A few months back, while trying to decide what gun to take with me to an upcoming Appleseed clinic, I attempted to run Wolf, Tula and all varieties of Bear 5.56 ammunition through my Bushmaster M4gery. Not only did the rounds not cycle properly, they often left a case so stubbornly jammed in the chamber that I had to brace the charging handle of the carbine against a table and hit the stock with a 10 pound rubber mallet to dislodge it. I wasn’t just frustrated, I was pissed. Imagine if I had been defending my family when the gun seized up and required tools to fix…I’d be a dead man. Now you can argue that I should have a sidearm and be able to transition to it  the rifle, yadda, yadda, yadda. But the bottom line is, if it doesn’t work with the lowest common denominator and it isn’t an F-class target rifle, it has no place in my safe . . .


I ended up buying a steeply discounted SIG 556 Patrol in .223, which ran like a top with every POS ammo I could feed it. It functioned flawlessly regardless of magazine so long as the gas system was adjusted. This got me hooked on purpose-built, piston-driven rifles. They weren’t as accurate, but at the range I was using them (200 yards, max) it didn’t matter. The SIG is great but I wanted something with a little more “Oompf” without a huge increase in ammo costs. That ruled out anything in .308. I was leaning towards a classic AK in 7.62×39, but I wasn’t a fan of the AK’s ergonomics, short sight radius, and its awkward optic mounting process.

There was also a much more significant issue; my previous experiences with the weapon system. You see, the first semi-automatic rifle I ever bought was a Romanian WASR, and not just any WASR. This AKM variant was the poster child for every internet-rumored issue that ever allegedly plagued the WASR. She had canted sights, magazine wobble, uneven finish, vicious trigger slap and parts so loosely fitted that the dust cover once flew off after a string of 60 rounds.

My first experience with an AK had confirmed every rumor I’d ever heard – she was ugly, poorly made, inaccurate and heavy as hell. But despite all that, the gun was reliable. She never jammed and was a total breeze to strip and clean. Frustrated at my inability to hit a pie plate at 100 yards more than twice in a mag’s worth of ammo, though, I swore off AK variants forever. But you know the old adage, “Never Say Never.”

After countless hours of forum research and what felt like years of YouTube videos (or was that just one NutnFancy video?) I had decided to take the plunge again. But this time I wasn’t going for the bottom of the barrel WASR, I decided on a mid/high-end Arsenal rifle built on a Russian receiver.

I was initially going to purchase something from Krebs Customs but the lead time was too long once I had the money from my recently sold Bushy in hand. Since my last AK rifle was mighty old-school with a wooden stock and no sight rail, this time I wanted something a little more modern – something that resembles an AK-103 but in OD green. The AK-103 is internally identical to the AKMs of yesteryear but with the the addition of polymer furniture and an AK-74 style muzzle break.  The super-aggressive muzzle break doesn’t just look great, it really tames the recoil of the 7.62×39 round down to just above a .223.

While I waited for my local fun shop to receive the package from Atlantic Firearms, I eagerly wrung my hands, visions of Wolverines and resisting a Soviet invasion danced in my head. I was antsy, I wanted to slay my demon and prove that I could, in fact, master the Kalashnikov rifle system.

I stocked up with a thousand rounds of Tula 7.62×39 FMJ, a couple boxes of Silver Bear soft point and a dozen surplus steel magazines (and a 75-round drum just for fun). The magazines and ammo arrived before the rifle which gave me a little time to inspect and clean the mags.

Here are a few things I noticed: It’s significantly easier to load an AK magazine than one for an AR. I assume this is due to the increased surface area for my thumb to push on. The mags are also tough as nails. If I ran out of ammo and the gun was taken from me, I could bludgeon someone to death with the damn thing if I really had to. Which probably explains why farmers in poor countries utilize the magazines as planting tools.

Despite the toughness, the magazines, because they are constructed of steel and not polymer, are susceptible to denting which would halt their function immediately (in all fairness, GI magazines for the AR family of rifles are just as susceptible). The magazines come standard with a “modern” feature that only in the last couple of years came into black gun vogue: the anti-tilt follower.

