ABOVE: Field expedient firing positions were utilized during GII SASS evaluation at Echo Valley Training Center’s “Jungle Walk” range.
DPMS offers one of the broadest catalogues of AR rifles on the market with a dizzying array of AR model types, calibers, and configurations. The DPMS AR rifles cover the gamut in terms of mission profile and adaptability for the user. DPMS was founded by Randy Luth in 1985 as a precision machine shop for manufacturing M203, M14 and M16 parts for U.S. military contracts. He also developed and manufactured numerous patented accessories. DPMS eventually expanded into producing their own complete AR type rifles. Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity investment firm, purchased DPMS Panther Arms in December, 2007, thereby combining DPMS with Bushmaster Firearms International, Remington Arms and Cobb Manufacturing to form the Freedom Group.
In general terms, ARs come in two patterns: AR-15s and AR-10s. The AR-15 is most associated with 5.56mm/.223 Rem. and the AR-10 with 7.62NATO/.308 Win. The DPMS GII SASS reviewed herein joins the growing number of AR style platforms chambered in .308 Win. However, the DPMS GII SASS will change users’ thoughts on how an AR-10 rifle can be configured. While we will focus specifically on the DPMS .308 Win. GII SASS AR-10 for this article, DPMS currently offers six GII AR-10 models. What separates the DPMS GII ARs from other .308 Win. AR-10s? Often the AR-10 pattern rifle is associated with an unwieldy profile weighing 12 pounds or more. There are DPMS GII models that weigh less than 8 pounds. DPMS has made a conscious effort with the GII model to blend typical AR-10 and AR-15 components to allow for wider access to AR-15 accessories while exploiting .308 Win. power. Forged upper and lower receivers are contoured to be more ergonomic while only 1/2 inch longer than an AR-15 receiver and 5/8 inch shorter than typical AR-10s. Their attention to detail is further borne out with a reduced mass bolt carrier. This provides a smoother, softer recoil impulse compared to most other .308 Win. AR-10 weapons on the market. The GII SASS accepts AR-15 type handguards thanks to a newly designed barrel nut. This pattern is followed with the GII SASS’s AR-15 type fire control unit for more accessory adaptability. DPMS GII AR rifles incorporate an inserted steel feed ramp, allowing a lighter, smaller barrel extension and receiver, while improving feeding of more ammunition types and have lengthened the ejection port allowing for more consistent ejection of fired empty cases. This focus on reliability is supported by DPMS redesigning the gas impingement delivery system, monolithic bolt carrier and optimized gas ring clearances to eliminate the possibility of gas leakage during operation. The new bolt geometry provides superior lockup and strength by allowing for a smaller diameter barrel extension to be used reducing overall material and weight without compromising strength. In short, contoured steel feed ramps, redesigned extractor with elastomer extractor spring, dual ejectors, and other design tweaks found in the GII SASS all serve to decrease feeding, extraction and ejection malfunctions that can plague some AR-10 designs.
The DPMS GII SASS is a precision rifle that even though a semiautomatic, produces accuracy equal to most tactical bolt action rifles. DPMS literature points out that the SASS (Semi Auto Sniper System) was designed to provide military marksmen a rifle that could accomplish long range precision missions, especially in a target rich environment, while providing an effective volume of defensive fire for close range encounters. The DPMS SASS emerged in response to a U.S. Army solicitation in the early 2000s with trials held in 2005. Though another manufacturer was awarded the Army contract, DPMS decided to offer a version of their SASS entry to law enforcement and civilians.
The GII SASS features an 18-inch fluted 416 stainless Teflon coated 1:10 twist medium contour barrel, threaded muzzle with Panther flash hider, forged 7075 T6 Anodized upper/lower receivers, Magpul PRS stock, Magpul back-up iron sights, DPMS two stage Match trigger, mid-length direct impingement gas system, Panther tactical grip and 4 rail free float tube. The DPMS GII SASS is 30 percent lighter than its DPMS LRT SASS predecessor. The GII SASS tips the scales at 10.5 pound and measures 39 inches. The GII SASS represents an excellent balance of weight for minimizing felt recoil and provides a stable rifle platform for increased accuracy potential while maintaining a semblance of handling. The GII SASS being direct impingement in operation versus piston driven further eliminates weight and provides for a balanced rifle compared to being front heavy as some piston rifles can be. If you are looking for a flexible multi-mission rifle for yourself or agency, the GII SASS should be among those considered. The GII SASS rifle is designed to excel in a fluid task environment by accommodating a wide variety of accessories.
