Gun Review: Arsenal, Inc. SLR-106FR (Bulgarian AK)

Let’s just come right out and say it:  Precision is to AK-47 as Rahm Emanuel is to bipartisanship.  Sure, Kalashnikov’s legendary avtomat holds many virtues – virtues that have rendered it the most common firearm in history; however, the reputation for tight tolerances and ultimate accuracy has always gone to other weapons.  Most other weapons, in fact.  In the realm of post-Assault Weapon Ban AKs, how well they operate is mainly a function of whichever domestically-produced parts are shoved into the imported rifles to make them 18 USC 922R compliant.  All too often, el cheapo parts (gas pistons, trigger groups, etc.) only promulgate the AK’s standing as a “somewhat accurate” assault rifle modern sporting rifle home defense gun.  But what would happen if one of these importers perceived a niche for quality over sheer affordability?

The SLR-106FR would happen, that’s what.  Imported by Arsenal, Inc., the SLR is basically a Bulgarian-made AK-74 chambered in the very familiAR 5.56 NATO cartridge – but with higher-quality innards that transform it into a weapon possessing almost German levels of engineering exactitude (take that, Mikhail!).  On the surface, the concept seems a bit like surgically attaching Rachmaninoff’s hands to Mike Tyson and expecting the pugnacious pugilist to go ten rounds with a piano concerto.  Then again, who’s to say that a great design can’t be improved upon?  It’s worth a try, anyway, right?

To find out how this mismatched marriage makes out on the range, the lender of this particular example (my buddy Todd, who also owns the WASR-10 we reviewed several weeks ago) accompanied me to a farm south of town where we zoomed through several boxes of .223 Remington (5.56 NATO wasn’t available) to find out how the premium parts performed.

Initial finding: they don’t do a damn thing for how the gun looks.  Plas-tactical dessert-camo-tan might be nice for blending into the Iraqi wilderness, but for those who prize the traditional AK aesthetics, only real wood furniture will make the grade.  On the other hand, the synthetic stock and hand guard do force you to recognize that this is no ordinary AK.  The specially-designed muzzle brake – strategically ported at one and three o’clock – continues the theme: Arsenal, Inc. made every last one of their 922R parts count.

Another hint that you’re not in AKansas anymore is how taut everything feels: from the positive action of the bolt to the snugness of a fully-seated magazine, the SLR-106FR feels tighter than a camel’s ass in a sandstorm.  The theme continues when you prepare to fire, as the safety comes off with a just-audible “snick” instead of the deafening “clack” voiced by the more authentic AK safeties out there.  Only the side-folding stock’s featherweight floppiness feels like the type of thing you’d find on a typical AK clone.

But this is not a typical AK clone, and when it comes time to squeeze the terrific two-stage trigger and release the spring-loaded (as opposed to free-floating) firing pin, you’ll quickly see that Bulgarian mail-order brides can dance like few others.  Here’s where you realize that Arsenal, Inc. did their homework – the combination of a well-manufactured basic gun fitted with quality internals and chambered in the easy-recoiling 5.56 caliber equates to a simply beautiful shooting experience.

Although a comparably-priced AR-15 could have probably bested the SLR’s 35-yard accuracy, it wouldn’t have been as fun to shoot.  The whole time, I kept thinking, “Gee, this is probably what a thousand-dollar BB gun feels like: zero muzzle flip, virtually no recoil, and a trigger that reads my freakin’ mind!”  Couple those attributes with the .223’s modest report, an adult-sized stock, and a cooler-than-usual AK handguard (thanks, stainless steel heat shield!) and you have a total weapon package that is truly superb.

We had so much fun shooting the SLR-106FR that not even the too-short sight radius afflicting all AKs bothered us very much.  That’s when Todd pointed at the side of the receiver and mentioned that one of the components Arsenal, Inc. replaced for 922R compliance was the generally-useless scope mount.  “I’m actually thinking about buying a scope for this one,” he said.

Placing a scope atop an AK may seem pointless to some, but the SLR is one weapon that seems completely capable of out-shooting its iron sights.  That fact, along with the extremely-reasonable $700 MSRP, completely justify Arsenal’s decision to insert some quality into the AK platform and go for the real value picture instead of mere rock-bottom pricing.  The result is one fantastic gun.  Probably, Rahm Emanuel doesn’t want you to have one.

