Call: +44 (0) 1344 750735 / +44 (0) 7970 541757
E-mail: fsu@sky.com

 

film & TV contact us payment events special offers ViewCart
 
PAGE 1 (2007)
 

SHOOTING SPORTS / August 2009

Superior PERFORMANCE

by Pete Moore

Pete Moore; ever a devotee of hybrid straight-pull rifles tests the good old Saiga AK but this time in the better calibre option of 223 Rem

The truth is if you want to shoot some form of Practical Rifle (PR) then the only real choice for a hybrid straight-pull is an AR15 in 223 Rem. Ok, I will admit there are other guns in this group but all have their problems – Steyr AUG, nice but a heavy trigger and hard cocking, Ruger mini 14 (which couldn’t shoot its way out of a wheelie bin from the inside), Saiga M3/M4 (AK47/AKM) a bit better but very limited on effective range.

The real problem with the Saiga is the original calibre of 7.62x39mm ! Great assault rifle cartridge, if your aspirations do not exceed 200-yards on man-sized targets. But on the short, 16” tube of the AK it was never meant for tack-driving at any real distance. Don’t get me wrong as I have an M4 (7.62x39) in my collection and it’s a lot of fun, given I keep the ranges sensible. Plus with the addition of new furniture and modification; the rifle can be made a lot more shootable, though no more accurate...

In with a 30 What the design needs is the option of a better cartridge, which it now has, as the 223 Rem version is available from importers RusMilitary. Called the AK101, those in the know will say, but a 223 has been available for some time. Yes it has, but in smaller numbers and with only a 10-shot magazine, which is not what this gun is all about ! The latest model comes with a 30-rounder, so calibre and capacity wise it’s really in the ballpark; or is it ? We shall see !

My test gun came with the triangular, steel, side-folding butt and standard, black plastic furniture. For those of you not familiar with the generic Saiga AK-types here’s how it goes; light, 16” barrel with muzzle brake, right side cocking, large and clunky safety catch 9right side of the receiver). Add to this a short length of pull with a low or no comb (depending on butt configuration) and iron sights – forward post and rear U-notch tangent-type. A manual action hold open has been added over the earlier M3 version and dedicated optics can be fitted on the integral NV rail (left of the receiver). However, these are not amazing with a choice of fixed power 4x24 or 6x24, no focusing ability and a moving image reticule (with illumination).

Add to this the high scope mount position and low comb of the butt and areas like cheek weld and a good eye/scope relationship are non-existent. Unlike the generic and evolved Ar15s, which are now totally built with ease of use and competition in mind, the AK is very much what you see is what you get. However, they are 100% reliable, do not suffer from hard extraction problems and are easy to use, plus they don’t cost well in excess of £1000. But for serious PR use even out to 300-yards, they are sadly a non-starter; well inn 7.62x39 certainly.

223/12-twister Visually the 223/M3 looks no different to the 7.62 version with the exception of the 30-round mag being less curved. I have to say the side-folding, skeleton butt is not the best choice for shootability and I wrongly assumed that you can also get this gun with a fixed stock in this configuration, but you can’t. However, it’s the calibre that really changes this rifle out of all proportion.
I guessed that the gun might offer a 1-12” twist rate and that proved correct as I tool along an eclectic selection of ammo ranging through 55,60,62,69 and 75-grains in various configurations; FMJ, V-MAX (Hornady Tap FPD), boat tail hollow point (Sierra Match Kings) and the rifle only shot the 55s well. Here I was using the Prvi Partizan (PPU) and Hornady TAP FPD.

To determine accuracy, I used my old, Russian 6x24 POSP scope, which fits the NV rail. I have had this a long time and it’s not the best. To solve the minimal butt style, I fitted the official rubber grenade launcher pad extension, which extended the LOP. The comb was sorted by wrapping it in a foam rubber tube, which raises the head up and widens the cheek contact area just enough for a reasonable eye/scope relationship.

Even with the older and now decidedly fuzzy POSP on top the M3 was shooting 1-2” at 100-yards. TO be honest a better optic would doubtless reduce that to around an inch. Inspection showed that groups were reasonably concentric and at least 50 – 100% smaller than what my 7.62x39 M4 can do. Recoil was also improved and though the 7.62 is no kicker, the 223 version is easier to control and therefore offers better target observation through the shot.

Slow down Action-wise the M3 showed smooth and easy extraction characteristics over all the bullet weights / loads used. It also did not do that annoying trick of the 7.62 version in that as you cycle the action, the fired case can and does bounce off your hand and drop back into the ejection port. Chances are the slimmer dimension of the 223 case causes less of a problem. I had Mark Bradley modify my 7.62x39mm rifle with one of this extended cocking handles, which solves this problem. But I think you can get away with it on the 223...

