saiga 7.62x39 review
In case you haven't noticed, AR-15's are expensive! Not only to buy, but to shoot. Do I like them? Yes I do. Can I afford to shoot it often? No I can not. Lets face it folks, ammo is getting down right expensive, and practice is a necessity. There is a solution. Hooray for AK!
The original Kalashnikov or AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the USSR by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova. It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an AK, or in Russian slang, Kalash. The original AK-47 was one of the first true "assault rifles" to be manufactured. It set the bar to which all assault rifles would conform. The Kalashnikov AK-47 is the epitome of reliability. It has been effectively woven into its design. Bury it in the mud, throw it in a lake, take it up 10 stories and launch it off the top. It always fires, always. It is not ammo finicky nor does it care what the weather is like. Pull the trigger and destruction is delivered. It is a Kalashnikov. The earliest of many assault rifles, and in the minds of many, still the best.
The Hunters AK
The Saiga semi-automatic rifles are a family of Russian rifles manufactured by Izhmash, who also manufacture the original AK-series rifles, and SVD sniper rifles. The Saiga rifles are a sporter version of the original AK-47 rifle, and are marketed for hunting and civilian use. While the furniture on the Saiga differs from an AK, these are still considered to be true Kalashnikov rifles. They are made in the same Russian Izhmash factory where Mikhail Kalashnikov works. These rifles are not assembled with mixed-matched parts like many other AK rifles. These are completely new builds using all new parts, so the fit and function should prove better. The vast mojority of Kalashnikov rifles produced today are illegal copies and produced without license.
I picked up our Saiga several weeks ago from the local gun store. While not a "true" AK when purchased, it is Kalashnikov at heart and victory is but a few accessories away. There are many states, especially California, that will not allow weapons with "evil features" to be sold in the state. The AK happens to be one of them. The Saiga is essentially an AK dressed in hunters clothing. A standard Monte Carlo stock, rear placed trigger, no muzzle brake, no pistol grip. In short no "evil features". If someone wanted a simple, effective short hunting rifle, this is it. It is rather useful in hunting form and very effective for medium game. The rifle is availible in several different calibers to suit your hunting needs. They are .308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 7.62x39mm, 5.45x39mm and the more prevalent .223 Remington. We wanted to use the caliber Kalashnikov originally designed this rifle to use, so we opted for the 7.62x39mm.
If you wanted to convert this rifle back to a "true" yet legal AK. (without full-auto selector switch) that can also be accomplished fairly easily. (There are many videos on youtube and info all over the internet on that subject, so we are not going to get into it.) The rifle features a 16" hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel. This enables the rifle to withstand more rounds fired without an adverse effect on accuracy. The barrel has a 1 in 9.44" twist rate. Its' furniture is a standard Monte Carlo stock, adjustable sights and sporter foregrip with hooks for a sling. The rifle also includes a cleaning rod, front sight adjuster tool, cleaning brush, and oil can and one 10 round magazine. For $399 plus DROS, you can own one. We do not have the patience for one 10 round magazine so we had to track down a few extras. While similar to AK mags, the Saiga magazines are proprietary without modification to the rifle. However, with a small modification, any standard AK mag will fit.
We started our testing with our Saiga in stock hunters form using cheap Wolf ammo. A quick adjustment to the sights and we were sending melons to purgatory. Even though the stock sights are pretty crummy, it did not take a whole lot of effort or time. Point, shoot, smile. It just worked, and quite well. The recoil is very manageable and the trigger is actually usable. I have heard and read a lot of terrible things about the Saiga trigger. Honestly, the trigger is not nearly as awful as some make it out to be. Yes, because it has been moved to the rear of the rifle, there is a bit of extra linkage. While it is not as crisp as a true AK Variant or AR-15, not one person from our team bitched about it. We fired about 100 problem-free rounds each and were quite pleased with the stock rifle. But was this bare-bone rifle truly all it could be?
I think not. It does function properly and is accurate. Dare we change it? I think so.
Off With Her Head
The Saiga Rifles, wear a side rail on the left that allow mounts to be attached for optics. We purchased an aluminum quick release mount from Amazon and added a modest Bushnell Red-Dot sight. I have had good luck with Bushnell thus far so I felt safe buying it sight unseen. I am getting ahead of myself, but yes, it works perfectly. The mount was actually better than I had expected and holds the optic nice and straight. With a yank on the lever, the whole assembly slides off for storage. Just as quickly the assembly can be re-attached, no tools needed. We actually did this over 20 times and we never had to re-zero. +1 for those keeping score.
