DPMS Panther 5.56 Sportical Carbine

Bridging the gap between sporting and tactical.


Although a dizzying array of AR-style rifles is available today, many of them range from simply pricey to extremely expensive. At odds with this trend is DPMS Inc.’s Panther 5.56 Sportical, an AR-style carbine that retails for just under $700, bridging the gap between the sporting and tactical markets.

The Sportical is something of a hybridization of two of DPMS’ carbine designs. The Panther Lo-Pro Classic is a bull-barreled rifle with a slab-sided, flat-top upper that is intended for precision shooting, plinking and competition. The Panther Lite 16 is a more traditionally configured AR-style rifle, featuring a fixed carry handle and a light contour barrel.

The heart of the 5.56 Sportical is the flat-top upper receiver it shares with the Lo-Pro Classic. Rather than a more conventional 7075-T6 alloy upper receiver, the Sportical’s hard-coat anodized upper is made from more cost-effective, extruded 6066-T6 aluminum alloy. In addition to the differences in material and construction, the Lo-Pro-style upper also features a Spartan slab-sided exterior with no forward assist, shell deflector or dustcover. Also, it features a larger exterior diameter of just over 1 ½" as compared to a slimmer 7075-T6 upper.

As cost effectiveness is a key concept of the Sportical, the rifle does not come with sights. DPMS recognized that most users plan on equipping the rifle with some sort of optic and would not want to pay for parts they would just remove later anyway. The Sportical also shares another feature with the Lo-Pro Classic—a flat-topped gas block with a strip of Picatinny rail.

The Sportical features a phosphated 4140 chrome-moly steel light contour 16" barrel similar to that of the Lite 16, contributing to the Sportical’s feathery-light weight of 6 lbs., 5 ozs. The barrel has an exterior diameter of 0.642" along its length and is topped off with an A2-style flash hider. The barrel’s button-rifled bore has six grooves with a 1:9" right-hand twist.

The lower is a standard forged 7075-T6 aluminum alloy hard-coat anodized receiver with an A2-style pistol grip and non-ambidextrous safety lever. Anyone familiar with the operation of any other DPMS A-15 rifle, or any other AR-style rifle for that matter, will find no surprises here.

Although the price would lead one to think that this is a no-frills offering, the rifle actually has several upgrades over a more traditional AR-pattern carbine. In particular, the rifle features a set of DPMS’ Glacier Guards, a fiber-reinforced polymer handguard that dispenses with the standard internal aluminum heat shield and instead employs 15 internal fins or ribs to help dissipate heat. In addition, the ribs add structural strength. DPMS claims that the heat-resistant polymer of the handguards allows them to resist temperatures of up to 500° F. The handguards also feature 15 external ribs that mirror the internal cooling ribs and add additional gripping surface area.

Matching the upgraded handguards is DPMS’ Pardus six-position collapsing stock. As opposed to a more traditional AR collapsing stock assembly, the fiber-reinforced Zytel Pardus unit has four integrated sling attachment slots, a curved “saw-tooth” buttplate and a redesigned length-of-pull adjustment latch with finger grooves. There are six length-of-pull adjustments ranging between 10¾" and 14¾".

The Sportical’s fit and finish are quite impressive, with a level of quality that belies its affordable price. There was little to no play between the upper and lower receivers, and the anodized finish of the major parts matched evenly.

Handling the 5.56 Sportical reveals a sprite and handy little carbine that neatly splits the difference between the Lo-Pro Classic and the Lite 16. Unlike the nearly 8-lb. weight of the bull-barreled Lo-Pro, the Sportical’s light weight brings it more in line with the Lite 16, while the Lo-Pro-style upper receiver lends it a great deal more flexibility regarding optics than the fixed carry handle of the Lite 16.

As the Sportical comes without sights, we chose to mount a Leupold Mark 4 CQT, as the carbine’s reasonable cost allows users a little more latitude in purchasing a high-quality optic such as this one. For the more budget conscious, a set of iron sights such as Brownells’ tactical flip-up iron sights make for a good choice.

For testing, we chose three loadings raging in bullet weights from 55 grs. to 64 grs. Due to its light weight and handy size, the 5.56 Sportical was a pleasure to handle and shoot. Over the course of a several hundred rounds, there was not a single malfunction. Also of note is the fact that a southpaw evaluator had no problem whatsoever with ejecting cases despite the fact that there is no shell deflector on the upper receiver. With excellent fit and finish and extremely good accuracy, the DPMS Panther 5.56 Sportical should appeal to more than just sporting and tactical shooters. In fact, it should appeal to anyone who simply appreciates a high-quality product for a reasonable price.

