January 5, 2011

DPMS Panther 16-Inch RFA2-762-16 7.62x39mm, $850

Interest in defensive carbines has grown so much that aftermarket catalogs such as Brownells (www.brownells.com), now mail a separate issue dedicated to the AR-15 platform. But the AR is not the only available long gun and 223 Remington/5.56mm is not the only round available for self defense—for instance, there’s the 7.62x39mm. This round was developed by the Soviets circa 1943. According to some loading manuals, popularity of this cartridge in the United States saw a boom when GIs returning from Viet Nam brought home Communist Bloc weapons.

Since then, other more American designs have been chambered for the 7.62x39mm. For example, the AR-15 style DPMS Panther 16-inch 7.62x39mm No. RFA2-762-16 carbine, $850.

To perform our tests, we traveled to American Shooting Centers in Houston. Here we had our choice of benches facing towering berms at distances of 50 yards to 600 yards downrange. Since we would classify none of our test guns as match-grade target rifles and we would be firing with only the supplied iron sights, we set up at the 50-yard line. Our shooting team consisted of a third generation U.S. Marine on the trigger and an experienced spotter with a High Definition Swarovski Optik 10x42mm binocular to provide instant feedback without the shooter having to dismount.

For test ammunition we began with three different rounds. Winchester USA’s Q3174, Federal’s A76239A, American Eagle, and 124-grain soft point Military Classic ammunition from Wolf.

DPMS Panther 16-Inch No. RFA2-762-16

7.62x39mm, $850

Our DPMS Incorporated AR-15 chambered for 7.62x39mm included many of the familiar controls and the profile that has captured America’s heart. This meant a thumb-operated safety, right-side magazine-release button, pistol-grip stock, flash hider, combination front sight stanchion and gas block, fully adjustable rear sight protected in a carry handle, and civilian minimum legal length 16-inch barrel. Barrel twist for this caliber model was 1:10. The short carbine-length handguard was the standard synthetic part void of any rails, but vented top and bottom. The buttstock on our Panther was of traditional full profile standard A2 Mil Spec, rather than the six-point adjustable buttstock that has become so popular. In view of the increase in recoil and torque that comes with firing 7.62 ammunition, it is reasonable to assume that DPMS chose to employ a fixed stock in order to provide a more rigid platform. We suspect this also increased weight. Our Panther weighed about 7.5 pounds. Just out of curiosity we weighed a 223-caliber Panther Carbine A2 No. RFA2-PCAR-16 with adjustable stock. This carbine weighed about 6.6 pounds. If you prefer the adjustable stock, or any of the options offered by DPMS, this gun can be delivered to meet your needs.

Gun Tests, July 2010

Courtesy, Gun Tests

This is a well-made AR-15/style carbine that favors modern ammunition. If you want to shoot a cheap, easy to find ammo in an AR-15 form, then consider this one.

One aspect we liked about this rifle was that it was familiar. Anyone trained on an AR-15 or a faithful 22 LR reproduction such as the Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 (see Gun Tests February 2010), was good to go with no additional training necessary. This included takedown and cleaning. Our DPMS Panther came complete with a cleaning kit that did indeed fit neatly into the compartment inside the buttstock.)

Due to the popularity of the AR-15, we think most shooters will readily accept alternate chamberings, wherein the only difference is the level of recoil. Most people think of recoil being expressed primarily as muzzle flip. But bigger bullets in handgun and long guns alike also introduce torque as they fight against the twist in the barrel. Pistol-grip weapons such as the Panther (and the vertical grip of the Fiberforce stock) enables the shooter to pull the buttstock tighter into the shoulder. Furthermore, the vertical grip, as opposed to a straight stock, makes it easier to introduce a slight cant to counteract torque.

Our Panther was shipped with two 10-round magazines. These magazines fit nearly flush, making them ideal for shooting from a bench. Construction of the 10-round magazines was all plastic save for the springs. The basepads were removable for easy cleaning and reconstruction, but we found that the basepads could sometimes work themselves loose. We also noticed that the follower in each magazine was slightly different. In terms of locking back upon empty, one of the magazines was more consistent than the other. We’d order the 30-round magazines that feature stainless-steel bodies, anti-tilt follower, and chrome springs from dpmsinc.com for $25.