Specifications:

Model:  Arsenal, Inc. SLR-106FR (Bulgarian AK)
Action type:  Gas-opearated, rotating-bolt semi-automatic
Caliber:  5.56 x 45 NATO
Capacity:  30-round detachable magazine
Barrel length:  16.25″
Overall length:  36.875”  (27.375” folded)
Weight:  7.3 lbs. (without magazine)
Stock:  Composite (desert tan color)
Sights:  Hooded post front; tangent leaf rear, graduated from 100 to 1000 meters
Finish:  “Phosphate-treated and then finished with black baked-on paint as used in all Bulgarian commercial and military production.” (source: Arsenal, Inc. brochure)
MSRP: $705 (per Arsenal, Inc. website)

RATINGS (Out of five stars)

Style * * *
For me (and, I suspect, for many other AK aficionados), only real wood furniture looks “right” on this gun.  But if desert camo tan plastic is your thing, who am I to judge?

Ergonomics (carry)  * * * * *
The side-folding (and locking) stock gives you the option of a better close-quarters defense configuration.  Not to mention, it’s easier to store/carry/conceal with the stock folded.

Ergonomics (firing)  * * * *
It doesn’t get much better than this.  A great two-stage trigger, a well-insulated (shielded) hand guard, and a muzzle brake that keeps the gun pointed where you aim it all harmonize to create a fantastic shooting experience.

Reliability * * * * *

No problems whatsoever, even given the atypical 5.56 chambering.  If word-of-mouth and online message boards are any indication, these guns – like all AKs – are extraordinarily reliable.

Customize This * * * * *
Oh yeah…big time.

OVERALL RATING * * * * *
Arsenal, Inc. took a chance that US AK customers might spend a little more money for higher quality.  The value story that resulted is guaranteed to make you smile.

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About Don Gammill Jr.

Don Gammill, Jr. is a freelance writer, educator and part-time musician living in the metropolitan Atlanta area. He acquired his interest in firearms from his family, with his WWII combat veteran grandfather being the most instrumental in fostering both a keen interest in, as well as a healthy respect for, guns and how they are situated in society. Although he is a proud gun owner and a practitioner of legal concealed carry, he doesn’t consider himself a “gun person” per se; with a greater interest involves how people relate to guns – especially people who see guns as foreign, often scary/over-politicized icons of danger.

19 Responses to Gun Review: Arsenal, Inc. SLR-106FR (Bulgarian AK)

  1. avataradam says:

    i beleive ive brought an m-76, but it says made in bulgaria, has bulgaria ever manufactured this rifle or is just a copy which ive purchased?

    also how many bullets should you fire before the heat affects therifles performance, and i beleive my m-76 has been over fired, should i

    replace the barrel, and how would you reccomend that i determine that it has been over fired/ over used

    thanks

  2. avatarjamieb says:

    If this is the same as the 106-31 then atlantic arms has them for $699.
    I almost bought one rifght before the 08 election but bought two saigas and converted myself. I wanted ace folder and a magpul ctr stock.

    At $699 its a great value, I still want one.

    • avatarZip says:

      You are full of it NO Arsenal has ever been sold for less than $800 unless it was a used one. Not to mention Atlantic is one of the most overpriced AK shops around. They of all people would never sell anything that cheap. Hell they sell CIA AK’s for $100-200 more everyone else like Buds, AIM or CTD and I’m talking 2010-11 times.

  3. avatarPaul says:

    Jamieb I second you on the Saiga decision. I recently purchased a Saiga .223 that was converted by an ordinary joe (who did a great job) and I was able to buy the rifle and 4 mags for $400. That half the price of an Arsenal. And I am with you on wanting the ACE folding stock! Check out my blog at http://www.coolgunpics.blogspot.com and please feel free to email me pictures and stats on your own guns if you want them added to my blog.

  4. avatarGoldfish Asassin says:

    1).Your wrong, the Arsenal 106F has excellent combat accuracy! I’ve owned AR’s (Bushmaster xm15-e2s) and shot plenty of “accurized” AR’s, none were as reliable in real world conditions as the AK. I got tired of AR issues and traded my AR for High End AK’s, my AK’s….. Arsenal SLR 106F in 5.56 and a Lancaster Arms in 5.45×39 both shoot 2″ to 3″ groups at 100 yards and will hit the 300 yard gong all day long!