So accuracy is far more where we need it to be and given the gun can hold 1 ½ “ @ 100-yards then it should be able to keep it inside 12” at 600. Though the old 55-grain bullet is ballistically less efficient then the more modern and evolved 62/69-grain loads PR shooters favour. But also consider using 14 ½ “ and 16” AR15s too and they do it all right.

Ballistically the 55-grain loads were running at around 2700 fps, with is between 300/400 fps slower than what you would expect from a 20” tube.

End game The straight-pull AK is undeniably a simple and basic design, with none of the refinement of the modern AR15. However in 223 Rem it proves that the rifle can shoot, so it’s now a lot less about build and more about calibre.

To make this rifle more shootable, a fixed butt version would be better. As opposed to having to pad out the skinny, metal comb you could instead replace all the furniture with the TDi sets that FSU Connections currently offers. This includes a CAR15-type telescopic butt with adjustable comb, so sorting LOP and head/scope alignment in one go. Currently, in the side-folding version you can still take advantage of the larger pistol grip and forend with the option of a forward grip, which will make it easier to hold and control. Plus you can get the grenade launcher pad/extension which I have found to be a real boon in terms of a quick fix solution to LOP and general shouldering. The only real problem is the scope ! The POSP is cheap, fits as standard and works OK. But something better would be commensurate with the 223 M3’s improved ability.

FSU also offer the AK102 version, which is the carbine with the shorted, 12 ½” barrel and fixed plastic butt with an overall length of 33”. In 7.62x39mm this rifle is really inaccurate, but and though I have not tested an example, I’d say it would be vastly improved in 223 Rem.

Ideal would be a QD mount as the POSP; but with a rail or set of rings. Or perhaps a Picatinny rail fitted to the top cover as can be found on Saiga’s SWAT 12K semi-auto shotgun.

Truth is in 223 Rem the Saiga M3 AK101 is now a serious proposition for the PR shooted on a budget, or the clubman who just wants a hi-cap fun gun with more than acceptable accuracy. ANYBODY WANT TO BUY MY 7.62 AK ?

   

SHOOTING SPORTS / May 2009

BABY-K

by Pete Moore

Famed for their big and brutal 12c, box mag semi-auto shotgun, you may not know Saiga also offer a smaller 410 version; Pete Moore gets all AK47 again...

If you are of the practical shotgun (PSG) persuasion then Saiga’s big 12C box mag semi-auto is quite some tool. Essentially this is a 12-bore AK47 with an 8-round magazine. This is the sort of gun you either love or hate, and I have to say I come down on the former side 100%. What I have on test this month is the smaller, 410 version of this design the Saiga 410 from importers FSU Connections Ltd.

Owner Oleg Savochkin saw the opportunity to offer the practical crowd a light, handy, hi-cap gun that would make a great little slug gun on the range and maybe for some form of shorted range PSG too. Ironically, I have owned the original Saiga 410 in a slightly more sporting layout for many years, so I was keen to see how the new gun differed, I mainly use it when I want a short range, bunny buster, as even though no 12-bore; a decent 3”, 410 #6 load like Winchester’s excellent fodder offers good killing power. Especially when backed up by its hi-capacity feed system...

Cosmetically improved
Visually the new 410 gun differs from the earlier model in a number of ways, though action, feed, butt and pistol grip remain unchanged. The major differences are all up front with a shorter M3/M4 synthetic forend, standard AK47 rifle sights and a non-adjustable gas mech. The barrel is 24”, cylinder bored and offers no provision for fitting chokes. Mine shows a longer forend, two-position gas regulator, simple pin shotgun sights and screw-on chokes.

The butt is the usual skinny/short black, synthetic item we are now used to on the Saiga M3/M4 rifles as is the pistol grip. Always there is the integral night vision mount on the left of the receiver, which will allow the use of dedicated scopes and red dot sights. So what you have here is nothing more than a .410 smooth bore AK47 with a UK legal length barrel. But the fun really starts when you realise that it is a semi-auto and fires from a 10-shot magazine !

Politics and ammo
So what good is a gun like this ? Well as I said I use mine for close range rabbiting and despite what some might feel about the 410, it’s a cracking little cartridge that offers more than enough power for the job in a light and easy recoiling package. In every way the Saiga would be more at home at a Practical Shotgun comp than a clay shoot. However, where it gets exciting is its potential as a slug gun, which in the UK today means on paper targets only. As no matter if its 12-bore or 410 the government with very few exceptions really hates us having slug loads for shotguns anywhere but on the range. Also it seems that most constabularies will insist on you being a member of the United Kingdom Practical Shooting Association (UKPSA) to justify your ownership of such ‘dangerous’ equipment and ammunition.