I’m sure you’ve had enough of the potato and broccoli side-dishes and now want to get on to the main course – the meat of the review, the SGL-21. The 21 is a bit of a born-again Kalashnikov in that it came into this world as a hunting carbine in “sporting configuration” at the Izhmash factory in the Russian city of the same name.

After traveling stateside to the guys over at Arsenal in Las Vegas, the former Saiga carbine undergoes a transformation into its new, more militaristic configuration. Many people argue that it’s much simpler to do the conversion yourself and cheaper. That may be, but also assumes that you’re handy with tools, don’t have a job or kids and don’t place any value on what little free time you have remaining. I will gladly fork over a few hundred extra to know that the conversion was done by someone more capable than me, and whose work is guaranteed.

But I digress. Arsenal’s SGL-21 is built like a tank and features very little in terms of creature comforts. As with all Kalashnikov derivatives, the controls are far from ideal. Magazine changes require two hands, the safety can only be articulated by Hercules and the length of pull is only ideal if you’re either from South East Asia or wearing body armor.

Thankfully, Arsenal addressed the latter of this issues by offering a NATO-length stock that adds an additional 1.375” of length for larger shooters and I opted for one. One of the first things I noticed when I picked up my SGL was the quality feel of the rifle, especially when compared with an early model WASR. The magazine locked up tight with no wobble, the dust-cover snaps firmly into place, and the Tapco G2 Single hook trigger totally eliminates any trigger slap and aids the user in more accurate shooting.

Speaking of accurate shooting, I was astounded by the inherent accuracy of the Arsenal, at least when the barrel was cold. I was able to shoot 2-shot groups at 50 yards that touched when utilizing a rest and optics with Tula ammo. These groupings expanded at 100 yards and averaged just over 2”. While certainly no sniper rifle or DMR replacement, this baby can hold its own for certain at short to medium ranges.

Unfortunately, the groups rapidly grew once the rifle began to heat up. After 75 rounds of rapid fire from a Romanian drum, the gun was again placed on a rest and fired at 100 yards. The result were 4” groups, not exactly great. The rifle still shoots minute-of-bad-guy, but at 400 yards we can extrapolate that the gun would group at approx 1 ½ feet, assuming no shooter error.

What that means for a combat shooter is even if they do everything correctly, the rifle may still miss. I’m sure these groups could be tightened up with a bull barrel and match ammo, but that would sort of defeat the purpose of the Kalashnikov.

True to reputation, the SGL-21 suffered zero malfunctions after 600 rounds. It did, however, begin to gunk up something fierce so I gave it a wipe down with CLP and continued firing.

The gun’s yawn-inducing reliability juxtaposed with its snappy recoil. While many people who’ve never handled or fired an AK purport from umpteenth-hand sources the obstreperous nature of the AK, their claims couldn’t be more inaccurate. The rifle is heavier than the average lever-action and the cartridge kicks less than an under-loaded .30-30. This combination lends itself to a comfortable, yet lively package.

The gun is a blast to shoot, more recoil than your M4, but much less than most bolt-guns in hunting calibers. For a while I only owned rifles in .223. While exciting at first, I wanted to feed the beast with something a little more powerful. Not for any pseudo-science stopping-power reasons, just pure enjoyment.

I’m aware that the terminal ballistics of the 7.62×39 cartridge leaves much to be desired, but this doesn’t bother me. If I ever wanted to take the gun hunting, I could grab a box of Hornady’s Super Shock Tip ammo and call it a day. It’s a good medium for when I don’t feel like taking the soft-shooting SIG Patrol out and I’m not quite up to the recoil of my old 1903a3’s powerful 30-06.

Speaking of shooting for enjoyment, I like being able to positively identify my targets before engaging them. For me that means mounting an optic. Since this AK has a rail on the side I wanted to use something that would be specific and authentic to the military rifle I was trying to replicate. After much searching I concluded that a POSP fixed 4x scope with Simonov reticle would be ideal. It would give me the BDC similar to what the ACOG utilizes but on a reticle designed for use with the exact weapon system I was utilizing.

