In most rifle manufacturing there seems to be a standard operating procedure. Discuss a new rifle. Sketch out a new rifle. Do the actual design of the new rifle. Build the rifle. Sell the rifle. And then move on to the next rifle. Rare is the company that truly takes the time to dig into an existing gun to make it even better. One of those rare companies is Dark Storm Industries. One of its popular rifles, the DS-15, has served shooters very well just as it is. Yet Dark Storm wanted it to be more. With that, they have now officially launched an enhanced version called the Dark Storm DS-15 MFR (Modern Fighting Rifle).
Dark Storm DS-15 MFR
Dark Storm has gone to great lengths to improve on the DS-15. The goal was to improve the performance and reliability of the DS-15. Some of the most obvious changes are fully-ambidextrous controls for enhanced user-friendly operation. This includes the safety, charging handle, magazine release, and bolt catch/release mechanisms. Inside they looked to address potential operational failures.
In this category, Dark Storm Industries included vital key enhancements such as a pinned micro gas block, captive E-clip for the ejection port rod, and handguard with chain-link axial retention and dual stainless steel indexing dowel pins. The enhanced bolt carrier group features dual ejectors, the latest MIL-PRF-32711 heat treatment, and DLC coating, allowing the rifle to be run with minimal lubricant and providing an 80-percent reduction in friction and a 15X reduction in wear on this critical part. The BCG also features an enhanced extractor spring system designed to operate for 250,000 rounds and cryogenically treated gas rings.
The outside of the gun is as well protected as the inside. The MFR features improved exterior finishes including Cerakote Gen II HIR coating for reduced IR signature. This is applied over a mil-spec Type III hard coat. The inner bores of the upper and buffer tube are coated in a zero VOC solid film lubricant. With a continued focus on signature reduction, the MFR includes Dark Storm’s new “Where’s the Flash” (WTF) muzzle device. This four-prong flash hider offers a 20-percent reduction in visible light signature compared to a Mil-Spec A2 flash hider.
The MFR also includes notable upgrades to the upper receiver, buffer tube, handguard, barrel nut, and trigger, further enhancing durability, flexibility, and thermal management. Construction-wise, the MFR has forged lowers and uppers made with 7075 Aluminum. They use a very nice DSI 16-inch 5.56 SOCOM threaded 4150CMV MIL-B-11595 nitride finish barrel with a 1:9 twist. This is optimized for M193 and M855 ammunition. The handguard is an aluminum 15-inch model with M-LOK and four QD sling sockets. Furniture-wise the gun has a Magpul SL stock and a Magpul K pistol grip. In total, the gun is very good-looking.
I have had a good working relationship with the team at Dark Storm Industries for years, and they were kind enough to send me a MFR to test. My rifle for testing would be a 12.5-inch SBR version of the MFR. Having my own FFL and SOT has benefits at times and this was one of those times. The first impressions were good. The fit and finish on the gun were solid. There was no sloppy rattle in the gun, and everything was snug. The only thing I added was an Eotech HWS XPS3 for range work. After a quick zero, I went to work putting the gun through its paces.
On the Range
The range day was simply a blast. It was enjoyable to run drills with such a small weapon. After I shot groups to measure the rifle’s accuracy, I spent the rest of the day hammering steel from 25 to 200 yards. And let me just say that this weapon’s maneuverability cannot be understated. In drills that had me moving the gun from my strong side to my support side, my times were much shorter than those with a full-sized rifle. This is also where the ambidextrous design of the gun shined.
While left-handed people will hail this as an advancement towards southpaw equality, it is more than that. Serious shooters regularly train in transitioning from the strong side to the support side. If you need to shoot around a barricade on your left side, for example, being able to shoulder and easily run the gun there is critical. This is also a critical skill for those who train in transitioning because of wounds or limitations of the strong side. The controls are easy to access and manipulate. Accuracy-wise, the MFR shot well. It really liked the Black Hills 68-grain Match HP and gave me a 1-inch group. Performance and function-wise, the gun was flawless. I ran three flavors of ammo with no hiccups at all. They included Black Hills 68-grain Match HP, Hornady 5.56 NATO 75-grain TAP SBR, and Federal 55-grain XM193.
Finer Points & Features
The trigger on the MFR performed well and broke cleanly at around 5 pounds. While some would consider adding a drop-in trigger, I like this one just fine. After all, this is a fighting rifle and not a competition gun. The Magpul furniture was not only a good-looking addition to the gun, it performed well. While DSI is proud of the muzzle device, I found it distracting. Even with ear pro on I could hear a distinctive “ting” like a tuning fork with each shot. Does the performance of the muzzle device outweigh the sound? Yes, it does, yet it was worth mentioning. As with most guns, you can genuinely feel the quality or the lack thereof. It does not take a mystical skill or special powers. Some guns just really feel good when you run them, and the MFR was just that.
The DS-15 MFR is everything I expected it to be plus more. Dark Storm Industries has a great reputation for reliability, and the DS-15 MFR seems to be following suit. While I cannot personally make any claims about the gun’s ultimate reliability over time, I can report that the gun had zero malfunctions or issues of any kind during testing. Dark Storm Industries did a great job with the DS-15 MFR and has lived up to the reputation for building serious firearms designed for the real world. They took a very good rifle and made it better. If you are in the market for a new AR, you would be well served to seek out a Dark Storm DS-15 MFR.
For more info, visit dark-storm.com.
DS-15 MFR Performance
|Black Hills 68-grain HP
|Hornady 5.56 NATO 75-grain TAP SBR
|Federal 55-grain XM193
Dark Storm DS-15 MFR Specifications
- Caliber: 5.56
- Barrel Length: 12.5 inches
- Barrel Material: 4150CMV MIL-B-11595
- Rifling Twist: 1:9 inches
- Gas System Length: Carbine
- Muzzle Device: WTF muzzle device
- Overall Length: 33 inches Collapsed, 36.5 inches Fully Extended
- Weight (unloaded): 6 Pounds, 10 Ounces
- MSRP: $1,995 for colors, $2,495 full camo