Best AK47 Under $500? - Saiga Conversion or ???

Discussion in 'Rifle & Shotgun Discussion' started by d1esel, Jul 15, 2010.

  1. d1esel

    d1esel Member

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    I find my safe is currently laking a proper combat rifle and have decided a reasonably priced AK47 should get the job done.

    I have always been an AR guy and have no real experience with AK's.

    So, I would love to get some advise from any AK aficionados out there.

    What is the highest quality, most accurate AK47 for $500 or less?

    I hear good things about Saiga rifles and understand one can be purchased and converted to AK specs for about $450.

    I am fine with doing the conversion.

    But if I can get the same or better quality without any fabrication that would be my preference.

    Does I.O. Inc. produce a good rifle? I noticed they claim to have “same precision and grouping like an AR15”.
  2. trainsktg

    trainsktg Well-Known Member

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    To the best of my knowledge, folks don't grade AKs based on 'accuracy', but moreso their 'fit and finish'. Regardless of price, I doubt most folks could get under consistent 2 MOA 5-shots groups with an AK of any price. IO claims 1" of accuracy at 100 yards opensights on their latest offerings, and I call total BS on that.

    For under $500, the Romanian WASRs and GP75s are pretty good in the reliability department, 100% reliable if you talk to most owners (like me :)). They are about the least expensive of all of the current offerings, but are so-so in terms of fit and finish. With the WASRs, canted sights and/or gas tube seem to be the most common problems with these, although a visual inspection before purchase will eliminate this problem. People who own and shoot them seem to like them very well.

    Most folks who own them like the Yugo and Bulgys as well, and these are more 'authentic' in appearance, as they have dimples.

    Saigas are of course made in Russia by Concern Izmash, which is the new name for the old Izhevsk factory. I have a very nice Saiga 12 that has been converted to an incredible AKM clone, but at four times the price of a Romanian WASR, except for the presence of dimples on the Saiga, I am hard pressed to point out the superiority of construction of the Saiga over the Romanian. Also, to convert a Saiga in 7.62x39 or 5,45x39 to an AKM clone, you'd be hard pressed to keep it under your $500 budget, as you will need the proper number of US parts to be legal when you are done.

    Check with one of our contributing vendors here, Willamette Valley Firearms. He has a pretty good selection of AKs to look at and the pricing is pretty good too. Home willamette valley firearms your one stop hillsboro gun shop for all firearms ak-47s, ar-15s, ammo, magazines and gun accessories. He currently has a 'Romanian' M70 AB2T (which I'm pretty sure is really a Yugoslavian rifle) for $499 that would be a very good choice too.

    Keith
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2010
  3. el gringo loco

    el gringo loco Member

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    I am by no means an AK expert. However, I do know that if you are able to keep your Saiga conversion under $500, you probably wont be very happy with it or it won't look like an AK. I like the fit/finish/performance of my Saiga a lot. Move your cap to $600 for a conversion and you will be a lot more happy with what you get. If $500 is a firm cap, I'd look at other AKs (of which I know nothing about).
  4. unionguy

    unionguy Active Member

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    For under $500, I'd go with the Yugo's...you can even find an underfolder in that price range. Best fit/finish in that price range, and I like the thicker receiver that they come with.


    The new IO"s would be worth more research too, though.
  5. GRUNDEL

    GRUNDEL Member

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    I am also in the market for a new AK and talked to Robert at Willamette Valley Firearms Wednesday, really nice guy. He said he will be at the show Friday and Saturday with a bunch of AK’s. I was pretty set on spending $699 on an Arsenal SGL21, but after talking with him he sparked my interest on the I.O.’s. He says he sells a mess of them (at $475) so I will at least be going to check out the I.O. quality.

    I’m also a big fan of the Yugo M70 because of the heavier quality construction and IMO the underfolder looks B.A. I just know over time I may want to switch to a fixed stock and that’s not happening with the M70. That just sounds like a really good reason to own two?
  6. Nexus7

    Nexus7 New Member

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    Well my usual forum home is theakforum.net and I'm in the mood to write a book, so I'll give you the long answer.