A DPMS metal magazine comes with the GII SASS. However, Magpul PMag 20 LR/SR 7.62 magazines will also work. This is a huge plus. Magpul’s PMag 20 LR magazine is quickly becoming the standard .308 Win. AR magazine with several manufacturers setting up their lowers to utilize the Magpul product. Quality magazines are a linchpin for a reliably functioning semiautomatic or select-fire weapon.
A DPMS free floated rail system surrounds the barrel. The DPMS railed forend, in conjunction with railed flat top upper receiver, allows for mission specific configuration with lights, lasers, target designators, night vision devices and other items.
A key point with the DPMS GII SASS is superior out of the box accuracy without having to resort to a full-blown trip to an agency armorer or outside gunsmith for tuning. The GII SASS takes a back seat to no rifle in terms of precision, repeatable accuracy, capacity, ergonomics, reliability, trigger, and safety. The first requirement of a tactical rifle is precise accuracy. The GII SASS tested constantly produced sub-MOA groups with multiple 168 grain ammunition brands – an important logistic consideration. The Magpul Precision Rifle Stock (PRS) is adjustable for length of pull and comb height, plus offers a rail on the bottom of the stock for a monopod attachment. The Magpul stock is rock solid with design characteristics making it conducive to long range shooting from the prone position using improvised shooting rests or bipod. The PRS’s hook style buttstock allows a shooter to “crawl” into the scope and hook his offhand around the buttstock for a more steady hold. The ergonomics of the stock allows for a comfortable, repeatable cheekweld combined with hand placement conducive to pulling the Match trigger smoothly. DPMS includes a stud rail attachment for the railed quad rail and a Harris bipod with the GII SASS. The moderate weight of the GII SASS allows for offhand and other types of supported fire if needed. Some of the precision tactical rifles coming on line today reflect more of target shooting heritage than tactical weighing over 16 pounds. The GII SASS’s 10 pound weight translates into a rifle that can be carried afield without fatiguing the marksman and is easier to adapt to non-standard firing positions even offhand if needed. The 18-inch medium profile barrel is a solid compromise balancing weight, performance, and field handling for the tactical marksman. The GII SASS had no problems with shifting points of aim even when firing a full magazine of twenty aimed rounds in relatively rapid fashion.
A Schmidt & Bender (S&B) 5-20×50 PM II Ultra Short was mounted on the GII SASS via a Recknagel quick release mount. The S&B had a Tremor 2 reticle. Further tactical modification of the GII SASS into a lowlight/dark role is satisfied by mounting an American Technologies Network ATN PS22 Night Vision device in front of the Schmidt & Bender scope. This multi-use ability keeps day scope constantly zeroed, yet allows for quick adaptation during a night mission. This eliminates the need for a separate dedicated weapon system exclusive to night vision tasks or having to constantly remove day optics from a rifle and replacing with a NVD. The PM II Ultra Short design had just this application in mind with its design. The ATN PS22 serves as a force multiplier when employed on the GII SASS. The forend also has side rails for mounting IR illuminators used in conjunction with the NVD device or intense tactical white lights if NV is not used. The GII SASS reflects modern trends of utilizing night vision with night vision devices
Various .308 Win. loadings from Black Hills Ammunition, Federal, Winchester and Hornady provided the basis of accuracy tests. The Black Hills Match loads tested consisted of 168 grain Match bullets. The Federal chambering was the venerable 168 grain Match load. 168 grain TAP from Hornady and 168 grain Match from Winchester was also tested. The GII SASS’s 18-inch barrel with the 168 grain loads clocked 2,550 feet per second. As to be expected with quality ammunition, velocity figures within the different loads deviated very little from round to round. This is critical for predicable long range accuracy.
The GII SASS shot all the premium 168 grain loads tested into 1 MOA or better at 100 yards. Many will scoff at this as typical gun writer fluff. Obviously, the best ammunition brands and loads where utilized. Black Hills Ammunition, Federal, Winchester, and Hornady are industry leaders, which is what this type of rifle deserves to wring out its full potential. The testing was done off a bench supported by Harris bipod and Champion shooting bags. The Federal 168 grain Match, Winchester 168 grain Match, and BHA 168 grain Match produced the best 100 yard average with all producing slightly over 5/8 inch averages. The accuracy figures are based on firing 3 three-round groups and averaging group sizes. Another sign of an accurate, dependable rifle is how cold bore zeros compare over time and if the point of aim shifts after a few rounds heat up the barrel. The DPMS GII SASS showed no shifts in point of aim and cold bore zeros produced fine groups when overlaid together.
