Bargain Basement Blaster: DPMS Sportical

In the AR world, $700 can buy you a pretty nice upper, maybe a nice optic set-up or a rail system with some accessories. But never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that it could buy a complete rifle that I would bet my life on.

DPMS has just introduced the Sportical, a gun that the company claims bridges the gap between sporting and tactical rifles. The gun has a number of noteworthy features, but what really got my attention was the suggested retail price—just $699. Naturally this retail price was so low that it was with a healthy degree of skepticism that I purchased a Sportical. With its budget pricing, I was curious to see where DPMS cut corners to be able to offer this gun at a bargain basement price.

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The lower receiver, basically the foundation of the weapon, is machined from a forging of 7075-T6 aluminum. In fact, it is the same receiver that DPMS uses on all of their AR rifles. DPMS does not use cast receivers—no corners cut here. Likewise, the internals of the lower are machined from tool steel, not cast or made from Metal Injection Molded (MIM) process. My test gun’s trigger broke at about 6.25 pounds with a little bit of creep. A quick check of the magazine release, trigger guard and delta ring revealed that these parts are made from aluminum rather than plastic, which some companies are using to cut costs. No, if DPMS found a way to cut costs on the lower, I was unable to find it.

DPMS uses a collapsible buttstock of their own design. The Pardus adjustable buttstock provides six positions (counting all the way open and all the way closed) and has four integral slots for attaching a sling, in addition to the sling swivel, which can rotate right or left if desired. Its curved sawtooth buttplate provides a secure shoulder weld and its latch has finger grooves for quick and positive adjustment. It worked well in the field, offered positive adjustments and was comfortable to shoot with. One of the big advantages of these collapsible stocks is that they make it possible for a spouse or child to shoot the gun comfortably.

Detty mounted 2.5X10 scope on the Sportical to evaluate its accuracy potential.


The upper receiver is an extruded 6066-T6 aluminum part that is hard coat anodized and Teflon coated. I suppose we could point to this part and say that DPMS manages to save some money, as it does not include a forward assist or an ejection port door cover. How important are these two features on a home defense gun? Not very, in my estimation! In the 25 years that I have been shooting M16s and AR-15s, I have never had to use the forward assist to push the bolt carrier into battery. I never allow my guns to get that dirty and am very fastidious about cleaning the chamber as well as the bolt carrier. This feature was not included in Eugene Stoner’s original design and as I understand it, he was not particularly happy about the Army’s insistence on adding it. But I can see the value of the port cover in a combat environment. It is designed to keep grit, sand and other dirt out of the action. However, how important is this for a home gun? I find it very unlikely that anyone who uses the Sportical as a house gun will subject it to enough dirt to cause a malfunction.

There are no sights included with the Sportical. Its upper receiver is flattop in configuration, allowing the shooter the ability to use optics or detachable iron sights. The gas block, located just in front of the handguard, has a railed top for the addition of a detachable front sight.

Detty used folding iron sights as back up to EOTech holographic sight.


Outwardly the Sportical’s plastic handguard resembles the military’s M4, but doesn’t have any internal aluminum heat shields. DPMS’ Glacier Guards utilize 15 thermal fins to disperse heat. DPMS claims that the temperature-resistant polymer withstands temperatures greater than 500 degrees without sacrificing strength or rigidity.

Unloaded, the Sportical weighs just 6.3 pounds, and DPMS was able to trim its weight by using a lightweight barrel with slim “pencil barrel” dimensions. It does not get heavier at its receiver end. DPMS button rifles the chrome-moly barrel with a twist rate of 1:9. I had always considered the 1:9 twist to be a kind of compromise twist–stabilizing everything from 55 grain to 75 grain with acceptable accuracy. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting stellar accuracy with this lightweight gun anyway. After all, it’s a budget-priced gun and I expected budget-type accuracy. As long as I would be able to keep my groups around three inches at 100 yards, I would be happy. I just can’t see a reason why a house gun, meant to be used at short ranges anyway, would need better accuracy than that.

Sportical uses six-position collapsible stock that allows shooter to individualize length of pull.


I fired the Sportical for accuracy on a windy Tucson, Arizona spring day. Winds gusted over 20 MPH and, in the two hours that I fired for groups, I had to walk downrange and reset my target stand a handful of times. Dust devils, or microbursts, which look very much like miniature tornadoes, made their way across the range twice and coated my camera, chronograph and rifle with sand and grit. Of the three, the rifle was the only one that continued to work despite the coating of desert sand.