    I would say the Saiga conversion is a good option, but there are a few drawbacks and ultimately, I don't think Saiga conversions make the most sense in the current market. Firstly, to do the cheap conversion and leave the sporter front end in tact, the hand guard is a poor heat shield and you may not be happy with it. Secondly, it is quite difficult to properly install a bullet guide without a 12 ton press and some home made jigs. There are some very popular bolt on bullet guides, but to me that becomes sort of an Achilles heel unless you do something like tack weld the nut/bolt to make it a permanent install. Thirdly, I recommend you shop around for a Saiga with dimples (which is more common now) because after all the work you put into it, you will be happy you built it on the true military style receiver. Fourthly, the AK-74 type muzzle device is very effective at compensating for recoil, muzzle rise, and the AKs unique lateral pull, so the bare muzzle of a Saiga is less functional and surprisingly expensive to properly upgrade unless you really shop around private sales and gun boards. Lastly, the overall cost of a full conversion verges on the cost of some better factory offerings.

    For the time, money, and work you put into it, I think you would be better served, breaking your budget a bit and getting an Arsenal SGL-21 or even an SGL-31 for a bit more money than the 21.

    K-VAR Corporation :: Rifles & Shotguns :: SGL31 Series – 5.45x39 Caliber Russian Stamped Receiver AK-74 Variant Rifles :: SGL31-61

    K-VAR Corporation :: Rifles & Shotguns :: SGL21 Series – 7.62x39 Caliber Russian Stamped Receiver AK-47 Variant Rifles :: SGL21-61

    I own several AKs, and the SGLs are easily the nicest and most functional. I've had some small issues with NDS home builds and CAI guns (and mostly success), which constitute much of the below-$500 market. Just about any make of AK can be great, but I've found the SGLs to be of consistently higher quality. Out of the 3 SGLs I've owned or used, I have never seen any kind of failure in thousands of rounds, and all the examples I've seen in person were 2 MOA guns. Most other AKs I have seen averaged closer to 5 MOA.

    Bear in mind that these are rifles that, except for some superficial parts, are wholly manufactured and assembled at Izhvesk, Russia, in the same, nearly 200-year-old factory, that developed the original AK-47 prototypes and has manufactured the majority of Russian military AKs up to present day. There is no conversion necessary or implied, because it's simply an authentic military AK-100 front end, as manufactured in Russia. Arsenal USA does not install the barrel parts on the current SGLs, only the furniture, muzzle brake, and FCG, which are all drop-in parts.

    The SGL-31 is a semi automatic non folding (no folding stock due to import restrictions specific to Russia AFAIK) version of the AK-74M (M for modernized), which is Russia's current-issue military rifle, chambered in 5.45x39mm. The SGL-21 is a semi-automatic version of the AK-103, which is itself, an AK-74M incorporating all of its modernizations, chambered for the older "AK-47" and "AKM" 7.62x39mm cartridge (and using magazines that are totally backwards compatible with the original military AK-47 magazine). All the special purpose and export chamberings of the AK-74M were given "AK-100," or "century series" names (not to be confused with Century Arms). AK-103s and a factory to produce them were recently sold to Venezuela to modernize their army. It's not hard to find photographs of Russian special forces carrying the AK-103 due to 7.62s superior barrier penetration inside 200 yards. All of this is just to say that any of the SGL series guns are a substantially more authentic newly manufactured military AK than anything else you can buy for remotely the same price.

    If you must stick to the $500 price point, then you might also look into getting an FEG manufactured AMD-65 (with mandatory barrel extension). This is a Hungarian factory built AK.

    AK 47 AMD 65 Hungarian Rifle

    Even a WASR-10/63 or SAR-1 wouldn't be a bad choice, if you can look over the rifle in question to rule out issues like canted sights/barrel parts, bad rivets, or any other flaws (although that might not be a great idea if you are that new to the gun--problems might not jump out at you when you look). These are Romanian built Cugir factory rifles. If you go this route, find a "SAR-1" or "WASR-10/63." I don't recommend buying a gun marked "WASR-10" because many of these were made during a period of much rougher manufacturing quality. Chinese AKs are also fine factory built choices, but they will tend to be out of your price range, and into the price range where you would be better suited with an SGL. I would recommend a Maadi, but not every batch of them has been good and I am blanking on which ones you want to avoid. I might be leaving one out, but the above rifles are some of the only factory built and imported AK rifles with original chrome lined barrels that are available other than the Saiga SGLs and sporters, so I would consider these rifles to be the next best thing. They may be half as accurate as the average SGL, but they are good guns.