Gun Tests, July 2010

Courtesy, Gun Tests

Familiarity of platform was a plus in our view. Breakdown and cleaning as well as firing procedures remain the same for all ARs regardless of caliber. Dual apertures atop fully adjustable sights have always been among our favorite features in the AR design.

Our accuracy session showed that our AR-15–based carbine much preferred the Winchester and American Eagle ammunition over the Wolf rounds. Average Group Radius firing these loads were nearly even, measuring fractionally more than 0.80 inches across. The Wolf ammunition delivered an AGR of about 1.25 inches. One aspect that we should point out is that the Wolf ammunition utilized steel cases. Not only is this more abrasive on breeches, extractors, and chamber walls, but it can also introduce a slight change in the way the gun cycles. Brass cases expand when the charge is ignited. Steel cases expand primarily at the case mouth and little elsewhere. This expansion is all part of the timing of the weapon and can offset function and possibly accuracy, too. Some say this is only a theoretical concern, but some weapons are more sensitive to steel-cased ammunition than others.

Our Team Said: Some AR-15 owners are looking for more punch. Even the military continues to debate a new cartridge for this platform. We think 7.62x39mm itself is a good choice, but we didn’t find the DPMS Panther to be amenable to steel-cased ammunition. We might also beware of surplus ammunition. This could be a disappointment to anyone expecting to save money over the cost of 223 or 308 fodder. We still like this combination, however, because the gun can be delivered with options to suit the owner. But attention should be paid to the quality and condition of the magazines.

Comments (8)

Most of the 7.62x39 ammo is pretty dirty. I wonder if it would foul up a direct impingement system like the AR-15?

Posted by: Millwright | January 22, 2011 5:48 PM    Report this comment

I guess all of the opinions probably are based from the self defense perspective. firstssoldier, when was your experience with the M16? Just curious. AR15s are not the same animal and not using them in the mud of the jungle or talc like sand of the middle east I must say there is nothing wrong with them - at all. THe ONLY reason I see having 7.62x39 is if I have a couple of cases and a couple of SKSs or AKs to fling them in a SHTF scenario. Otherwise my .30-30s are better deer guns and the .223s and .308 will do just fine for anything else that I need to shoot a lot of rounds at. But like they said... "If you want to shoot a cheap, easy to find ammo in an AR-15 form, then consider this one." But I am a reloader and steel cases are a waste of money to me.

Posted by: Markbo | January 14, 2011 11:19 AM    Report this comment

Exactly so, "firstsoldier".

Posted by: StinsonBeach | January 9, 2011 8:43 AM    Report this comment

Not a real big fan of the AR platform, do like the 7.62x39 and will go with the H&K platform. Tried the M16 for real and the AK has got it beat hands down if it's your own ass on the line.

Posted by: firstsoldier | January 7, 2011 2:21 AM    Report this comment

sherman goog night

Posted by: sherm | January 7, 2011 2:11 AM    Report this comment

I have 3 DPMS in .223 and 1 in .308. I could not be happier with all of them and I certainly recommend DPMS to everyone that asks. Having said that, I have also owned Bushmaster and Colt and I have had no issues with them. I think the fit may be tighter on DPMS as I can see no light between the upper and lower when they are closed. (actually I don't really think that it matters). Can't say that for the Bushmaster. I plan on adding the 7.62x 39 to my collection but I WAS hoping for cheaper ammo.

Posted by: Glockman | January 6, 2011 6:42 PM    Report this comment

I just recently purchased a DPMS Panther LR-308. It is everything that I happily thought it would be in terms of the so-called "AR Platform", and it is chambered in my favorite all around cartridge.....7.62 NATO/.308 Win.

Posted by: canovack | January 6, 2011 3:13 PM    Report this comment

"One aspect that we should point out is that the Wolf ammunition utilized steel cases. Not only is this more abrasive on breeches, extractors, and chamber walls..." I'm not arguing the fact that steel case ammo is harder than brass, but consider that millions of rounds of steel case have been fired, and I have yet to read on any websites or blogs that it has damaged or prematurely worn parts. Food for thought. J

Posted by: spike723 | January 6, 2011 1:40 PM    Report this comment

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