On that latter point this box mag 410 is quite ammunition sensitive as it only works properly with 3” cartridges, which is due to the way the round presents to be chambered. Anything shorter tends to flick up into the roof of the chamber extension and jam. This I learned the hard way with my gun, so 3” shells are mandatory if you want to shoot the Saiga rather then swear at it.

Slug is another matter, as most ammo of this nature is usually 2 ½ - 2 ¾ so it will not feed as I described. However, speaking to Oleg on this subject indicated that the has accessed 3” slug; given the general high cost of 410 ammo in the UK, it looks to be around £50 per 100.

As I did not have any slug ammo, though I have been promised some for a follow up test, I went ahead with Winchester’s 3” #6 load to get a feel for the Saiga’s functionality...

Simple and reliable
To be honest I was not expecting any dramas, as the generic AK is about as reliable and simple as you can get and the 410 was no exception. Controls are basic – the safety is a big lever on the right of the action that flicks up (SAFE) and down (FIRE). In the former position the bolt is partially blocked so you can check the chamber for a loaded round without fully opening the action. Typically this control is stiff and bending the lever out certainly improves operation.

At the front of the trigger guard is the magazine release lever, which pushes forward to unlock the clip. This, just like the rifle versions, is then rolled forward to disengage from the well. When fitting the mag the nose goes in first at a reasonably sharp angle to engage the forward lug.

The trigger offers the usual long yet soft pull familiar to this system. The 410 has no open hold system, so some form of chamber flag would be needed when shooting on the range. Sights are pure AK with a U-notch tangent type at the rear and the classic A-frame up front. I would imagine that 410 slug is probably good for 100-yards + so the issue irons are more than adequate. However, FSU Connections also offers a number of diverse and dedicated optics ( check the website) that fit onto the NV rail. I used the reflex-style red dot from my gun that offers a choice of selectable reticules. But just as easily, and for longer range use, one of their POSP x4 or x6 mag units might be better.

A ripping time
With good 3”shells the 410 is 100% reliable and offers mild recoil and easy control. What was noticeably different from my shotgun version with its adjustable mech was the amount of gas that blows back into the firers face. There are exhaust ports in the gas tube so it must come from there; I’d recommend safety glasses...

Though un-choked the 410 was good for up to 25 yards and it was a lot of fun ripping through the 10-round mag – almost like the good old days. Though not having the shot weight of a 12 bore, close range and scaled down steel plates would offer a lot of practical fun no doubt. I must confess to not knowing how the UKPSA shotgun arm would view a 410 for PSG. But with slug you do have a very interesting gun indeed, with the ability to engage paper targets out to 100-yards, maybe 200 at a push in a self-loading format. This and the supply of well priced ammo does make the Saiga 410 very attractive if you are of that mind set. Priced at £495 this the basic gun is good value for money, with spare mags costing £34 – even that is not too bad, certainly when compared to the 12-gauge Saigas.

On that point and because this newer version uses the standard rifle build, you can fit different furniture in the same way you can to the Saiga M3/M4. One up from the black synthetic of the basic model is laminate as used on the original AKM. This gives the wood look and in my opinion is better than the plastic, plus you can slide on the thick, rubber, grenade launcher butt pad for added comfort and control on either version.

Moving up we then have the TDI kit that offers a CAR15-type sliding butt, larger/ergonomic pistol grip and improved forend with Picatinny rails on all four sides. You can fit a forward grip too. I have this on my Saiga M4 in 7.62x39mm and it does make the gun far more handy and shootable.

End game
Military-looking guns of this nature do arouse very strong feelings of both love and hate. Viewed analytically the Saiga410 offers both plus and minus points. For those looking for something a bit practical then it would make a great little slug gun, plus is a lot of fun on steel plates for a form of short range PSG. How it would cope on bigger/longer range targets remains to be seen ! Being a 10-round detachable magazine system it will be classed as a firearm and therefore Section One on an FAC.

From a hunter’s perspective any 410 makes a great rabbit gun, given you get the range right. Plus it’s probably the cheapest, hi-capacity, semi-auto 410 around. In this scenario the look of the gun could be problematic as it is what it is. Shotshells though available tend to be expensive, which make this calibre far less attractive than a 12-bore in terms of ammo economy. However the good price of the slug more than makes up for it, given the primary reason for ownership. Overall a good fun and highly practical gun.

