Non-NFA Firearm Review, Variant 1 from Dark Storm Industries

Graham Baates with the Dark Storm Industries Variant 1 Non-NFA Firearm
Graham Baates with the Dark Storm Industries Variant 1 Non-NFA Firearm

USA – -( Dark Storm Industries offers a solution to the National Firearms Act restrictions with its Non-NFA Firearm Variant 1.  Before diving into the firearm itself a bit of back story is needed.  The National Firearms Act (NFA) defined the classifications of firearms and when combined with other laws is largely what determines which box is checked on a transfer form and which local laws apply.  I am not an attorney and none of this should be taken as legal advice, I mean only to provide a brief familiarization.  The acceptance of a stabilizing brace and its occasional use to stabilize a pistol against the body blurred the practical application of gun classifications as “pistols” became something that could be fired more like a “rifle”.  Other devices like the Pistol Storage Device augment reality even further with their own classification that is neither a stock nor brace yet certainly can be used to physically stabilize a firearm for safer operation.

One hangup for a lot of stabilized pistol users is the prohibition on vertical foregrips.  Adding a forward vertical grip to a pistol creates an, “Any Other Weapon” which requires a tax payment and paperwork much like a short-barreled rifle, though the tax is considerably less at just $5.  So how then has Dark Storm Industries created a firearm that can be fired as seen in the cover photo?  See the tabletop video below for a more in-depth description.

With that out of the way we can finally pay attention to this beautiful firearm.  As you saw, attention to detail and precise machining is a definite theme with this firearm.  One thing that suprised me was just how light and balanced it feels.  It’s en vogue for manufacturers to advertise products as lightweight, but with billet receivers I was doubtful.  I was wrong to be so.  I’m sure the shorter barrel has something to do with it, but the gun just feels perfectly balanced and very easy to orient to the next target.  If time permits I’d like to run some target transition drills with it compared to other AR pistol builds.

Speaking of builds, here are the product specifications as taken directly from the product web page:

  • Precision CNC from aerospace aluminum billet 7075-T6
  • Intricate lightweight design
  • Custom Tungsten Cerakote Finish
  • Upper/lower tension screw setup
  • M4 feed ramp extensions
  • Forward assist (Removed from similar high end rifles)
  • Edges deburred for clean smooth finish
  • Allen screw bolt catch pin
  • Allen screw forward assist pin
  • Winter trigger guard
  • DSI Billet Ambidextrous Charging Handle
  • DSI Billet Ambidextrous 90 Degree Safety Selector
  • DSI M16 Bolt Carrier Group
  • DSI Ultralight Narrow Profile M-Lok 9″ Forearm
  • DSI Steel Micro Gas Block
  • Carbine Gas System
  • DSI 12.5″ 5.56 Threaded 1:7 Nitrite Barrel
  • DSI Competition Compensator
  • Magpul PMAG 30 (Available with 10 RD magazine for Connecticut and New Jersey)
  • SB Tactical SBA3 Adjustable Arm Stabilizing Brace
  • Ambidextrous Sling Plate
  • Hogue Pistol Grip
  • Optic Ready (sights not included)
  • Trigger Lock

Keeping in mind that milled receivers are not necessarily cut to “mil-spec” and also that Dark Storm keeps their tolerances tighter than your average high-volume factory I was curious about magazine fitment.  Steel and aluminum magazines like DuraMags can generally be counted on to always fit, especially steel magazines as the material is thinner than aluminum, but polymer magazines have not only thicker walls, but also naturally absorb and expend moisture to match ambient air.  This means polymer magazines are possibly thicker to begin with, and change dimensions slightly with their environment.  So which polymer magazines fit and function with the Variant 1?  We tested that as well as five different loads for groups at the reasonable range of 50 yards.  Results and commentary are in the video below.

The carbine-length gas system along with some un-mentioned tricks in their buffer system made the Variant 1 a VERY smooth shooter.  The muzzle brake certainly contributes, but also brings some percussion.  After spending a couple of days on the range with the Variant 1 I’m not sure how I want to use it. Is this non-NFA firearm a glamour gun or the one that rides tucked away in a go-kit?  The challenge is that the Variant 1 could easily serve both roles.

