Tuesday, February 16, 2010

AK-74: Day Two

I got up a bit early and got the AK shot from the 70 and 100 yard lines today and came up with some more important observations. First, shooting an AK while blaring Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop" is about as close to being cool as I will ever come. Second, you'll want to buy an AK sight adjustment tool for your AK if you get one. They're cheap and available from lots of vendors. All of the zeroing of an AK is done at the front sight post, then the rear sight leaf can be used for quick range adjustments by selecting the corresponding number. The rear sight leaf on the Tantal is very, very optimistically graduated out to "10", which I would assume is 1000 meters, or just over half a mile. If I had been a communist dictator in the 1970s, I'd have said to graduate the sights to 300 meters at 50 meter intervals and call it good.

Anyway, I started off at 70 yards using the "S" setting, which stands for...something. I shot clean over my zombie's head by about 8" while holding dead center on his chest. Alarming to say the least! So I moved the rear sight leaf to the "2" mark, which probably means 200 meters. Then I was bout 4" high from point of aim and slightly right. I was holding dead center of the chest and the rounds were making great groups in the neck area, trending slightly to the right of center. The story was the same at 100 yards. Shooting across the hood of my truck like a man, I was able to get groups about the size of the palm of my hand. That's pretty good for an unstable position in a 20mph North wind that could make Sasquatch want to go back indoors. I think this thing is capable of pretty decent accuracy--perhaps nudging into AR territory--but I'd better reserve my judgment until I can sit down on a nice day and shoot it off some bags.

Clean-up is a pretty easy job after 90 rounds. It breaks down into four giant pieces in about ten seconds, but there is a catch. The rear of the receiver is higher than the bore, so you have to clean the bore by pushing the rod in from the front. This pushes all the soot and misery from your Russian surplus ammo back into the non-chrome-lined chamber, so pay attention and clean the chamber when you're done with the bore. It isn't more work, just sort of a bass-ackwards way of doing things, which is one of the endearing features of the AK series.

This gun is just a hoot to blast away with. Despite the sights being way off, I was still able to drop rounds on a cardboard zombie from 210 yards while shooting out of my truck window because it was very cold outside. I bought this gun as a toy, and I'm very happy with it. If you're thinking of getting one for varmint hunting or any kind of serious work, it has some...issues.

First, if you want to fit an optic, you'll have to get a very expensive picatinny rail rig from Texas Weapon Systems. That or take an ax or Dremel or milling machine to a picatinny rail handguard set because the Tantal has very unique quasi-free floating handguard set. Second, you're on drugs if you think you can reload an AK as fast as you can an AR. Yes, you can train to come close, but the rock-in system of mag changes just isn't as efficient as slapping in an AR mag. Be prepared to do some training to get up to speed. That said, if I were going overseas I might think about the non-neutered Wz.88 Tantal just because of the awesome recoil characteristics. Or I might get a full-auto AR in 5.45x39mm.

Anyway, pictures to come when I get back home.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Freedom Got An AK

I got my AK this morning and 600 rounds of Russian surplus 5.45x39mm. I then loaded up my mags and headed to the family farm for some R&R.

First things first, it's a Polish Tantal imported by Century Arms, so it is a mash-up of original commie parts and new American parts. The biggest difference is that the barrel, made by Green Mountain, is NOT chrome lined. This is important because the cheap surplus 5.45 on the market right now is corrosive, so without the chrome lining, you really need to make an effort to clean the rifle as soon as you're done firing. I solve this problem by soaking the action in CLP before going to the range, and then soaking it again when I'm done. This keeps all the filth from getting too attached to the metal and I can just wipe most of it off without much effort. You need to get that barrel clean because a small rust spot in there will ruin the accuracy, and this AK is actually pretty accurate. The trigger may be American because it is very good for an AK. There is some slop in it, but it is smooth and light.

Starting with the outside, it appears to have a fresh, thick parkerized finish. The muzzle brake is held on with a detent pin, and is removable, revealing threads so you could add a suppressor if you live in a free state. The Tantal features a thumb-safety that is totally useless. It works if you're flipping it from Fire to Safe, but Safe to Fire has to be done old school by flipping the dust cover down. You can use the thumb safety for the switch from safe to fire, but it is an unnatural motion and very stiff to move. My Tantal has a black plastic (probably Tapco) pistol grip and wooden handguards. The folding stock is pretty solid, but has a tiny bit of side-to-side wobble. I've seen an ACE folder for an AK that had no wobble at all, but it cost about as much as my AK.

I ripped off 90 rounds in probably five minutes, which got the handguards smoking, despite the arctic temperatures outside. I set up a cardboard zombie at about 50 yards and used the "S" setting on the sights, which I presume to mean "battle sight zero" which should be pretty close to dead on from 25 yards to about 300. The American made barrel performed pretty well. I kept most everything on the zombie from standing and kneeling. I was firing at a very brisk rate since it was cold and this thing is a blast to shoot. There isn't so much "recoil" as just a bit of wobble when you fire. The same sort of wobble you get from firing a .22 quickly. I was absolutely stunned at the lack of recoil. It really is great fun. And pretty cheap to shoot, with 1080rd cans of Russian surplus ammo going for $129-$159 + S&H.

I bought this gun as a range toy, and boy does it do a good job at it. It's cheap to buy at $429+S&H+ transfer fee. Mags are cheap, ammo is cheap, and it can be fired with the stock folded or extended. If I were looking at go-to-war gear, I'd look to an M4 or AR-15 clone first. If I could have a full-auto, pure-bred Wz.88 Tantal, I'd think hard about that for the control it would offer under F/A fire. But one of those would probably fetch close to $20,000 plus the thousands of dollars in tax stamps for owning a full-auto firearm. There are better guns for work, but this one does fun pretty well. More to come, and pictures when I get back home to my camera.

Stay tuned.