My favorite ARs to sell on Gunbroker are the Daniel Defense M4V7 variants. There are currently two versions: standard and lightweight, designated LW, which is 2.5 ounces lighter than the standard model. I always equip these rifles with a Geissele SSA trigger, and occasionally I’ll also install an ambidextrous charging handle, Geissele’s or the AXTS Raptor, and a 45 degree amib-safety, also AXTS.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the LW barrel profile? Does the LW model feel lighter? When is the LW version a better choice, and when is the standard model best? Let’s find out.
Daniel Defense achieves weight reduction in the LW by shaving metal from the standard, government profile barrel. The LW barrel is thinner towards tip as shown below, and this profile is commonly referred to as a “pencil barrel.” The obvious advantages of a lighter rifle include:
- Less weight matters when carrying the rifle over distances or up hills
- Lighter rifles get on target more quickly
- It’s easier to hold the rifle steady when shooting off-hand (i.e., standing up with no rest)
- If you plan on adding lots of accessories, LW will reduce final end-weight.
What about the disadvantages? The one you will read about the most is that lighter barrels heats up faster, and that potentially affects accuracy during continuous shooting. If maintaining long-range accuracy is important to you during rapid-fire, then the government profile may be a better choice for your application.
If you look around the Internet, you’ll find all kinds of opinions about pencil barrels, some good and some bad. My opinion is that many reviewers are mostly full of it and simply give their opinion with little practical experience. You’ll find several reviews of DD LW models with 1 M.O.A. accuracy all over the place. Here’s one review I can put my trust in from Larry Vickers. Here’s a nice review of a pencil barrel showing that its accuracy is affected by about 1.5″ at 100 yards after 30 rounds downrange.
From my personal experience, when holding these rifles in each hand at the same time, you can hardly tell the difference in weight. However, when you hold a rifle in one hand and move your arm in an up and down motion, the weight difference is amplified. That up and down motion mimics carrying a rifle, and I expect the felt difference in weight would compound over time. I’ve never hiked all day over hills or across difficult terrain with an AR, so I must leave that conclusion to the experts. That being said, I haven’t found an expert that says, “Weight doesn’t matter when hiking with an AR.”
Personally, I don’t shoot in precision rifle competitions, and losing 1 M.O.A. after rapid firing a full 30-round magazine doesn’t bother me. Considering I’m less fit than more fit, I’d choose the LW model in case I would need to carry it longer distances in the future. Regardless of your personal choice, you can go wrong with either version from a reliability or quality perspective.