The AR-15 market has never given buyers more choices than it does now. The number of companies making them is virtually countless. Price points are equally plentiful, which means that anyone and everyone can afford to own one.
With so many options out there, how does one get started without spending a fortune? There are plenty of “budget” options on the market for first-time buyers, but budget doesn’t have to mean poor quality. It sometimes does, but this is not one of those times.
I was feeling patriotic on Independence Day 2016, so I stopped by my local gun shop, wanting to know what they had in terms of a budget-friendly AR. I was pointed towards a literal stack of boxes containing complete ARs selling for just $425.
At that price, I’d have been a fool not to pick one up – especially with the then-near-certain victory by Hillary just a few months away.
The rifle in those boxes was a Del-Ton DT Sport Lite. It has a 16-inch lightweight, Melonite barrel with 1:9 twist, a six-position M4 stock, CAR handguards with single heat shields, an enhanced trigger guard, and an A2 front sight post and flash hider.
What you didn’t see in that list was a rear sight, forward assist, or a dust cover. The rear sight was an easy fix. I picked up a Ruger Rapid Deploy rear sight off the rack and bingo-bango, good to go. Is a dust cover necessary? No. It’d be nice, but it isn’t essential. As for a forward assist: the bolt has a scallop in it for your thumb to do the work, should the need ever arise.
The DT Sport Lite is well-made and shows no visual signs of it being a “cheap” rifle. The fit and finish was as good as you’d expect for a basic AR-15 rifle. The upper and lower receivers mate well and there was no wobble between the two. Additionally, there were no visible finish blemishes, tool marks, etc.
Before I get into the review, you’ll notice from the photos that the gun is no longer stock as described above. After all, easy modification is one of the appeals of the AR platform. I replaced the hand guard and buttstock with Magpul furniture, the standard pistol grip with a rubber grooved one from Rock River Arms, and stuck a subdued flag over the Del-Ton logo on the right side of the receiver.
I visually inspected the gun inside and out to ensure that there were no issues or obstructions, but I did not clean or oil it before getting in some trigger time. I ran it just as it came out of the box: bone dry.
Using the A2 front sight and the aftermarket Ruger rear sight, I had no issues getting the gun sighted in. A little tweaking with the rear sight windage and a couple turns of the front sight post and my shots were grouping nicely. The standard mil-spec trigger is nothing to write home about and won’t win any matches, but it’s more than serviceable on a rifle in this price range.
When using PMC Bronze 55-grain FMJ rounds, I was able to print groups that were all within my 3-inch red circle at 100 yards. That may not seem like much to you, but it’s pretty good for me when shot with open sights at 100 yards while standing. I’m no professional marksman, I’ve had no formal training, and this isn’t a competition gun, so your mileage may differ.
My use of this gun would be for self-defense, so I wasn’t looking for groups under an inch. These results prove that all of the rounds can hit center mass at a distance.
Some rifles can be picky about ammo and magazine reliability. The Sport Lite came with one 30-round metal magazine. I used said magazine as well as some Magpul PMAGs I had lying around for this review.
I fired 250 rounds of various ammo through the gun with no problems. Some were brass, some were steel. The bullet weights varied, but it didn’t matter to the Sport Lite. Same for the mags. Some rifles don’t like certain brands, or they have problems if you load a full 30 rounds. Not so with this gun.
For the price and for what it is, this rifle is hard to beat. Del-Ton recently upgraded this model to the “DT Sport – Mod 2” and added a couple of features to the gun. That version ships with a rear sight, forward assist, and a dust cover. Still, it can’t be beat.
Specifications: Del-Ton DT Sport Lite AR-15
Caliber: 5.56 Nato
Barrel: 4140 Steel, 16″ Length, 1:9 Twist, Threaded Muzzle, A2 Flash Hider
Bolt & Carrier: Phosphated 8620 Steel Carrier Assembly
Handguard: Carbine Length Aluminum Delta Ring
Upper Receiver: Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum Hard Coat Anodized
Lower Receiver: Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum Hard Coat Anodized
Buttstock: M4 6-Position, Commercial Buffer Tube, Carbine Buffer
Weight:5.9 lbs. Empty
Length: 36.375” Fully Extended, 32.625” Collapsed
MSRP: $649 (about $425 retail)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * * * *
It’s an AR-15. Some ARs are finicky, this one was not. I had no failures to feed or eject, or any issues with different magazine brands or ammo. I also didn’t find myself wanting for a forward assist and did not need to utilize the bolt scallop.
Ergonomics * * * *
It’s an AR-15. If you don’t like a certain aspect of the gun, change it out like I did. Now, if you’re someone who finds the whole AR platform uncomfortable, well, that’s another story.
Customize This * * * * *
It’s an AR-15. There’s a reason people call them “adult LEGOs.”
Aesthetics * * * *
It’s an AR-15. They won’t win any awards in a beauty contest where the judging is weighted on design, but the Sport Lite is far from an ugly gun. The fit and finish are good and the gun had no internal or external blemishes.
Overall * * * * *
If you’re looking to buy your first AR-15, I’d heartily recommend the Del-Ton DT Sport. It’s a no-frills, reliable gun and it’s affordable. Mine was $425.
Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.
All photos by Logan Metesh for TTAG