    Some other options would be a Bulgy AK-74 or Romanian MD or G kit plus NoDak Spud receiver build from AK-USA, InRange, or overland (I'm leaving out out many other good builders) but it is getting increasingly difficult and more expensive to find new condition kits with original barrels, which is advisable, and one of the reasons I recommend a European factory built AK.

    I do not recommend IO rifles, CAI Polish Tantals, Hesse builds, B-West builds, or Lancaster rifles. There are good examples of all the above, but they are a gamble and some of them have severe issues.

    Just my personal preference, but I do not recommend Yugos. Underfolders are the least comfortable stocks to shoot (and they eventually wobble once they break in), and many people find Yugo wood stocks less comfortable to shoot than any other wood or polymer AK stock. Yugos are also about 2 lbs heavier than all other AKs and this extra weight comes with no particular advantages. Yugos do no have a chrome lined bore, which can cut the effective life of the bore in half. Lastly, the only cheap Yugos you will find are CAI built guns on aftermarket US made barrels and receivers. Lots of these builds are solid (I used to own one) but some are subject to bad rivets and canted parts. They aren't bad rifles, but for the money, I would pick something else every time.

    Be sure you are making an informed decision on the caliber. 5.45 is cheaper right now, and the ammo available is 7n6 military surplus steel core sealed in spam cans and each cartridge is sealed in high heat "lacquer" rendering them almost waterproof. Needless to say, this is excellent ammo. The mild steel penetrator results in initial penetration and the extremely long design of the bullet causes immediate yawing after penetration and large cavities.

    Conventional wisdom says that 7.62 has better terminal ballistics due to its greater muzzle energy and barrier penetration at ranges under 200 yards, although barrier penetration can be a liability and much of the 7.62 available can over-penetrate, passing through a target cleanly with less transfer of energy. Also, much of the 7.62 on the market is commercial ammo, which is non corrosive, meaning that the primers are not as well preserved, and in the last year or so, the major Russian ammo producers (Wolf, Tula, Ulynovsk, Barnaul) basically downgraded their export 7.62x39mm ammo by no longer lacquer coating it (probably to cut costs and please AR guys with chambers that aren't to Russian spec). The new non-lacquered, "polymer coated" ammo does have a slightly noticeable protective coating, but it has the tendency to lightly rust if handled or stored outside of the rust inhibiting paper in the box. The exception to that rule is Golden Tiger, which is still lacquered, but the primers can be inconsistent on the order of 2 duds in a case of 1000.

    The 7.62x39mm Wolf 124 gr "Military Classic" hollow points have exceptionally good terminal ballistics though, as does the Yugo M67 mil surp stuff and the Yugo ammo is extremely dependable (and corrosive like 5.45 7n6). The Yugo stuff can be found for 20 to 25 cents per round. Either caliber is a great choice, but spending more money on the SGL-31 in 5.45x39mm could actually save you money in the long run since 5.45 regularly dips to around 11 cents per round, whereas 7.62 hovers around 20 cents per round and tends to be lower quality than the plentiful tins of 5.45 7n6. Corrosive ammo is not an issue if you clean your rifle within a day after every range trip. With 5.45x39 ammo right now, it's like you are paying less for a higher grade of ammo. If you happen to come across similar grade 7.62x39mm ammo at a gun show, such as Chinese steel core, expect to be paying 50 cents a round, versus the 11-14 cents a round for Russian 7n6 in 5.45. The importation of 7.62 steel core has been illegal for a while due to the market for AK pistols, but steel core 5.45 is perfectly legal to import and it is plentiful. This would be a smart moment to stock up on 7n6.
    nforest and (deleted member) like this.
  7. Nexus7

    Nexus7 New Member

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    ...In summary, I recommend saving your money another month or 2 and buying yourself an SGL-31 along with cheap 1080 rd spam cans of 5.45x39mm 7n6. You will thank yourself later. If you must buy a cheap AK, then get a Hungarian FEG factory built AMD-65, and pick up some tins of Yugo M67 for storage and whatever ammo is currently cheapest for blasting at the range. You can get $10 mil surp magazines in either caliber. You have a lot of good options, but I happen to think its worth owning a factory AK built on all authentic, new condition parts, ideally in Russia.
  8. Unka-Boo

    Unka-Boo Active Member

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    ^^^ what he said....

