Hands-On With the Desert Tech MDR in 5.56

MDR 556

Almost exactly a year ago, TTAG reviewed Desert Tech’s shiny new bullpup battle rifle, the MDR. One of its selling features is quick and easy caliber conversions, though no factory conversions have been available (and just one aftermarket 6.5 Creedmoor option). Until now. Well, until soon…

On a recent visit to Desert Tech’s Salt Lake City (ish) headquarters, we toured their manufacturing facilities, learned how to convert a .308 MDR over to 5.56 with their new caliber conversion kit, and then went and shot both.

In the Full30 video above, Patrick from Desert Tech walks us through the steps involved in the caliber conversion before we hit the range. A full factory tour video will follow in a week or so. Note: it is a direct violation of YouTube’s community guidelines to show “how-to” gunsmithing type stuff. To avoid yet another strike against my account and further deletion and demonetization of my videos, my MDR 5.56 YouTube video does nothing more than attempt to send viewers over to Full30, as has become my general practice regardless.

Taking his time and talking through each step in the process, Patrick was a little slower than usual. General consensus is that an MDR caliber conversion takes two minutes start to finish, and I think that’s realistic. Remove the barrel, swap the bolt head, install the magazine well adapter, pop off the old magazine catch and snap the new one in place, swap the ejection port panel, install the new barrel. All of this is achieved with a single hex wrench.

On the range, we had an MDR in each caliber so they could be shot back to back.

Though extremely low recoil is touted as a feature, I find that the .308 MDR kicks plenty. It isn’t uncomfortable at all, but it’s a lot of “whump” in a lightweight rifle, and it does what it can to move the shooter around. This is apparent in the video for both shooters — scrawny lil’ me and even buff man Mike.

Part of this is because the MDR looks and feels like a 5.56. It’s just so dang compact and fairly light. I have a hard time getting it through my head that it’s firing a three-times-heavier projectile at a velocity that’s good for 50 percent more muzzle energy.

Over to 5.56, and it’s a soft-shooting, flat-shooting, fast-shooting little beast. The rifle’s size and weight jive better with the feel of firing 5.56 / .223 through it.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoy shooting the MDR more in the smaller caliber. If I owned one, it would likely live with the 5.56 kit installed. That said, the ability to then quickly and easily swap it over to a full-size cartridge for hunting or other use is pretty dang amazing.

Word on the street is that Desert Tech is doing final tuning of the adjustable gas block to ensure the 5.56 kit runs flawlessly both suppressed and unsuppressed. Then, they’ll hit full production and become available for purchase. MSRP is expected to be $749.

Also coming soon: a nice foam rubber cheek rest for the MDR. Some shooters complain of the .308 being a bit rough on the cheekbone and, though I don’t recall that being a specific issue for me, I did find this soft and less slippery, less cold-feeling cheek rest to be extremely pleasant.

Meanwhile, MDRs in .308 continue to roll off the production floor, and Desert Tech is even ramping up a small custom shop to offer custom finishes and more:

Stay tuned for that factory tour video in a week or so.

comments

  1. avatar IAmNotTheHulk says:

    Can’t wait for more on these. I’ve been wanting a .308 and having a conversion kit sweetens the pot. I’ll be very interested in how these test out past the 3k round count.

  2. avatar Prudiikal says:

    My dad made a deal with me that he would be any gun up to ~$2k once i graduate college. I’ve had my eye on this gun ever since

    1. avatar what tha.... says:

      “Be”? Oh, buy. I got it.

      you may be in college longer than you think. 😉

  3. avatar what would spock say says:

    I hate to be that guy, but that little RMR type optic on that black rifle looks ridiculous. Can we just make a gentlemen’s agreement to keep those things on pistols?

    1. avatar B320 says:

      You’re not the only one. I thought the tiny optic and mount seemed quite… dainty.

