Gun Review: Arsenal SLR-106FR (5.56mm AK)

I really like the AK platform and my visit to the Arsenal/K-Var SHOT Show booth was like the delirious wanderings of a sugar-buzzed child in an M&M outlet store. When Farago learned that they had sent me one of their top-end 5.56mm Bulgarian AKs for testing and evaluation, his first response was straight from a line in one of last year’s posts about the SLR-106: “A top-end AK? Isn’t that like the world’s best fire-retardant paper hat?” Au contraire, mon frere . . .

A fire-retardant paper hat is a useless gag gift. A well-executed Avtomat Kalashnikova like this, however, is a rugged and accurate implement of ballistic awesomeness. In response to your query, Mr. Farago, I believe this is the best AK-style rifle ever made.

Overview

The SLR-106 is as close as any American sport shooter will likely get to a genuine AK-101. For those of you not familiar with the phylogeny of the AK platform, it can be summed up in a short Biblical lineage:

Ca. the 47th year of the 20th century Anno Domini, Mikhail Timofeyovich Kalashnikov begat the the AK-47 in the caliber 7.62x39mm. And the AK-47 was fruitful and begat the AKM, which begat the AK-74 in the lesser caliber of 5.45x39mm. And the AK-74 begat the AK-101 in the caliber of 5.56x45mm.

And the AN-94 numbereth not among the sons of Mikhail, though it appeareth like to them in form.

The AK-101 was designed for Russia’s export market after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it’s basically an AK-74 re-chambered for the NATO-friendly 5.56×45. It’s been adopted by armed forces that need to retain the idiot-proof reliability and simplicity of the Kalashnikov design, but want it in a Western-compatible caliber. (And no, I’m not talking .32-20 or .45-70, you wiseacres.) The main advantage for us is that 5.56×45 is a ubiquitous ‘Wal-Mart’ caliber in our corner of the world, and it can’t corrode barrels and gas tubes like Soviet-surplus 5.45x39mm does.

Each SLR-106 model starts its life in Bulgaria as a civilian sporter rifle with a hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel and a straight stock. These are then imported by Arsenal, Inc. of Las Vegas where they’re carefully converted into a semi-automatic AK-101 configuration using enough US-made parts to pass 922(r) muster. The US-made parts list includes the handguards, pistol grip, buttstock assembly, trigger, hammer, disconnector and a few other bits.

A $1K AK – Seriously?

(Or, A Brief Foray Into The AK vs. AR Debate By Your Completely Neutral Observer.)

A lot of American shooters look down on the AK platform because many American-market AKs are…how do I say this? говно. (Look it up.) Most of them are imported as mismatched crates of heavily-used military spare parts which are then haphazardly assembled on American-made receivers of uneven quality.

This production process sidesteps the whole 922(r) issue and shaves hundreds of dollars off each gun’s final cost, but the end result is often a POS that dishonors the Kalashnikov name. Slap-happy triggers, canted front sights, loose magazine wells and misaligned barrels are common in the world of ‘parts-kit’ AKs. But if you’re looking for a reliable modern sporting rifle for less than $500 they’re the only game in town.

Did I just say something about a ‘reliable POS parts-kit sporting rifle for less than $500?’ Yes I did, because most POS parts-kit AKs are still completely reliable. They may be ugly, inaccurate and uncomfortable, but just ask former WASR-10 owner and fellow Arsenal tester James Grant: those kit-built abominations work. I’ve got one of my own – a $370 Bulgarian AK-74 built by Century. My own malenkiy droog has chugged through nearly 3,000 rounds of 1980s-era surplus Soviet ammo with only one failure. And that one was the ammo’s fault.

Now let’s try a similar thought experiment with the AR platform. What would happen if you bought up thousands of de-mil’ed parts kits from broken-ass military M16s and M4s, stirred up the parts in a mixing bowl and then stuck them into generic AR lower receivers with no-name trigger groups? You’d end up with an Evil-Looking (but non-firing) Assault Club or possibly a single-shot rifle. Maybe, if you were really lucky, you’d end up with a manually-operated repeater that sometimes managed to load and cock itself.

