Sorry, about the huge delay between articles everybody! I’ve been extremely busy and have been working on several projects that should be released in the near future. Stay tuned!
The AK-47 and its variants are perhaps the most ubiquitous firearms in the world. Many more people can regale you with history lessons on the AK-family of weapons. I will not. I simply want to talk about shooting and handling one of them.
Out of the myriad of variants, two undoubtedly stand out from the crowd in terms of quality: the Saiga, manufactured in the Izmash factory, and the VEPR, manufactured in the Molot factory, both in Russia. Big surprise that the best AK variant is made in Russia, right?
Saiga has been exporting their rifles into the US for years, sans all military features and furniture. The rifles feature a sporting style stock, a unique gas tube/forend arrangement, proprietary magazine, no flash hider, bolt hold open lever, and trigger linkage system. However, they do have a cold hammer forged chrome lined barrel and the extremely reliable, bomb proof, Kalashnikov operating system at heart. Once they get here, the talented consumers either leave them as is, or convert them back to true AK style. There are a number of YouTube videos and online tutorials to walk the hobby gunsmith through the process.
The only trick is, you have to use a number of US made parts in the conversion in order to maintain 922R compliance. Section 922R compliance is one of those redundancies that our government deemed necessary. I will not discuss it here for lack of time and patience. Google it. Suffice it to say that if your firearm is not 922R compliant and you do get in trouble, you could be facing some hard time and a hefty fine.
RWC has been the go-to importer for Saigas for years, and having been familiar with the process that consumers go through in order to convert Saigas, decided to offer their own converted 922R Compliant Saiga. Currently RWC offers two different versions of converted Saigas. The Entry Level AK, which we will discuss here is chambered in 7.62x39mm and features a polymer AK stock and pistol grip, bullet guide for using regular AK magazines, Tapco G2 AK trigger, and one US PALM 30rd magazine. The forend, gas tube, and barrel are stock.
Opening the box was rather anticlimactic. There were no instructions, no paperwork with the rifle. Just the rifle, magazine, and cleaning kit were in the box. According to various online sources, the stock Saigas come with a bunch of nifty paperwork and information. Maybe mine was a fluke, or maybe RWC ships all of their converted Saigas without any paperwork, I don’t know.
The Saiga disassembles like every other AK: ensure the rifle is unloaded, take it off safe, ensure your weapon is unloaded again, press the big button on the back of the receiver, lift the dust cover off, take the action spring out, and the bolt and gas piston slide off the rails. Once you take out the guts, you can remove the gas tube by pivoting the little lever next to the rear sight all the way up. Viola! My rifle was filled, and I mean FILLED with metal shavings. It took a good hour to get up all of those pesky little filings. Once it was cleaned and oiled up, the rifle was clickity-clack smooth.
The trigger was a bit mushy, there was no discernable break, but it didn’t stack either. I measured it at 3 pounds exactly. It is very light! The rifle weighs about 7 pounds and 6 ounces, but seems much lighter as it is very well balanced. Altogether the rifle feels well built and tight. There was a bit of magazine wobble with every magazine I tried, but it did nothing to affect feeding and extracting.
I’m going to admit something. I had never fired an AK variant before this day. I was a little nervous about the manual of arms and zeroing. I have spent quite a bit of time zeroing M16s in the Army, so the front post arrangement wasn’t foreign, but the drifting of it was. I highly recommend that you get a good quality front sight adjustment tool when you get your AK, or SKS. It will make your day a lot less frustrating.
Anyways. When you zero an M16 you shoot at 25 meters, you place your rear sight on the 8/3rds hash and then add one click up. You then do all elevation adjustments with your front post and an old nail, and your windage adjustments with the rear drum. When you are zeroed, you drop the elevation to 8/3rds and now you are ready for anything from 0 to 300 meters. An AK is completely different. The old Red Army method of zeroing an AK was exceeding complicated, it involved centimeters, and big black blocks at 100 meters and math and stuff. No bueno. I found an easy way to do it online. Put your leaf on the 100 mark. Zero at 25 meters. Shoot at 100 meters to ensure zero, adjust as necessary. Bada Bing Bada Boom!
The ammo I used to shoot was off the shelf Tula 122 gr FMJ 7.62x39mm. Tula advertises this ammo to clock in at about 2396 fps. From my chronograph, I measured a low of 2302, a high of 2406, with an mean average of 2360 fps. Not too shabby, Tula.
Accuracy was quite impressive for what I expected. Like I said, I am accustomed to the M16s wonderful peep sight. Compared to the M16, the AK is severely lacking in that department. The front sight is blocky and covers up about a foot and a half at 100 yards. The rear sight covers up everything not covered by the front sight. In spite of this, I managed to pull off a 2.29” inch 5 shot group at 100 yards. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. Until I printed a 2.55” inch group, and then a 2.38”.That’s better than a lot of M16s (gasp!) I’ve shot. It makes me curious what a higher quality brand of ammo could do. Feeding and reliability was flawless of course, as per the reputation of the design.
I was a bit apprehensive at first about owning and shooting an AK, but my mind has been changed for the better I think. The price is a bit higher than your run of the mill N-PAP or WASR, but you are paying for quality. Plus, Arsenal, the maker of fine AK products uses Saiga parts in their builds, so its sorta like getting an Arsenal AK for cheap.
In summary, I will still cling to my ARs and my Ruger Minis, but this ugly black, stamped, rugged, piece of sin has won a special place in my heart.
Name: Saiga 7.62 Action: Semi Automatic Barrel Length: 16.5″
Caliber: 7.62x39mm Weight: 7lbs, 6oz OA Length: 35″
Capacity: 10, 20, 30 Trigger Pull: 3lbs Sights: adjustable leaf rear, 100-300m. adjustable front post
Price: $ 849 MSRP