   

GUN MART / March 2008

27 Years Too Late

by Pete Moore

 

If I have a claim to fame, then it’s probably being in at the birth of Practical Shotgun (PSG) in the early 1980s. Back then it was fun all the way, as all who shot it appeared to do so for the love of a good bang ‘n’ clang and little else. A friend of mine once described the discipline as the most fun he had ever had with his clothes on though not 100% correct, it does come pretty close for a civilian shooter...
However, like any equipment orientated discipline the ‘arms race’ soon started. In the beginning the majority of guns were pump-actions with a smattering of sporting semi-autos and even a few doubles. However is soon became apparent that a high magazine capacity was to be preferred, so guns like the Mossberg Slugster with its standard 8-shot tube and the Remy 870 with a mag extension became top choices. However, to keep these guns fed required you to be good at loading and trying to stuff 10-shells into an empty gun took some time, especially when you were running down a course of fire against the clock with targets all around. Research showed the average hi-cap gun usually had a maximum of 3-5 rounds in it at any one time...
The hi-cap magazine was standard equipment, though in a reasonably short time the semi-auto near replaced the pump-action as the gun of choice. The pros and cons of what was truly better would make an article in itself, but it was thought by the majority that a semi was faster and less tiring to use. I succumbed like the rest and got a Remy 1100, followed by a Franchi SPAS12, but kept my trusty 870, though it now only shoots rabbits and pigeons and the occasional close range fox.

Boxing Clever
It was about this time that the more technically minded amongst us started considering a box magazine feed system, as it was the perfect solution to speed reloads, but in truth there was very little out there that even came close. People talked about modifying Remy 1100s etc to accept an expanded SLR magazine but it never happened, and it was not until a good few years later that Franchi came up with the SPAS 15, which offered a 6-round box mag. The 15 was a good gun, but hideously expensive and that went for the spare magazines too. Plus by this time PSG had pretty much accepted the tube-magazine, hi-cap, semi-auto as the weapon of choice and considered anything else that gave a greater advantage to be not in keeping with the discipline. The SPAS 15 never caught on due to cost and availability of guns and magazines, so sort of killed itself, and the sport went back to what it knew. However a fox was nearing the hen house in the form of the Russian Saiga 12C !

Hey, you’re just a big AK ?
In essence the 12C was a 12-bore AK47 in build, looks and mechanism, though it showed a 24” barrel, but best of all it fed from an 8-round detachable box magazine. The main differences were its adjustable gas/piston operating system and lack of sights apart from a brass pin at the front of the gas tube. Conceptually a good Practical shotgun, but the butt was too short and the pistol grip too skinny, plus the mag change could be a bit fiddly and the standard AK safety catch was far from ideal...
In terms of practicality the 12C did not feature a last round hold open facility or even a manual option either. Plus there was something that perhaps is not initially considered; those 8-round mags are not too small and for something as ammo-heavy as a bush/jungle run where you might use up to 50 shots, a minimum of six full clips are needed and a place to carry them...Also a place to put empties, as you don’t want to go losing them at £50 a pop. Now consider standard exercises, where you may have to start with a mandatory empty gun and load it. Does a box mag gun start with an empty mag you have to fill first, as a tube feed version would ? As though an undoubtedly attractive proposition the system is not without its weak points... Sorry to digress, but this also serves to highlight that PSG, like it or lump it, was built around modified sporting shotguns that all show manually-fed tube ,magazines. So putting these up against a box mag system needs a bit of lateral thinking in terms of the rules and also fairness to existing equipment and techniques. By the time the 12Cs started to appear I had long been out of serious/regular PSG, and after testing an example I had to say that though it had a lot to offer – I did not really like the package.

SWAT-style
FSU Connections supplied me a 12c a few years ago and a recent call from owner Oleg Savochkin informed me that a new model was available and would I like to have a look ? What came out of the familiar brown box was amazing and I have to say right up my street too, though maybe a bit too much for PSG, so let’s take a look... Called the Saiga SWAT-12K the gun is essentially a 12C though it addresses most of the shortfalls of the original. AS before is uses an adjustable gas/piston mech with a 2-position rotary valve at the front of the forend that allows you to tailor the gun to the ammo. The barrel is Cylinder bored and 24” long with a slotted (M16-type) muzzle brake and the forend is rounded-style with cast-in chequering and ventilation slots. From here on in it gets more interesting. The receiver is what I would term the M4-type with a manual bolt hold open catch inside the trigger guard, though there is still no empty magazine/automatic function. Saiga have fitted full, AK-type iron sights with the classic A-frame up front and a tangent /U-notch on the rear. The pressed steel top cover hinges on the action, so can’t be lost, and shows a 1” Picitinny-style scope rail, though as ever the original NV mount is still there on the left side.
Furniture is much improved, with a longer/wider/fuller pistol grip and a CAR15-type collapsing stock with adjustable comb/cheek piece. Made by a company called Command Arms Accessories (CAA), it’s near identical to the TDI replacements I have fitted to my 7.62x39mm Saiga M4 rifle. Like the M4 it significantly improves the length of pull and head position of the generic AK.

