When choosing an AR-15 that might someday be called upon to help defend your life and those of your loved ones, who better to design and build it than someone who has been in the thick of battle and has had to depend upon his weapon to save his life on more than one occasion. Joey D’Alessio of Delphi Tactical is just that guy. Joey has been in the U.S. Army for almost 20 years and has seen combat in Iraq (OIF) and as a Special Operations operator in Afghanistan, Africa and Jordan/Syria. He has been building rifles for friends and other soldiers for many years, most recently for more than five years under the Delphi Tactical label.
The DP-15 Silverbow Elite that was evaluated here is only one of many AR-15- and AR-10-style rifles offered by Delphi Tactical. It is part of the DP-15 line and is at about the midpoint in price of all the rifles offered by Delphi Tactical. The Silverbow is Delphi Tactical’s flagship rifle line. This rifle is named after Apollo’s bow. Apollo, also known as the Archer, was the son of Zeus and was known for his far-shooting with a silver bow.
SIZING UP THE SILVERBOW ELITE
The Silverbow Elite utilizes a direct-impingement mid-length gas system. The 16.5-inch POF Puritan barrel is cut from 4150 chrome-vanadium steel and features 5R rifling with a 1:8-inch twist rate and a Delphi Tactical MIL-SPEC flash hider. The chamber also features E2 extraction technology, which reduces the stress on the extractor, increases reliability through dual extraction and allows coated ammunition to be fired reliably. A Delphi Tactical mid-length gas system, which is nitride coated and uses an SLR Sentry 7 premium adjustable gas block, directs gas from the barrel to the BCG.
The full-auto-rated bolt carrier group features a Sharps Rifle Company Xtreme Performance Bolt (XPB). Both the bolt and the bolt carrier are made of S7 tool steel with a DLC finish. A buffer tube made by ALG Defense, along with a JP Rifles Gen2 Silent Captured Spring System, make up the buffer system. A flat-faced CMC Match trigger drops the hammer on the firing pin. The trigger broke crisply at just under 4 pounds after a smooth pull. A Battle Arms Development 45-degree, short-throw safety is provided. KNS Precision Gen2 Mod2 anti-walk trigger and hammer pins are also provided. Furniture includes a Mission First Tactical Battlelink Minimalist buttstock, Delphi Tactical Ion Ultra Lite 15.7-inch handguard with M-Lok and an X-Tech Tactical (ATG) pistol grip. Each of these items has been chosen for light weight and functionality. The octagon-shaped handguard features a full-length 1913 MIL-SPEC rail on top and M-Lok attachment points on the other seven sides. Steel Magpul MBUS Pro front
and rear sights provide robust backup sights.
Options included on the reviewed gun include custom Cerakote in Delphi Sniper Gray Kryptek Typhon, an AAC Blackout 51T muzzle brake, an SLR Rifleworks hand stop and dragon-patterned rail scales. The Cerakote finish made for a very bad-ass-looking rifle!
Joey D’Alessio, SGM (select), currently serves in the Operations Division of the Office of Special Warfare (OSW), 1st Special Forces Command, based at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “Joey D,” as he is known, has been in the U.S. Army for 19 years. He started off as an 11B infantryman stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Joey’s first action was in Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which he served two deployments in the Recon Platoon as a sniper. His first deployment was with 1-22 Infantry, Task Force 121, during the hunt for Saddam Hussein. He was decorated for Valor on two separate occasions in battle.
After his first deployment to Iraq, Joey was selected to serve with Special Operations. After his second deployment to Iraq, Joey PCS’d (permanent change of station) to Fort Bragg to attend his training for entrance into the Special Operations community. After completing his training, Joey deployed to Afghanistan three times as part of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and participated in village stability operations, as well as mentoring Afghan commandos. In 2011, he deployed to Africa with the Special Operations Command and Control Element, Horn of Africa, conducting counter-piracy operations. He later deployed to Jordan/Syria to stand up Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) forces to combat ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Joey has had Special Operations titles of team leader, operations sergeant, detachment sergeant, first sergeant and currently, sergeant major.