Aesthetically, the Simonov reticle appears to be just like the Dragunov style featured on COMBLOC sniper rifles. The primary difference between the two lies in the Bullet Drop Calculator or BDC. The Dragunov style reticule’s BDC was calculated from the ballistics data of the 7.62x54R cartridge, whereas the Simonov one is based on the ballistics of the 7.62×39 round.

While the Dragunov and AK rifles have different scope mounting brackets, the Belarusian optics manufacturers make scopes in both reticules for both weapon platforms, so be careful when you purchase your own. Another aspect of the AK that falls a little short of what one would like is the impossibly high mount of its scopes. They have to clear the dust cover enough for the gun to be stripped and disassembled. This makes achieving a solid, repeatable cheek-weld difficult at best.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * *

She ain’t elegant, but she’s dressed to kill and always puts out.

Ergonomics * * *

I can’t help but feel I’m being generous with this. The magazine changes are a pain in the ass, the gun is covered in sharp edges, the charging-handle requires the user to remove his dominate hand to operate and the pistol-grip was designed for pygmies. The small dimensions of the gun also translate to a universal fit, and man woman or child can shoulder and fire a Kalashnikov comfortably with minimal training.


CALIBER: 7.62X39
RATE OF TWIST: 1:9.44 inch
PRICE: $775-$900

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *

100% reliability due in no small part to somewhat loose tolerances and a self-regulating gas system. The AK is second only to bolt-guns and breach-loaders in terms of going bang when you pull the trigger.

Customize This * * * * ½

While fairly extensive, most of the aftermarket parts for AK rifles are cheap and inferior to OEM, with products from Midwest Industries and Kreb’s being the exception, not the rule.

Overall Rating * * * *

A robust firearm with lively properties and unfailing reliability, the AK is a great survival tool, but it’s very difficult and occasionally painful to use under duress.


  1. And this is why you buy quality. There’s nothing like deep
    confidence in your equipment. I believe it makes you a better shot.
    When you have no nagging little voice in the back of your head,
    saying, “What if it doesn’t work?” you can focus on your
    fundamentals. Then you do your part, and the gun does its part, and
    you make your shot. And the next time you approach it with even
    more confidence.

  2. The AK rifle has served the Russian army (and others) very well. I
    believe I’ve read that there are an estimated 80,000,000 AK type
    rifles “out there” made by dozens of factories in different
    countries. Anything that is copied THAT much has to be a decent
    design as far as economics vs desired use of product goes. As you
    said, they are ugly, but they “put out” every time. Nice review of
    one of the better AK variants out there.

  3. Super review, James. The rifle has a purposeful appearance, great
    lines and proportions, so I probably like the look better than you
    do. It just looks right. Which wouldn’t matter if it didn’t shoot
    straight, but it does.

  4. I have an SGL-21 in Plum and I love it. I do not, however, love the
    side rail mounted optics. Makes you ruin your cheekweld to use the
    optic. I prefer an Ultimak gas tube with a Trijicon RMR on mine so
    there are many other options out there. This one allows the irons
    and the optic to co-witness. One suggestion on removing the
    dominant hand to actuate the charging handle: try rotating the
    rifle outboard and reaching under with your left hand to cycle the

  5. Nice writeup! I’m working up an Arsenal SLR-106 AK in 5.56, and I
    hope you don’t mInd if I cut and paste most of your review into it
    :). It arrived late last week and I haven’t shot it yet. The
    quality of an Arsenal (similar quality to newly made military AKs)
    stands in shocking contrast to most WASR-10s and Century parts
    guns. If more American shooters were famoliar with ‘real’ AKs like
    Arsenal or Krebs, the AK platform would be treated with much more
    respect. Canted sights, slappy triggers and wobbly magazines are
    not inherent AK design problems, and neither is 8 MOA accuracy.
    They’re QC problems, caused by shitty worn-out parts and
    incompetent assembly.

    • I have an SLR106 as well. Good rifle, I love it. Mine has a problem
      with the ejector though, make sure the reinforcing rib is punched
      in correctly or it will jam all the time.

  6. Couple of gripes, which I would just explain away as trying to
    operate the AK like an AR. 1. mag changes – How were you attempting
    these? I can do this one-handed very easily by gripping the mag
    with my non-shooting hand and using my thumb to release the
    magazine catch. No issues. 2. can’t charge the rifle without
    releasing the pistol grip – Actually, you can. using the left hand,
    reach under the gun and grab the charging handle. Works for me.