Too Practical ?
Saiga has also improved the feed system. Gone is the direct locking receiver-to-magazine set up, which had to be angled in and snapped back. Instead the 12K shows an extended mag well with the clips sliding straight up to engage. This is definitely faster and simpler; the release catch is located at the rear of the well and the whole job is now far better all round. Visually the 12K like the 12C is something you either like or don’t (or should that be approve of ?)...I loved it..Big and black with the classic AK look, this is not a gun for the clay range or driven shoot. I don’t think it’s one for field use either, as a tube mag like a Benelli M2 or Remy 11-87 SPS is far handier. It’s probably the ultimate practical gun though; maybe even a bit too much given the discipline. But it was there and I was ready to turn live into empty, so I dug out my eclectic selection of 12-bore ammo and went to work.The chamber is 3” and unlike the smaller and more sensitive 410 version – which has to have 3” cartridges or it will not feed – the 12K happily took 2 ¾ shells too. Ammo consisted of #6 & 7 game loads, buck shots, BBs and AAAs. With iron sights and a scope rail the gun was carrying out for some slug and it would have been rude not to try it, so I dug out some CBC, Remington and Slugger. I fitted an Aim Point red dot as well as using the irons.

Most noticeable was the 12K’s good manners in the shoulder especially with the Remy Slugger, which I have always found a right b*****d in terms of felt recoil in a sporting semi. Set at position 2 (two dots) the guns showed the occasional ejection stove pipe (fired case sticking out of the action), regardless of what type of ammo I put through it. At position 1 (one dot) this reduced, but still occasionally surfaced. In truth you will always have a few problems with any semi-auto mech, that’s just the way it is...but in this case they were very easy to clear. One thing I did notice was that the recoil generated kept shaking the cheek piece/comb loose from the rail – hardly surprising really. However, the cheek piece is a useful feature for use with optical sights, so I’d advise you to find the right position and somehow lock it down.

User friendly
For me the most noticeable aspects of the 12K are without doubt its superior butt and pistol grip, which offers better control and shootability plus the more efficient mag change. Here you just grasp the empty, press in the actch with your thumb then pull it out. The full one is inserted into the well and pushed straight up to lock. The manual last round hold open is an improvement, as the gun can be easily seen to be empty.

Compared to a sporting semi-auto the 12K is big,heavy,a bit ungainly and the standard safety catch is as ever stiff and hard to operate. This does need sorting, as for negotiating obstacles on a course of fire – making safe is mandatory. I had an absolute hoot with the 12K just blasting away at targets and wished Oleg had included a couple of spare mags. All in all, I reckon i got through 200 assorted rounds, plus 40-slug without feeling beaten up by the gun..now comes the sensible bit. Though I like the look and utility of the iron sights and the ability to fit some form of optic on the scope rail, I would also be the first to admit that for a gun firing bird shot the irons are of little practical use. Of course you may favour a red dot, which can be effective for PSG work. However either option is good if you use the gun for slug shooting, which I believe can be done at venues with a suitable safety certificate. One other aspect that might cause slight problems is the 24” Cylinder-bored barrel, which might not have the effective range of a 26” multi choke tube on a Remy 11-87 for example. Though the 12K has a threaded muzzle for the brake I’m unsure if Saiga offer choke tubes to suit, though it would seem logical. The price is surprisingly good too; certainly in comparison to the Remy 11-87 and the Benelli M2, as the 12K comes in about £150 than these two market leaders. Though you are going to have to factor in spare magazines, which is where is all goes a bit pea-shaped, as the new (mag well) magazines cost £79 each. By my reckoning you will need a minimum of five or six to keep it fed for a big course of fire and that’s going to be expensive. Just to let you know, the older 12C clips do not fit the 12K either.
Cheaper by around £150 are the Tactika guns, which use the original, 12C magazine system though show the iron sights, muzzle brake and new pistol grip of the 12K and either a Dragunov-type with rotary comb. They do not have a scope rail but the good news is the magazines are £56 (8-shot) and £32 (5-shot). Magazine prices aside; given this is a very definite horse with a course; the Saiga SWAT-12K gets my vote as possibly the ultimate Practical shotgun. I don’t have much use for a dedicated PSG tool these days, but by God if that gun had been around when I was a hard core shotgunner it would have changed the face of the discipline and put a big smile on mine too..

   

SHOOTING SPORTS / September 2007

The Silk Purse

by Pete Moore

 

FSU Connections are now offering their AK103 Desert, which is a version of the Saiga M4 straight-pull Kalashnikov, with some rather cool furniture. Pete Moore wonders if it makes it better or just different ?

