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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.

Stock image from Del-Ton

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.

Notice the bolt scallop and the lack of a dust cover and forward assist.

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.

Aftermarket Ruger Rapid Deploy rear sight

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.

Range Time
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.

Barrel has 1:9 twist

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.

3″ red circle at 100 yards, marker for scale

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.

Inside the chamber after testing

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

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  1. Appreciate the review. Have been looking for a second truck/suv gun and this looks like it would be a good choice. Not wanting something I’ll drop a lot of money into it getting it outfitted the way I want.

    • I have not the slightest interest in a free float barrel for this type of rifle. Sometimes a simple rugged rifle is good enough

    • Because while free-float handguards may look great and more “tactical”, most shooters won’t even notice the difference in accuracy with a cheaper non free float system.

    • Because they work just fine and can save you money. People overly obsessed with accuracy, when most people cannot shoot good enough to take advantage of much pricier options.

    • Ok Tacticool Timmy. We get it. You can’t be Ranger CAG TREX ARMS NAVY SEAL Cola Warrior cool without your free float rail that gets too hot to hold without gloves after a few magazines. Gotta get that extra .1 MOA out of your weekend warrior toy. We know. We know.

      Operating on the flat range and shooting paper targets is very serious business to such a storied Operator as yourself.

      ARFCOM is missing another idjit. And his name is Madcapp.

  2. So Five of the Seven Shots Fired were deliberately fired off center, to group within one inch of each other. Not a great Selling Point from my perspective…

    • Under 3″ at 100 yards STANDING.. I would call that some really decent shooting!! It would have been nice to see what it would really group from prone/bench just for reference..

      Nice toy for the price! Kits cost more than that and you have to put them together!

      • I would prefer to see the Five Shot Grouping around the Center, then be told it was an Off Center Shooting. And when was the RED Circle drawn? Before or after the Groupings…

      • Wow, cheap ammo and crappy sights shooting a cheap gun yielding sub 3 MOA while standing! Really? I’d love to see that. Like maybe on an un-edited video.

        And if so good while standing, how about off the bench where people normally shoot for accuracy?

      • It is decent, but it’s certainly nothing special. If you can’t do that with an AR at the range with a paper target, you need to train more.

  3. Hoo hah, if it’s not at least 105mm I’m not really impressed, ,,,,, play babies, man that hurt

  4. You can’t expect much better out of an AR at this price point. It is what it is ! Not everyone has the financial means to spend $1,000 & up for an AR. If I was in the market for a truck gun . home defense gun , this might be an option I’d consider. Luth-AR is a good choice if you have the time . build one to your liking. Imho

  5. I’m uncertain why I’d buy Del Ton if I can get PSA with a free float barrel and nitride finish for less than the Del Ton MRSP.

    If I was going for an inexpensive factory gun, I’d buy proven quantity, like a S&W M&P Sport.

    • Del-Ton IS a “proven quantity” — they have been making ARs for many years. Yes, a large part of their sales are ‘budget’ priced rifles, but in reality that is true of all the major manufacturers as well.

      Personally I prefer their better grade models which are slightly more expensive but easily on par with rifles costing quite a bit more. There low-end models (like this one) easily go head to head with anything in their price range off the shelf.

      If you’re looking for the best value at the lowest price, sure, a PSA Kit is the way to go, but most people shopping for an “entry-level” AR aren’t going to try assembling a kit for their first AR.

      The Del-Ton Sport Lite is not being built to go head to head against Daniel Defense or Bravo Company, it’s going head to head against the likes of the DPMS Oracle (which, by the way, sells for $50 more than the Del-Ton; so for $50 I could easily forego the Oracle’s dust cover if I wasn’t willing to build my own from a kit).

  6. The original M&P Sport was set up like this (no dust cover, no forward assist) and sales tanked when gun snobs made fun of anyone who owned one. Hopefully this fares better.

  7. I got one of these for Christmas. My wife got me one and I got her a S&W .380. I have never used and AR before and I really like it. My past experience has been with handguns and bolt action rifles. I have not seen an AR for that kind of price before the Delton. I think everyone may need an AR sometime, so I’m going to do a lot of practice with the Delton.

    • The S&W MP Sport 2, and the Ruger AR556 were selling for a similar price last time I checked at my LGS. You can also find a decent AR for a similar price at Palmetto State Armory.