Joey’s passion for guns began with his Red Ryder B-B gun at the age of 7. He always knew he wanted to be a soldier. Much of what Joey knows about firearms was the result of his sniper training—learning about what makes a rifle accurate. As a sniper, Joey shot the M24 Remington 700, M107 Barrett 50 and the M110. He was one of the first snipers to use and evaluate the M110 weapons system in Iraq. Joey continued to learn about weapons platforms and systems throughout his training and deployments.
Joey not only worked on rifles, he also designed and made prototypes of special pieces of gear and modified existing gear as the need arose. He was the go-to guy in his platoon for special gear. One project was a single platform to mount a binocular, night vision and a rangefinder on a tripod.
That way, all a sniper had to do was grab one piece of gear when he got the call to bug out. Joey did custom builds of rifles for people before he started Delphi Tactical. He was tired of overpriced and low-quality equipment—both military and civilian. He constantly asked himself what he would do if he had a business, and how he would serve and treat his customers.
Delphi Tactical’s rifles are named according to different “eras” by warrior class and the weapons utilized by a warrior class within those ages. The budget-friendly entry model line is the DELPHI-15 forged receiver line.
It consists of the Man At ARms and Long ARm models. Even though these rifles are less expensive and use forged receivers, they still come with Delphi Tactical’s sub-MOA accuracy guarantee and lifetime transferable warranty. The original line is the DP-15 line of billet receiver rifles. There are seven models: the Silverbow, Praetorian, Centurion, Legionnaire, Visigoth, Longbowman and Jedburgh. As with all Delphi firearms, a sub-MOA guarantee and lifetime transferrable warranty come with each of these models.
All DP-15 models come in three variants: Basic, Enhanced and Elite. All, with the exception of the DP-15 Legionnaire, are available in 5.56 NATO, as well as 300 Blackout. Finally, there is the DP-10 line of AR-10-style rifles. This line includes the Mongol, Agincourt, Bodkin and Macedonian models. Once again, these models all feature a sub-MOA guarantee and lifetime transferable warranty.
To augment the Magpul MBUS Pro sights, Joey had mounted a Leupold Mark 6 1-6x20mm riflescope with a CMR-W reticle on the Silverbow using a Kinetic Development KDG Sidelok Modular Optic Mount. This is probably the best scope/mount combination I have ever used on an AR-15. The Leupold Mark 6 is extremely versatile, and the mount allows the scope to be easily removed and re-installed with no discernible change in point of impact.
Joey says the CMR-W reticle allows for target engagement from CQB distances to 700 meters (with practice). The scope-and-mount combination costs more than the rifle, but it is worth it if you are serious about accuracy and repeatability.
FEEDING THE SILVERBOW
In order to evaluate the accuracy potential of the Silverbow Elite, I used five different types of factory ammunition. Bullet weights ranged from 55 to 77 grains. I only had a limited amount of range time with the Silverbow, so I couldn’t try a wider variety of ammunition brands and bullet weights. The Federal Premium 77-grain MatchKing BTHP ammunition was the most accurate of the group. Three five-shot groups fired at 100 yards averaged 0.99 inch. The smallest group was 0.86 inch, and the largest was 1.23 inches. The muzzle velocity for this ammunition averaged 2,278 fps for 10 shots. Velocities were determined using a LabRadar device that calculated the muzzle velocity, average velocity, extreme spread and standard deviation.
Lapua 69-grain OTM Scenar ammunition finished a close second, with a 1.15-inch average for three five-shot groups. The average velocity was 2,434 fps. All ammunition used functioned without a problem. Various magazines were also used, and Silverbow Elite never missed a beat.
FROM THE SHOOTING BENCH
I only had time for one day of shooting from the bench and one day of tactical shooting, but the Silverbow Elite functioned flawlessly both days. During my time at the range, when I was checking accuracy and velocity, I found the Silverbow Elite a dream to shoot from the bench. The CMC Match trigger was silky smooth and broke cleanly, with a short, audible reset. When shooting from the bench, I like to run my trigger finger on the very bottom of the trigger along the trigger guard for a consistent feel.
