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Gun Review: DRD Tactical Aptus Takedown Rifle


DRD Tactical Aptus takedown rifle
Photo by Graham Baates

I believe it was around SHOT 2017 that DRD Tactical made a splash with their folding stock, AR-mag fed, side-charging takedown rifle the Aptus. I remember the awe when I first saw it as rifles of such a format are relatively uncommon. It wasn’t the first rifle like this, but it was the first time I’d seen one. Years later I finally got my hands on one and am happy to share the experience with you.

DRD Tactical Aptus takedown rifle
The lid of the DRD Tactical Aptus case houses the barrel with room for a spare.
The bottom of the DRD Tactical Aptus case houses the receivers, handguard, magazines, and room for a short optic.

What is it? 

The Aptus is a side-charging, folding stock, quick-barrel change, direct impingement rifle that breaks down to fit in an 18.3×14.4″ hard case. The rifle ships in either 5.56x45mm and .300 Blackout. The case can contain the complete rifle, optics if small enough, and a couple of magazines.

As advertised, you can go from cased to shooting in under a minute with some practice. You can get a feel for the fit, finish, and build quality in the tabletop video below. You’ll also see a demonstration of how easy it is to put the whole system together . . .

The Pros

The Aptus makes transporting a 16″-barreled rifle easy and discreet. The case, or any bag you decide to use for the disassembled rifle, won’t scream, “Hey, I’m carrying a rifle!” everywhere you go.

The Aptus is easier to transport and store than most most conventional rifles as it requires space more akin to that of a PDW. Total reciprocating mass of the action is just 9.7 oz. versus the standard 11 oz. of an AR resulting in less felt recoil and a flatter-shooting experience. The non-reciprocating, left-side charging means there’s no need to lift your face from the stock to charge or clear the gun.

DRD Tactical Aptus takedown rifle
Neither upper nor lower receiver are of standard AR cut. The non-reciprocating charging handle folds out of the way when not in use.
DRD Tactical Aptus takedown rifle
The DRD Tactical Aptus handguard centers using a tab, the pin engages a slot on the barrel nut to prevent sliding, and the lever provides clamping force.

The Questions

The upper and lower receiver, as well as bolt carrier are unique, so are there magazine compatibility issues? With a barrel so quick to install and remove, is there a change to the point of impact? What kind of accuracy can we get from a government profile barrel that’s so easily installed? This was tested in the Shooting Impressions video below . . .

I was very pleased with the shooting experience. The recoil impulse is shorter than an AR’s, but feels less abrupt. Magazine fitment proved interesting and I’ve recommended to DRD Tactical that they open up the magazine well slightly, especially for those who like to run polymer magazines. If you prefer treated aluminum or steel like DuraMag you’ll have no issue dropping a magazine free, but the well offers little room for error with insertion.

The first time I shot for groups I tried a wider variety of loads than seen in this video, but wasted most of that ammunition trying to beat 1.5 MOA. I had it in my head that a rifle of this cost should be sub-MOA.

After some reflection I realized that 1.5 MOA is still accurate enough for a head shot at 400 yards which is about as far as 5.56x45mm can still deliver good energy. I also realized that this is is not a bench gun, it’s meant to be a packable fighting rifle. Would I have enjoyed better groups? Of course, but can I accept 1.5-2 MOA in a rifle like this.

Another lesson learned is that although it’s safe to fire the rifle with the barrel nut hand tightened, for repeatable zero you’d better use the included wrench to put some torque on it. While testing a hand-tight barrel swap, the point of impact shifted six inches laterally at 100 yards. Testing wrench-tightened there was no appreciable point of impact shift.

Specifications: DRD Tactical Aptus Takedown Rifle

Calibers options: .223, 5.56, 300 Blackout
Operation: Semi-automatic, direct impingement
Barrel Length: 16 inch
Overall Length: 34 inch
Weight Empty: 7 pounds
Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds (2 included)
Controls: Non-reciprocating left side charging handle, Ambidextrous bolt catch
Trigger: Standard with 4.5 pound pull weight
Gas Block: Superlative Arms, Adjustable
Price: $2,500- $2,900

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
There were some feeding issues with ammunition I believe to have been out of spec, but otherwise no troubles. Should the loads you use be milder or spicier than average, the adjustable gas block will help.

Ergonomics * * * * *
If you can run an AR you can run an Aptus, you just have to learn how to do things an easier way. The folding stock is adjustable for both length of pull and cheek height.

Accuracy * * * * 
I’m sure this is one the comment section will have fun with. The Aptus’s 1.5 MOA is plenty accurate for a fighting rifle chambered in 5.56. Better is likely possible with an aftermarket trigger and some ammunition trial and error.

Concealability * * * * *
I do not know of a 16″ 5.56x45mm rifle that packs more neatly that I’m also willing to spend a lot of range time with.

Overall: * * * * 
$2,500 is a lot of money. When spending more than double what a good AR costs, the rifle had better be amazing. The high price tag of course comes from the engineering and production costs required to make such a unique platform (as compared to ARs which have had OEM manufacturers churning out parts for decades ready to be branded and assembled). If the price was lower, and more barrel profiles available I’d give this a fifth star.



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