    • Or rotate the rifle counter clockwise and charge using left hand
      from above – kinda a tomayto-tomahto thing. Either way, the pistol
      grip can stay occupied.

    • I just hold the mag in my weak hand, and in a fluid motion, pop the release button and push the old mag out with the back edge of the new mag..

      Definitely right on the charging handle though.

  7. Regarding the malfunctions in the M4 – I too had this issue with
    Tula ammo. A buddy of mine said that firing a brass round for every
    10 or so steel cases would “clean” the chamber and allow the gun to
    continue to run reliably. That seems borne out by this article on
    Box ‘O Truth: http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/edu18.htm The brass cases
    seemed to pull the gunk out of the chamber that caused the sticking
    cartridges. Of course, if you shoot too much steel cased before
    trying a brass, you’d probably get a brass round stuck too. From
    what I understand, the steel doesn’t expand when fired, so you get
    “blowback” into the chamber – gasses and particles of burned powder
    which then change the dimensions of the chamber ever so slightly.
    With a tapered cartridge like a 7.62×39, this doesn’t seem to be
    much of a problem, but with a less tapered cartridge like
    .223/5.56, it will easily hang up after a few rounds. Of course,
    you can always get a chromed chamber, or polish the chamber on your
    AR if it isn’t chromed, but has anyone tried running the occasional
    brass round in a mag of steel case with any success? I have a lot
    of Tula that I’d like to shoot up, but I haven’t had a chance to
    actually test this. Not to mention, last time I tried Tula, I bent
    my cleaning rod trying to get it out!

    • After some experimentation, I finally got Wolf to run reliably in my AR. I have a Del Ton HBAR 16″ upper, chrome bore with an unchromed chamber, on a Roggio lower.

      As I said earlier, my buddy told me to mix brass in with the steel case. I was skeptical, but I gave it a try. Here’s how I did it.

      First, I started with a clean chamber. Then, when I loaded my mags, I put a round of brass for every 9 of Wolf. Then, I began shooting.

      Before, I’d never been able to get more than 60 rounds of Wolf out of my gun without the dreaded “case stuck in the chamber” stoppage. Today, I took my son and his friend to the range and turned them loose (I figure that there’s no better torture test for a gun than to hand it to two 13 year olds with a big box of ammo). No rounds got stuck in the chamber. Every round of brass that came out had a nice coating of “gunk” on it that it pulled out of the chamber when it fired. The gun ran like a top.
      They shot 5 mags through it. I wanted to keep shooting it, but we literally ran out of time. The gun showed no sign of slowing down.

      If you have an AR that is finnicky with steel cased ammo, give it a try. I have to say, I was pretty ectstatic. I love to plink with the cheap stuff, and this makes it a little more cost effective to shoot all day, especially with trigger-happy teenage boys.

      • I came here for an AK review and I leave with a new idea for my AR. Been getting Tula casings stuck in the chamber past few times at the range. I’ll have to try this 1/10 brass method. Thanks.

    • How about people stop buying out I spec budget AR’s and expect it to run like a top. I’ve fire wolf .223 Tula .223 and full powered 5.56 through my BCM with zero issues. I carry a lighter buffer just in case the under powered wolf .223 fails to cycle but have yet to have an issue 200rd max in one sitting with wolf. Don’t buy a cheap 5.56 chambered out of spec rifle an expect it to fire cheap underpowered .223 like its military counterpart.

  8. +1 to the AK side rail gripe. I’ve got a Romanian IOR scope,
    similar to a POSP, and despite its stellar optics it doesn’t make
    my AK-74 any easier to shoot precisely. It’s mounted wayyyy to high
    and too far back for any kind of comfortable shooting. I’ve got an
    Ultimak gas-tube rail on my 74, and it is perfect for mounting a
    red dot or possibly an IER scope like a Burris or Millett. I’m
    waiting for an Adaptive AK Rail from Parabellum Armament, which
    will replace the stock dust cover with a hinged rail. There are
    also a few mounts which replace the AK rear sight block with a
    short 1913 rail section.

