DRD Aptus Rifle

Accurate, Reliable Quick-Change Artist
; .

The Aptus rifle combines proven elements of the AR platform with
DRD’s patented QD barrel and recoil systems.

The great strength of the AR is its modularity: By simply pushing two pins, the upper receiver comes off the lower and can be quickly replaced with another one in a different barrel length or caliber. This also makes it easy to break the gun down for compact storage or discreet transportation.

The barrel and buttstock, however, are a bit of a fly in the ointment as neither is readily removed from its respective receiver half. In the case of the barrel, changing calibers requires an entirely different upper assembly. Similarly, since the AR stock contains the critical buffer spring, the stock can only be so short.

Both problems have been rendered moot by DRD Tactical and demonstrated by their Aptus rifle. Breaking down to less with 19″ overall and a snap to reassemble into a working gun, DRD rifles offer speed, compactness and accuracy in a variety of calibers.


What It’s Not

The Aptus — Latin for “Ready” — is not an AR, although it bears some similarities and some parts interchange including the barrel, trigger group and magazines. The rifle functions with the familiar direct gas-impingement system but eliminates the T-shaped charging handle, replacing it with a non-reciprocating FN FAL-style folding cocking handle. This is complemented by a one-piece extended bolt release from Phase 5 Tactical.

The extended release ranges down into the top of the trigger guard opening and can be operated with the trigger finger, though those who wish can still use the familiar pad on the left side of the gun. The extended release is a necessary accessory — with the left side cocking handle it would be very difficult to operate the charging handle and bolt release to lock the gun open.

The Magpul ACR stock is both folding and collapsible, with a collapsed length
comparable to a standard M4 stock. The adjustable cheekpiece is a stroke of brilliance.


Visually, the first thing you notice about the Aptus is the height of the billet upper receiver. It is taller than an AR receiver to make room for the recoil spring above the proprietary bolt carrier. The rear of the spring assembly is capped by a locking piece protruding into the vertical face of the lower receiver, creating a third lock between the upper and lower in addition to the two familiar pushpins.

The bolt itself is a standard AR piece while the M-Lok forend has a raised rail along its top length to provide a continuous plane down the top of the gun. This combination of a slightly bulkier forend and the folding/collapsible Magpul stock make the gun look closer to an ACR or SCAR than a traditional AR.

Cheek weld is something of a universal problem with collapsible buttstocks. The Magpul stock found on the Aptus, however, eliminates the problem with an adjustable check piece. The cheekpiece has only two possible settings, but adjusts quickly and easily without tools. The stock also extends and collapses by pinching two locking tabs on either side and has a QD sling mount reversible for use on either side. It locks up solidly when folded out into place and stayed this way throughout the test.



The billet lower has a flared magazine well and an integral trigger guard eliminating the uncomfortable gap found on the traditional AR winter trigger guard and uses a Magpul MOE pistol grip with a small storage cavity. The sides of the lower are marked with DRD’s logo, with the safe/fire safety positions engraved with the HK bullet/X iconography. The front face of the magazine housing has Gary Paul Johnston’s 1* logo, a tongue-in-cheek reminder to be careful.

The barrel nut can either be tightened by hand or an AR castle nut wrench.
The forend is held in place by a crosspin secured by a latch covering it and
clamping the forend onto the barrel nut.

Barrel Be Gone

Barrel removal is simple and fast. Lock the bolt to the rear and pull back the latch located on the lower right side of the forend ahead of the receiver. Push out the captured crosspin underneath the latch, then pull the forend forward and off. Unscrew the barrel nut and pull the barrel forward and out. Reassembly is in reverse order, making sure to align the gas tube with the hole in the receiver during barrel assembly.

All this can be done without tools, but the Aptus does come with a wrench to help snug up the barrel beyond what can be done by hand. The barrel nut uses the same slot pattern as an AR castle nut so any AR multitool will do. This particular barrel is 16″ in length with a 1/7 twist and has a three-prong flash hider.

Since the Aptus uses a standard AR barrel, it can be reconfigured in any caliber working in a standard AR chassis. Barrel nuts are available separately for those who wish to assemble their gun in calibers other than the 5.56 or .300 Blackout currently offered by DRD.


The Aptus uses a non-reciprocating FAL-style folding cocking handle. It’s much
easier to reach and doesn’t require lowering the rifle to cycle.

Does It Work?

All this quick-change ability raises some interesting questions about accuracy and longevity but fortunately, I’ve had a long time to answer them. My experience with DRD’s quick-change barrel system isn’t limited to just this test — I have an earlier DRD rifle set up in 5.56, .300 Blackout, .338 Spectre and .22 LR. In spite of being taken apart and reassembled many, many times over the past several years, the gun still shoots sub MOA with a red-dot and has never malfunctioned with 5.56 ammo.

We likewise gave the Aptus a good run at the range over the course of a few months, putting about 700 rounds through it, mostly Black Hills soft point, hollowpoint and ballistic tip configurations in weights ranging from 50 to 75 grains. During the first magazine, there were two failures to eject. After this, there were zero malfunctions of any kind. As is my custom, I never cleaned or oiled it during the test.


The Aptus field-strips similarly to an AR, but not exactly. The rifle breaks down into an extremely compact package (below) and fits into a briefcase-sized hardcase. Note this gun is not a pistol — it’s a 16" barrel rifle!


For optics, we used a Trijicon 4×32 ACOG — my choice for a defensive rifle — switching to a Weaver 2-10x36mm tactical scope for accuracy work. Groups were fired from prone, using a range bag as a front rest. On average the Aptus shot 1.7″ at 100 yards with nine different loads tested. The best group was with 60-grain V-max and measured an impressive 0.64″ center to center. The 50-grain V-Max also shot well, producing two groups measuring around 1″. The 69-grain Sierra MatchKing, 62-grain TSX and 68-grain Heavy HP were also capable of posting groups measuring around an inch.

Stay Tight

For best accuracy, the barrel nut should be tightened with a wrench — if tightened by hand, it can shoot loose after a few mags. Interestingly, when it happened to us, we still produced 50-yard groups measuring around an inch or so, often with four rounds in a single hole and with a flyer around ½" to 1" away. This is well within the designed performance envelope but if you want the best accuracy from the Aptus, keep the wrench in the case with the gun.

However, accuracy and reliability are only part of the equation for a gun intended to be run in a hurry. A close look at the Aptus reveals attention to detail. First, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a sharp edge. From the front edges of the magazine well to the end of the forend and the inside edges of the ventilating slots on its top half, virtually all corners of the gun have been carefully beveled to remove sharp edges.

The rifle breaks down into an extremely compact package and fits into a briefcase-sized
hardcase. Note this gun is not a pistol — it’s a 16" barrel rifle!

Box It Up

The Aptus is a very well thought out package — it’s exceptionally reliable, can be changed quickly from one caliber to another and breaks down to a very small package for discreet carry in the included hard case. All this practicality is achieved while delivering accuracy more than adequate for anything this gun is likely to be used for. With a suggested retail price starting at $2,250, it provides features generally not found on comparable rifles.


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