Due to the oversized trigger guard on the Silverbow Elite, that was not possible—but then, this rifle wasn’t designed to be a benchrest gun. The oversized trigger guard allows for operation while wearing gloves in a tactical situation or competitive event.
“The Federal Premium 77-grain MatchKing BTHP ammunition was the most accurate of the group. Three five-shot groups fired at 100 yards averaged 0.99 inch. The smallest group was 0.86 inch, and the largest was 1.23 inches.”
Recoil was almost nonexistent due to the JP Rifles Silent Captured Spring System buffer assembly. AR-15s chambered in .223 Rem/5.56 NATO don’t recoil much anyway, but the Silverbow Elite’s recoil was especially mild and without the spring noise found with most AR-15 buffer systems. Average group sizes for four of the five brands of ammunition used were within 0.54 inch of each other, and the first three were within 0.29 inch of each other. These three loads used 69-, 75- and 77-grain bullets and were very consistent.
The rifle seemed to like heavier bullets best but really didn’t care much about the type or brand. As long as premium ammunition with a relatively heavy bullet is used, meeting the 1 MOA guarantee will not be a problem. The accuracy of this rifle was especially amazing, considering that it had fired in excess of 10,000 rounds prior to this evaluation.
AGAINST THE COMPETITION
I had the opportunity to compete in my monthly International Infidel Gunfighter League (IIGL) match on my last day with the Silverbow Elite. This is a three-gun event at 37PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, North Carolina, near Fort Bragg. This match is more training than competition and focuses on tactics, accuracy and speed, in that order. It is difficult to take a new, unfamiliar rifle to an event such as this and do well, because you really need to know your weapon thoroughly in everything from combat task evaluations to close-quarters combat and the 100-yard range. This means knowing the feel of the safety, the eye relief of the scope in various shooting positions and sling use/manipulation.
“When choosing an AR-15… who better to design and build it than someone who has been in the thick of battle and has had to depend upon his weapon to save his life on more than one occasion.”
In spite of not using the Silverbow Elite previously in a match, I managed to finish fourth out of a field of 36—with the help of winning the man-on-man steel pistol stage within my squad and good shotgun stage times. The Silverbow acquitted itself well, with excellent 100-yard accuracy, no malfunctions and good handling. The only thing that slowed me down at all with the rifle and definitely added some time to my score was using the scope in the prone position. For stage 1, we had to shoot off the top of a Conex box at targets approximately 50 yards away. My eye was too close to the scope for a good sight picture, so I had to take time to adjust the stock and reposition my head to obtain one.
This was not a fault of either the rifle or the scope; rather, it resulted from my lack of familiarity with the rifle-and-scope combination in various shooting positions.
YOUR SEARCH HAS ENDED
Today, there are many AR-15-style rifles from which to choose. They range in price from about $600 to several thousand dollars. The Silverbow Elite is at the middle to upper end of the scale. That said, I strongly believe in the adage, “You get what you pay for.” In the case of the Silverbow Elite, you get many custom features and don’t have to discard anything—as you would if you bought a base model and upgraded at a later date. Also, if you prefer, almost anything on the Silverbow Elite can be upgraded at the time of purchase.
I could easily see myself shooting a Silverbow in future IIGL matches. It is easily one of the best—and probably the best—AR-15 I have ever shot. It is accurate, reliable, lightweight and is a great-handling rifle. Add to that the fact that it is designed and built by dedicated war fighters who know what it takes to make a good rifle that shoots well, and you have the recipe for an outstanding rifle. If you’re looking for a high-end AR-15 rifle that will last the average shooter a lifetime, look no further. The Delphi Tactical Silverbow Elite and its siblings offer plenty of versions to choose from.