  9. Love those Arsenals. None better at the AK conversion, hands down.
    Hit the nail on the head, though, with the cheek weld issue. VLTOR
    makes an AR-style receiver extension tube that allows the use of
    AR-type collapsible stocks. And it gets better: Magpul makes cheek
    risers for their MOE and CTR stocks in 1/4″, 1/2″, and 3/4″
    heights. I use a Texas Weapon Systems G2 hinged dust cover rail,
    Magpul CTR w/ 3/4″ cheekweld, and low Warne Rings with a Weaver
    Classic Extreme 1.5-4.5×24 that hugs the rail with a perfect
    cheekweld. And TWS has a forearm replacement in the works for a
    total-length top rail when combined with their hinged dust cover
    rail (Can you say BUIS?). Brings the AK completely into the 21st
    century, IMO.

    • Want! But a folding Bulgarian Arsenal is already awfully cool…and
      fairly expensive.

  10. Regarding the malfunctions in the M4 – I too had this issue with
    Tula ammo. A buddy of mine said that firing a brass round for every
    10 or so steel cases would “clean” the chamber and allow the gun to
    continue to run reliably. That seems borne out by this article on
    Box ‘O Truth: http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/edu18.htm The brass cases
    seemed to pull the gunk out of the chamber that caused the sticking
    cartridges. Of course, if you shoot too much steel cased before
    trying a brass, you’d probably get a brass round stuck too. From
    what I understand, the steel doesn’t expand when fired, so you get
    “blowback” into the chamber – gasses and particles of burned powder
    which then change the dimensions of the chamber ever so slightly.
    With a tapered cartridge like a 7.62×39, this doesn’t seem to be
    much of a problem, but with a less tapered cartridge like
    .223/5.56, it will easily hang up after a few rounds. Of course,
    you can always get a chromed chamber, or polish the chamber on your
    AR if it isn’t chromed, but has anyone tried running the occasional
    brass round in a mag of steel case with any success? I have a lot
    of Tula that I’d like to shoot up, but I haven’t had a chance to
    actually test this. Not to mention, last time I tried Tula, I bent
    my cleaning rod trying to get it out! Even so, I’m still in the
    market for an AK…

  11. Magazine changes require two hands Sorry, but you’re
    doing it wrong. While it may be a bit stiff when new, there’s no
    reason you shouldn’t be able to do it with one hand if you’re using
    the proper technique. the safety can only be articulated by
    That’s just a matter of breaking a new gun in.
    It’ll loosen up over time.

  12. What do people mean by: “the terminal ballistics of the 7.62×39
    cartridge leaves much to be desired.” Is it bad for some reason?
    And if one loading is bad can’t you use another? Reloads require
    two hands? What? How do you do it? You can do everything with the
    non grip hand, it’s not hard. And if your safety switch is too
    tight you can loosen it by bending it outward. I did that on my
    WASR and Arsenal and now they come on and off with ease. The scopes
    are not high so you can take off the dust cover, in practice the
    scope would be taken off when not in use. They sit so high so that
    they do not obstruct the iron sights.

    • There are several 7.62×39 loads, both domestic and foreign, that
      yield proven results. 8M3 seems to be the champion foreign
      hollow-point bullet; got a case of that lying around somewhere….
      Courtesy of Dr. Gary Roberts, “Russian rifle caliber wounding
      effects”, http://www.ar15.com/content/page.html?id=310 “When one
      moves to a expanding/fragmenting design in 7.62 x 39 mm, terminal
      performance is significantly enhanced. The best 7.62 x 39 mm loads
      we have tested to date are the Hornady 123 gr VMAX, Winchester 123
      gr JSP (X76239) and the Lapua 125 gr JSP. Out of a 16” barrel they
      perform somewhat like lightweight .30-30 loads… Of note, most of
      the “cheap” Russian JHP/JSP ammunition offers poor terminal
      performance. The one that seems to work is the 7.62x39mm Saspan 124
      gr JHP (Ulyanovsk Machinery Plant; 8M3 bullet); “

      • Well what kinda performance is needed for self defense or to kill a human? The terrorists in IRAQ and AFGHANISTAN do very well with cheap crap ammo. If you want those ballistics, get a bolt action and reload.