To wring every last bit of accuracy out of the Sportical, I mounted a Tasco 2.5X10 power scope. Shooting from a seated position with a cement bench and rifle rest for support, I fired five shots to a group without allowing time for the barrel to cool. I would not have predicted the level of accuracy that the Sportical, with its non-free floated, lightweight barrel, provided. The average aggregate group size for eight different loads tried was less than two inches.

Detachable folding front sight was installed on Sportical’s gas block.


Besides the phenomenal accuracy, what also surprised me was that the best group was fired with a 50-grain V-Max bullet. I almost didn’t bring that box of Black Hills Ammunition, because I thought they would be too light to print accurately. But the Sportical doesn’t just like lightweight bullets, as it fired the heavier Black Hills 69-grain Match King and Hornady 75-grain TAP bullets into groups not much bigger.

I’m a pretty lucky guy to have the job that I do, as I often get the opportunity to evaluate guns that cost two to three times more than the Sportical. What surprises me is that this entry-level gun possesses accuracy that some of the high-end guns cannot supply.

Once I had finished firing groups, I removed the Tasco scope and installed a Yankee Hill flip rear sight and a Midwest Industries folding front sight. I should mention that the DPMS Glacier Guard handguards prevent the front sight from folding flat on the gas block, but it does fold enough to not interfere with a receiver-mounted optical sight. Reversing the sight and folding it forward does, however, allow the sight to lie flat. After seeing the small groups this gun is capable of, I decided that I was going to keep it as a personal house gun. It only took a couple groups to get the iron sights zeroed at 50 yards. With that task accomplished, I mounted an EOTech 511 holographic sight on the receiver. I used the optic’s windage and elevation adjustments to center the aiming dot on top of the front sight post. After that, I folded the iron sights down to fine-tune the EOTech’s zero. It’s a nice set up! I can shoot with the iron sights deployed and the EOTech turned on or off. The sights co-witness and should allow me to be reasonably accurate in both low- and bright-light scenarios.

EOTech 511 was added to Sportical’s flattop receiver for quick target acquisition and transition.


Indeed, the Sportical’s flattop receiver and railed gas block allow for any number of sight/optics combinations. There are a number of economically priced, good quality scopes that feature variable low power and extended eye relief that would be perfect for the Sportical. The EOTech and folding sights made the most sense for me, but your needs, obviously, may differ.

Reliability with my gun is fantastic. My shot count is now over 600 rounds and I have yet to experience a failure. I fired a number of Wolf 62-grain rounds and they fed, fired, extracted and ejected fine. DPMS, however, does not recommend any steel-cased ammunition for use in its rifles. Make sure that you have thoroughly read your warranty before using any questionable ammunition. When I break in a new AR rifle, I like to coat the bolt with a thick lubricant and shoot the gun without cleaning it until it fails. Then I detail strip the weapon, clean it thoroughly and re-lubricate. My Sportical cleaned up nicely, and an inspection of the bolt and bolt carrier, as well as the rest of the rifle, revealed nothing unusual in terms of wear.

DPMS Pardus collapsing stock features four slots for sling attachment, in addition to the sling swivel.


The new DPMS Sportical is tough enough to use for home defense and three-gun competitions. It’s also accurate enough to pop a prairie dog or two. Priced at an unbelievable $699, the new DPMS Sportical also comes with two 30-round magazines, a GI cleaning kit, sling and hard case. Given the tremendous value this rifle represents and our current political situation, I’m thinking of buying a couple of these guns and putting them away for the rainy day that may await gun owners.

The Sportical is a budget-priced rifle that doesn’t sacrifice performance for economy!

SOURCES:

DPMS-Panther Arms
Dept. S.W.A.T.
3312 12th Street SE
Saint Cloud, MN 56304
(800) 578-DPMS
www.dpmsinc.com

L3 EOTech, Inc.
Dept. S.W.A.T.
1201 E. Elsworth Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
(734) 741-8868
www.L-3Com.com/Eotech

Midwest Industries, Inc.
Dept. S.W.A.T.
833 West College Ave
Waukesha, WI 53186
(262) 896-6780
www.midwestindustriesinc.com

Tasco
Dept. S.W.A.T.
9200 Cody
Overland Park, KS 66214
(800) 423-3537
www.tasco.com

Yankee Hill Machine Co., Inc.
Dept. S.W.A.T.
20 Ladd Avenue, Suite 1
Florence, MA 01062
(877) 892-6533
www.yankeehillmachine.com

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