Seriously

I’m going to assume we’re already familiar with the AK’s basic design and manual of arms, so instead of continuing my treatise on the AK platform any longer I’ll just illustrate the differences between the SLR-106 and a typical parts-kit AK:

1. Chrome-lined barrel and muzzle brake

Barrels and muzzle brakes get caked with more nasty crud than the rest of a rifle combined. And they’re much easier to clean when their dirty bits are plated with chrome before they get dirty. This is exceptionally important if you’re shooting corrosive Soviet-caliber ammo, but it saves beaucoup cleaning time even with cleaner-burning 5.56 ammo.

Most parts kit AKs are built either with shot-out surplus barrels or with un-chromed barrels of questionable US manufacture. My first Century AK-74 came into my life with a barrel chambered for 5.45×39 but bored and rifled for 5.56 NATO. As the surplus Soviet bullets rattled down the overbored barrel, they produced sideways bullet holes at 25 yards and shotgun-like patterns at greater distances. With my dealer’s help, Century replaced the whole rifle with a correctly-barreled one that shoots fairly straight.

This kind of screwup does NOT happen with Arsenal AKs. The SLR-106′s barrel is made on Steyr hammer-forging machinery and chambered for 5.56/.223 at its Bulgarian birthplace. As an added bonus, it has a 1:7″ twist to properly stabilize just about any 5.56 load out there, including heavy 77-grain bullets.

2. Baked enamel finish

All Arsenal rifles are finished with a manganese-phosphate metal treatment and a baked-on enamel finish, inside and out. It looks and feels considerably smoother than the 800-grit sandpaper finish of El Cheapo AKs, and the beauty isn’t just skin-deep: Arsenal coats the inside of the receiver too.

Like the engine compartment of a vintage E-Type at a Concours d’Elegance, this is absolutely the only time the inside of this AK receiver would ever look that clean.

This enamel finish looks and feels gorgeous, but it’s vulnerable to harsh solvents. Arsenal commands that it be cleaned only with Break-Free CLP, and my friend Tony (who reviewed the Ruger LC-9 last year) knows why. He accidentally scrubbed off some of the enamel finish off his Arsenal SGL 21-94 when he cheated and used Gun Scrubber instead. He was highly irritated, as well he should be – such a vulnerable finish seems a bit odd at the Arsenal’s price point.

I’m not inclined to test this possible chemical vulnerability myself (we don’t deliberately test guns to destruction around here) but the Interwebs are full of stories like Tony’s. Puzzling as it may be, the enamel finish is not a fatal ‘flaw’ because beneath it you’ll find an AR-standard phosphate finish. And if you stick to CLP like you’re supposed to, you’ll never even know it’s there.

3. Two-stage trigger

Take a look at the trigger parts in the above photo and you’ll notice that the single-hook trigger can’t possibly be a Tapco G2. It’s not: Arsenal makes its own 2-stage trigger, with a 4.5 pound takeup stage and a 7.5 pound break. Although that seems surprisingly heavy on paper, it pulls smoothly and breaks very crisply for a combat rifle, with little over-travel and no trigger slap.

Here it is in action:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6njMH9yR7Y

Disclaimer: I was not intentionally color-coordinating my clothing to match the rifle. I’d have to study several seasons of Queer Eye For The Straight-Shooting Guy before I could learn to dress myself that sharply. Joe thinks I did it on purpose, but he knows he’s never seen me that well-dressed in the 17 years we’ve been friends.

4. Spring-loaded firing pin

Most AKs are built with free-floating firing pins, and this works fine since most of them are built to fire steel-cased 7.62×39 or 5.45×39. These have tough Soviet-grade primers which are extremely resistant to slam-firing, even when their firing pins are jammed forward by sand or corrosion.

American 5.56 and .223 ammunition tends to have more sensitive primers which could theoretically experience slam-fires from dirty firing pins. The SLR-106 prevents this by keeping the firing pin under spring tension and away from the bolt face unless the trigger is pulled. As a shooter you’ll never notice it (because it will never double or run wild) and this is the whole point.

5. No-wobble mag well

The sloppy magazine well on my parts-kit AK74 lets the mags wobble a half-inch from side to side at the bottom, even though I only use the best 5.45mm AK magazines ever made: original Bulgarian ‘Circle 10′ and ‘Circle 21′ 30-rounders. Luckily, my AK74 doesn’t care, but the wobbling can be noisy and distracting.

