In the world of ARs, there are countless options at almost every single price point imaginable. I oftentimes get accused of ignoring cheaper options and only going after high-end stuff which made me start to think. Is it possible to get a high-end accurate rifle set up without paying the $2,000+ price tag? Well, I decided to cough up my own money to check out if this is possible and what it takes to buy an almost identical factory Daniel Defense SOCOM rifle setup. Let’s take a look at the Daniel Defense M4A1 SOCOM 14.5 upper receiver.
This whole idea started when I was browsing on Brownells’ website recently and saw a 14.5″ M4A1 SOCOM stripped upper receiver set for sale. At the time this article is written, Brownells has the DD 14.5 SOCOM upper for sale for $769.99. This upper does not include a charging handle, bolt carrier group, or muzzle device but this offers you the chance to have whatever device you prefer pinned and welded onto the barrel to make it the full 16″. Daniel Defense sent out the 14.5″ SOCOM upper with a 1/7 chrome lined cold hammer forged mil-spec chrome-moly-vanadium steel with a heavy profile to meet SOCOM standards. This upper receiver also comes with Daniel Defense’s low-profile pinned gas block as standard.
Where some of you may stir up some debate is with this model’s rail choice. Daniel Defense is known for its legendary RIS II rail system and this model comes equipped with one of those quad rail variants (M4A1 RAIL INTERFACE SYSTEM II, RIS II quad rail) installed as standard in FDE. It gives a unique contrast and comes with the bulletproof reliability this quad rail is known for throughout its time serving in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. This rail system was the later generation of rifles to come out of SOCOM and was known for its reliability. The regular price on these uppers is $944.99 but currently, Brownells has them for $769.99 which is why I decided to grab it for an honest shakedown review.
- Made from 7075-T6 aluminum
- Barrel length: 14.5 inches
- Twist rate: 1:7
- Does not include BCG, charging handle or flash hider
Why Build Instead Of Buy?
So you may be asking, Matt, why would I buy this stripped upper when I can get a full rifle for $2,200 from Daniel Defense? At just under $800, this upper leaves a fairly large chunk of money on the table to do as you please with it. I personally love the fact I can purchase this upper and have any muzzle device installed. I decided to go with HuxWrx Flow 556K suppressor since the rifle has a non-adjustable gas block. The pinning and welding of the muzzle device cost me $60 with the muzzle device itself being around $120 on sale. Like some of you, I have spare parts laying around so I used a spare bolt carrier group I had along with an old-school style charging handle.
For considerably less money, I had a fully functioning upper that costs a fraction of what the comparable factory new rifle model would have cost me. For the lower receiver, I decided to pick up a Wilson Combat forged lower receiver as well as some B5 furniture I saw on sale as well. Using a polished trigger I had laying around, I picked up a lower parts kit and completed the lower receiver for under $300 using quality parts.
Everything for the base rifle was just under $1,200 and everything I put into the rifle is made by reputable companies so I feel confident in their reliability. For the price of the standard factory rifle, I picked up an Aimpoint PRO as well as a Scalarworks Mount and Peak Iron Sights. Throw in a surefire M300 Mini Scout and you have a rifle costing just over the standard factory rifle from Daniel Defense. This doesn’t come with a warranty like a complete rifle would, but for the price, you can build a fully kitted-out rifle for the same price as the standard base rifle. It’s not everyone’s choice but if some of you are balling on a budget but want a quality-built rifle, this may be the route to go.
I’ve had this set up complete for roughly two months and in that time frame, I’ve taken it to a couple different training courses as well as a few range sessions. As of right now, I have roughly 2,100 rounds through the DD M4A1 SOCOM 14.5″ upper with no issues and it has really become one of my favorite rifles in my collection. The quad rail does add a bit of heft to the overall weight but it feels extremely sturdy.
If you do any type of shooting with night vision systems, the IR laser doesn’t move on this rail system at all. Paring the HuxWrx suppressor with the low profile pinned gas block makes it a minimalist setup without having to deal with the excess gas while suppressed. Some may complain about the added weight on the quad rail which is valid, but the level of value offered based on the final price of this rifle is hard to ignore. When it comes to reliability though, I have had absolutely zero malfunctions shooting different types of ammo from a number of manufacturers. This is a great example of having a rock-solid reliable rifle without having to pay the full factory price.
For accuracy testing, I took out Federal 77gr Open Tip Match ammo, PMC XTac 62gr and Stand1Armory 55gr ball ammo to see what each would do out of the 14.5″ barrel. Out of the 6 groups I shot with each ammo, the Federal 77gr ammo was the best performing in terms of group size with a 1.75″ group at 100 yards. The XTac ammo as well as the Stand1Armory ammo grouped 2-2.25″ at 100 yards. Having a chrome lined barrel, this is a respectable showing and there’s nothing to be upset about. I would say this is perfectly acceptable performance and for a “do-all” style firearm I’m really happy with the groupings. I may do a follow-up review with an update after I put more rounds to see if the accuracy changes over time.
Typically, I do like to go with the higher-end type of rifles that come completed from the factory. This upper is a great example of a high-quality upper receiver built like a tank for an exceptionally low price. Even at the regular $950 price tag, it would be worth it but at $200 less, it’s well worth the price tag. Some of you guys are shooting on a strict budget, and building a rifle out of an upper marked down like this will give you an opportunity to build a quality rifle that has some historical significance for a fraction of the price.
Let me know what you guys think of building with quality parts over buying complete guns from the factory. I would love to hear what you think so don’t be afraid to leave a comment in the comment section below. If you have questions about this upper or firearms in general, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there.
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