Not much time was spent at the 100 yard range. After verifying innate accuracy from the bench, field tests were performed at Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC). Echo Valley Training Center is properly set-up to handle extensive test firing of a precision tactical rifle like the GII SASS. In conjunction with the individual training bays, EVTC features multi-stepped target berms that are strewn with reactive steel targets, fluid drained automobiles, and moving targets at ranges varying from 150 yards out to 350 yards. Echo Valley Training Center is further enhanced by the existence of prepared firing positions. This allows for more realistic prone and “dug-in” trench-style firing points consisting of concrete culverts turned on end and buried. These firing positions and target arrangements are ideal for all types of training scenarios with most types of weapon systems including precision tactical rifles. 300 yards and out is the more indicative test of a precision tactical rifle. The Federal 168 grain Match and BHA 168 grain Match loads performing the best again. Another note of interest was how easy the Tremor 2 reticle inside the Schmidt & Bender made hitting targets at the 300 yard pit. A 100 yard zero easily translated into holding the first Mil-hash below the main horizontal wire directly on target causing hits at 300 yards. The benefit is obvious of holding directly on target versus an estimated hold over. Also, the Tremor 2 reticle is a great tool for range estimation and target engagement. The Tremor 2 offers more than a strictly Mil Dot pattern reticle. The Tremor 2 features various sized and spaced hash marks on the vertical and horizontal stadia for increased ranging precision, accuracy, and quick range estimating reference points.
With the GII SASS proving it was more than capable of connecting with TacStrike steel targets arrayed along Echo Valley Training Center’s stepped berm out to 300 yards, it was decided to try something out of the norm by working with the GII SASS inside EVTC’s 360 range. It was a simple matter of keeping the S&B optic in place and mount a Meopta MeoSight red dot via a Weaver 45 degree offset mount bracket. This allows a quick rotation of the rifle in the shoulder pocket a few degrees accessing the red dot optic with minimal effort or disturbance of handling. This made the GII SASS much more efficient at engaging targets at close distances. Drills started out slow working around simulated cover while engaging designated targets in and around range vehicles to allow evaluators to get a “feel” of the rifle. Scenarios where then set up to force magazine changes as well as moving to various firing points. Eventually, the GII SASS was moved to within vehicle confines where evaluators fired on targets from the range vehicles as well as quickly exiting the car while maintaining rounds sent downrange. While not your typical fare for an 18-inch barreled .308 Win. AR-10 type rifle, the GII SASS proved more than capable of sending rounds downrange quickly and effectively; certainly better than a five round bolt action rifle would be. This was done to verify if the SASS concept was valid in terms of providing extended range precision fire as well as volume of fire if pressed into use at closer distances.
The DPMS GII SASS proved reliable and accurate throughout this evaluation with approximately 250 rounds fired, some of them rapidly, without cleaning during multiple range visits. Evaluators came away with a positive attitude towards the GII SASS delivering on its promise of being a lighter more maneuverable AR-10 type rifle. With that said, there is no mistaking that you have an AR-10 in your hands versus a svelte 6 pound AR-15. One can tell the GII SASS was an AR-10 even if you were testing it next to a 10 pound AR-15. This stems from balance and overall feel of the GII SASS due to weight distribution found in the receiver and bolt group, which is only magnified when a 20 round magazine of .308 Win. is inserted. This is not a knock against the GII SASS – just a fact of physics. Along these same lines, your shoulder and face come away knowing you have fired multiple magazines of .308 Win. compared to 5.56mm. On a positive note steel targets are struck with awesome authority when 150+ grains smack into them, especially from a close distance.
The DPMS GII SASS covers the gamut of likely situations encountered by law enforcement or security conscience civilian with equal aplomb. This is a reflection of DPMS design tweaks in the GII series and use of the .308 Win. chambering. DPMS experience and industry leading developmental commitment is shown with the enhancements made to the GII series as typified in the SASS model.
Sites of Interest
DPMS Panther Arms
Black Hills Ammunition
Echo Valley Training Center
Schmidt & Bender USA Inc.
Federal Cartridge Company
Hornady Mfg., .Inc.