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15 Responses to DPMS Panther 5.56 Sportical Carbine

MooseAirborne wrote:
November 15, 2014

I am an old 82nd Airborne paratrooper and my DPMS is as good a quality as my issue COLT m16a1/a2's were. I am retired now but love to hunt and believe in the 2nd amendment. great gun for the money.

Shawn Gordon wrote:
October 26, 2014

I just got one at walmart my first ar-15 i put 2000 rounds threw it with no problems this is a great gun for the money I would recommend this gun to anyone it's a great starter gun and some thank you dpms

Alaster wrote:
July 20, 2014

Excellent Rifle, Quality is high and the price is low. I encourge anybody and everybody to buy one of these. 9 out of 10 rating for from me but thats only because 10 out of 10 just dont exsist yet on any level regarding Firearms.

gabe wrote:
June 27, 2013

This rifle has far exeeded my expectations. I was a paratrooper in the 82nd airborne and it is the same quality as my battle rifle. Many will say its no good but i can tell you from experience this is a great ar 15. I would put this dpms sportical up against most higher cost ar platforms. Im very pleased with this purchase and it made me be able to afford an eotech as well as magpull accessories. By saving oncost you can trick this dpms spkrtical how you want it without suffering on quality!

Bo Carter wrote:
November 12, 2012

Nice looking weapon. I'm mounting an Ecotec hologram site and will be set. I have a smith ar-15. I'll let you know how they stack up. Price is killer less than 1/2 of smith mp-15.

bart wrote:
October 03, 2012

I bougt a sportical rifle, and equiped it with an aimsoprt cqd optic. After proper break in, I shot pmc 55gr fmj rounds. A 5 shot group measured 1.2". I then reloaded 52 gr. sierra hpbt bullets with 26 gr. of varget. Shot a 5 shot group measuring .75". Very impressive. Had a grand total of $750 invested in rifle, and optic.

manatplay322 wrote:
September 30, 2012

I purchased the dpms sportical around a month ago. So far, i have put a little more than five thousand rounds through it with out a single fte or ftl. I later mounted a decent dual illuminated scope and aluminum quadrail to enhance its already stupendous stability with a bi-pod. Thank you DPMS for developing such a perfect addition to the ar platform based market allowing people of not so financially fortunate positions to be able to afford such a mechanical marvel.

Frankie Baby wrote:
September 29, 2012

Bought this M4 at Wal-Mart for $587.00. All civilians and military who pick mine up goes out and buys one. DMPS rocks. Thanks.

Alex wrote:
September 27, 2012

Just A Quick Question. Does Anybody Know If This Gun Is CA Legal?

Dan F. wrote:
September 10, 2012

I just bought one of these Sporticals as a 2nd AR. So far I've had zero problems with it. I had no problem zeroing it in at the range. It's a very simple and clean AR. No need for the forward assist, never really needed it when I was in the Army. If I ever do, I'll just push on the cut out groove on bolt, that's the forward assist on this thing. DPMS is a good brand, and have great prices for there AR's.

Randy H wrote:
May 21, 2012

I bought one recently and love it. It is great to shoot. The fit and finish are very good. Won't go wrong buying one.

denner wrote:
February 29, 2012

Great review, you covered everything I needed to know. I just purchased the Lo Pro Classic and I'm a southpaw and likewise appreciate the included observation about brass not hitting a lefty.

Bill2 wrote:
July 20, 2011

Do NOT be scared off by the Sportical's price - this is an extremely well made firearm. Many members of my family have military backgrounds and were not expecting much when I told them what I had purchased. Then I let them stip it down, build it back, and take it to the range. With the ~$50 "red dot" scope I purchased from Wal-Mart - we all had no problem shooing group after group that any recreational shooter could brag about. DPMS definately surpassed my expectations with this one!

Bullpup wrote:
May 28, 2011

I own the Panther Lo-Pro Classic and It's truly the most accurate gun I have ever fired and I've shot a lot of guns. With a 4-16x40 scope I can hit bottles caps at 100 yards all day long. You can't buy a more accurate gun for the price.

Bill wrote:
April 25, 2011

Thanks for including the Lefty in your report. That was my concern with no deflector. I have fired an M16 that did not have the deflector when in the National Guard and had many a hot round down my shirt. They were one of the last units to switch to the M16A2’s in the early 90’s.