I love the AK47, but would be the first to admit that it does have limitations in terms of other, hybrid, straight-pull rifles. For example, a scoped-up AR15 is capable of ½ - 1” at 100 yards but a Kalashnikov even with decent glass fitted will struggle to put all its rounds into a 2 x 3” rectangle at that distance. Likewise the AR is capable out to 600 + meters with the right bullet, whereas realistically the AK is pushed at 300 metres with 200/250 probably being it’s practical, effective ceiling to be hitting something like a Fig 11 or Fig 12 target regularly. In terms of a Practical rifle for the UK shooting scene the generic, straight-pull AR15 is hard to beat, I own a custom SGC Speedmaster, which is easily capable of ½” @100. But I also own a Saiga M4 from FSU Connections, which is my fun gun. Chambered in 7.62X39mm, I’m totally aware of it’s limitations in comparison to my AR, but I find it equally good to shoot, given the ranges are kept sensible and the targets realistic in size. Though not that heavily involved in the Practical Rifle (PR) scene anymore I would like to see more competition that could include short range stuff like the Saiga and Ruger Mini 14 , as I reckon it would add another dimension to the discipline. Say a maximum range of 200 yards, irons sights, and or red dots/low powered scopes, I reckon this would be a lot of fun and perhaps get more entry level shooters involved too... I got my Saiga M4 last year, as up until then I had never liked the horrid plastic furniture , they came out of the factory with, being too skinny and too short, which did nothing to improve shootability. Oleg who owns FSU Connections managed to source some original AK74 laminate woodwork, which is just nicer all round, so making the rifle feel , look and handle far better. Add to this the rubber butt pad originally made for use with the under-slung grenade launcher and both length of pull and shoulder position were also improved. My rifle has all this fitted and – as I said before – for what it is I like it, and I would say , if you own the standard plastic- stocked gun, then treat yourself to a set of the laminate furniture and you will not be disappointed.

Tailor Made by TDI However, as can be seen, the basic Saiga M3/M4 can be improved a little, but now it looks like it can be improved a lot more, as Oleg is now offering what he calls the AK103 Desert. Radical looking the rifle now wears a set of new TDI synthetic furniture in a tan colour (sand) which by no doubt gives this model its name. Black is also an option, if you want to keep it all one colour. A bit of investigation showed that TDI are an Israeli company who make all sorts of replacement stocks, pistol grips, forends and other goodies for modern military rifles – Uzi, MP5 HK36, M16 and AK 47/74, along with scope, laser and tactical light mounts, bipods and a whole lot more. Oleg has taken standard 7.62 x 39mm Saiga M4 (with bolt hold open catch), stripped off that horrible black plastic and fitted the following TDI items – CBS 6-position collapsible stock and buffer tube (just like a CAR15/M4), adjustable cheek piece/comb, polymer 4-rail forend system, AG47 tactical rear pistol grip and SVG vertical front grip. The visual effect is stunning, with a very cool looking two-tone rifle that appears to have some most practical furniture on it. The basic gun remains the same, but as I had already discovered with my AK74 woodwork – which really improved handling – this new TDI stuff would seem to be even better. As ever lets look at the butt first ! This uses the same system introduced on the old Colt CAR15 and now common on the modern M4 carbines with the the butt section sliding in/out on a fixed buffer tube. Similar to the Rock River Arms unit with a thick rubber recoil pad and angled rear that really locks into the shoulder, this is a good design. TDI offer a standard sling swivel, which can be rotated 180 degrees, with a fixed sling slot above and two ambidextrous tubes that will accept their push button QD swivels (PBSS). Making most of the design there’s an integral, hinged compartment that will accept 4 x CR123 batteries or small items like Allen keys etc. On the right side of the butt section is a short, horizontal section of the Picitanny rail, which acts as the base for the cheek piece unit. This, as I was to discover is totally reversible to suit a left handed shooter.

Picitanny Rail Crazy
Operation of the telescopic mech is by a pull-up catch under the butt, with the stock giving five different lengths of pull (LOP) with a total adjustment of 11.5 to 14.75”. The standard AK74 butt gives a fixed LOP of 12.5” and 13.5” with the grenade launcher pad fitted. Straight away this can be appreciated as it gives you enough movement to account for eye relief on scopes and red dot sights. The height-adjustable cheek piece just clips on to the Picitanny rails and solves the problem of a decen cheek weld position common to AKs with a scope fitted. It is perhaps a tad flexible but that could be solved with a foam pad inside. But overall it is far superior to the original, or even the AK47 furniture. The pistol grip is fuller, wider and with finger groves and gives more control than the thin wooden or plastic stick of the original designs. The forend is in two parts (upper and lower) as the original, but here TDi have gone a bit 1” Picitanny rail crazy. The top has one moulded in, as does the bottom, with a shorter one either side. The overall shape is deeper and wider with moulded in slots to improve grip. It’s certainly a lot more solid than the original black plastic. I did find the short side rails did get in the way of what was a comfortable hold and, were this my rifle, I would remove them or at least the one on the right side. The top rail is an ideal place to fit either an intermediate eye relief (IER) scope or a red dot sight. I used an Aimpoint Comp 4 dot and, with the cheek piece adjusted, got an excellent head position. My one niggle here is that the actual moulding is not true with the rail alignment off a degree or so to the left. Or it could have been the case of this top section not being held in line by the rifle... TDi offer a number of forward pistol grips, which is something I like on my AR15, as for unsupported work I find it makes for a steadier hold. The SVG unit supplied was wide and comfortable, though I found it a little short in my fist. Conversely you could fit a laser or compact torch to the side or bottom rails too. Not sure what you would want a torch on a range rifle for, but the laser would give a good point and shoot ability.

