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Range Review: Arsenal SAM7SFK-80R

Range Review: Arsenal SAM7SFK-80R

The AKSU, often referred to by the “Krinkov” misnomer, is one of the most desirable AK-type rifles on the market. Krinkov isn’t an actual Russian word nor is it the correct nomenclature but, due to its accepted use as a shorthand for this series of rifles, we will use it here. The hallmarks of a Krinkov are the 8.5-inch barrel, truncated gas system, folding stock and topcover-mounted rear sight. All of the military rifles produced in this configuration that I am aware of were chambered in 5.45x39mm. This Soviet weapon was carried by some vehicle crews as well as Spetsnaz troops who preferred it thanks to its light weight, compact dimensions and suppressor compatibility.

Though many shooters would love to own a clone of this compact rifle, NFA rules pertaining to a rifle’s barrel length make this firearms unobtainable for those unwilling or unable (due to geography) to go through the process of obtaining a Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR). For those individuals, Arsenal Inc. offers the SAM7SFK-80R rifle, chambered in 7.62x39 mm and packed with Krinkov-style features. 

AKs were produced by dozens of nations and, even though most of those were select-fire models never imported into the U.S., there are still a number of firms producing semi-auto AKs for the American market. Quality can vary from very good to quite bad, and it is imperative that buyers do their homework. One of the brands that has consistently produced high-quality AK-style firearms is Arsenal of Bulgaria.

Arsenal’s factory produced and exported various military AK models during the Cold War with an excellent reputation. When the Iron Curtain fell and the Clinton-era “assault weapons” ban expired, Arsenal’s products resumed importation into the U.S. for the civilian market, where they are distributed by Arsenal, Inc. of Las Vegas, NV. Among the designs produced by post-Soviet Bloc Bulgaria are Krinkov-style rifles, apparently adapted from the original Russian specs.

These milled-receiver rifles are actually built from factory-made SBRs, which means that they have the original gas system in place. The company added a long pinned-and-welded muzzle brake it calls “The Gambit” in order to bring the barrel length to just beyond the required 16 inches. The setup basically looks like a Krinkov with a suppressor attached. If the end-user decides to submit a Form 1 to BATFE and receives an SBR tax stamp, the brake can be removed by a gunsmith or skilled hobbyist to create a correct AKSU-style rifle without cutting into the rifled section of the barrel.

This rifle comes with a metal side-folding stock. The sturdy stock is released by depressing a button, which allows it to fold onto the right side of the receiver and lock into place. The controls are of the traditional AK-style, with one notable and pleasant exception. The safety/selector lever is ambidextrous, and can be actuated on the left side using a lever that is similar to the one found on the Israeli Galil. We were able to operate the selector without moving our firing hand from the pistol grip.

This arrangement is far more user-friendly than the traditional AK-style lever alone and can be operated even when the stock is folded. Instead of a traditional wood or polymer fore-end, the SAM7SFK uses a Picatinny quad-rail that provides mounting surfaces on the 12-, 3-, 6-, and 9-o’clock positions. For our testing, we mounted an Aimpoint H-1 to the top of the rail. This small but capable sight was the perfect complement to this compact rifle.

Because of the shortened configuration of the Krinkov, the rear sight cannot be located in its usual position on the front trunnion. Instead, it is positioned on the topcover just above the ejection port. The SAM7SFK’s rear sight gives the user two options to choose from: a traditional notch-style blade and a round aperture. Truth be told, an aperture sight mounted that far forward of the shooter’s eye isn’t as precise as it could be, but the system works fine for this rifle’s intended purpose. An extended lever on the rear sight makes choosing between the sight options a quick and easy task. 

The SAM7SFK is chambered in the 7.62x39 mm (7.62 Russian) cartridge, for which a great deal of inexpensive surplus ammunition is available. Some of this ammo can be pretty dirty, which is why Arsenal chrome-lined the barrel on this model. The barrel itself is a four-groove with a twist rate of 1-9.44 inches (1-240 mm), which is standard for 7.62 mm AKs.  Interestingly, 5.45mm Krinkovs will not stabilize bullets without a faster-than-normal rate of twist, meaning that one cannot simply shorten the barrel of a 5.45 mm AK-74 and create a functional 5.45mm Krinkov.    

We tested the SAM7SFK with three loads, all of which used brass rather than steel cases: Hornady Black 123-grain SST, DoubleTap Defense 123-grain, which appears to also use the SST bullet, and American Eagle 123g-grain FMJ. I’ve shot several Krinkovs with 8.5-inch barrels, including a couple that were full-auto, and the muzzle blast is significant. Due to The Gambit barrel extension, the SAM7SFK was far more pleasant to shoot in terms of overpressure from the muzzle, even with the eight vertical ports that create a muzzle brake. Velocities on all three loads were low, thanks to the short barrel. The average muzzle velocities of the Hornady, DoubleTap and American Eagle loads of 2,006, 1,811 and 1,952, respectively.

This isn’t a rifle designed to be shot from the bench, so we did not spend any time shooting from a rest. The rifle was shot offhand, prone and from the seated position and demonstrated surprisingly good accuracy. Reliability was unsurprisingly 100 percent, which one expects from an AK but does not always receive. One Bulgarian “Circle 10” magazine was included with the rifle, and it locked easily into place.

For those looking to mimic the look, feel and function of an iconic military rifle without obtaining an NFA tax stamp, the SAM7SFK is an excellent choice. These guns are well-built, accurate, reliable and packed with features that the old Soviet troops would have killed for. This rifle isn’t cheap, but ammunition is plentiful and inexpensive and the rifle is a load of fun to shoot. 

Arsenal SAM7SFK Specifications
Caliber: 7.62x39 mm
Barrel Length: 16.2 inches (with extension)
Weight: 7.6 pounds
Action: Short-stroke gas piston
Twist Rate: 1:9.44-inch
Barrel Material: Chromoly steel
Sight: Iron sights with two-position rear
Muzzle Device: The Gambit ported barrel extension
Handguard: Picatinny quad rail
Capacity: 30+1
Buttstock: Side-folding steel
Pistol Grip: AK-type
MSRP: $2,499.99

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