  13. i have an sgl 21-62 (plum furniture) def agree about the accuracy,
    until you shoot the crap out of it. love mine big time.

  14. James, great detailed review. Any possibility you could review a
    CAI Sporter next? Like a GP1975? It would be like going to the
    other end of the scale. I suspect folks would be surprised at the
    competence of that regularly often criticized

      • James,

        Can you please review the Century Arms C-39 Classic? I would like your take on it. I think they have done a very good job with their current quality control. Also, your take on the Texas weapons systems dog-leg rail (Gen 2) if possible. Many thanks !

  15. The Arsenal AKs are awesome! but to debate the ergonomics rating,
    one should review a training regimen by Sonny Puzikas (former GRU)
    DVD titled “beyond the firearm”. These training concepts debunk
    most of the AK lack of ergonomics myths that are perpetuated among
    non-military trained AK users.

    • Was actually going to recommend this. I don’t think his original “Beyond the Firearm” is in production anymore, so he’d want to check out “Beyond the Firearm 2”. Sonny’s instruction is great, and if you can make one of his seminars, you really get down n’ dirty with the AK (as well as getting your ass kicked :).

      • I like Sonny’s instruction, the guy is a animal with the AK. I also like his approach to things: toughen up. The AK is not designed for vasaline-glove handed folks. On a serious note, Sonny covers the different stances (more than just the hi and low ready), manipulation of the charging handle (by reaching the support hand under the rifle in front of the magazine), and reloading. I absolutely agree with what he says; marksmanship is 5-10% and applicable shooting the other majority.

  16. Great review. I’ve had some issues with my Bushmaster as well but am in the process of converting it to a piston system to see if that will help anything. I’ve been wanting an Arsenal for a while now….and this review doesn’t help with that lol.

  17. As much as I like Arsenal AKs – I’ve handled a few and just picked up a ban-era SLR-95 – I can’t help but prefer the Czech Vz.58. The Vz is lighter, smaller in almost every dimension, the ergonomics are slightly less impractical, and the Czech Republic made examples (imported previously by CZ USA and now by Czechpoint) are extremely well finished. AND they’re about the same price as an Arsenal. The only thing an AK has on the Vz.58 is a larger aftermarket and more common mags.

    • The imported VZs may not share the AK’s ruggedness: Joe Grine’s VZ simply stopped firing after only a few hundred rounds.

      • Wow, what was the cause?

        Having compared the Vz and AK internally, I could see a potential for jamming in the Vz, due to the tighter fit of its internals. Outright failure though? That’s surprising.

        • I lived in South Dakota for 14 years and passed by blaffuo on the way to town nearly every day. Hunting them with a modern center fire rifle on foot is mostly only a challenge if they calving or if you are hunting during the often brutal winters. Truthfully the blaffuo is a very large animal and they can be very aggressive if given the opportunity. But they are not that hard to put down because you can generally have very precise shot placement. I’ve seen dozens go down with a single shot from a .243. That would not be my choice but it works. A 30-06 is plenty enough rifle for bison. Select the right bullet, a controlled expansion round that will penetrate deep and pick your shots. Shot placement is more important that caliber. I’d much rather see you shoot a smaller caliber that you can shoot well rather than a larger caliber you don’t shoot so well.Today’s high tech hunting ammo will easily get the job done if you do your part. Distances are normally short and shots are normally not rushed. Oddly while on a 4 wheeler or a tractor blaffuo will ignore you unless you get within spitting distance, but on foot they seem to have a very different attitude about humans and it is not all that pleasant. Yet I fully believe that the 30-06 will get the job done.Good luck.

      • So you think one bad VZ 58 means all of them are bad? My VZ 58 (I really do own one) has not ceased with one hundred rounds put through it. Most people who own VZ 58’s do not have qualms with the reliability.

      • To clarify Chris Dumm’s comments – my first VZ 58 (aka VZ 2008) was a POS Century Arms so that’s why it stopped working. Then I bought a D-Techniques (sp?) and it is awesome.

