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Several years ago, I conducted some .223 ammo accuracy tests using my Eagle Arms EA-15 rifle. This morning, I decided to run a few more rounds through it (different loads than before) as it had been a while since I shot it. This EA-15, made back in the day before the Federal 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, is not a high speed, low drag, M-4ergy carbine like so many that are coming off the assembly line today. Since being manufactured, it has received a few hand-me-down items from other AR projects, such as an optic and a Troy battle rail.
Here is the EA-15, in its current configuration. My EA-15 is an HBAR (heavy barrel) 16" rifle with an A2 stock and a flat top receiver. I did a little work on it to convert the Weaver railed receiver to accept a Picatinny rail since it would not mount any Picatinny rail accessories. Somewhere along the line, a muzzle brake was installed on it. I do not know if it came from Eagle Arms with it or if a previous owner added it.
With a GG&G Picatinny rail on top of the receiver (installed during the Picatinny rail project), a Burris P.E.P.R. scope mount holds a Millet 1-4x24 DMS-1 (Designated Marksman Scope) in place. The DMS-1 is Chinese made....and might very well be better than many that come out of that country but it certainly is not a higher quality optic. For one thing, it is quite heavy....weighing in at 18 ounces. While 18 ounces may not seem like much, compare it to the optic on my precision rifle, where the Vortex Viper PST 4-16x 50mm optic weighs just 22.4 ounces. The DMS-1 is just under 12" in length and is only a 1 to 4 power optic with a 24mm objective lense. I find that it makes the rifle feel top heavy.
The DMS-1 also doesn't seem to be overly durable, in my opinion. I thumped it pretty hard during a range drill, shortly after getting it, and the illumination died right there on the range....no more red dot. Luckily, the reticle is easily used without being illuminated so I'll give it some credit there. I've never bothered to try to fix it since it was removed from my primary AR-15 after the failure. It seems to hold zero well, which is a necessity for any optic, and doesn't seem to suffer any POI shift when the changing magnification settings....at least not enough that I could see any pattern with the rounds I was shooting for this evaluation. So for a backup/plinking rifle, the optic does OK. I would not recommend it at the price point typically found for this optic. If it were half the price, it would be worth mounting on a range/plinking rifle. However, like most any rifle glass, you get what you pay for and I do believe that better brands available at or slightly above the DMS-1 street price will net you a notably better optic.
So with that all said, let's take a look at how the EA-15/DMS-1 combo performed on the range. Here is the ammunition I used during testing for this range visit.
You hear a lot about Russian made steel cased ammunition and rarely is it complimentary. It is cheap....nothing in the brass cartridge arena beats it in that category. The box in the above photo was $3.99 (pre-Obama 2013 gun ban era). I keep some around for those "just in case" situations so I thought I should check out the EA-15 and see how it handles this low cost cartridge. This zinc plated steel case was stuffed with a 62 gr HP bi-metallic bullet. As for the Russian ammo, depending on which ammo can I open, it will either be this or 55 gr cartridges.
I also had a couple of boxes of Fiocchi 55 gr FMJ boat tail cartridges. They were rated at 3240 FPS. Since this was happening on a quick trip to the range, I didn't drag along the chronograph. The actual velocity will most likley be slower coming out of the 16" barrel, of that I am sure.
Just for good measure, I tossed in the last of a box of 69 gr Match Prvi Partizan ammo that was in the bottom of the .223 ammo can. This gave me a price spread from cheap Russian steel ammo to PPU Match ammo with the Fiocchi somewhere in the middle. This isn't close to an exhaustive spread of ammo will generate some useful data and provide an indication of how the DMS-1 performs with the EA-15.
I set up on the 50 yard range as I also wanted to do some accurate unmagnified shooting at shorter distances (I decided on 25 yards) to better evaluate the actual dot in the DMS-1 optic. I had recently read a forum thread where the discussion was centered around the red dot in optics...and how a 1 or 2 MOA dot always seem to be larger than claimed by the manufacturer. A larger dot makes it difficult when shooting a small target at distance since the dot begins to cover significant portions (or all) of the target.
Here is a graphic depicting the Millet DMS-1 reticle. I've had it for a while and some of the specs may have changed over the past few years. I intended on using the optic at both 1x and 4x power while using a 1" orange dot as my target. I've been shooting these orange dots for years and find they work well for an impromptu target. At 50 yards, the optic's 1 MOA dot should cover approximately half of my 1" target, leaving a nice orange ring around the black dot (my reticle's illumination has failed). This will make it very easy to verify that I am centered perfectly on the target while shooting.
The DMS-1 reticle provides the shooter with a larger ring around the 1 MOA
dot. Per Millet's literature, this is their "dot in a donut" reticle.
I admit that I do like it and find it much the same as EOTech's 65 MOA ring that
surrounds their optic's dot. This dot in a donut reticle was the primary
motivation for my originally purchasing the optic....quick target acquisition
for close up shooting and a 1MOA dot for distant targets. Without any
illumination applied to the reticle, I won't be experiencing any reticle bloom
which typically detracts from the accuracy of the optic since you can't clearly
define the edge of the dot.
More EA-15 Rifle