Desert Tech MDR: The New Bullpup Benchmark?
In this article, Steve Coulston reviews the Desert Tech MDR bullpup-style rifle in .308 and 5.56 caliber.
As most of you know, every year, the weeks leading up to SHOT show act as an appetizer to get the juices flowing and the wallets burning. By the time SHOT rolls around everyone is full tilt trying to find out what will be the next big thing on their shopping list. As a SHOT Show attendee, I must say that the number of ground breaking products can be counted in the single digits. That’s not so say there wasn’t some amazing stuff there this year, but personally, only a few really peeked my interest. One of those items was the Desert Tech MDR (Micro Dynamic Rifle).
Ok, before we get into the specs, I need to preface this by stating it won’t be available this year. Desert Tech states the release date will be sometime in 2015. That being said, the models they had at their display booth were working prototypes, not some 3D print vapor wear. End disclaimer.
The MDR is a bullpup rifle, however it is not your run of the mill, traditional bullpup. For those unaware, a bullpup type rifle has the firing mechanism located behind the trigger, typically under the shooters cheek weld. This also means the ejection takes place in the same location. The benefit of a bullpup rifle is they are similar in size to a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) being very compact while maintaining the benefits of a longer barrel. This allows for higher ballistic velocities and keeps folks out of NFA land. I have owned a handful of bullpups in my day and enjoy shooting them very much. They are very well balanced and point very well. The downside of bullpups are few, but worth noting. Triggers in bullpups are notorious for being heavy and clunky thanks to all the linkage that is needed to translate trigger movement to the trigger mechanism at the rear of the rifle. Also, most bullpups can prove problematic for left-handed shooters as the rounds will eject into their face unless the rifle has the ability to change the ejection side or ejects out the front. The Desert Tech MDR keeps everything we love about the bullpup design, gets rid of what we don’t and comes up with a host of new features.
Who is Desert Tech you may ask? Desert Tech (formally Desert Tactical, rebranded in 2013) has been making precision sniper rifles of the bullpup variety since 2007. The first time I shot a DT bullpup rifle I was skeptical. Not because I don’t like bullpups, but because of the trigger issue I noted above. How could a precision rifle use a bullpup trigger? Well , those doubts were quickly erased after shooting one of their SRS-A1 rifles chambered for .308. It had a 3 lb fully adjustable trigger. Whoa, mama! It was butter smooth! The same rifle also sports a quick change barrel for multiple caliber conversions. Desert Tech took these same features (and then some) and crammed them into the even more compact MDR.
The MDR at first glance just looks cool. Yes, aesthetics are important and the MDR has them in spades. Material wise it will be made of hybrid materials. While not specified, it appears to be a combo of steel and light weight injected molded plastic or polymer. Colors appear to be FED, BLACK and maybe a Charcoal/Grey. The possibilities are endless. Personally I think the MDR would look handsome wearing Kryptek Highlander or Typhon.
The MDR will be a multi-caliber platform and will accommodate five different calibers and will maintain the Quick Caliber, tool-less conversion Desert Tech is known for. For the first release, the rifle will come in .308 or 5.56, followed by .300 blackout, 6.8 SPC and 7.62×39. According to Desert Tech, “The MDR is adaptable in both size and caliber. It can quickly convert between the five calibers and its patent pending sighting system retains barrel zero without the need to compensate for and impact shift” It will run off of a four-position short stroke piston. This will allow the user to adjust the gas settings presumably for high, medium, low and off. This should make shooting suppressed much more enjoyable as well as accommodate for different types of loads.
There were three models that I had the chance to manipulate and all were very well balanced and light weight. There were two .308 kits with a 16 inch barrel that was 26 inches (muzzle device excluded) in length and weighed 7.5 lbs. There was another in 5.56 with a 10.5 inch barrel that was 20.5 (muzzle device excluded) inches long and weighed in at 7.12 lbs, this SBR version was called the MDR-C. I noticed the same .308 magazine well was used for both the 5.56 and the .308 kits. Desert Tech confirmed there are magwell adapters that come with the caliber conversion kits to allow smaller magazines to fit within the larger .308 magwell. That means only one chassis will be needed for all the calibers. The 5.56 kit will take standard M16 magazines including PMAGs. The .308 kit will take SR25 and DPMS style magazines. No proprietary magazines need apply.
The controls are completely ambidextrous. It will feature a non-reciprocating charging handle which can be swapped to either side. It will also use a standard M4 style magazine release for easy, intuitive manipulation with your trigger finger. These controls are the same on both sides. The safety selector can be activated with either thumb and is similar to the above mentioned M4/AR15 type rifles. While the ejection port is on the right hand side, it has a cover with a funnel that will direct the spent casings forward. This is a great departure from the side eject. So regardless of which hand you are shooting with, the brass will not hit you or your buddy next to you. This funnel can be flipped down for full side eject, but the primary purpose for this is to give the shooter the ability to press check the weapon. The MDR trigger press was short and crisp for a bullpup, which I expected from Desert Tech.
The MDR comes with a full length 1913 Picatinny top rail with a variety of removable polymer hand guards which allow the attachment of user specified rails at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. The rifle also includes integrated back up sights. The front sight is a nice feat of engineering as it folds down and then slides under the rail for storage when not in use. Another feature of the MDR is that it has a piece of ergonomically formed steel for a cheek weld. This makes for a smooth cheek weld and also an additional layer of protection as the round will be going off under the shooters face. If for some reason there is a catastrophic malfunction, the extra protection will help save your good looks. Nice touch.
Over all I was very impressed. I only can comment on what I could see, but thus far I have seen enough to add one (or two) to my wish list. I would really be interested in seeing the how the rifle breaks down, the mechanics of it, how to swap the barrel and caliber etc. MSRP should be around $2150 for 5.56 and $2450 for the .308 with the other calibers falling somewhere in the middle. Of course I will have to wait to shoot it, but if Desert Tech stays true to its precision roots, I have no doubt it will be a tack driver. 2015 can’t come soon enough…
To find out more about the Desert Tech MDR, please visit Desert Tech.