The 5 best currently imported AKs on the market.
The upcoming Presidential Election next year in 2020, mass shootings, Antifa, and threats on our border has kept the sale of firearms high here in the United States. Not quite to the level of previous years, but much higher than we saw in the previous decade. Ongoing events and politics have again focused the attention of would-be gun owners, and current firearms owners on two type of firearms: handguns and semi-auto rifles. Of the semi-auto rifles, the AR-15 is by far the most popular rifle series on the market, distantly followed by AKs.
This is not an article debating the superiority of either of these rifles. I’ve written this to provide a quick buyer’s guide for anyone looking to buy their first AK. With several of these rifles available on the US market, I am going to focus on just a few “every man’s rifles”. The criteria being a rifle must be affordable, reliable, well built, and reasonably accurate.
The Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK)
Mikhail Kalashnikov designed his world-changing rifle during the closing days of World War II and it was adopted by the Soviet Military in 1947. Since then, the number of AK-47s, AKMs, and AK-74 rifles and their many variants are estimated to be between 150-200 million throughout the world as of 2018.
The AK first came to America in large numbers starting in the 1980s. For 3 decades, it was the semi-auto rifle just about anyone could afford with prices under $400. I bought my first Romanian AK, a WASR-10/63 in the early 2000s for $350. Up until a few years ago, you could still get an AK for around $4-500. Sadly, those days are long gone. The AK’s reputation as being a reliable rifle has strongly resonated with millions of American shooters, who in turn own millions of AK type rifles. Though not as popular in the US as the AR-15, the AK is not going anywhere. Ammunition, magazines, and accessories are plentiful. 7,62x39mm and 5.45x39mm ammunition are still less expensive than brass cased 5.56x45.
The AK rifles in America fall into 2 distinct groups: imports, and domestic built rifles. In this article, we will be discussing AK series rifles currently imported into the United States.
Imported Rifles: These are the rifles that I recommend for purchase. The reason being they are made the way a Kalashnikov pattern rifle should be. The trunnions are forged from solid hunks of steel as are the bolt carriers. The barrels are cold hammer forged, and most of them are chrome lined. CHF chrome lined barrels are known to last over 50,000 rounds, with cases of over 100,000 pounds reported.
The Cugir WASR-10 Imported by Century Arms for years was derided as just a cheap rifle. Early versions were known for canted sights and even canted barrels. But WASRs worked, didn’t jam and were affordable. For the price of less than $400, you could have a solid semi-auto rifle, 2 magazines, and a bayonet. American shooters have purchased them by the truckload.
After years of complaints, most of the WASRs problems have gone away and new canted rifles are rare. The WASR is made by Cugir (pronounced Soo-gar) in Romania and is imported by Century Arms. WASRs are in nearly every way a mil-spec AK built on the same production lines as AKMs for the Romanian military and exports. The only noticeable differences are the lack of dimples on its stamped receiver and a single stack bolt. The WASR-10 enter America in a single stack configuration, the mag wells are widened to accept standard AK double stack magazines and some US parts added. And you’ll note the lack of dimples on the receiver outside the mag well. Beyond this, it is an AKM. Reliability is very high, and most rifles that are now imported are very straight.
Even with the better quality, when buying a WASR it is prudent to inspect the rifle and make sure the sights, barrel, and trunnions are straight, and the rivets look good. Additionally, some rifles imported in 2015 had extractor issues, it is a very easy fix taking less than 10 minutes to replace the old extractor with a new one. At the time of this writing expect to pay between $650 and $800 for a new WASR.
Cugir RH10 Imported by Century Arms: Think of it as a WASR (which it is), with better fit and finish, and a gas block with an integrated front sight. Offered by M+M as the M10 and imported by Century as the RH10 both offerings are the same firearm. Folding stocks, AR style flash hider and birdcage flash hider all are geared towards the tactical shooter or AR-15 owner.
Arsenal SAM7 and SLR-107 series have built a reputation as a solid AK builder, and it is often held up as the best imported AK in the US. Arsenal imports rifles built at the Arsenal Factory in Bulgaria and before 2014, also imported rifles Russian made rifles as well. Their SLR and SAM rifles have built a solid reputation amongst US shooters and collectors as solid, battle ready rifles. SLR rifles come with a stamped receiver chambered in 7.62x39mm, 5.45x39mm or 5.56x45mm. SAM rifles are built in the original AK-47 style with a forged receiver.
The only complaints that have gained any traction with Arsenal are some reliability and finish issues with the SLR-107R which is an AKM style rifle using a stamped receiver with an AK-74 style square gas block. The SAM7 is an AK-47 type rifle that uses a forged receiver and long has had a reputation of being built like a tank.
Zastava: Another extremely popular current import rifle is the N-Pap rifles made by Zastava in Serbia. Zastava has been producing and exporting M70 series AK rifles to the US since the 1980s when American Arms and Mitchell Arms first started importing them in the late 1980s. Zastava rifles are now, like WASRs, imported by Century Arms International. Zastava rifles come with a cold hammer forged barrel and are built with forged trunnions. The barrel, however, is not chrome lined.
New Zastava N-PAPs have a mixed reputation. Their predecessor, the O-Pap rifles have solid reputations. However, N-Pap rifles are known to have poor receivers that stress crack after several thousand rounds. Battlefield Las Vegas has pulled N-Paps off their rental lines after many of their rifles experienced stress cracks in their receivers. Rob Ski of the AK Operators union also addressed the cracks. Zastava has claimed to fix the issue, but there are reports of problems persisting.
WBP Fox Rifle: WBP is a relative newcomer to the AK market. Based in Poland, WBP has been producing rifles since the early 2010s. They have been a company that has been known to take criticism and run with it. They stopped using cast parts and switched to forged trunnions and carriers after American shooters complained. Recently the WBP Fox AKM chambered in 7.62x39mm has started to arrive on American shores, imported by Atlantic Firearms and Arms of America.
The WBP Fox is a true AKM, chambered in 7.62x39mm with a Radom cold hammer forged and chrome lined barrel, forged front trunnion, a forged bolt, and carrier and built to true Polish AKM specs. It passed the 5,000 round torture test that AK Operators put through it and has a rising reputation amongst AK owners.
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