The SLR-106 does not share this feature: its mag well is tighter than Ebeneezer’s wallet. Admit it: you thought I was going to make some indecent crack like Farago would, didn’t you? Shame on you. Some of the factory-new magazines required extra effort to rock into place the first few times I used them, but after a few uses they were broken in and ready for some Sonny Puzikas Spetznaz-style mag swapping action. (Shown here starting at 0:20)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLE1FqXPLJM

6. Matching original serial numbers

Every Arsenal SLR starts out as a Bulgarian sporter rifle, with matching original serial numbers on many parts including the barrel, receiver, bolt and dust cover. These parts travel together through the conversion process so you’ll never experience the random fit (and random bullet trajectories) of a parts-kit AK.

7. Side-folding stock

Since this is AR-15 country, American shooters don’t have too many options when it comes to true ‘folding’ stocks on their black rifles. The AR just can’t fold, because of its peculiar buffer tube design, and we don’t see many Mini-14 folders these days. Collapsing-stock H&Ks and folding FN-FAL Paras are still, as before, expensive collector’s items.

While AKs can wear any number of folding stocks, most of them are unstable and uncomfortable to shoot from just about any position whether folded or extended. Side-folding wire stocks like those of the Polish Tantal and the Hungarian AMD-64 are lightweight and surprisingly rugged, but their lack of any kind of cheek weld makes these otherwise excellent rifles difficult to shoot accurately. An under-folding AK will give you the iconic look of a qat-dazed Somali fighter or a 1970′s Palestinian murderer, but when you try to put lead on target with one, you’ll realize that their revolutionary chic good looks are only skin deep.

The SLR-106 features something completely different, and its left-side folding/locking buttstock combines the best features of both fixed and folding stocks. This is no aftermarket airsoft-grade folder from an unranked Ebay seller: it is absolutely solid when it’s extended, and it locks firmly in both the extended and folded positions.

This photo (above) shows the folding mechanism in action. To fold the buttstock, use your right thumb to press firmly on the metal button at the rear side of the trunnion. This intuitive action lets the stock swing free to the left of the receiver, where a spring-loaded hook engages a recess in the left side of the buttstock and holds it in the folded position.

To extend it again, press the prominent button on the buttstock (just below the cleaning-kit trapdoor) and a lever unlatches the retaining hook. Swing it back around the rear of the rifle, and it firmly locks back at full extension. The button never jabs your shoulder when firing, because it’s sprung very weakly when the stock is extended.

This interior shot shows Arsenal’s unique US-made locking hinge. It’s CNC machined from solid lumps of metal and the locking catch (at right, above) is chisel-shaped so it will continually tighten itself as it laps against the mating block in the buttstock.

If you’ve got a hankering to sling some lead A-Team style, the SLR-106 can also be fired with the buttstock folded. But unless you somehow mount a laser sight, you won’t hit anything with it beyond 20 yards. I could never hit anything with a folded stock, and neither could Dirk ‘Face-man’ Benedict with his side-folding Ruger (despite all that amazing 1980′s hair) but you can have some fun until the novelty wears off.

For its simplicity, solidity and comfort, the SLR’s side-folding stock ranks as the No.2 best folding stock I’ve ever used. The best one is attached to the FN-SCAR, with an adjustable length of pull and an adjustable cheek riser. Some clever bastard might figure out how to put a SCAR stock on an AK someday, but until then the SLR-106 stock does a fine job.

Magazines

Standard 30-round 7.62×39 AK magazines cost less than a McDonald’s Happy Meal, but all the other flavors of AK mags (5.45 or 5.56, or 20-round AMD-65 magazines) are costly and relatively rare. Arsenal rifles like the SLR-106 only ship with a single 5-round magazine (another puzzler for a rifle of this price) so you’ll need to stock up on standard-capacity mags if you want to have any fun. They’re theoretically available in 10, 20 and 30-round sizes, but there’s no reason to buy anything other than the 30-rounders.

Unlike the world’s standard magazines, you’ll never see loose bins of surplus 5.56mm AK magazines at a gun show or LGS. In fact, you might never see them at all unless you look for them online, and even then you’ll be lucky to pay less than $30 each after shipping. Ouch.

