Daniel Defense recently introduced the RIS III rail with some solid upgrades from the previous version making it lighter and more versatile.
The new handguard will eventually be available separately for those who want to upgrade, but it was also rolled into a new lineup of rifles called RIII.
Along with the improved rail, the Georgian gun maker added some enhancements to their lowers in the RIII line.
We all know these advancements benefit the consumer, but does the RIII live up to the hype?
We got our hands on a DD4 RIIIS for a day to try it out and see if it’s up to snuff. We’ll check out its specs, talk about the features, and head to the range to put it through its paces.
By the end of this review, you’ll have a good idea if the RIII is right for you.
Table of Contents
Pros & Cons
- More versatile
- Ambidextrous lower
- Not sold separately (until 2023)
The Bottom Line
The new RIS III rail is the backbone of the RIII lineup, and it’s absolutely up to par with the Daniel Defense name. Although we only got a brief look at the DD4 RIII, the rigidity, accuracy, lightweight, and increased versatility speak well of the new series. We can’t wait to spend some more time with these rifles.
Specs & Features
There are four total firearms in the new RIII lineup, all of which feature the new RIS III rail. Two are short-barreled rifles (SBR), and two are longer rifles.
The SBRs are the DD4 RIIIS (11.5-inch barrel) and Mk18 (10.3-inch barrel), while the rifles are the M4A1 (14.5-inch barrel pinned and welded) and a longer M4A1 16-inch version.
The biggest differences between the RIS II and RIS III hand guards are the absence of the quad-Picatinny rail. Gone is the cheese grater in favor of M-LOK, making the forend lighter.
In addition, Daniel Defense realized shooters were moving toward the use of QD sling points, so they included a couple of these, front and rear, on either side. The rails work with the six-bolt system from the RIS II that has proven to be so durable while maintaining the free-floated barrel.
Source: Daniel Defense
The RIS II was designed for SOCOM to handle their requirements for a free-floated barrel with an incredibly strong lockup. It also incorporated the ability to mount the M203 for formal occasions.
DD’s RIS III keeps all those abilities but trades out the quad-Picatinny rail for M-LOK — adding quick detach points for slings.
Who Is It For?
Anyone who enjoys Daniel Defense rifles will appreciate this upgrade to the platform. The quad rail served its time but is more than dated at this point.
The quality of these rifles is definitely on the higher end, and the cost reflects this. People willing to pay for the upper crust will appreciate the more modern features of the RIII for the various rifles.
Fit & Feel
Daniel Defense rifles feel great. I really enjoy the furniture, as most of the contact points on the guns have a rubbery surface that helps create nice, tacky friction.
The difference with the RIII guns is the ambidextrous controls, including the mag release, charging handle, and bolt catch/release.
How Does It Shoot?
Like butter! We only had a 50-yard setup for this quick engagement but made the best out of it by mounting a Brownells MPO (LPVO) optic.
We shot three varieties of 55-grain ammo while using a Caldwell Lead Sled and realized one-inch or less groups at that distance.
The 1:7 twist rate of the cold hammer forged barrel lends itself to better accuracy with heavier-weight bullets, so with any luck, we’ll get more time on the gun at a later date.
We ran a couple of hundred rounds through the rifle.
It fed, fired, and ejected flawlessly. The slightly different controls on the lower were still intuitive enough not to need a lot of time to implement.
What Sets it Apart?
Daniel Defense builds quality, and their guns rank highly in our favorite picks for rifles. The RIII line offers some more versatility by updating the rail with M-LOK and QD wells.
By the Numbers
This was an extremely limited test, but the DD4 RIIIS ran perfectly through roughly 200 rounds.
The ambidextrous nature of the controls perfectly compliments the already great furniture included by Daniel Defense.
With a limited preview of 50 yards, we were able to achieve some groups around a half inch. I suspect with further testing and proper ammo, the gun would shoot MOA, if not less.
The addition of the RIS III updates the versatility of Daniel Defense’s rifles, allowing users to add anything they want with modern connectivity through M-LOK and QD.
As Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” I’m willing to bet you won’t be disappointed. Daniel Defense rifles are expensive, but they perform like it. The MSRP is $2,324 though I’ve seen them selling for slightly less depending on the retailer.
Upgrades for RIII
For this particular review, we used a couple of optics. First, the Steiner DRS1X is a compact red dot sight that is fully enclosed in a rugged housing, making it perfect for CQB scenarios.
We later switched to a Brownells MPO to shoot 50-yard groups.
The LPVO has clear Japanese glass and great magnification, which allowed us to easily see our hits at this short distance.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
At its base, the DD4 RIII series, like most M4 pattern rifles, are tantamount to adult Legos and allow shooters to configure them however they please.
The RIS III is a much-appreciated improvement for Daniel Defense and shows their willingness to track trends and preferences for the end users, even ones not attached to a military contract.
Being lighter, more versatile, and having controls that open up better possibilities for a wider range of shooters are all valued improvements.
Our range session with the DD4 RIIIS gave us a glimpse at a high-performing SBR that speaks well of the rest of this lineup.
Will you be picking up a RIII? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to check out our top picks in 11 Best AR-15s: Ultimate Guide.