Scoping out the competition
Adding optics to the DPMS SBR
By Dennis Adler
The Crosman DPMS Panther SBR being a modern AR platform is optics ready with the quad rails for sights, tactical lights, laser aiming devices, and the adjustable foregrip, which comes with the CO2 model. This article will only be on optics for improving the accuracy of the DPMS. After I do some research into options, I’ll do the same test with the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine.
I have a lot of optics on hand to try on the DPMS from tests on centerfire guns, and many of these sights cost considerably more than the air rifle, but there are also a few that are in the CO2 price range. First, with training in mind, let’s go all in and begin with an optical sight that would be used on a centerfire model.
If you have looked at AR models equipped with red dot optics you have no doubt seen the EOTech HWS (Holographic Weapons Sight) on countless military and civilian tactical rifles and shotguns. At around $550 it is not what you’re going to buy for a blowback action CO2 version of the DPMS, but if you have other centerfire rifles capable of using an optic, this is one you might consider as it will fit and sight in for the .177 caliber model just as easily as for rifles chambered in .223 or other calibers, and 12 ga. tactical shotguns. Mine was previously sighted in for a tactical shotgun used in a range test article on rifled slugs at 25 yards. So, a little retuning will be necessary to get it in line with the DPMS CO2 model. It took about 10 shots to get it dialed in and I shot the next 10 using a 10-Meter Pistol target at 10 meters and firing from the shoulder. I ended up with a group measuring 0.625 inches with one in the bullseye and the rest a little to the left with five or six overlapping inside 0.437 inches. Tight group but off the bullseye into the 9 ring with a couple cutting the line on the 8 ring but still counting as a 9-ring hit. The reticle on the EOTech completely covers the red bullseye on the 10-meter target.
I decided to run a Shoot-N-C target with 10 rounds so I could easily see my hits from the firing line, and it didn’t take but a few shots to know my air was running out, as groups were still tight but dropping about 2-inches below POA. So, time to change CO2. I estimate I got about 120 shots before the air dropped off (and that was including a couple of short burst tests on full auto). This is a good time to mention that when putting the CO2 cartridges into the magazine, seat and tighten the left one first. With fresh CO2 I went back to 10 meters using a Shoot-N-C target and put 10 rounds into 0.9 inches, all above the bullseye with a best 5-shot group overlapping at 0.468 inches. It’s not exactly precision shooting, but not bad for a short barrel blowback action semi-auto BB rifle at 10 meters.
Of course, it’s not likely that most of you are going to have an EOTech HWS sitting around, so for the next optic I’m taking the Walther PS-55 off the HK MP5 K CO2 model I tested back in February against the Mini Uzi Subgun. This is about a $65 red dot scope and one of my favorites, though it is no longer available from Walther. There are several similar designs from Pyramyd Air like the UTG 1×39 ITA Red/Green CQB Target Dot Sight. An optic like this is more in line with the price of the DPMS CO2 model and should give the same results (maybe even better) than the expensive EOTech.
Since the Walther PS-55 was already sighted in for the HK, I’m was hoping it would only need a minor adjustment for the DPMS, but it took longer to sight in than the EOTech did. My first target gave me two 5-shot groups, unintended, since I started shooting a little high and with two good hits I kept going for five rounds. That group measured 0.74 inches. I corrected my aim down slightly and punched five almost identical shots in the red measuring 0.75 inches. Both groups had overlapping pairs. I ran two more targets with the PS-55 and couldn’t get better than 0.75 inch groups.
For a final set with optics I fell back on the old reliable BSA RD42 I have used in so many Airgun Experience articles over the years. This sight has been on pistols and rifles and has always given me good results. And it is only a $50 optic, so it is one of the most affordable quality built red dot scopes.
Having it sighted for a long barrel pistol, I decided to let it hit where it was already set, which on the DPMS came in a little below POA, but the groups were remarkably tight and I shot two sets of 10 rounds on the same target. This ended up with 20 rounds inside a 1.625 inch circumference with multiple overlapping hits. If I had to pull out a best five shots, it would have to be no more than 0.5 inches.
I shot one last target with the air getting low from the bench rest at 10 meters, and again I did not readjust the BSA RD42, my POA was dead center on the bullseye, so my groups were low but really tight, with one 10-shot group that had five blowing out a section of the target (the backer board was shot through so the paper began tearing) that measured 0.468 inches and another 5-shot group to the right measuring 0.376 inches. The 10-shot spread measured 0.74 inches. Shooting with optics from a rest really allows the DPMS to prove its accuracy. If I had readjusted the elevation on the BSA RD42 (which I had set up for another gun test) that 0.74 inches would have been in the center of the bullseye, but the size of the shot group was really what I was looking for and the DPMS did not disappoint.
For a CO2 air rifle that is more or less intended for 21 foot target distance, the DPMS can really pack them in at 10 meters with or without optics. And while I am not a great fan of modern rifles (I like the old guns like the M1 Carbine much more, and for select fire the MP40), but among the current crop of AR-based designs, the DPMS Panther SBR is one that certainly piques my interest.
Thursday I will wrap up the DPMS test with a full auto shootout against the classic WWII MP40. This is going to be one for the books.