But if you pay more for quality magazines, you’ll be glad you did. Just as with other AK variants, this rifle’s original manufacturers still make the best and most reliable magazines. Stick with Russian or Bulgarian mags like the Circle 10 waffle pattern (shown above) and your SLR-106 will never let you down. Succumb to the allure of lower-priced American aftermarket magazines and you’ll wonder what kind of bath salts I was smoking when I told you that the SLR was perfectly reliable.

Accuracy

Early iron-sight function testing indicated that the SLR-106 shot where it was pointed, but a long-term test like this one required some scoped shooting at 100 yards. This testing testing was unfortunately delayed by months when several wasted range trips proved that my Romanian-surplus POSP scope (technically called a TIP2) was a broken-ass POS that couldn’t hold zero. I eventually scrounged a sturdy but hideous side-rail Picatinny mount and a cheap but dependable 3×9. It put the scope way too high and way too far back over the stock, and just getting my eye into the scope’s sweet spot was a literal pain in the neck.

Despite the ergonomic challenges, our 100-yard groups averaged about 2.1 inches with plinking-grade 55-grain Tulammo hollowpoints. I’d brought several brands of 5.56 with different bullet weights, but the jerry-rigged scope setup was so awkward and uncomfortable to shoot that I just couldn’t continue.

I’m searching for a kindler, gentler AK scope mount for the SLR-106, because I want to do more extensive accuracy testing and I don’t want to keep a chiropractor on speed-dial. I’m considering doing the unthinkable and setting up this rifle as an intermediate-range DMR, but that’s a project and review for another day.

In the meantime, 2.1 MOA accuracy is everything you can ask for from a 16″ tactical carbine. It shatters every AK accuracy joke you’ve ever heard and justifies the factory’s considerable investment in Steyr barrel-forging machinery.

Handling

The SLR-106 isn’t naturally as ergonomic as the AR for a host of reasons: the charging handle reciprocates and it’s on the wrong side, the safety is poorly positioned and stiff to operate, the pistol grip is impossibly tiny, the sight radius is too short, and the Warsaw Pact-length buttstock is also too short for most American shooters.

Despite all that, you can run the old warhorse pretty damned fast if you use proper magazine swaps, charging technique and safety manipulation. Precious few of us will ever swap AR mags as quickly as Sonny Puzikas can reload his AK-74. Remember: mindset, skillset, then toolset.

The SLR-106 is still an AK (I’ve been saying that a lot, haven’t I?) but nearly everything about it is more refined and user-friendly than what we’ve come to expect from parts-kit AKs. The trigger is very serviceable, as I mentioned, and the safety lever is slicker than any parts-gun AK I’ve ever handled. The distinctive AK-74 muzzle device reduces recoil and muzzle jump to damned-near nothing, but produces substantial muzzle blast and flash.

At 7.3 pounds without a magazine, the SLR-106 weighs one pound more than a stripped M4 clone, but this isn’t as much of a disadvantage as it appears. Like many Significant Others,  M4 clones rarely stay stripped and slender once they move in with you. When you add grips and lights and bipods and slings, they start to add pounds and inches like a middle-aged hausfrau.

Unlike some Russian matrons, AKs are less prone to this middle-age spread because there’s nowhere to hang all those heavy accessories. The result is that a minimally-equipped SLR-106 will probably stay slimmer and lighter than the AR next to it in your gun safe.

Scope Mounting

Optics-mounting options are limited for any AK, and the SLR-106′s folding stock limits them even further.

AK side-rail mounts are a poor choice, because they keep the stock from folding. If you plan to use an AK rail mount, there’s no reason to spend the extra money for a folding stock you won’t be able to fold.

Krebs and ‘Beryl’ style dust cover rails are no choice at all for the SLR-106 because the folding stock has no tang screws to attach them to. Ultimak rails are a great choice for red dots, but they’re too far forward for magnifying optics.

One remaining option is the Strike Industries Rail shown above. Amazingly affordable at just $45, it seems fairly sturdy but I haven’t tested it extensively enough to recommend it yet. It replaces the rear sight leaf, and the center groove even serves as a crude back-up sight.

Other published reviews suggest that the best scope-mounting solution is probably the Dog Leg Rail from Texas Weapon Systems. It allows (hopefully) repeatable mounting of red dot sights and magnifying optics, but I didn’t score one for testing so that review will have to wait.