    I've run the gamut on AK's from one end of the spectrum to the other, as long as you get one that was put together properly, it will run.

    I'll suggest the WASR 10/63 for an entry level gun, Saiga conversion as a close second.
  9. GRUNDEL

    GRUNDEL Member

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    Oh H3LL Nexus nice post. Not even my Thread and you sold me on the Arsenal, that and I have been doing my home work. Got to check them out at the show this weekend. They are beautiful and feel to be rock solid I will be picking one up very soon. :thumbup:
  10. Unka-Boo

    Unka-Boo Active Member

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    I did :

    [​IMG]


    :D
  11. d1esel

    d1esel Member

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    Thank's for the great posts, and an extra gold star for Nexus7.

    Arsenal seems like a great AK, but I can't rap my head around spending that much money.
    The more I learn about AK's the more appealing the Saiga conversion becomes to me.
    For an initial investment of around $350 I have an all new russian made AK that should be similar to Arsenal in quality.
    I can spread out the cost of conversion parts over several months.
    And then when the time comes, I can do the conversion myself.

    Anyone know where I can find a Saiga in 7.62 x 39 with dimples?

    Another gun that I find interesting is the Zastava PAP, imported by EAA.
    It's suppose to be a real high quality gun for around $380.
    But it's a single stack, and apparently more difficult to convert to a double stack then it may be worth.
  12. KomradRazvan

    KomradRazvan Banned

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    I personally have a Romy G that I purchased from a board member here back in september of 08 for $300. Great reliable rifle. I don't see the need to spend a bunch of extra cash on an Arsenal, as one of things that makes an AK so appealing to the majority of the armed forces in this world is its combat reliability/price ratio, and the price of an SGL is just too much for an AK IMHO.

    As for calibers. Well I personally prefer the 7.62 due to penetration. Especially since we live in oregon, and you want the ability to penetrate through brush if SHTF and you head to the woods. Most engagements occur within 300 yards anyways, so why not get the heavy hitting 7.62 over the lighter 5.45? Here's an AK caliber test clip that may help you out.

    AK Cal Test
  13. wingspar

    wingspar Member

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    Is there enough of a difference between a WASR 10 and a WASR 10/63 to be concerned about? I seel a lot of WASR 10's online for sale, but rarely a 10/63.
  14. Unka-Boo

    Unka-Boo Active Member

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    Only if you want to run a bayonet..... ( most 10/63s have lugs, where 10s may not )

    Keep in mind, these were imported as a single stack gun, then opened up here to accept standard mags ( read: monkey with dremel @ Century ) There are known issues with sloppy magazine fit as well as "canted" sights ( front and rear will be off from one another ) These are easy to check for on a used gun, and not as big of a deal as people make it to be.

    I've had 2 Romanians, an SAR-1 and a WASR 10/63, both functioned flawlessly, fit and finish left a bit to be desired but, hey, it's an AK....for the given price range, they are a good choice.

    more pics, 'cause I'm a dork:

    SAR-1:

    [​IMG]

    10/63, wearing Bulgarian plum:

    [​IMG]
  15. wingspar

    wingspar Member

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    Well, I guess my question is more from the quote below I got from Wikipedia with the "added contact support for the bolt carrier comment". What part does that play in the 10/63? Keep in mind, I’m not all that familiar with what the “bolt carrier” might be, but I want to learn.

    GP WASR-10: After the sunset of the assault weapons ban, importers were able to legally equip WASR-10s with compensators, bayonet lugs, and folding stocks, thus making the GP WASR-10 (with GP standing for general purpose). One disadvantage of this rifle is that machining burrs on the magazine well causes some magazines to fit tightly. Some advantages of this rifle are the reliability and availability of aftermarket parts.