Cosmetics
Visually the Desert is a million miles away from my AK74-style M4 and in practically too. In truth the new furniture has no real affect on the gun’s mechanical ability, as a light, 16.5”barrel firing what is a low-powered intermediate cartridge at best is not the ideal recipe for performance. But it does make it handle nicer and feel better in use. This to a greater degree will also offer a more comfortable shooting stance/position. The adjustable comb/cheek piece and butt length allows you to tailor your head position for the scope. The wider/angled butt pad and larger rear pistol grip contribute too, as does the ability to have a forward hand grip should you wish. Something else I noticed is that you can completely reverse the comb/cheek piece section, by unbolting the plate on the right side of the butt and changing it to the left side and fitting the hinged storage box cover to the right. Then switch the lug around on the actual cheek piece and there you are – southpaw friendly. Another consideration is that at full extension the cocking handle might be a little too far away for those with normal length or short arms. For scope use I found one notch down from maximum extension was ideal for me. With a red dot or IER scope you can take it down as short as it will go, which makes it really handy. Along with the AK103 Desert, FSU also sent me a new red dot sight (PK-A) and the TDi tripod. The sight uses the POSP4 or 6 x 24 chassis complete with mounting bracket that attaches to the rifle’s integral NV bracket/scope base, though the optical body is considerably shorter. The bipod fits to the Picitanny rail and offers telescopic legs that fold up and down. With the new furniture this represents a practical way of fitting a pod to the Saiga. It’s not a bad design but it ain’t no Harris BRS either, but it means you don’t have to fit a QD stud or use an adapter block After having used the AK 103 Desert, I have to say that it makes the rifle very different looking, in fact quite modern and funky. Though not improving group size, it certainly improves shootability and that is probably half the battle anyway. I like it and shall be getting myself a set of TDi furniture for my M4...As it will allow me to tailor my set up for scope, iron and red dot use. Looking at the TDi website they do other stuff for the generic AK47/74 including a full length scope rail, which might be worth a look too. They also do a lot for the M16, which will also be of great interest ! Speaking to Oleg indicates that swapping the standard furniture for the TDi kit is easy and I shall get back to you when I get my set in. If you already own a fixed stock Saiga M3 and M4 then the kit as you see it here will cost you £196. The AK103 desert comes with all of the above less the forward pistol grip, which not everyone will like or want, and in a choice of black or sand colour

To order your copy of Shooting Sports, please call: 0844 8150039

   

SHOOTING SPORTS / October 2007

Plastic Fantastic

by Pete Moore

 

Last month Pete Moore looked at the new Tdi furniture for the genetic AK47 and found it really improved looks and handling. This month he has a go at fitting some to his own Saiga M4

There’s little doubt that the Tdi Arms replacement synthetic furniture for the straight-pull Saiga M3 and M4 Ak47s is good stuff. Not only does it visually lift the old Kalashnikov, but gives it an adjustable length butt, adjustable height cheek piece and a far superior pistol grip. Add to this the new 4-way rail forend – this allows the fitting of a red dot sight or long eye relief scope and the option of a front/vertical grip. In a word ‘shootability’ is seriously improved, which is all to the good on a design that is not the most accurate rifle around. However, everyone knows that so no expectations of shooting V-bulls at 600 yards...The Saiga is a short-range fun/practical tool and at the price means anyone fancying something with a high magazine capacity and cheap ammo can afford this excellent rifle

Impressed
So impressed was I with the transformation that I bought a set of the Tdi furniture off Oleg at FSU Connections Ltd, the person who sent me the AK103 Desert in the first place. Though a simple job, I encountered a couple of problems with some of the bits so thought I would just let you know what to do if you decide to dress up your old AK. First of all start by taking the AK apart as follows – cock the action and press the lug in at the rear of the receiver/top cover and lift the cover off. Remove the main spring and pull out the bolt assembly. Moving forward, to the right of the rear sight block is a lever, which must be swung upwards so the gas tube/upper handguard can be lifted up and off. With this clear look down (forward right) on the forend and you will see a small lever; Lift this up and it will allow the end cap to be pulled forward so the forend can be removed