With the newly attached equipment, we found the rifle a bit more exciting shoot. Optics are definitely a huge upgrade to the Saiga. Downing targets with the red dot is effortless, and I quickly realized the rifle was more accurate than I. Impressed with the rifle thus far, we still wanted to better it, yet also preserve the hunting state it was in. We added a simple RAA Tactical Skeleton Pistol Grip Stock. The stock can be added without modifying the trigger assembly allowing the rifle to be converted back to "hunting" form if we so desire. A nice feature on the stock is the cheek rest. We found it mated perfectly with the height of our optic. If you do not like the cheek rest, simply rotate it out of the way. Because this stock is from RAA and availible on the rifle from the factory, it will not trigger 922(r). This law restrcits the amount of imported parts that can be present on the rifle. In order to keep the rifle legal, many of the parts must be changed out to parts made in the USA. Also by law, if this rifle has any pistol grip, the magazine must be fixed or non-removable without the use of a tool. To accomplish this we added a magazine release block. The principal is the same as the bullet button on an AR-15. It certainly sucks, but we like to keep our stuff legal.
The Proper Kalashnikov
Now properly configured with pistol grip stock, the rifle almost felt like Kalashnikov's original AK design. The new stock shortened the length of pull by about 2 inches and target acquisition is considerably faster. Without modifying the trigger assembly, this would be as close to "true AK" as we were going to get. Satisfied and ready to shoot we re-attached the optic. I could sense the fear materializing from our fruit basket. We all knew the little melons wouldn't stand a chance, but none of us would suppress the fate that would soon befall them.
When we test a rifle for it's accuracy and function, we do what we call the "Heat and Check". Two people load mags, and one person shoots. We dump round after round down range as fast as we can get them in. We are not trying to hit anything, but rather heat the barrel to extreme temperatures. When the barrel is smoking hot, that's when we test it for accuracy. Is there any other way? After I fired about 260 rounds, our rifle reached its boiling point. Jessica and Timmy checked it for accuracy. Where we surprised? Nope... not in the least. Even at extreme temperatures, the Saiga delivered with better than acceptable accuracy. Apples were murdered and melons were cooked! The Saiga is a work-horse and I love it. Reliably accurate, quick pointing semi-automatic rifle with enough power to punch holes through a block wall. What's not to love?
Our empty boxes confirmed that we shot 1,160 rounds during testing. We used Wolf 124 grain FMJ, Tula 122 grain HP and Brown Bear 123 grain FMJ. We had no failures to fire, no failures to extract a spent casing and no problems with feeding. We cleaned and lubed the rifle prior to shooting it, but did not clean or lube it at any point during our testing. Every mag we used were stock Saiga mags, identical to the one that was included. All functioned perfectly. Yes, cleaning the rifle post review was a dirty job. Lets face it, cheap ammo is dirty. However, take down, lubing and assembly are a breeze. Once you remove the dust cover, you will find there is only 3 major parts. The bolt, bolt carrier attached to the gas piston, and spring assembly. Simple enough.
The Significant Other
There is much debate amongst shooters. AK-47 vs. AR-15. I refuse to go down that road with the 300AAC Blackout finally making headway but I will stake my claim. Either is a fine choice for combat. I will give the AR-15 a nod for longer reach. The range of an AR-15 is nearly double that of an AK. Sure this is a nice feature but honestly, I would opt for a .270 or .308 for targets outside 300 yards. When in France, nice to know I can. The versatility of the weapon is rather impressive.
For sheer power I would give a nod to the AK. There is no denying that the larger 7.62x39 packs a better punch. The 7.62x39 will penetrate a block wall on a bad day. Does that mean it is more effective? I guess it depends on how you look at it, but I think not. Both the 5.56 and 7.62 have earned their reputation respectively. Dead is dead right? So which do I favor? I have found even before our initial testing of the Saiga 7.62x39, I spend more time with our Kalashnikov's than I do with any of our AR-15's. Do I like them better? No, not necessarily. I shoot it more often for the same reason I shoot 9mm. Cost of ammo. A $450 Saiga can digest cheap ammo without fail and Wally World has lots of it! Trigger time is important to me and with the Saiga I can get three times as much. The AR is as American as apple pie but with the Saiga, I can afford to eat lunch when I am finished shooting. The initial investment is cheaper, the ammo is cheaper, yet the fun factor remains the same. Hooray for AK!
Article by - Jeff
Review Team - Jeff, Tim, Jessica, Andy
|| Semi-Automatic Rifle
||16.3" Chrome Lined
||Iron Leaf sights
||7.62х39mm, .223Rem, 5.45x39mm, 5.6х39, .308Win., 30-06 Spring.
||Gas operated w/ rotating bolt
||Side rail for optics
||10 Round Magazine
do you have a saiga? share your thoughts.