    The 2007 GP WASR-10/63 has an updated front trunnion with added contact support for the bolt carrier.
  16. Nexus7

    Nexus7 New Member

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    I'm not sure about the trunnion update that the article refers to, but the odd thing about any "updates" to the trunnion, is that the WASR 10/63, unlike several runs of WASR-10s in the past, is not made from new commercial parts so update might not be the right word. The trunnion markings on nearly all of the 10/63s I have looked at have the markings of original military/police G kits and MD-63s and unlike 10s, which had later production trunnions and mismatched parts. It's those mismatched rifles that established the WASRs reputation as a low quality AK. All the 10/63 units I've handled (maybe half a dozen) were built on all-matching serial numbered parts, meaning the parts were factory mated or built as a kit during the cold war, and not pulled from parts bins decades after the fact. Some of the markings on the guns have been scrubbed and remarked, but as far as I know, 10/63s are built on military parts, which wasn't true for every batch of WASR-10s (although it is true for some), and the manufacturing quality at Cugir on these parts is commonly said to have declined after their civil war in the 1980s. A gun built from Romanian parts from the 1960s through 1980 are generally considered the peak of Romanian AK manufacturing quality (which is still considered rougher than just about every other country to manufacture AKs) and this is why a 10/63 rebuilt by Cugir out of an original military MD63 is desirable. All these trunnions will have the arrow in triangle factory proof and a date stamp, plain to see on the trunnion next to the barrel pin.

    There have been several runs of very rough WASR-10s that are probably still on the market, whereas the 10/63s have been of pretty consistently higher quality. Buying a 10/63 is just a better bet, some plain WASR-10s might be just as good or better than a given 10/63, but almost no 10/63s I've heard of are as bad as the worst drunken electro-penciled, magwell butchered, mismatching and tool marked 10s. Canted barrel parts are still a possible issue on any WASR, or AK, in general, and the 10/63 itself is not completely free of QC issues. I have seen WASR-10/63s and AES-10B rifles produced in the last few years built on good parts, but with cracked/splitting rivets.

    I used to own a WASR-10/63, but eventually I sold it, in favor of other guns. It was a good gun, and it looked great after I blasted off the weak black oxide, parked, and painted it, and put shellac on the factory-stripped unfinished wood (watch out for splinters!). It was not as accurate as any of my AK-74s or SGLs in 7.62. It also had hammer follow issues when using a Tapco G2 if riding the breaking point of the trigger, which is a common problem with these triggers on particular guns (due to stacking tolerances) which I solved by modifying the hammer-disconnector interface.

    I don't recommend the SGL because I think it is the only good AK out there, I just recommend it because it's generally twice as accurate as the cheaper guns, and despite its higher price it's the most direct route to an out-of-the-box AK that you could call perfect. If you get a good example of any of the guns listed in this thread, you probably will be happy. That said, I do think the SGL is a better bet than pretty much any other AK on the market as a factory finished and inspected gun, and you will probably come to appreciate the collector value of an Izhmash factory-built AK.

    Have you handled either rifle? Go to a big gun show such as the Puyallup and handle both. I wouldn't consider buying a WASR unseen unless maybe it was from Henderson Defense, who warrants their WASRs against defects.
  17. ZA_Survivalist

    ZA_Survivalist Well-Known Member

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    What ever you do, don't purchase a Saiga 7.62x39, its a money pit.
    I own one and have done work on it, it ended up costing me about $450-$475
    (Cost of the rifle and parts) and thats not even with a new Front Sight Base, a barrel threading kit, or muzzle break.

    The quality is GREAT, but I wouldn't go with the 7.62x39 version.

    .223
    .308
    5.45
    12G

    any of those are worth it for the cost of the rifle as well as parts needed for conversion, but as of now there are better 7.62x39 AKM rifle deals on the market.
  18. d1esel

    d1esel Member

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    After looking in to it further, I have to agree with Nexus7. It will cost around $100 or more over the cost of an SGL to convert the Saiga to similar specs. But to be perfectly honest, the conversion process is the main attraction for me. I love to tinker, modify and customize just about everything.

    So I went ahead and picked up a Saiga in 7.62 from Keith's for $350. It has the dimples on the receiver, no step in the chamber, and the barrel is threaded under the FSB.:thumbup:
  19. willseeker

    willseeker Gold Supporter Gold Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Congrats D1esel! Let us know how you like it.



    Will
  20. d1esel

    d1esel Member

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    Thanks Will. As I recall, you where in the market for an AK. How did that pan out for you?