Reliability

Part of the legendary reliability of the AK platform has been attributed to the heavily-tapered 7.62×39 and 5.45×39 cartridges. The slightly cone-shaped cases are believed to funnel themselves into (and be extracted from) filthy rifle chambers more easily than NATO rounds.

The SLR-106 challenges this conventional wisdom by achieving the same absolute reliability with the straighter-walled 5.56×45 cartridge while shooting hundreds of rounds each range day between cleanings. The Arsenal gave exactly zero failures in nearly 1,000 rounds fired: absolute perfection for a tactical rifle.

SUMMARY

Arsenal AKs like the SLR-106 cost much more than parts-kit guns because high-quality new parts and scrupulous assembly practices cost real money. Many shooters will ask why they shouldn’t just spend that money on an entry level AR from Bushmaster, S&W, Rock River or Armalite. The answer of course is that you can certainly do that, but what you’ll get is an AR.

If you like AKs – as I unabashedly do – you might be willing to spend a bit more for a good one: a most accurate and refined version of the most rugged and reliable rifle in history. An SLR-106 is still an AK, with most of its ergonomic shortcomings, but to most American shooters (who are familiar with crude parts-kit rifles) it is a nearly oxymoronic impossibility: a really darned nice AK.

When you get your hands on an SLR-106, your opinions about the AK platform are likely to be revised upwards. Way upwards.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO/.223 Remington
Barrel: 16.25”, 1 in 7” rifling, chrome-lined.
Overall Length: 36 7/8” extended, 27 3/8″ folded.
Weight: 7.3 lbs without magazine.
Action: Long-stroke gas piston operated semi-automatic rifle.
Finish: Black or tan (tested) polymer furniture, phosphated steel barrel and receiver with baked-on black enamel finish.
Magazine Capacity: 5-round detachable box magazine (included), 30-round magazines available and highly recommended.
Price: $1,050.

RATINGS (out of five)

Accuracy: * * * *
Above-average inherent accuracy for a tactical carbine (especially with low-grade ammo) but scope mounting options are limited.

Ergonomics: * * *
It’s a recoilless 5.56mm AK with a decent trigger, but it’s still an AK. Most of  its ergonomic faults can be corrected with a handful of carefully-chosen aftermarket parts like an Ergo Grip, Krebs Safety Lever and a red-dot sight. Add half a star with those improvements.

Reliability: * * * * *
Absolutely you-bet-your-life reliable when you use Bulgarian magazines. Use lesser mags at your own risk and only after extensive testing.

Customize This: * * *
The AK aftermarket is huge, but the SLR-106′s parts and furniture are so well-made that you won’t be temped to replace many of them. Mounting a scope is tricky, however, and mounting a light or laser is equally so.

Overall Rating: * * * *
AK reliability and improved AK ergonomics with AR accuracy, AR ammo and an AR price tag. It’s better than you ever thought an AK could be.

41 Responses to Gun Review: Arsenal SLR-106FR (5.56mm AK)

  1. avatarDrewN says:

    Looks nice but I’d still rather have a 5.45 since bulk .223 is usually the first to disappear from the shelves every time some attention whoring politico runs his mouth off at a press conference.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      If ammunition scarcity was a major criteria, I would opt for a 5.56 platform because lots of it is manufactured domestically. OTOH, an Executive Order or administrative regulation by State, Commerce, Customs or the ATFE could put a severe crimp in Soviet-surplus 5.45 importation overnight.

      Which is to say that if you choose 5.45, you should really stock up on it because there’s very little domestic manufacture.

      • avatarChainsawWieldingManiac says:

        I can get the 5.45×39 equivalent of M855/SS109, albeit corrosive, for less than HALF of what M855 is running for these days. If the price of that deal is buying 5.45×39 by the crate and stacking it deep, no problem. Heck, I just checked the prices on steel-cased 5.56×45, and that stuff is running 25c/round shipped. The panic buying is here already, and 5.45×39 is not in the game (yet again).

        I’m not proposing people shift all of their guns to 5.45×39, but I’ve acquired an AK-74 and swapped an AR to that caliber so that I can ride out the next year or so of post-election panic buying. I mean, the retailers are going to be pushing insane worst case scenarios whomever wins. If it’s Obama, we know that narrative; if it’s Romney, well, he signed an AWB with his own damn pen. I don’t expect ammo prices to settle down for at least a year after elections.

