Is the Desert Tech MDR the ultimate survival rifle?

The guys at Desert Tech make serious rifles for serious operators. Their initial claim to fame was based on their bullpup version of high-end bolt-action sniper rifles, like the SRS-A1. It’s about a foot shorter than a conventional rifle of the same caliber and barrel length. Perfect for home defense? Not really. I admire this type of high-quality rifle from afar, but I don’t have any use for one.

Enter the DT MDR or “Micro Dynamic Rifle”. It’s a bullpup semi-auto AR with ambidextrous controls and a forward ejection system. Nice, but there are other bullpup ARs on the market. What makes this rifle stand out is two features: (1) lightweight and (2) caliber conversions in two form factors: 5.56 and 7.62×51.

Yes, you read that right: 7.62×51 (.308). The magwell is large enough for the .308, and it takes an insert to be able to accept the smaller 5.56 (.223) mags. Five caliber conversions are planned — the 5.56, 7.62×51, and .300 BLK can be ordered now, with 6.8 SPC, and 7.62×39 in the works. But there is no reason they cannot offer other calibers, in future years, in either form factor, such as 6.5 Grendel or 6.5mm Creedmoor or 7mm-08.

How much does this rifle weigh? With a 16″ barrel: the 7.62×51 version is 7.1 lbs, and the 5.56 and .300 BLK are each a little heavier at 7.3 lbs (Specifications). At 7.3 lbs, there are lighter 5.56 rifles, but there are also heavier ones, like the IWI Tavor at 7.9 lbs. But in 7.62×51, an unloaded weight of 7.1 lbs is about as light as they come. (Reportedly, JP Rifles “UltraLite .308″ weighs in at 7.0 lbs, but it is still a prototype.)

The combination of light weight, and the ability to convert between .308 and .223 form factors makes this rifle very useful for prepping and survival purposes. In .300 Blackout, it’s a great home defense gun. The short length of only 26″ (the minimum to avoid NFA rules for an SBR) makes it easy to maneuver indoors. Then swap in a .308 bolt/barrel/mag combination, and you can hunt a wide range of game animals, or defend your property out to hundreds of meters. And the company claims “its patent pending sighting system retains barrel zeros” when switching calibers.

If you prefer the .223 for home defense, especially for its cheap and effective rifle ammo, you can get the MDR in that caliber, and buy caliber conversions later, as needed. As for the 6.8 SPC and 7.62×39 calibers, I like the 6.8 SPC better in theory, but the 7.62×39 performs almost as well, with a much lower price and great availability for the ammo. You know what they say: “Guns are cheap; ammo is expensive.” You buy a particular gun once, and then you spend a much larger amount of money, over the years, on ammo for that gun.

On that point, this particular gun is not exactly cheap. The complete rifle in 5.56×45 is currently priced at $1,999.00 (black or flat dark earth colors), while the 7.62×51 complete rifle is $2,249.00. Caliber conversion kits currently range from $749.00 to $999.00. This is not a budget or even mid-range firearm. It’s about three grand for a rifle that has both calibers, 5.56 and 7.62×51. And that factor alone is what put the question mark in the title of this article. Is it the ultimate survival rifle? It would be if it was priced substantially lower.

On the other hand, it is a fine firearm. You get what you pay for. It’s getting rave reviews from gun writers who have gotten some range time with it, for example: Military Arms Channel. Desert Tech has been talking up this gun for a while. So you can find some older reviews online by persons who fired preproduction prototypes. Even those reviews were quite good.

The forward ejection system of the gun has its pros and cons. It solves the problem of brass ejection if you have to suddenly switch from right to left in a gunfight. However, it makes it harder to check the chamber to see if it is clear, or to deal with a jam. The forward ejection system can be flipped down, so as to view or access the chamber. Or it can be left down so that the brass ejects to the side.

Bullpup rifles have their fans and critics. There is no getting around the fact that changing mags is easier on a conventional AR. And the mag can get in the way of handling the gun in close quarters. I don’t see how they will be able to put a 30-round 7.62×39 mag, with its exaggerated curvature, in that tight space between the butt and grip of the gun.

Reportedly, the trigger on the MDR is well-designed, and feels much like a conventional AR trigger. And if true, that resolves one of the biggest drawbacks of the bullpup design.

Overall, the Desert Tech MDR seems destined for greatness. It offers light weight, a wide range of calibers, and an overall well-designed rifle, though at a premium price. If it’s not the ultimate survival rifle, it certainly is one of the top competitors for that title.

– Thoreau

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