    2). Don’t ride the charging handle, pull it back and let it go, riding the charging handle will cause short stroke and seating problems. In your videos you display poor shooting habits, Standing up striaght and brining the sights to eye level will correct the accuracy problems you atrributed to the rifle.

    I’ve seen guys spend hundreds in an effort to shoot tight groups when there technique was the culprit. If your scrunched up you won’t get the proper sight picture, your breathing will be labored, and the longer you shoot in an unnatural position the harder it will be to focus. Stand up straight, head up, neck straight, breath naturally, anticipate the tempo and cadence of your heartbeat…………..these are all crucial to accurate shooting!

  5. avatarSleeping Sec Gaurd says:

    The SLR Series of AKs is manufactured by Arsenal USA in our lovely state of Nevada. There is no 922r compliance laws governing this weapon because it is built from 100% US made parts on US soil. This is not an import weapon, just built here by a branch of a bulgarian firm, and no parts were “dropped in”.

    All of the SGL series by Arsenal are imported from Russia, and it has to be rebuilt with 922r compliant parts to be sold in a Mil configuration, but other than those specifically, almost all Arsenal AKs sold in the US are built here. German engineering? HA!

    Just a minor correction :)

    • avatarryan says:

      not what I understand at all.
      Bulgarian rifles, similar to Saigas, are imported and converted. There are Styer barrels on these guns. Styer is not made in the US.
      They have to be 922 compliant as well. These are not kit guns, but brand new Bulgarian rifles.

    • avatarZip says:

      possessing “ALMOST” German levels of engineering. Learn to read better bro! ;)

    • avatarZip says:

      Oh btw I too live in NV and have a brother n law that works at Arsenal. All their rifles are from Bulgaria and are based off of new Saiga rifles. The only US parts are the ones required for 922r. The rest are new Bulgarian and or Russian patterned parts. Only the required installation of the US parts is all that is done here in NV. I own 12+ AK’s 5 of which are Arsenals. Great build quality and great shooters bone stock. Just a notch below my 3 Kreb’s customs. Anyways I dont know where you get your info from but again you are flat out wrong. And it obvious you dont even own an Arsenal as by just field stripping one would have made your statement immediately redundant. No offense intended. I have been shooting and collecting firearms for over 40 years. And never use forums for anything but friendly chat and very seldom at that. So be careful of what you read online.

  6. avatarSleeping Sec Gaurd says:

    Also, the design of the stock latch is the best I have ever seen on a folding stock. I don’t get the “floppiness” of the folding stock. The Stock locks in the open position tighter than a nun… Kudos to the Russian who came up with that design.

  7. avatarIronsights says:

    I just picked up mine, already converted from arsenal, chambered in 7.62. Still haven’t fired it yet. I almost got the grass flats p.a. Model from extreme machining. The AT-47. After more web research, I decided against it. That gun had a milled reciever. Here in C.A. , that gun cost 800 plus. The arsenal was around 50 bucks more, tagging at 899.00. guns here are always more. Especially tactical type weapons. Im really glad i went with the arsenal and I cant wait to get it to the range!

  8. avatarJgriffbat says:

    I just bought on of these from a friend’s widow. He died a couple of months ago.

    It’s a .223 and I only got a short mag with it. I also have not been able to figure out where the stock release is. It is at full length and I caqn see that there is a hainge but how do you release it to fold it?

  9. avatarfrankgon4 says:

    Does this use AR magazines or other type of magazines?

    • avatarDude1971 says:

      No. The gun does not take AR magazines. The SLR-106 series takes a couple different magazine types. A limited capacity Arsenal made polymer magazine and waffle type caliber specific magazines made in Bulgaria of varying capacity, notably 20 and 30 round capacity of various colors. I have seen clear, smoke, black, and green magazines. I am unsure if any others like plum are available. The magazines are marked 5.56X45 and bear the Bulgarian arsenal mark, the numeral 10 within two circles. The magazines are somewhat specialized, yet I would not call them proprietary, as the magazines are used in several different guns, like the Arsenal SA M5, and short barrel incarnations and a SLR-106 pistol. Converted and modified Saiga in .223 can also use the magazines, however I believe the magazines have to be altered. I am a student of the gun, as I am modern guns in general, and in NO WAY know everything. Just adding my perspective. D

  10. avatarDude1971 says:

    From your first photo, I suggest that your accuracy would improve if you mounted the gun correctly. Bring the gun to your cheek, not your cheek to the gun. You will get “taco neck” doing the way you do as depicted in the photo.
    I find the Arsenal MIM (Metal Injected Mold) “innards” as you call them, fair in quality, and the “two stage trigger” terrible. Replaced all of mine with G2.