        • avatarPatriot says:

          “Looks nice but I’d still rather have a 5.45 since bulk .223 is usually the first to disappear from the shelves every time some attention whoring politico runs his mouth off at a press conference.”

          Flash-forward to 3/28/2013… yep, clairvoyance is strong with this one.

  2. avatarcrosswiredmind says:

    It sounds great if you’re an AK fan. But it really isn’t all that great if you are not an AK fan.

    • avatarTotenglocke says:

      AK’s not great for people who don’t like AK’s – news at 11!

      Sorry, couldn’t resist….

  3. avatarjwm says:

    nothing at all wrong with the ak platform. i just prefer the sks.

  4. avatarCharlie says:

    Love ‘em or hate ‘em an AK is what it is.

    I had a Vector 47 underfolder for a while, and it was a great rifle, but you pointed out the weakness: Scope mounting. I do not care for side mounted scope rails! And the underfolder is a worse deal because underfolders do not generally come with the dog-leg left stock strut that would allow it to clear a rail. Dog-leg left stock struts seem to have been made of unobtanium.

    Charlie

  5. avatarbo says:

    I’m sorry but 4″ at 50 yards doesn’t cut it for a $1000 rifle shooting 556. That’s a lot of spread once it gets out to 200 yards!

    My $600 AR gets groups half that size (at worst) with magpul backup sites only using that same exact ammo – Tula both 55 and 62 grain.

    I’m not an AK lover or hater (or an AR lover or hater for that matter) but a Saiga conversion (not Arsenal) at 35% of the cost of this Arsenal build seems to be a better value for this type.

  6. avatarJason says:

    One of the primary reasons you shoot an AK is for the reliability offered by the 7.62×39′s extremely tapered case, and the cover-punching ability of a heavier bullet. That’s worth a few inconveniences, and given that the effective range isn’t long anyway, you don’t need to worry too much about scopes or obtaining ultimate accuracy. $1050 is a reasonable amount to pay for a top-quality .30-cal bullet launcher.

    If you’re going to shoot a 5.56 in it, you’re in a whole different realm. Accuracy is a good idea. Scoping it is a good idea. Ergonomics makes a big difference. Being able to put that tiny bullet where you want it, on demand, is really the only advantage you’ve got.

    Why spend a $1050 for an AK when you can get a M&P Sport for $650 and put an Aimpoint PRO on it for another $400? Better iron sights, better trigger, more ergonomic controls, more accessories, cheaper magazines, and lighter weight. And you can use just about any kind of cleaning solution.

    If you shoot other AKs and want to maintain a common manual of arms while having the option to shoot 5.56 ammo, this might be a good idea. But as a stand-alone, I don’t see any point to this one.

    • avatarChainsawWieldingManiac says:

      I agree. I love the AK platform as much as the next guy, but spending a thousand bucks on a rifle that’s completely unready for decent co-witnessed optics mounting just seems ludicrous to me. Arsenal AKs are totally overpriced these days, and I’m not entirely sure why people are so hot for them. AK-100-style factory side folders are indeed sexy and hard to get otherwise, but collapsible stocks are so much more usable (even if they look AR-ish) and are easily installed.

      I also had a good laugh at the “best AK-style rifle ever made” remark at the top of the article. My Galil SAR begs to differ.

  7. avatarMike OFWG says:

    It does look like a lot of expense
    to keep using such old technology.

  8. avatarAir Force TSgt says:

    Not a fan of AK’s just from an Ergo standpoint, looks like a nice rifle though.

  9. avatarSanchanim says:

    I have fired the real thing, and along with my galil they were both solid. I prefer an AR style rifle though, I am not sure why, but to me it was just easier to deal with.

  10. avatarPhilthegardner says:

    I get a lot of funny looks when folks as how much my VEPR costs. I guess it’s really hard to equate AK’s with more than 3 digit prices. But it truly is a matter of preference. Nothing wrong with the AR. Ditto with the AK. You gets what you pays fer.

  11. I grabbed mine back when they were in the mid $700 range. It was great. The ejector was malformed though, so it sometimes ejects to the left (and thus into the rifle) almost as often as it ejects to the right. Otherwise it has been everything I ever wanted from any rifle. If I could have taken it with me to Iraq I would have been the happiest soldier ever.

