Despite what Mike “The Gun Guy” Weisser told us, the weapon used by the Dallas police shooter was not an AR, nor was it any kind of an AR variant. From the latest information that has been provided so far (after earlier reports ID’ing the gun as an SKS), the rifle used by Micah Johnson was apparently a converted Saiga AK74.
Here’s a pic of a rifle that is purportedly the one Johnson used from lawofficer.com:
This isn’t the most common rifle in America. The Saiga is made in the Izhmash Machine Works factory in Izhevsk, Russia. In order to get around import rules, the Russian factory “sporterizes” these guns before shipment. That means the rifle we have seen in photos likely showed up in this country looking radically different in appearance, and nominally different in function.
When they get to the US, companies do quite a bit of work to get them back into something like their original configuration. To get to what we see in the pic, at a minimum, then likely:
Removed and changed all the stock furniture, trigger guard, and fire control group
Installed a bullet guide
Removed the barrel, gas block and sight blocks
Fit in a new gas tube
Reinstalled the gas block and sight blocks, along with reinstalling the barrel and setting the correct headspace.
And then rails, optics, maybe a muzzle device, sling, and more.
Of course, that fire control group is semi-automatic.
The Saiga is pretty well known for being one of the better quality AKs, originating in the Motherland itself, and not a cheap knock off of an already inexpensive design and manufacturing process. If I were going to pick up an out-of-the box AK, the Saiga would be a good start. It’s fairly accurate, for what it is, and of those I’ve fired, I’ve found 2 1/2 to 3 MOA to be the norm. It’s supremely reliable and durable.
What’s particularly uncommon about this rifle is it’s caliber. The AK74, or Kalashnikov Automatic Rifle model 1974, fires the 5.45X39mm round. That’s a round I know particularly well, as one struck me in my side plate while in Afghanistan. The single sniper’s round punctured a metal door, struck me at an obtuse angle as I stood behind that door, gouged my side plate, and carried on to hit the man standing behind me in his thigh, shattering his femur. I still have the round.
We don’t know the particular type of round the Dallas shooter used, and, like the various versions of 5.56 NATO rounds, 5.45 ammo varies widely. The round that struck me is easily identifiable as an armor piercing round with it’s red ring around the bullet. I have seen rounds like that go completely through one wall of a Connex and have its tip still stuck out of the opposite wall, having been fired from more than 200 yards away.
That kind of round — and most of the variants of the 74’s round made after 1992 — would be considered illegal for import into the US. However, since there were 20 years between their creation and the ban on their importation, many of the rounds designed for “improved penetration” are already in the US. I’d be interested to know what type of rounds were used in Dallas.