G B Guns

About Graham Baates

“Graham Baates” is a pen name used by a 15-year active Army veteran who spent most of his time in the tactical side of the Intelligence community including tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Post-Army Graham spent some time in the local 3-Gun circuit before becoming a full-time NRA Certified defensive handgun instructor and now works as an industry writer while curating a YouTube channel on the side. Visit Graham on Youtube .

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Sorry, but the guy contradicts himself in the video. First he says it has a pistol brace NOT intended to be fired from the shoulder (1:00), then when saying it’s NOT an AOW he says because it’s longer than 26″ and IS intended to be fired from the shoulder (1:26). Can’t be both. I say the vertical foregrip makes it an AOW, be safe, pay the tax.


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Ej harbet

The whole premise of long gun demension limits was so they could ban handguns and prevent people from making handguns from long guns. But like a old man with herpes he got when he was 20 it is still with us even though the handgun ban never happened.


Whilst I commend operations like DSI for some very well executed firearms, and innovation, I have a problem with them being in NY. The thought of any of their business taxes going to a regime that would happily crush their business and take guns from citizens is disturbing. I avoid doing business with tyrannical States. This is difficult I admit, but there are few other options. I admit to some hypocrisy here. I’m currently vacationing on Lake Champlain, on the NY side. I thought long and hard about being in a State when I couldn’t even have a pistol in… Read more »

Ej harbet

Thank god for trump calling out anti americans.
We should proverbialy follow at his heels firing on the enemy until they flee or surrender


The video is WRONG! This can not be sold in CT because it has all the evil features of a so-called “assault weapon” as defined by the tyrants. Pistol Grip Semi-auto Detachable magazine Flash hider/threaded barrel Forward grip Pistol with magazine well not in the grip Pistol with magazine that extends below mag well Firearm manufactured after 1994 Gun laws written to be changed quickly & easily without new legislation Stock/brace not fixed in place I am sure I have missed something, but isn’t this enough? I live in a state full of libtards and Fudds, and very few Patriots.… Read more »


I live right next to you in RI. I can own standard magazines, any semiautomatic rifle, build whatever I want and purchase ammo freely. They have tried, and continue to try to take away our rights. We have a strong 2A group and all the clubs are connected to it. When they push legislation, we push back. We show up en masse at the State house by the multiple thousand. I don’t know if other States are this well organized. So far it has seemed to largely keep them at bay. I see lots of CT tags at my Club,… Read more »


Those ‘evil features’ are only evil if found on a rifle or pistol per CT law. The DSI Variant 1 isn’t a rifle or a pistol.

Wild Bill

@WP, So are you going to not buy because your state libtard tyrants tell you not to? You must know someone in another state that may have bought some “disapproved of thing” that wants to sell it. When is the last time you went to visit them in your pov, for a short vacation? You maybe could but their “disapproved of thing” with your vacation cash and take it home as a souvenir. All of the arrangements would have to be made by landline, of course, because the government grabs cell phone signals out of the air without a warrant.… Read more »


Every time you print a picture of someone with a pistol brace on their shoulder it screams these are really just shot stocks to the ATF. It is like you are asking them to reclassify the braced pistols as SBRs.


“Shall not be infringed” was so much more simple to understand. But they just couldn’t figure that out.


Actively advertising the flaunting of the infringements makes them more likely to create further infringements.


This is like keeping very still so the Tiger doesn’t see you. It doesn’t work. Own legally what you can. Own illegally what you can. Move to a free State. Vote with a ballot and your wallet. And never, never let them silence you.

Wild Bill

@Albbac2, Yes, the BATFE, the executive branch, the Congress, the judiciary, and the residue of the bureaucracy are all actively and intentionally ignoring the Second Amendment and the nature of our Rights. We should not be giving them a heads up every time that we find a work around. These manufacturers are going to advertise themselves right out of business.
Let the multi levels of government find out on their own … if they can.


Amen! It’s like poking the bear with a stick.


@Albbac2 and MajorMike What the two of you are saying is just to let the bureaucracy have their way. Maybe it is time you realized that you are their employers and not the other way around. If they want to make laws that are progressive and against the Constitution take names and vote them out the next election.
You can’t let them buffalo you for ever and still remain a free person in a free country.