April 2000:

Romanian Flag Romanian Flag

Type:  Self Loading Rifle
System of Operation:  Gas
Caliber:  5.45x39mm
Capacity:  30 round box magazine
Sights, front: Windage and elevation adjustable front post
Sights, rear:  Elevation adjustable u-notch
Length: OAL 37", Barrel 16"
Weight: 7.48 lbs
Suggested Retail Price:  $450.00
The Soviet Union formally adopted the AK-47 assault rifle in 1949.  While the rifle was an excellent assault rifle, by the early 1970's certain features had been found wanting.  Tests undertaken with US M16 rifles captured during the Vietnam War demonstrated the ballistic inferiority of the Soviet M43 7.62x39mm round to the 5.56x45mm.  Work on a suitable replacement for the M43 round continued until 1973, when a 5.45x39mm cartridge, based on the M43 case was, developed by a design group headed by Viktor Sabelnikov.  The loaded 5.45x39mm case is about 57mm overall.  The bullet weighs about 3.4 grams and is about 25.5mm long, and has a muzzle velocity of approximately 3,000 fps.  It has a two piece core and a small hollow cavity near the tip.  This tip deforms on impact, causing the projectile to tumble end over end, increasing the destructive potential.  The round has excellent sectional density and will penetrate a 5mm steel sheet at 350 meters.

The AK-74 is essentially a reduced caliber AK-47 and shares over fifty percent parts commonality with the AK-47.  However, it, like the AK-47 is a select fire weapon, and thus unavailable (or at least not easily available) to the vast majority of American shooters.  However, the popularity of military style self-loading rifles to the American shooting public is lost neither on large firearms distributors in the United States nor on manufacturers overseas.  As a result, there are a good number of AK style semi- automatic rifles for sale on the US market.  Sales of these rifles were somewhat diminished for a while due to the 1994 Brady Act, which, among other things, restricted the importation of self loading rifles that had various "evil" features such as flash suppressors, protruding pistol grips, and bayonet lugs.  (Surprisingly enough, the number of drive-by bayonettings did not fall appreciably after the law's enactment.)  Recently, however, US domestic manufacturers have tooled up to produce a wide array of AK internal and external parts.  By incorporating these parts, which often include fire control mechanisms, pistol grips, springs, and screws, into imported AK barreled actions, a hybrid that, according to US law, qualifies as a domestically produced firearm, is created.  Since the rifles are now legally "non-imports" it is permissible to use pre-ban high capacity magazines and to have them in the original pistol grip configuration.  While it is still impermissible to have a removable flash suppressor or grenade launcher on the rifle, a permanently affixed muzzle brake is allowed.  One of the more recent arrivals on the US domestic firearms market is an AK-74 clone made in Romania called the SAR-2.

OK.  We're guilty and we admit it.  We at CRUFFLER.COM  have a "thing" for "Evil Black Rifles (EBR's)."  Rationally we know that they aren't any different functionally from any number of more "tame" self loaders, and we know that very often the cartridges they are chambered for are not the ballistic optimum.  But they are, well, "cool, " and they have a certain visceral appeal, much in the same way that high performance automobiles and aircraft do.  Not to mention that once in a while you get a chance to buy one in one of those "weird but oddly appealing calibers."  So, when the SAR-2, in 5.45x39mm was announced, we were pretty much standing in line to buy one.   To do so, we contacted Century International Arms, of Boca Raton, Florida and St. Alban's, Vermont, and placed an order for an SAR-2.  Century is one of the largest, if not the largest, importers of military surplus firearms, ammunition, and accessories in the United States.
About a week after we placed the order the BBT (that's Big Brown Truck - UPS to the non-crufflers among you) showed up with a medium sized  rifle box.  The rifle was  packed in what seemed to be a purpose made corrugated cardboard box, being held in place by cardboard baffles.  It came with one ten round magazine, two military thirty round magazines, a cleaning kit, and a sling.  The cleaning kit and sling were neatly wrapped in paper and tied by string, something typical of eastern European manufacturers.  Our SAR-2 was manufactured by S.N. ROMARM, the Romanian state arms factory in Cugir, Romania.  It had a chromed bore and 
Note on AK Receivers