    I got one of the expensive Krebs Kustom quad rails for it, but it had too much bulk for what started as such a thin rifle, and the original furniture is just amazing.

    Remember that the folding stock is for when you are in a vehicle or something, and that the Russian optics stay in a pouch on your person unless they are being used. Different philosophy, different design, GREAT RIFLES!

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      You are correct: Soviet infantry doctrine dictated that stocks were only folded while mounted in a vehicle, and optics were detached and carried in pouches until an NCO gave the instruction to attach them to engage specific targets.

      This may sound quaint to us now that our troops routinely mount Aimpoints and Eotechs on their M4s, but Soviet infantry was widely using optics and folding stocks (in their odd way) long before we did.

  12. avatarTotenglocke says:

    Just out of curiosity Chris, where did you find this? I’ve never found a good place to buy the arsenal slr’s. Though I’m not sure which is better – an slr or a VEPR that’s been converted to take normal AK mags.

  13. avatarRob says:

    Great review. Been looking forward to it. Chris you should check out the aftermarket stocks from the mako group. They make side folders with adjustable length of pull and a cheek riser. Once I get my 106 that will be my first purchase.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      I use their FAB sling system. And no, despite its name it’s not endorsed by Carson Cresley.

  14. YES! I was just thinking about this yesterday! “I wish there was a US made polystock that folded to the left.” I hate the skeles Thanks for dropping a line Cobra. If I bought one of these how would I go about putting it one my unconverted saiga? I obviously need the trunion hardware, they are only selling the stock. It says that its made to accept a 4.5 mm pin? I just recently started looking for compliance parts and found that they are not that expensive. This stock would be perfect if i could get Tomovich to build a stock latch assembly. I just found the left folding trunion mechanism on the KVAR site. Our saigas have stamped receivers? Do they not?

    • avatarnonnamous says:

      Saiga’s are stamped. But if you’re going to change the stock, you may as well convert it out of its current hybrid bastardization state, otherwise your LOP for one will be ridiculously short.

  15. Personal, I think the Czech VZ-58 with folding stock now being imported by CzechPoint and sales for under $1000.00 is a much nicer rifle. The VZ-58 is smaller in size, weights less by over a pound, has a milled receiver, not stamped, can have a side mount scope, and the folding stock will still work just fine. The best part to the VZ-58 is the accuracy of the rifle is better than what you have here of 2 inches due to the solid milled receiver and the chrome lined cold hammer forged barrel. What more can you ask for when you get a better rifle at less cost.

    • avatarJoe Grine says:

      Review of the VZ-58 is in the works. Stay Tuned!

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      The VZ-58 can be a fine rifle (when it’s not from Century) but it has most of the same disadvantages of the AK series, along with a few of its own.

      I’d love to have a good one as a collector, but as practical shooters they tend to run really hot and stay really hot, and I’ve noticed that they have a somewhat sharper recoil than other AKs. As a final consideration, their proprietary magazines are even less common than 5.56 AK magazines.

  16. avatarDude1971 says:

    I own both the SA M5 and the SLR-106fr. Love them both. I don’t care for the sling attachment with the folding stock. Awkward.

  17. avatarJim Lantz says:

    I enjoyed the review of the Arsenal slr 106 fr. I’ve owned this rifle for about a year & have equipped it with both a POSP 6×42 telescopic scope & a PK-AS red dot scope. Both of these scopes can be mounted in less than 5 seconds & hold zero very well for me. The rifle does not need a scope in a situation in which it would be folded, such as close quarter interior home defense, vehicle transport, or more convenient storage.
    The rifle has never malfunctioned after approx. 3000 rounds, & is as accurate as the review indicates. My brother & brother in law, who are both AR guys can match my accuracy with their 20″ barrel Colts, but not the reliability or ease of maintenance. However, it is cool to share ammo with them, & in case of a SHTF scenario, it would be potentially a very good thing.
    If you shoot off a rest or bag, I would suggest the shorter 20 round Bulgarian Circle 10 mags. The 30 rounders are too long. K-Var occasionally has sales on the mags, so look out for these. The transparent “smoke” mags are handy for being able to see how much ammo you have. I also strongly recommend the Hogue contoured rubber grip to replace the factory grip.
    I also own an Arsenal sgl 31 (5.45 x 39) which both of the above scopes can also mount to. It’s also good, I think, to be able to use ammo from the Russian Federation & NATO to cover all the bases ;) I think the Arsenal offerings are worth the money, particularly at the time of resale. SLR 106 fr’s tend to be frequently difficult to find, with demand outpacing supply, & have steadily increased in price since first coming to market.

