Photo Credit: Steve Coulston
The Desert Tech MDR is finally a reality
For those of you holding your breath, well, the wait is almost over. Yes, folks, those of you with wallets burning holes in your well-worn jeans will have the opportunity to finally extinguish those flames because the Desert Tech MDR is finally a reality. It is not vaporware, nor is it just a prototype anymore. And I have proof!
My coverage of the Micro Dynamic Rifle (MDR) began during SHOT Show 2014 after I was exposed to the 3D printed version. The concept seemed promising. A short, compact, bullpup rifle, multiple calibers that could be changed out quickly, left or right side forward eject, modularity and the list goes on. Up to that point my only experience with the Utah based Desert Tech was with their famed bull pup series of bolt action, precision rifles.
In December of 2014 Desert Tech invited a group of Gun Industry Media Partners out to their testing facility, of which I was one. The goal was to get exposure to working prototypes and collaborate on how the rifle could be improved. During my time there, it was evident they had come a long way in the development of the MDR during the 2014 year. The .308 was up and running, however the 5.56 conversion was being stubborn. The forward eject feature on both caliber prototypes was not yet up to speed and was removed altogether from the test rifles in order for us to shoot them. Two steps forward, three steps back. The trip was very profitable and both the media who were there and Desert Tech went away with solid information and expectations for the MDR. This was evident at SHOT 2015 that Desert Tech was taking our input seriously, however the rifle was still far from production ready.
During 2015 Desert Tech worked hard to work through the issues that were plaguing the MDR platform. I had high hopes to see them at the Bullpup 2015 shoot, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I would need to wait until SHOT Show 2016 before I could get a solid update on the progress of the rifle. I had high hopes of shooting it at a private event, however the event ended up being canceled as the rifle wasn’t ready yet. During the SHOW I made it a point to get some time with the Desert Tech folks and interviewed, Cory, their head engineer for the project. Cory, explained the complexities of the bullpup and the challenges the design team faces while taking the project to the next level. Desert Tech had recently brought on a new engineering team, who redesigned the MDR for manufacturability and reliability. The versions we talked about and manipulated were working prototypes and it seemed Desert Tech was very close. We talked about all the features, like caliber conversion, forward eject, magazine release, etc. They were working there their NATO test procedures and Cory informed me they would need to pass a 50,000 round test prior to release. I was excited and so was everyone else. They even began taking orders. The 5.56 would sell for $ 1,995 and the .308 would come to market around $ 2,300. Release date was promised as second quarter of 2016. Everyone took a collective breath. 2016 was the year…
Or not. Desert Tech continued to refine the MDR project. The release date was pushed further and further back. Customers began to get frustrated and understandably so. I spoke to Nicholas Young, President of Desert Tech, about this and he shared his customer’s frustration, however he was adamant the rifle had to be 100% before releasing it to the public. He didn’t want to push the rifle into production only to have customer issues with it later. I whole heartedly agreed. I have personally, on multiple occasions, spent my hard earned money on brand new rifles and shotguns (some bullpups) that have not been thoroughly tested and designed only to have them break, or malfunction resulting in frustration, disappointment for me the consumer and bad press and reputation for the manufacture. This is what Mr. Young wanted to avoid. 2016 came and went without the MDR release.
When I started filling up my dance card for SHOT Show 2017 I kept an eye out for any MDR appearances. Low and behold, the long talked about and long awaited project would be debuted at a private indoor range event which I was invited to. Supposedly, this would be the production variant of the rifle that would be on display and available for use. There would be a bunch of other manufactures debuting and shooting their firearms as well.
Due to other scheduling conflicts, my team and I got to the event a little late and by that time there were hundreds of people at the event and the line to cycle through all the shooting bays was looooong. However, we worked our way to the Desert Tech bay and waited our turn to get our hands on the MDR. Now, for those folks who have never shot a rifle at an indoor range. Pro tip: Don’t. Unless it is suppressed, don’t do it, unless you want to walk away with a migraine and plan to schedule an appointment with your dentist to get your teeth to stop rattling.
The MDR available for use was set up in the .308 configuration and unfortunately it was unsuppressed due to the fact they had some issues with the suppressor they had brought to the event. Needless to say it was ear splitting, head rattling loud. For the shooter it wasn’t too bad, but for the bystander… bloody hell. After my ears stopped bleeding I made my way up to the firing line. Due to may past experience with the MDR, I was familiar with the controls, so getting the compact rifle into action was very natural. This would be a short shoot as I was working with two mags, ten rounds a piece. 20 rounds to get a feel for the rifle and a host of folks behind me hoping I would do it quickly and get my big ass out of their way.
My impressions will be brief. The 26.2 inch rifle was balanced nicely and pointed easily. A sound suppressor would obviously change that dynamic, however that could not be determined at the time. Trigger press felt good and that was to be expected with Desert Tech who has been crushing the "crappy bullpup trigger" stereotype for years now. I have no idea what the trigger pull was weighted at this time. Recoil was stout, but manageable in the .308 offering. I can imagine the 5.56 version being negligible.
As mentioned before the rifle is 100% ambidextrous and regardless of the side of ejection, the brass will be discharged forward of the shooter. At the time, I didn’t pay attention to which side the rifle was set up to eject. I found out later it was the left side. I noticed a handful of rings on my arm which gave me a clue. I was shooting in a tee shirt with exposed arms. The rifle was ejecting the hot .308 brass forward on the left hand side. As a right handed shooter, my support hand was forward on the handguard, exposing my pale, white arms to the spent brass. It didn’t hurt at all and I didn’t even notice it until I left the range. Personally I liked the souvenir rings, however they soon faded. The takeaway for me was regardless of the ejection side, both right and left handed shooters will have no issue with brass in their face. The rifle still featured the multiple methods of manipulation I originally experienced in 2014. The magazine can still be released in the traditional method with the trigger finger so the transition from an AR to the MDR would be natural. It can also be released with the non-firing hand at the rear magazine well. Same goes for the bolt release. Drop it via your thumb or charge the duel side, non-reciprocal charging handle. How the MDR performed accuracy wise, I have no idea. We were shooting at 25 yards or so and just sending rounds down range and the targets were full of holes from previous shooters. I left the event satisfied that the projection rifle was here and it worked (for 20 rounds at least). Of course I had to ask about the release date. Mr. Young told me spring of 2017, so we will have to hold out just a little bit longer.
I have plans to get an MDR for an extended period of time (like permanently) to get a more intimate experience with the long awaited rifle. Like many of you readers, I have been waiting for the MDR for a long time. I suppose I can wait a little longer… but not much. Until I have it in my hot little hands, I will need to be satisfied with my brief conjugal visit that left me longing for more.
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