      • I have a Smith and Wesson sport 2 and a Del Ton AR and the quality and reliability is so close that a winner could not be determined by myself anyway but I am just an average dude not one of the experts that populate the internet I have not noticed any difference in accuracy for myself the only place I noticed a difference is in appearance and that goes to the Del Ton and at $275 less than the S&W are there better parts in the S&W probably a bit better materials time will tell I will be purchasing another AR soon I want for my wife and kids to all be armed with a dependable weapon that I can customize to their liking and I want them all to use the same mags and ammo I will be buying another Del Ton and now I can get it for $400 less and I am not purchasing. them to impress anybody or as a status symbol I doubt that an intruder or any tyrant or individual that intends to do harm to me or mine will care what brand of AR just put 2 rounds center of mass heck I might work an extra day and buy two Del Ton ARs for an extra $150 over the S&W

  8. I have the Del-Ton A220, M16A2 clone. I find it to be a good rifle. I was around when the Army went from the A1 to the A2, and this rifle doesn’t feel like it was made by the lowest bidder. As far as accuracy, I zeroed on the standard Army zero target, and shot the Army reduced range (25 meter) qualification target scoring 38 out of 40. The rifle didn’t miss, I did.

    It doesn’t have the fancy name brand, it isn’t a beauty queen, it is a tool made for work and not display. I would trust my life with it.

  9. Hey I had a Delton on layaway last year until I got the wife a revolver. They supplied parts to other companies for years. I ended up with a Smith & Wesson Sport. Happy with it too. FYI Shoot Point Blank had optics ready Delton(not lite) for 349.95 last month. I fondled it and it seemed pretty good. Lots of choice…

  10. I bought a Del-Ton rifle probably 7 or 8 years ago at a gun show. It came with a chrome lined barrel which is pretty much unseen these days on a cheap AR. It’s been a solid rifle. It didn’t like steel cased ammo at first, but after a few hundred rounds of brass it would eat anything you put in it.

    • You MIGHT, if you shop carefully. But most people who say “buy an upper and lower separately” to save money are comparing internet prices of uppers that don’t include a BCG or CH.

      You can save money buy buying a kit — especially if you buy a kit minus stripped lower online and shop carefully for a stripped lower locally so you won’t have to pay the rip-off “transfer fee”, but just buying a complete upper and a complete lower rarely saves any.

  11. I was in the market for, and bought, a ‘budget’ AR towards the end of last year and the Delton was definitely on the list. Most of the negative reviews I found on it were ‘gun snobs’ who seemed to want to point out every shortcoming it had vs. their tricked out, top shelf AR’s (few of which had ever even SEEN a Delton, much less shot one). The overwhelming majority of those who bought them with reasonable expectations about what they’re getting with a $400 AR, were pleased with their purchace.

    Anyway, I ended up buying a PSA kit and have ZERO regrets. I have roughly $450 in it, including PSA’s upgraded polished trigger group. It is a GREAT shooting gun and has never had a single hiccup; it’s easily one of my favorite rifles I’ve ever owned.

  12. i made the mistake of buying a complete rifle my first time out
    by the time i bought it and tricked it out the way i wanted i had spent about twice as much as i would have if i had just built the thing the way i wanted from the start
    i could have had TWO rifles for what i had in that first one
    so i sold it and got what i paid for it new before i modded it and used the money for my first build which would have cost me double what it cost me to build it if i bought it as a complete rifle
    if youre not building a bare bones rifle you save enough to build your next one is how it works

  13. DEL-TON is a great company located in the (so far) free state of North Carolina.They make other things beside complete ARs. give these guys a look!!

  14. Ok I’ll bite since I didn’t see anyone in the comments section talk about this . I’m a little stunned by the recent crop of budget AR’s that don’t have brass deflectors built into the upper receiver. I can see the reasons for not including a Forward Assist. Heck, even when I was in the service we were trained that the FA is for “emergency’s only” and basically told never to use it. If you have an issue with the weapon going fully into battery, than there are other issues present that need to be dealt with. A dust cover…sure I like them, I see them as useful since I like to keep my BCG wet especially when I know I’ll be firing it, and a dust cover for me at least does a semi-decent job of at least containing all that said wetness.

