one of budget-priced clones at that. My concerns were lessened when I got my hands on the rifle and could see and feel its build quality. First, the engraving and finish both looked great. Second, everything that was supposed to be tight was tight; however, the take-down pins could be removed with only hand pressure. The Magpul kit that completed the rifle was well thought out and improved my impression. Racking the bolt carrier group a few times, it was very smooth, even with no lube. This was a good sign.

Optics are a force multiplier for rifles and unless there is a specific reason to avoid them, they should be used. Furthermore, the flip-up Troy back-up iron sights (BUIS) which came fitted on this sample D-M4LE folds very flat and is a natural choice when an optic is used. The builders intended an optic to be mounted on this rifle.

Just one example of good setup and accessories is the Daniel Defense sling mount, placed just in front of the receiver for use with one of the modern adjustable two-point slings such as the Blue Force Gear VCAS sling.
Optics selection for a practical or fighting carbine are somewhat nuanced and depend on the specific types of target engagements and situations the shooter will be presented with. However, I break these down into three categories: Type I, Type II, and Type III. Type I sights are non-magnified red-dot optics. They are optimized for zero to 100 yards, and are most effective within the cartridge's point-blank distance, which is about 275 yards for 5.56. Type II sights are low-power magnified optics with reticle features providing aiming points for distant targets. They are optimized for 75 to about 400 yards. Type II optics are generally either fixed magnification in the three to four power range, or are variable power in the one to four range. Type III sighting systems have the capability to take the rifle to its ballistic limit and to engage very small target at extended ranges.

Some optics attempt to bridge these categories to provide effective multi-role capability. The Burris XTR-14 offers almost true unity (1x) magnification at the low power setting and four-power magnification at the high setting. Its reticle has an "inverted horse shoe" at the center, with stadia lines below it which demarcate the hold points for 5.56 NATO ammunition. The reticle is also illuminated for nighttime use.

Three-gun shooter Tim Pack ran the CDD D-M4LE through practical rifle drills while at the NRA Whittington Center and was not disappointed.
I mounted the Burris XTR-14 in a LaRue EER mount and headed to the range. The CDD D-M4LE ran like a champ from the start, with no malfunctions or problems. The rifle came dry and I didn't add any lube for several hundred rounds; it didn't seem to care either way.

The wring out the D-M4LE, I had one of my students use it during carbine training, using both the Troy rear BUIS and the Burris optic. The rifle ran like a champ; it was a good learning and training tool because it operated just like it was supposed to. In addition, an assistant and I shot some practical rifle drills using the D-M4LE, later adding the TBAC model 223P sound suppressor. On an AR-15 type rifle, a sound suppressor increases the back pressure, changing the pressure profile presented to the gas port, and aggressively fouls the action with carbon at an accelerated rate. The CDD rifle didn't flinch. Accuracy testing revealed that the D-M4LE would shoot five-shot groups with Black Hills remanufactured 75-gr (blue box) at

Although the M4-style carbines are not generally known for great accuracy, the chrome-lined barrel shot 0.75-moa groups with Black Hills 75-grain ammunition, which meant the CDD could hit distant targets with ease.
0.75 moa. This is very impressive for a chrome-lined M4 barrel. A skilled shooter with a D-M4LE should be able to hit any target he can see with a low-power scope, out to 5.56's effective ballistic range. All in all, I was very pleased with the D-M4LE.

Charles Daly Defense offers several other AR-15 configurations as well. Besides the standard 20-inch rifle, 24-inch varmint, and various 16-inch M4 styles, the also offer an 18-inch model designed specifically for 3-Gun competition. It comes standard with a carbon-fiber free-float hand-guard, Miculek compensator and rifle-length gas system with a JP Enterprises adjustable gas block.

Even with the TBAC 223P sound suppressor, the CDD M4-LE provides a light and compact package, and operated well in a variety of circumstances.
The 18-inch barrel is a compromise between light, quick handling and long-range ballistics. It is also long enough to use a regular rifle-length gas system, which many practical shooters believe produces a less-disruptive recoil impulse. As a 3-Gun shooter, it's exciting to see an affordable AR-15 available "from the box" in this configuration and with these features.

My only criticism of the Charles Daly Defense D-M4LE is unfair to level. As an M4 clone, it is locked into the carbine-length gas system and barrel with the M-203 mounting groove. By definition as an M4 clone, it has to have those features. However, in the last several years and due to original research by ArmaLite, a gas system slightly longer than the carbine gas system, termed the mid-length gas system (MLGS), has become the choice for 16-inch AR-15s. It is a better choice for the 16-inch rifle because it puts less stress on the bolt, it is more reliable, it allows the use of a longer hand-guard or float tube, and it increases the sight radius. Charles Daly Defense needs to add 16-inch models with the MLGS to their lineup.

In the end, I was satisfied with the Charles Daly Defense D-M4LE and the Stag Arms model 6 Super Varminter. The Stag is a solid performer at its price point, with no surprises, while the CDD D-M4LE stands out for quality, number of mil-spec features, and unexpected great accuracy from a chrome-lined M4. If their intended applications match your needs, I would recommend either.


Stag Arms

Charles Daly Defense

Burris Optics


Whidden Gunworks

Thunder Beast Arms Corporation

The Stag rifle delivered 0.75-moa accuracy at 100 yards, and the author had no problem hitting small steel targets beyond 500 yards using the computer-generated drop values.

The Stinger monopod from Whidden Gunworks replaces the A2 buttstock with a quick-adjust monopod, which is useful if shooting a low-recoil rifle from a set position.

The Burris XTR-14, shown here in a LaRue EER mount, is a good choice for close and medium-range engagements with an AR-15.