    2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Ehhh, it puts a floating red dot out in space like it should. The reason they use one on the MDR is because there’s a rail on top of the gas block, so the optic is directly connected to the barrel. This assures 100% flawless return to zero after removing and re-installing the barrel and also lets you have different optics zeroed on different barrels for swapping calibers, etc. You could fit a larger optic on there but an MRDS works pretty well.

      Keep in mind, BTW, that these little optics were invented for use on carbines. It was a surprise to Trijicon when people started putting RMRs on pistols and they used to fail pretty regularly because they weren’t designed to cycle with a moving slide.

  4. avatar Vhyrus says:

    So I have to pay 2 grand for the 308 and then another 800 for the conversion kit. So I’m in basically 3 grand for… a tavor?

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      .308 Tavor is $2,099. This thing is $2,524. I don’t think there are any conversion kits for the .308 Tavor yet, but the ones for the 5.56 Tavor (300 BLK and 9mm) are $899. MDR conversion to 5.56 is $749. …we aren’t on entirely different planets here. Except I don’t believe there is any plan to allow the Tavor-7 to convert from .308 size cartridges to 5.56 size? …all this said, I’m I pretty darn big Tavor fan!

  5. avatar B320 says:

    Tell us more about the Hi-Point-esque cheek pad. Is this the best solution or just an expedient solution? Could this cheek slap be mitigated by using a higher optic mount?

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      I never had an issue with cheek slap on this gun. I really do like the foam feel and texture. It’s like the foam that’s on many AR skeleton stocks like the ACE (DoubleStar) one, which I love. Kind of that dense, stretchy, slightly rubberized foam. It’s good.

      Nothing like the weird sticky gel pad slug thing that Hi-Point uses 😉

  6. avatar Kurt says:

    I wouldn’t call the MDR “light” when comparing it to the SCAR or other standard off the shelf .308 rifles.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      You’re right. It’s 8.6 lbs. I guess pretty in-line with your average AR10 or standard SCAR-H. Maybe it’s just the rearward balance that makes it feel lighter than what the scale says.

  7. avatar Jeremy D says:

    The question that needs to be answered on all bullpups: how’s the trigger?

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Not bad at all. You should read the full review. Here’s some of the trigger-related stuff:

      “The MDR’s trigger does pull its trigger bar rather than push it, which gives it a cleaner, better feel than many bullpups. However, it definitely isn’t comparable to Desert Tech’s precision bolt-action rifles. It’s longer, heavier, and spongier. Break weight is about 7.5 lbs.

      Generally, I found the trigger satisfactory. It’s far from ideal for a target rifle but it’s good for a battle rifle. It feels something like a mil-spec AR trigger but without any of the grit. Or like a heavier GLOCK trigger with a bit more travel. I do like the shape and feel of the just-slightly-curved trigger shoe.”

      1. avatar Jeremy D says:

        Sorry, didn’t realize there was a full review. I certainly shall read it

  8. avatar Bearacuda says:

    Once the prices come down [a lot] I’d love to get one.

  9. avatar ‘liljoe says:

    Just a shout out to TNT gun range where you went shooting (recognized it from the pics) the staff are really nice and knowledgeable and their milkshakes are awesome! (They have an attached burger joint.) I don’t work for them but I use them probably once a month when I don’t want to go into the wild. If you are looking for an indoor range in the SLC area I would check them out. They also rent out a bunch of guns and a bunch of full auto guns.

    Also, if you plan to buy a suppressor they sell them, will hold them while you wait for the stamp, and let you shoot it at the range when you come visit while you wait those long months.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      REALLY nice indoor shooting range!!! One of the nicest I’ve been to. And 357 Burgers, the connected burger joint, though unfair that I could smell the burgers through the ventilation system for the range LOL, was super good. I actually got the crispy chicken burger and it gets a full five-star review for sure 🙂

  10. avatar MiniMe says:

    I love bullpups but got tired of waiting for the “mysterious & mystical” MDR to stop being vaporware, so purchased a X95 and a RDB last year instead.
    Might circle back and check the MDR eventually if the prices drop to a reasonable level. But for now, meh.

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