  18. Review by for Rating: this gun not only fire extremely fast it also comes cteplmoe with a laser crosshair sight and a shoulder strap!!! the only thing bad about this gun is that the normal mag capicity sucks (20 bbs) and that the high cap mag takes forever to load. this may sound a bit harsh, but sereously, this is the best gun i own and it kicks some serious arse!!ps: Buy this gun, you wont regret it!

  19. Part of your choice will depned on what you are able to handle. You don’t mention the shooter’s experience. As I understand the way bison are hunted today, it is a carefully planned hunt when a particular animal is earmarked for you. It is more of an execution than a hunt. But I like the idea of using one of the old traditional rounds like the Sharps, the 45/70. Now, if you’re thinking about a gun that will do the job on bison and can be used for other North American game animals as well, you can’t go wrong with the .308, .30-06 or any of the .30 caliber magnums. Heavier bullets are called for. The body mass on a bison is over 1000 pounds. The animal won’t be excited, which is good. Some of the 7mm magnums might be acceptable but I’d prefer the heavier bullets you can get with the .30s. Nothing less than 180 grains would be my choice. Personally I’d use the .375 H H, but that’s a personal choice based on years of hunting with different guns, and also I’m over 6 and weigh over 200lbs. That gun packs a large recoil. If you can handle it, try it. But whatever you do choose, enjoy the experience.

  20. I owned a Bushmaster M4 (carbon 15) it ate anything like a fat kid at a buffet. Never gave me problems shooting in any weather condition or with any “elements.” However, my latest rifle the arsenal ak is one of my favorite rifles ever. 3000 rds through it with no malfunctions. I can hit people size targets at 200 yrds consistently with the irons. It always goes bang, and whatever it bangs at goes bye bye. I have owned 4 other different types of ak’s and none compare to the Arsenal. Its hands down a solid SHTF gun.

    • I can also manipulate this weapon fairly easy, Reloads using my support and changing mags by brushing the mag release lever with the new mag and rocking it in (3 sec) and easy to go over or under to operate charging handle.
      Kalashnikov rifle gunfighting, and advanced Kalashnikov rifle gunfighting are some good videos to watch to learn how to optimize you performance with this great tool, especially if you dont have the time or money to go to a school or take a course.

  21. What kind of slings do you guys recommend and where do you get them and for how much? I break every sling i put on this gun.

  22. Great Review.

    I have the Arsenal SGL 21 and find it is very fun to shoot and has not malfunctioned yet after a few hundred rounds. If you do put a scope on it (I have a Vortex Viper 2×7 with a Kvar mount), it may be better to put an adjustable stock to help get behind the rifle better. I actually like the traditional look of the original stock but had to go with a Tapco T-6 stock for that purpose. Great Rifle for anyone looking for and AK. Once I save the money, I am going to get the 31.

  23. Good review, the most distinctive thing about my SGL21 is the WEIGHT, and the forward bias of it, but it cuts way down on recoil. Have a cheapo 5.00 green combloc sling on mine, the way it was designed for, and a 40 dollar Tasco red dot on a CTD generic rail. Dustcover clears this setup no problem. Being left eye dominate I hang my face over the shorty buttstock and get a solid cheekweld. Cant beat the solid feel and reliability of these rifles. If you want to do one hand tactical mag changes on an AK it takes practice, and a willingness to beat up your mags, google Sonny Puzikas on youtube if you want to see advanced AK handling.

  24. It’s pretty obvious that several of you, reviewer included, have no idea how to operate a Kalashnikov. It’s entirely possible (done every day in the world, in fact) to change the mag and charge it without taking your strong hand off the pistol grip. Youtube it.

  25. Just curious what you paid for this rifle back in May. Curious to see if there has been a huge mark up since then. I found this rifle currently for $885.

  26. As for the significant loss of accuracy when hot, it may be the handguards. Most plastics have a very large coefficient of thermal expansion (they expand a lot when heated) so the hot handguard may be putting quite a bit of pressure on the barrel.
    Try a set of wood handguards and get back to us.
    THANKS for the great review.