    The firing pin is not, “spring loaded”. The firing pin is held to the rear by the spring and not “loaded” under spring pressure. This spring is not an AK design improvement. The spring was added to stop the firing pin from “free floating” in the bolt, to avoid unintentional firings due to thinner American primers in the 5.56 caliber, unlike the thicker primers in the Warsaw designed 5.45 x 39.5, and 7.62 x 39 cartridges.

    The AK100 series folding stock mechanism is not “Floppy” at all, and is the best and tightest folder in the design series.
    The early production SLR-106 had some teathing issues. The feedramp had to be recontoured and was corrected on later models. Arsenal’s reputation had slipped a bit due to poor quality controls, once unheard of back in the days of Arsenal’s milled offerings such as the Sa M5 and SA M7 series.

    I agree that the guns are not ALL U.S.made, and that the requirements of 922r had to be met. Thank God for that as U.S. made AK barrels are NOT on par with CHF barrels produced at Arsenal Bulgaria.

    All in all I am happy with my later production gun, as well as my SA M5, and my Saiga .223 convert. I am happy to see you offer a blog on this gun. You did a pretty good job-with room for some improvement.

    • avatarZip says:

      I think the floppiness the author is hearing or feeling is that cutout channel for the receiver sight mount. Also He may just have got a lemon or most likely just using a company demo.

      Regarding parts quality imho all that is redundant. Unless you like your guns bone stock its so easy to get a different barrel or whatever. Hell most if not all my 60+ guns are modified in some way. Just love firearms since I was 6 years old. I come from a long line of gun enthusiasts. And I’m small potato’s to the rest of my family who’s collections are well into the hundreds. So don’t get me wrong not bragging or anything I’m just very enthusiastic about firearms.

      Btw Pardon all the replies to old posts, just stumbled on here as Ive stated in another post I have a similar Arsenal on the way that I just ordered. I have a cold so Im bored as I dont want my wife or kid to catch it so im home office bound hehe.

  11. avatarJim says:

    I’ve owned one of these for about 10 months & have put about 2000 rounds thru it. The most perfect AK I’ve owned or fired. It is certainly worthwhile to put a scope on it. The PK-AS red dot works very well & a 6x POSP telescopic sight turns it into a surprisingly accurate platform. It will shoot 2-3 inch groups consistently at 100 meters with the POSP. Not a tack driver, but pretty sweet for a carbine with a 16″ barrel.

    • avatarZip says:

      I agree I own 5 with another on the way from Buds, Ive bought 14 guns from them in the past 9 months great shop!

      Arsenals work fine with the oem sight mount or with 3rd party railed handguards, topcovers or gas tubes. I own 3 Krebs as well along with another 7 AK’s and imo even tho Arsenals and Krebs are great out of the box. Any AK can be modded into a cool AK. I have built 2 myself from surplus kits. And heavily modified an M70, M10 and a cheapo wasr. I own an equal number of AR’s along with an ACR and both SCAR’s 16 and 17. Ive built up a sizable collection in my 40 years of shooting. But I’d say a bone stock Arsenal in 7.62 is on par or maybe a notch below say my HKMR556, HKSL8 or Sig556. Not bad for a AK. And miles from the days of the kit built or surplus ones.

      Well the elections are upon us and lets all hope Obama loses. I have a Tavor on pre order. And along with my 3 SBR’s and five suppressors. I want my barrel and conversion kits for my ACR and SCAR’s as I plan to SBR each of em. And there are some great suppressors coming out this fall. So I hope this joke of a President does not get 4 more years to screw us over and invoke another assault ban which everyone knows is on his agenda.

  12. avatarJulio says:

    On top of the author hilariously drooling over US made parts kit builds produced by arse anal, he also doesn’t seem to know much at all about AKs or 922r compliance parts. It’s also pretty funny how much you like the arse anal trigger as its generally considered the worst of the ‘merican junk parts as well as having the softest steel of the aftermarket triggers.

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