    However NOT having a brass deflector ? Of all the AR’s I own, they all have this feature, and frankly I’ve never shot an AR without a brass deflector, and based on the pitting they (the protruding bit of metal) seems to endure, this seems essential for any AR. Does the brass fly back in your face? Does it really matter if a right handed shooter is shooting a right-handed gun ? How much more could leaving this small bit of metal possible cost these manufacturers? Does the spent brass simply fly rearward instead of partially out to the side/back? Maybe someone with more experience can comment on this, perhaps it’s a non-issue and I’m just freaking out about nothing 🙂

  15. Del-Ton makes a good rifle at a set price point. You get what you pay for. The basic Ruger AR556 would be my choice for a few dollars more, but hey, if you want a AR and you are on a budget, go for it. Really can’t lose at that price.

  16. I bought a Delton DTI Sport two years ago (it came with a dust cover and forward assist) for $406 shipped from gab a gun. I have a cheap red dot on it and I seem to be able to hit a silhouette target somewhere in the center at 50 and 100 yards. I’ve put about 800 rounds through it in the two years. It’s been to the range about 8 times, and sits in the corner the rest of the time collecting dust (my buddies from commie states love to shoot it). At the time I purchased this, the Ruger and S&W were a couple hundred more. For $406, I knew I wouldn’t feel too bad about it sitting in the corner. I doubt I would shoot any better with a free-float barrel, and I definitely know it wouldn’t be any more fun, as I really just like to pull the trigger and hearing it go bang.

  17. Man the commenters on this article are mostly fan-boys with cliche comments, myth spewing, tacti-cool, non-sense making wanna be’s! These rifles are very good for most situations civilians will see and many they will not (hopefully).
    The macho bullshit comments get old after a while.

  18. All these armchair qb’s. With their kits and talk about the accessories they have installed. All I have to say is that I can hit you with my Hi-Point carbine at 25 yards just as good. If you want long range( over 50 yds) buy a .308 and reach out to touch someone. Most ar-15s are best at close combat. Especially for self defense. I get a kick out of these so called experts who have tacked on thousands on their ar-15s. They must love the extra weight. My Del-ton will put a one inch group on your chest from the standing position, a nickel size shot group from the kneeling position and a dime size shot group from the prone at twenty five yards.

  19. Indeed it was a great rifle to keep. I recently sold this rifle and really miss having my grip on such a beautiful piece. You have written a great review, Logan! Keep it up.

  20. I was desiring to have AR-15 Rifle for myself, but unsure about the decision. Thanks for crafting this guide, it has convinced me enough to get myself one. Hopefully, this will be the best purchase for the money.

  21. I was wanting to have AR-15 Rifle for myself, yet uncertain about the choice. Much obliged for creating this aide, it has persuaded me enough
    to get myself one. Ideally, this will be the best buy for the cash.

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  23. I tested it and its quite similar to 9mm but overall awesome. I’m keen for the small weapons to drive with me easily. But its beyond from my expectation and just love it speed.

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  25. I own both the Delton Dt Sport And The S&W MP 15 Sport 2 and I honestly love both and don’t have a favorite they both shoot the same they both have never given me any problems at all. I have a red dot on the Delton and Nikon scope on the s&W. both are amazing rifles

  26. I possess both the Delton Dt Sport and the S&W MP 15 Sport 2, and I honestly don’t have a choice because they both shoot the same and have never given me any issues. On the Delton, I have a red dot, and on the S&W, I have a Nikon scope. Both weapons are excellent.

  27. I’d bought my Del-Ton Sport 15 back in 2012 for $650. It was my very first AR platform. I didn’t know how AR function, so I bought one to learn on. The moment I got my AR, I swap out the handguard to a free float quad rail, add a cheap Amazon scope (I thought it was cool). Gave that scope away and got a Sightmark Red dot, then move up to the Vortex StrikeFire. Now I have a Vortex StrikeEagle 1-8×24. I’ve upgraded to all Magpul, adjustable drop in trigger. After 10 years of owning it, It doesn’t look like how I got it.

  28. The AR-15 Rifle has become the hottest rifle of all time. This rifle is made from high quality materials. You can easily customize it, which makes it feature of your choice.

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  30. I love hunting and always want to see information about the best rifle, This is purely a helpful blog for me.
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