When Joey D’Alessio returned to the United States after his deployment to Africa, his father-in-law encouraged him and wife Monique to start thinking about Joey’s transition out of the military. He also encouraged them to go into business for themselves and suggested they follow Joey’s passion for firearms and related gear. They could start out with Monique working from home, filling online orders while taking care of their newborn daughter. He also asked Joey, “How much would it cost to start a part-time business right then that they could grow into a full-time business when Joey retired from the Army?” Joey then went to work creating a spreadsheet of startup costs based upon years of information stored in his head. He came up with an initial cost of $3,000. Soon after giving the spreadsheet to his father-in-law, Monique’s father set up an account for them with $3,000 in it for them to use to start the business. Now, there was no excuse for not starting their own business of tactical gear and firearms accessories.
Delphi Tactical was officially created in June 2012. Joey and Monique then began traveling to gun shows and related events throughout North Carolina selling tactical gear Joey had either made or modified. He traveled with his mobile gun cart, “Where It All Began.” More than 200 guns were built on that cart. The name, “Delphi Tactical,” came out of Joey’s love of Greek mythology; in this case, specifically from the city of Delphi, Greece,
home of the Delphic oracle. This is where warriors came to seek guidance from the Pythia prior to going into battle. The very first DP-15 billet lower receiver came off the production line on October 15, 2015. It became what is known today as the Silverbow rifle. Next came the DP-10 billet line of receivers and AR-10-style rifles. Then came the DELPHI-15 budget-friendly line of forged-receiver, AR-15-style rifles. A Gen2 line of billet receivers is also available in AR-15, AR-10, 9mm Luger and .45 ACP versions. This line offers different aesthetics than the Gen1 line. An ultra-lightweight Gen3 line of billet receivers is also in the design phase.
Delphi Tactical also offers a buffer kit, enhanced lower receiver parts kit, billet ejection port doors and a Delphi barrel line (machined from Shilen barrel blanks). The final piece of the puzzle was put in place with the opening of the Delphi Tactical storefront on November 12, 2017, in Raeford, North Carolina. For four years, Joey and Monique had imagined what their future storefront might look and feel like. Joey thought about how he had been treated at various tactical stores over the years and how he could bring back old-school American customer service.
Some of the goals were for the store to be a hands-on experience via which customers could feel the triggers and stocks, see the barrels and watch educational videos showing the various available components and specifications. It would be much like an Apple store, with a sleek and clean design in a rustic Carolina atmosphere. That store is now a reality.
|Group Size (inches)|
|Fed. Prem. Sierra MatchKing BTHP 77-grain||
|Lapua 69-grain OTM||
|Hornady .223 Match 75-grain BTHP||
PMC 55-grain FMJ-BT
|American Eagle 55-grain FMJ-BT||
NOTES: E.S. = Extreme Spread; S.D. = Standard Deviation. Large = largest group in inches; Small = smallest group in inches; Avg. = average group size for three five-shot groups. Velocity was recorded at the muzzle in feet per second (fps) using a LabRadar device and is an average of 10 consecutive shots. Accuracy was measured at 100 yards.
TYPE: Semiautomatic; direct-impingement, mid-length gas system
CALIBER: 5.56 NATO (tested), 300 Blackout
UPPER RECEIVER: Billet aluminum; flat top; forward assist; M4 feed ramp
LOWER RECEIVER: Billet aluminum
BOLT CARRIER GROUP: Sharpes Rifle Company XPB; full-auto rated; DLC finish
BARREL: 16.5-inch POF Puritan; enhanced extraction technology; 1:8 twist rate
MUZZLE BRAKE: AAC Blackout 51T
SIGHTS: Magpul MBUS Pro (front and rear)
HANDGUARD: Delphi Tactical Ion Ultra Lite, 15.7 inches with M-Lok rail (KeyMod available)
OVERALL LENGTH: 36 ¾ inches (fully extended); 33 ½ inches (collapsed)
BUTTSTOCK: Mission First Tactical Battlelink Minimalist
PISTOL GRIP: X-Tech Tactical (ATG)
TRIGGER: CMC Match, flat
TRIGGER PULL: 3 pounds, 12 ounces (average of 10 consecutive pulls using a digital Lyman trigger pull gauge)
WEIGHT: 6 pounds, 13.1 ounces (unloaded)
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.