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  19. avatarAnonymous says:

    I have a notable analytical vision for details and may foresee troubles before these people occur.

  20. avatarksea says:

    Well I have been wanting one of these for about a year now and found em for $899 with free shipping. Best price I’ve seen in awhile so I jumped…. and out of the box I have to say I’m pretty disappointed!

    Now I’m new to the AK format but for a gun that has such High reviews I have to say that the quality of the shipping of this gun is a direct reflection on Arsenal of Las Vegas. Prob one of the biggest POS shipping boxes I have ever seen…flowers are shipped in a heaver box than this. My Gun/box arrived to my FFL with at least two holes in it one from the sight and the other from the bolt handle. Prob would have been better protected if they shipped it in bubble wrap. My friends WASR was shipped in more protection than this gun and was about $400 cheaper. This should really be an embarrassment to Arsenal Las Vegas…it sure reflects upon them and makes me really question the quality of their merchandise.
    For the “best made ak on the market” You get a canvas sling that you could buy for about .50 at any army surplus shop, a garbage “Tool set” which I guarantee I will never use, a squirt bottle for oiling the gun and a 5 rd mag. If this is the top of quality in the AK range I’m gonna be an AR person real quick. I only hope that it shoots a lot better than it shipped. When you add $45 mags onto this I can’t say I don’t feel like I just bought a huge bottle of snake oil but I’ll leave final judgement to the range this coming weekend. I really hope I’m smiling after 200 rds.

    • avatarJim Lantz says:

      You’ll be smiling after 200 rounds or 2000 rounds. The robust nature of this rifle will become apparent. Unlike an AR, there will be no jams or other drama, regardless of what ammo you use. Just use Bulgarian circle 10 mags.

  21. avatarsaiga says:

    @ksea noob

  22. avatarsaiga says:

    The reviewers on this site should bother getting good mounts like tws, rs regulate and ultimak before saying how bad the ergos are with dots/scopes.

    You can get cowitness and a good cheek weld with the right mount. You do have to go to the trouble of ordering the hardware on the internet.

    Throw on a Vltor stock tube and your magpul stock of choice and you are in business.

    • avatarMark Lloyd says:

      Sure wish I could change stocks to a tactical style on my SAM7R-51 I did add a few, but bare minimum amount of tactical gear on mine. I put on a Hogue grip and for optics, I used an RS Regulate mount with an Aimpoint T1. Fully cognizant that most defensive gun shootings happen in low or dark light, I installed a 2 inch rail on the right side of the hand-guard and installed an X300 Ultra Surefire weapon light. I really wanted to keep the weight down. The final chore was to dump that beyond poor double hook trigger and had Rifle Dynamics tune a G2 single hook, heat treated and parkerized, and used the Krebs retaining plate instead of the wire. That’s it. Ended up with a fantastic SHTF defense weapon. I have it loaded with some real brass ammo in a Circle 10 mag.

  23. avatarSteve Morandi says:

    I have both AK’s and AR’s both in pistols and rifles. I prefer my AR’s overall, but in a SHTF situation I would definitely take my AK’s first. Not a second thought. Almost as reliable as a break barrel shotgun. I’ve never had one issue with mine, and only bother cleaning it after about 3000 rounds. Can’t get it to jam no matter what I do.

  24. avatardubbs says:

    I’ve read about FTE and FTF issues with the 106 chambered in .223/5.56. I originally had a half dozen AK variants ( NONE were POS Wasrs!!!)

    Realiable? Damn right! But now that I’ve grown up a bit, and discovered Spikes tactical, PSA higher end “budget” ARs, as well as really high end rifles like my LMT and BCM ARs , I’m no longer impressed with the “indestructable god of war” AKs anymore.

    I keep both in my safe, but if I needed it for self or home defense, or to go plinking? My ARs are coming! My 3 current AKs? One Saiga convert in .223, on Norinco Mak 90 im 7.62 x39 and an AMD. They are the step kids of my gun family, still family, but step kids none the less

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