There has been much hype about the desirability of milled versus stamped AK receivers.  The fact of the matter is that the AK was designed from the beginning by Mikhail Kalashnikov to use a stamped sheet metal receiver with the necessary rails and innards bolted in place.  The Soviets had been very favorably impressed with the German Sturmgewehr series of rifles (despite being on the business end of those guns more often than not), which were of stamped sheet metal construction. 

Early stamped AK's (1948 - 1951) did not, however, measure up to the rigors of service life very well, and were withdrawn in favor of a variant with a milled receiver (1951 - 1959).  The milled guns were significantly heavier, and were introduced as a stop gap measure (owing to the complexity and expense of manufacture) until suitable modifications were made to enable the production of a stamped receiver gun to resume.  The later stamped receiver version was designated the AKM, and was the design standard for all AK's and derivatives from 1959 onward.

While the milled guns may command a premium on the US market, they do not bring any functional enhancement to the table.

chamber, and what appeared to be laminated wooden furniture (stock, upper and lower handguards).  It was a tough call on the wood, as it was very heavily varnished.  The pistol grip was of black plastic.  The rifle had a scope mount for the typical eastern bloc scopes permanently affixed to the left side of the receiver, a cleaning rod that fit beneath the barrel and no muzzle attachment.  Finish was as rough-to-the-touch black parkerizing.  Sights were typical AK style, with a chamber mounted U-notch tangent rear, adjustable to 1,000 meters, and a windage and elevation adjustable front post.

A careful inspection revealed that while the overall finish wasn't exactly pretty, it had been well done, and carefully applied.  Additionally the fit of the parts was the equal of many rifles costing significantly more.  The chromed bore was perfect.  Indeed, while our first impression was that this was most assuredly NOT a pretty rifle, and that it was even a little crude, it was a very well put together rifle, and one that would more than satisfy any military requirements for durability and maintainability - which is the basis for our definition of a "working" rifle.  Our second impression is that the rifle was tiny!  For a generation of American shooters who have grown up with the M1 Garand, the various semiautomatic M14 clones, the FAL clones, and even AR-15 style rifles, one's first impression of any AK series rifle is that it is absurdly small.

And small it is, with its sixteen inch barrel and short stock.  But absurd it is not.  Historically, the AK series were intended to arm troops moving to battle either within the cramped confines of armored personnel carriers or riding on tanks.  The rifle was designed to be easy to fire from the hip as well as from the shoulder.  After hefting it to the shoulder a few times, the rifle's handiness and agility become apparent.  It is well balanced and easy to maneuver in tight spaces.  One quickly becomes used to the size.

Shooting the SAR-2
Before shooting the SAR-2, we disassembled it for a thorough cleaning.  Much to our (pleasant) surprise, the rifle was generally clean.   There was some residue on the inside of the bore from the test firing, but this cleaned up quickly and easily.  After cleaning, the rifle was reassembled, and the reciprocating parts (bolt carrier group) lightly greased.

When we ordered the rifle, we also ordered a case of Wolf brand 5.45x39mm ammunition from Gulf Coast Ammunition of Groves, Texas (409-962-5822).  Gulf Coast advertises the Wolf ammunition as the closest to actual Russian military ammunition, with a 60 grain bullet (with the hollow cavity) at about 3,000 feet per second muzzle velocity.  That, and the 0.15 cent per round price was enough to convince us.  About a week later the box of ammunition appeared at our doorstep.  The bullets are lead cored and copper jacketed.  The cases are lacquered steel with berdan primers.  To us, it looked like military ammunition that had been repackaged for the commercial market.

And so, on a cold and wet Washington, DC Friday, we set out for the NRA indoor range,  in Fairfax, Virginia.

