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Daniel Defense DD4 RIII Rifle Review: Worth the Upgrade?

The new RIS III rail from Daniel Defense has been rolled into a new line of rifles called DD4 RIII. But is this rifle series worth your money? We find out.

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.

The very definition of danger in small packages.

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

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Pros & Cons

Pros

  • More versatile
  • Ambidextrous lower
  • Lighter

Cons

  • Pricey
  • 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.

M-LOK and QD.

Specs & Features

Specs

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.

Features

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.

Check out those ambidextrous controls!

Source: Daniel Defense

2324
at Daniel Defense

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Background

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.

Daniel Defense MK18
Daniel Defense MK18

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.

In addition, the ambidextrous nature of the new lowers gives the series of guns wider utility for left-handed shooters and right-handed shooters tackling off-hand problems.

By the Numbers

Reliability: 5/5

This was an extremely limited test, but the DD4 RIIIS ran perfectly through roughly 200 rounds.

Ergonomics: 5/5

The ambidextrous nature of the controls perfectly compliments the already great furniture included by Daniel Defense.

Accuracy: 5/5

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.

Customization: 5/5

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.

Value: 4/5

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.

Overall: 4.5/5

2324
at Daniel Defense

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

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.

689
at EuroOptic

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

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.

800
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

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.

Final Verdict

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.

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7 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Huygir

    Going to buy several. After my wife wins the lottery. dang.

    November 14, 2022 10:32 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Wysawfiler

    That style hand guard has been around for awhile. Nothing new here.

    November 14, 2022 5:09 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    slowness

    Is the rail much different/better than aero precision’s atlas R1 (or s1 if you need less top rail)?

    November 13, 2022 5:16 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      I suspect it's not much different as far as picrail and MLOK goes, but the connection to the upper is going to be more beefy.

      November 17, 2022 6:07 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Cal

    Curious how the trigger performed and if you would plan to upgrade it.

    November 10, 2022 7:47 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Dave Mullins

      A very good trigger. I can’t imagine replacing it.

      November 14, 2022 3:17 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Cal, I only had a couple hours with the gun but here's what I recall: the trigger is fine. It's a milspec single stage around seven pounds. Long term, I'd probably replace it with a two-stage, but that's just my preference based on training and reset prep during recoil.

      November 17, 2022 6:06 am
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