  27. Arsenal USA customer service F-.
    I purchased an Arsenal Russian Classic AK-47 (wood furniture) after reading this review and others. When I ordered the rifle, it was supposed to come with a hard plastic case and the picture showed a cleaning rod. When it arrived, the dealer said that Arsenal told him they ran out of cases and cleaning rods, so they just were not included. (and no price adjustment) Strike 1.
    I cleaned the barrel, lubed the rails (bone dry) and replaced the rear sight for one with a wider notch. I tried to sight it in, and with the front sight pushed all the way over, still could not hit paper at 25 yards. Put the rifle on my layout table with a square and found that the front sight was canted 15 degrees to the right. I e-mailed Arsenal to see if they would warranty it – no response for several weeks. Called and left a voice mail – no response. Sent another e-mail and a week went by. then received an e-mail with a RMA. Shipped the rifle to Arsenal (at my expense) where it sat for six weeks and then “Annette” left me a voice mail saying that since I had changed the rear sight, the warranty was void and that I would have to pre-pay the return shipping. And she added that it looked like I had modified the furniture???? Strike 2.
    Arsenal must have lost my shipping box so they shipped the rifle back in a single layer cardboard box with no padding. The muzzle poked through the box during handling and the slant break was ruined from being bashed on the asphalt. I came home to see the rifle sitting on the porch, no signature required for delivery. Strike 3.
    I am VERY disappointed with Arsenal. Poor quality firearm. Terrible customer service. Failure to honor their one-year warranty. My recommendation – buy from a reputable builder. Character, or the lack thereof shows through when times are good. I’m sure that Annette and company think that the current shortage will go on forever. History will show that their high prices and terrible customer service will be the ruin of their company. Don’t buy from Arsenal.

  28. I bought the Sgl 21 with a midwest front rail. All i can say standing in a combat stance a 50 yards easy as pie i shot 3 shot groups and 2 of my shots went almost went into the same hole the 3 shot just a lil to the left , i have not tried the 100 meter shots yet but i an impressed by this rifle, the ammo i was shooting of wolf , some tin can suplus ammo and monach ammo all gave me the same groups i shoot 120 rounds and when the rifle heated up i was still hitting what i was aiming for which was a paper target. Also being in the Army the training i received played a good factor. I was using iron sights all the way. I had however used a ecotech 512 also, the problem was not the cheek wield it just shoots lower that was i was aiming for. I also used the pso scope and that has had no check wield at all but still getting great groups again hitting Dip cans at 50 yard I would swear on my life to this rifle as well as an m4. 2 problems with the rail tho is made the rifle front heavy but perhaps maybe that helped the groups and my arm would def be fatigued after long periods of the read up position.

  29. I love the arsenal sgl21. My fav. rifle to shoot hands down. Durable as well. This is my SHTF rifle as it would last through anything and deliver devastating power. People don’t realize how powerful the 7.62×39 really is.

  30. Purchased a new SAM7SF-84 recently,Love it. Zero failure. Purchase new Bulgarian 30 steel mags with it. Any suggestion on optics?

  31. I have a Norinco Mak 90, Shoots good out to 90 to 105 yrds +or – . I want to upgrade to a more modern stock than the old thumbhole style, any good stores to look at that could get the job done!


  32. Sir,

    You can positivley change the mag with one hand, and remain in ready position. I find American shooters don’t always want to engage the AK and learn how it is *meant* to be handled, and thus down-vote its ergonomics based on how badly it emulates an m-4. It isn’t an M-4. there are videos out there to explain how to do a combat mag-change on this platform. I am not a combat vet, and I can do it in 2.5 seconds.

  33. I researched using this site as well as many others to find the best AK on the market and settled with the Arsenal Sam7SF milled for just under $1400…well when I got my brand new rifle I was unable to zero it at 50 yards due to the front sight post being canted off to the right. Each time I called Arsenal, I spoke with a very unpleasant woman named Jennifer who rudely responded and was slow to take the blame, assuming I had no idea what I was doing. Instead of taking the blame, they refused to fix anything unless I shipped the rifle on my own dime to get this brand new rifle fixed (~$100 through Fedex or UPS). This is something I expect from Century, but not Arsenal. I asked several times to speak with a technician or someone besides their “customer service rep” but was treated again like a nuisance. PLEASE STAY AWAY, to get treated like this after spending $1400 on a rifle is unbelievable.

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