I always find it kind of comical that when discussing Daniel Defense’s ARs, I almost always hear, “Yeah, they’re good guns, but overpriced.” No one really looks at an Audi or a BMW and says, “Yeah, they’re good rides but overpriced.” What I am trying to impart to you, dear reader, is that quality adds value. Such is the case with the Daniel Defense M4A1 RIII, as seen at the 2022 Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous.
The Daniel Defense M4A1 RIII
Guns, by design, take bullets from point A to point B—nothing more, nothing less. But how it does that and how it affects the shooter behind the gun reflects the value.
Daniel Defense has been in business now for more than 20 years. And they know a thing or two about building one of the best ARs out there. I recently learned that Marty Daniel (Daniel Defense owner) literally bet his father’s farm on his RIS II handguard design. The handguard beat out every major defense-industry manufacturer for the SOCOM contract at that time.
That contract helped shape the company that Daniel Defense is today. So, what does this all have to do with the M4A1 RIII? Actually, a lot…
A guy that bets his father’s farm typically won’t sit on his laurels. New for this year is a line-up of RIII ARs that feature the new RIS III handguard. The RIS III handguard has the same six-bolt attachment system as found on the RIS II handguard and a full-length Picatinny rail on top. But it also has seven sides of M-Lok slots that help in keeping the handguard light.
All of the RIII will also feature fully ambidextrous controls, polymer dust cover, DD’s grip and stock, and a catchy two-tone finish (the handguard is a Mil-Spec + finish while the rest of the gun is black).
The RIII family currently consists of four models, and the major differences are barrel and rail length. The DD4 RIII has a 16-inch barrel and 12.5-inch RIS III rail. Next, the M4A1 RIII has a 14.5-inch barrel with a pinned DD Flash suppressor and a 12.5-inch rail. Additionally, the DD4 RIII S has an 11.5-inch barrel and 10.5-inch rail. Finally, the MK18 RIII has a 10.3-inch barrel and a 9.5-inch rail.
The M4A1 caught my eye, and I felt it would make an excellent home-defense carbine based on the battle-tested M4A1 design.
The M4A1 RIII arrived in a hard polymer case, and Daniel Defense included their sights and 32-round magazine as extras. The carbine looks awesome; the photos don’t really do it justice.
There is no play between the upper and lower, and everything else was fit nice and tight. The ambidextrous GRIP-N-RIP charging handle was also designed with anti-gas features to help keep gas out of your face if shooting suppressed.
Overall, I was looking forward to running the carbine with an excitement similar to getting a chance to drive an Audi R8.
The Sights on the M4A1 RIII
Since this is a home-defense carbine, I decided to go with EOTech’s outstanding HWS XPS Green holosight. There is a reason why EOTech’s holosights won a SOCOM contract not too long ago. These HWS are quick and easy to use and are built tank-tough.
The XPS Green is powered by one CR123 battery that can provide 600 continuous hours of use at a nominal setting. Their signature reticle is super easy to use. The 68-MOA ring with 1-MOA dot provides three usable aiming points at 7, 50, and 200 yards. The XPS Green is extremely fast to get on target and put the hits where they count.
Anything with a battery can fail, so it makes sense to have a backup. Enter XS Sights AR-15 Tritium Flip-Up BUIS. These BUIS are made from aluminum, have stainless clamps, and are hard-coat anodized.
The front sight features XS Tritium Stripe, while the rear features XS CSAT. The Tritium is a nice touch in low to no light, and let’s face it, that’s usually when things go sideways. I will say this, I regret not ordering their XTI2 45-degree offset sights. I feel those would go better with the M4A1 RIII set-up.
Lighting It Up
Hands down, SureFire makes some of the best weapon lights out there, and their Scout Light Pro is certainly no exception. What really stood out, besides the awesome powerful light, is the Low-Profile Mount (LPM) that allows you to move the light closer to the handguard to optimize the light’s position.
It attaches to the handguard either via Mil-STD-1913 or M-Lok rail. This mount will spoil you. As for the light, it has 1,000 lumens produced by two CR123A batteries with a runtime of 1.25 hours.
Weight with batteries is only 4.8 ounces. Having a weapon light on a home-defense firearm is a must for me (make sure of your target and what’s behind it). SureFire delivers a durable, top-grade product every time.
Hands-On with the M4A1 RIII Carbine
With the M4A1 RIII cleared and empty, I started doing some home-clearing drills. The 6.4-pound carbine was easy to wield around the house and never felt heavy. The 14.5-inch barrel helped in getting around corners and tight spots. Speaking of tight spots, the ambidextrous controls are a blessing when either of your arms is pinned.
After cleaning and oiling up the M4A1 RIII, it was time to hit the range. Transitions from target to target were quick and easy, thanks to the EOTech HWS XPS and how great the carbine felt in my hands.
In total, I put the carbine through more than 800 rounds without cleaning, and there were no hiccups whatsoever. I ran Winchester M655 62-grain FMJ, Speer LE Gold Dot 62-grain, Gorilla 69-grain MatchKing OTM, and Federal 73-grain BT Target Open Tip Match.
I didn’t bother with formal accuracy measurements because this rifle would primarily be used as a home-defense carbine. Consequently, follow-up shots and reliability were my main concerns.
It’s still chugging along 800 rounds in without cleaning and shows no signs of slowing down. My transitions between targets were super quick, and double-taps were quicker still.
You get what you pay for, the M4A1 RIII has an MSRP of $2,278. You get more control, more flexibility with less weight, and it is a true joy to shoot. This carbine makes me a better shot because the experience at the range with it is wonderful.
Just as with a high-performance car, you can feel the difference, and you can’t help but notice that grin you have on your face. Do yourself a favor and check out one of the new RIIIs.
For more information, please visit DanielDefense.com.
Daniel Defense M4A1 RIII Specs
Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
Barrel: 14.5 inches
Overall Length: 31.5 to 34.75 inches
Weight: 6.4 pounds (empty)
Finish: Black with Mil Spec + RIS III
This article was originally published in the Personal Defense World October/November 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.