Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Russian American Armory FTW.

Something I've always wanted: an AK47. Nothing super fancy, though I wouldn't balk at the gift of a shiny DPMS flat-top AR15, they're a little too high maintenance for my liking; fragile and picky when it comes to the ammunition that you feed them. The AK to me has always been the more elegant assault weapon, as it's simple build and unquestionable reliability have garnered it the title of the most recognized and popular assault rifle ever made. The AK's picture graces currency as well as flags of nations abroad. It is versatile and dependable and will shoot unquestionably in any environment. It fires clean and it fires dirty, it fires dry and it fires wet. It will fire caked with mud as well as it will fire right out of the box.

The problem that I've always had with the AK47 is that since the assault weapons ban imposed by Clinton in '94 came to a conclusion in 2004, most preban versions of the weapon are nearly impossible to come by. Yes occasionally you may come across a beatup Mac90 at a pawn shop for an asking price of 600-700 dollars out of your pocket, but those instances are few and far between. Better to go with a Yugoslavian SKS, honestly, because those weapons are just as reliable at less than half the cost of a preban AK. Your other choices are Century rebuilds which tend to be okay to terrible in their reliability, to Arsenal rebuilds which are exceptionally sick but will run you eight hundo at the minimum. For that price buy a bare bones AR.

Russian American Armory, however, seems to be providing an solution to those picky people like my frothing at the mouth to own their very own AK47. Manufactured at Izhmash in Russia, the same plant that employs Kalashnikov himself, the Saiga rifle is an exemplary show of what a reliable, affordable, and ultimately badass AK47 build should demonstrate to the potential user.

The company offers their rifles in virtually all popular large calibers, ranging from the Nato 5.56 (.223) to my preferred round, 7.62x39 mm round. My reasons for preferring said caliber are fairly basic: it's cheap (a box of Wolf containing 20 rounds runs roughly $6) and it's a larger bullet than the .223, and makes a louder bang when you pull back that trigger. As you can see, the rifle is assembled in a sporting configuration (meaning no pistol grip, on of a few things that set it apart from it's standard AK brethren) which means that the weapon can be shipped from the plant in Russia to their US distributors without having to comply to Article 922R as stated by the ATF. What a lot of collectors then run into is having to worry about compliance once you begin the process of converting the gun to look and feel like a normal AK47. RAA, however, has been kind enough to provide a skeletonized stock to replace the monte carlo style hunting stock that is standard on the gun, and that part does not count as a free standing pistol grip, even though one is integrated on the stock. It also decreases the stock length by several inches, making it a bit more comfortable to fire. But all that's for another post. the only add-on I will be pursuing for now, will be a side mount and holographic red dot to help improve my accuracy.

Speaking of accuracy, this thing is virtually dead on. My shots were a little hit or miss for the first five rounds due to bad target placement on a relatively windy afternoon, confined to the upper left quadrant, but for my second set of shots, I started by slamming the bullseye that you can see pictured on the right. Adjustments will need to be made for the elevation on the front sight of the gun, as after that one, I managed to pepper a perfectly straight line up and down dead center of the target.

On display as well as the target and rifle itself, is the magazine, as well as the cleaning kit, which have been standard issue for any AK since production began. Unlike your traditional WASR10 or Mac90, though, there is no trapdoor to store the kit in the buttstock of the weapon. But the quality of the utensils supplied are ten-fold that which you'd get with a normal Century rebuild. The Saiga kit includes bore brush, pin punch, flathead screw driver bit which can be fixed to use the container as the handle, cleaning rod (not pictured), and swab attachment for the cleaning rod. Which means that my Yugo SKS kit can be used specifically for the Yugo, and I don't have to share. Now that may seem superfluous to some of you, but I'm a sucker for anything extra included with the shit I buy.

The barrel of the Saiga is also chrome-lined, which helps to prevent corrosion from bad ammo. Mainly reloads which I won't be using anyway, but it's a nice feature since even the Wolf or Golden Tiger non-corrosive rounds will eat away at the inside of your barrel eventually. Another perk of the chrome lined barrel is how it also helps to prevent heat from affecting the straight line of the barrel itself. Other gas operated weapons, like Ruger's Mini14 (Sturm Ruger's attempt at replacing the AR15 with a cheaper weapon back in the 70's) will experience an issue referred to as "barrel droop" after getting too hot. Not a permanent problem once the rifle cools down, but during a firing session it is nothing short of a terible impediment to accuracy. If you expand the picture to the right you may be able to see that the only problem with the barrel that my gun displays is some slight pitting. This is actually not a problem with the barrel at all, but an issue with wear on the muzzle itself. It looks like it may have been dropped at the factory, or jammed into a wall or box, but thankfully doesn't affect the firing of the weapon itself, and is only a slight cosmetic flaw. The general rule is to never look down that end of the gun anyway, so really, who's going to notice? The only other problem I have with the gun is the receiver, which rather than having been blued, was painted black, a paint which chips fairly easily, though again, fixing that is just a matter of stripping the paint and blueing the receiver myself.

And finally, let me talk about actually shooting the gun. I do not own another firearm that is such a joy to shoot. While 7.62x39 is by no means a small round, I can easily compare it to any weapon firing .223. Granted the .223 round is merely an extended .22, there is little to no kick when firing this weapon. What little kick there is comes from the bolt slamming back and forth during firing, which is typical for an AK, and from my experience with it in action, barely touches your accuracy.

To close, my exuberance in the shooting sports has been relatively placated with this acquisition. It is a blast to shoot, and has provided me with long sought AK for my own personal armory. Granted I am all about the "fun guns", which the Saiga 7.62 most certainly is, but when (if) shit goes down, it will be impossible to pry this tool from my hands. For a retail cost of $349.99 and the cheapest medium sized caliber on the market to feed it, as well as a new interpretation of the classic AK design, you can't go wrong with a Saiga.

1 comment:

1Fed said...

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