We loaded four military thirty round magazines and fired the rifle for accuracy.  Shots were fired at a 2" black circle on a white field at the maximum range of 50 yards, from a rested position on the bench.  We fired thirty rounds (one magazine) in groups of five shots to zero the rifle.  Our first string was, well, all over the paper, which was disappointing.  It was impossible to tell where the rifle was shooting.  In a burst of inspiration, we pulled the target in to 25 yards and fired another string of five shots.  Will miracles never cease!  All five impacts were nicely clustered in a little group of about 1/2".  The group was a bit low, but was perfectly zeroed as far as windage was
AK Sight Adjustment

AK series rifles are generally zeroed for windage at the factory.  This is usually indicated by a hash mark that is stamped vertically across both the front sight base and the adjustable front sight platform.  More often than not, this hash mark is dead on for the rifle concerned.   Once in a while, the sight, and the hash mark, will seem to be skewed far to the left or the right.  We strongly advise that you shoot the rifle before you follow instinct to mechanically zero the sight, as more often than not you will find no need to make any windage adjustments. 

With respect to adjusting the sight on an AK, fine adjustments are made on the front sight.  The front sight post is screwed into a pin that is mounted laterally in the front sight base, and is drift adjustable for windage corrections.  We strongly advise that you do NOT spend time hammering on this pin, and that you do NOT pull out your Leatherman tool and screw/unscrew the sight post for elevation corrections.  Instead, it is prudent to obtain a purpose built AK sight adjustment tool.  This is a little steel device that looks like a C-clamp, expressly designed to move the sight with little effort or marring.  It can be obtained for the princely sum of about $9.00 from Global Trades Company.

concerned.  Now this was getting interesting.  We adjusted the sight slightly, and fired again.  After two more adjustments, the rounds were consistently striking the target's X-ring.  And so, we began to roll the target out five yards at a time, each time firing a five yard string.  The results were the same up to 45 yards - all X-ring strikes.  Then, when the target was moved out to 50 yards, the groups went all over the target.  When we moved it back to 45 yards, the groups tightened right up.  We attribute this to a combination of the AK's chamber mounted open sights, our test firer's eyes, and the relatively small target area, but not any 
inherent accuracy failings on the part of the gun/ammo combination.  In fact, based on our experience, we think that the gun/ammo combination is capable of very good accuracy, and the major failing is with the open, chamber mounted sights.  On the other hand, these sights are more than adequate for ensuring hits on man-sized targets at ranges between 100 and 400 yards, which is what the rifle was designed to do.  For more precise work there is always the scope mount.  In fact, prior to this rifle, we were of the opinion that mounting any sort of scope on an AK was wishful thinking at best.  On this rifle however, a scope may prove of use.

Felt recoil was extremely light, making the SAR-2 a very pleasant rifle to shoot.   We attribute this light recoil in large part to the 5.45x39mm round.  In fact, recoil was lighter than that of a service grade AR-15 firing 55 grain M193 5.56mm ammunition.   Shooters who are particularly sensitive to recoil will find the SAR-2 a pleasant rifle to shoot.

We fired 120 rounds in the course of the range session.  We experienced no failures to feed, eject, or cycle.  We inspected fired cases for signs of excessive headspace, excessive pressure or any other irregularities.  None were found.  The only issue with fired cases were that some of the cases were dented upon ejection.

In conclusion, we found the SAR-2 to be well made and pleasant to shoot.  If you are in the market for a military style self loading rifle, this gun, which will generally retail for less than $500 with accessories,  represents one of the best values out there.  Based on our experience, we  recommend it highly.  This gun is accurate, well made, reliable, and reasonably priced.  In addition it comes with a number of accessories, and high capacity magazines are readily and cheaply available.  If you have any questions about where and how to go about acquiring an SAR-2, please contact CRUFFLER.COM.

And now, our Buy-O-Meter rating for this product:


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