Tight Butt
With a medium blade screwdriver undo the screw in the base of the pistol grip and remove it. Then pull off the grip, note that the T-shaped block that accepts the screw is to be retained. Moving back you will see two screws at the rear of the action, one inside the receiver and the other inside the tang, take both of them out. The butt can then be removed. On mine it was tight so I had to use a hammer and small wooden dowel rod to start it out. The gun is now stripped out and ready to go. The new stock comes in two pieces; the fixed/alloy buffer tube and the sliding butt unit. The buffer goes into the rear of the receiver and is retained by two, new counter-sunk Allen screws (supplied). To fit the butt section, lift up the rear of the locking catch, which will raise the plunger enough to allow it over the end of the buffer tube. When it’s on, to adjust the length, just squeeze up on the end of the lever, this will raise it enough to allow it to slide – yet not enough to let it come off. The pistol grip fits on and an Allen screw (supplied) is wound into the existing fitting block. Easy enough so far...

A Bit of Fitting
The new forend is wide, comfortable and ‘good and rigid’ with its integral, Picitanny rail in the base. On either side are short sections of 1”rail that I found get in the way, they can be unscrewed from the inside and removed if you like. Offering the forend up shows it’s a bit of a tight fit in the rear guard and a bit of chamfering with a file around the edges was required to let it sit in. Once done slide on the end cap so it engages, then drop the lever down to lock it all together. This took about five minutes with a bit of ‘suck it and see’ to get the final positioning. Now the gas tube, which is a bit confusing, as try as I might I could not work out how the old furniture came off. A call to Oleg told me that the U-shaped top handguard is rotated 180 degrees and then comes off the tube – easier said than done. He advised me to grip the end of the tube in a suitably padded vice, which would give me a fixed point to work against and it worked.

Swearing and Cursing
Putting the new plastic on was even worse, as it’s a tad over-sized and you need to kiss off both ends with a file to reduce the length. However, don’t go mad as you don’t want any end/side float as the Picitanny rail on this end bit is what you will fit a sight to. Suffice to say that after 10 minutes filing, swearing and farting around I had it on. For this job you will need a vice and if you don’t have one, or feel capable of doing this work, then when you order the new furniture send your gas tube to RusMilitary and they will do it for you. The pistol grip just slides onto the bottom rail and clamps by a screw. The only other thing to consider is the cheek piece. Tdi have designed the butt section with a small storage trap to hold 4 x 123A (3-volt) batteries, this sits to the left and on the right is a short section of Picitanny rail, which the cheek slides on to. These two components are reversible by simply removing the Allen screws that secure them. The cheek piece can also be removed by pressing down on the latch and sliding it forward. That’s about it really, I suppose given (and disregarding) the fact that I was initially stumped by how the top handguard comes off, the job takes about 30 minutes tops..But as I said at the beginning, the effect is amazing at both cosmetic and practical levels. So much so that I am thinking of ordering the butt and rear pistol grip to fit to my Saiga .410 semi-auto shotgun, which magazine and calibre aside offers an identical action so will accept these Tdi components. At the end of the day if you have a Saiga AK and like it, then treat yourself to a set of this furniture – I guarantee you won’t regret it ! Price of the whole kit is £196

   

SHOOTING SPORTS / October 2007

STEEL & LACQUER

As ever surplus military ammunition is where you can find it and if you can't then you will have to go the more expensive route of buying from commercial sources. Such a case is the Russian 7.62x39mm (AK47) AND 7.62X54R Mossin Nagant and Dragunov ammo. As recently there has been very little mil-surplus available and though civillian-made items might be a tad more accurate and consistent, what do you realy need for these two calibers, apart from something that goes bang and shoots to the ability of the rifle ?

FSU Connections Ltd recently announced that they have a big quantity of ex-military 7.62x39 and 7.62x54R at what looks to be good money. Both calibers use the familiar, green lacquered steel case, which is a lot cheaper then brass to produce. The primer is the twin-hole, Berdan-type and probably corrosive, but in rifles with chrome-lined bores this is not an issue. In truth neither is worth reloading though it is possible.

The 7.62x54R has a 150-grain FMJ bullet with silver tip indicating it's a ball round and the 7.62x39 uses a 123-grain FMJ. Over the chrono this was doing 2257 fps with the latter giving 2584 fps, both being average figures. The ammo was shot through Saiga 04 and Mossin Nagant rifles and produced the usual 3-4" groups at 100 yards, which is acceptable for this sort of set up. Overall some cost effective fodder and with the added bonus of a free ammo can with orders over 500 rounds

© Copyright RusMILITARY 1999-2007

Tel: 01344-750735 E-mail: fsu@sky.com