Text & Photos by Jeff W. Zimba
Arsenal Inc., located in Las Vegas, Nevada, has become a benchmark for quality manufactured AK variant firearms. Their rich company background and their historic involvement in the firearms industry over the past 127 years was chronicled on the pages of Small Arms Review in the November, 2002 Issue (Vol. 6 No. 6). Since that article was published, Arsenal, Inc. has introduced several new variants to their lineup; and the expiration of the 1994 Clinton Assault Weapon Ban has opened the doors to even more desirable designs.
The SLR-105 rifle is a gas operated, magazine fed, semiautomatic rifle, utilizing the long stroke gas system designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov. The SLR-105 A1 R rifle represents the first time a real AK-74 rifle made on original Bulgarian tooling has been offered for sale in the United States. Chambered in the desirable 5.45x39mm round, it is now available with a stamped receiver, AK-74 front sight block, bayonet lug, standard and original 24mm muzzle brake, a NATO buttstock and side-mounted scope rail. These rifles are manufactured in Bulgaria and they are modified in the United States to be compliant with 922 (r). Given the number of American made parts utilized, the rifles are actually considered to be “Made in USA” for purposes of this law.
With the traditional quality we have come to expect from Arsenal, Inc., this latest offering is again a leader in craftsmanship, fit and finish.
The NATO buttstock measures 10.5 inches in length and includes a sling swivel on the left side of the stock in the traditional AK-74 fashion. The stock has a spring-loaded trap door in the rear to accommodate a standard cleaning kit. All furniture on the SLR-105, including the stock, pistol grip and upper and lower handguards are black, synthetic material.
There are currently 7 major parts made in the USA that count towards compliance of 922 (r), allowing the sale and possession of the original, un-importable configuration. These USA manufactured parts include the stock, pistol grip, upper handguard, lower handguard, trigger, hammer and disconnector. Arsenal has just released a new disconnector that totally eliminates any sensation of “trigger slap” common in many AK variants. Arsenal will also soon have a new fire control group available allowing the operator to have a double stage trigger in conjunction with the new disconnector. The trigger in the rifle supplied to Small Arms Review was extremely smooth with no feeling of creep. It would break clean every time with the slightest amount of rearward pressure with no excessive travel nor noticeable feeling of “trigger slap.”
As in all their rifles, where available, the suffix designation “R” signifies the addition of a left-side, receiver-mounted scope-mounting rail. This Bulgarian side rail mount can be used with any standard mount for this receiver including the K-VAR KV-04 optimized AK scope mount. These mounts are sturdy and are attached to the side of the receiver for much greater stability than any of the aftermarket mounts that attach to the detachable top covers.
To clear up some possible confusion, earlier Arsenal firearms with the side mounted scope rail had the designation “S”. The designation “S” was typically used in Bulgarian rifles to signify the use of a folding stock. Now, and in the future, the designation “R” will be used to signify the addition of the scope rail and the correct designation “S” will be used for any future rifles that may be offered in the configuration of a folding stock.
The rear sight is a standard Kalashnikov style sight, field adjustable for elevation in 100-meter increments, from 100 meters to 1,000 meters. The front sight is a protected post, also adjustable for elevation with the use of the supplied combination tool. When test firing the rifle for the first time, if any elevation adjustments are necessary, they should be made by adjusting the front post to match the distance markings on the rear sight. This will allow the shooter to make quick and accurate range adjustments while in the field without the necessity of any additional tools. Windage adjustment is set at the factory and the SLR-105 should not need further windage adjustment.
The muzzle is finished with a right-hand, 24mm thread, which is standard for many Russian, Bulgarian and West German guns in this family of firearms. There are several flash hiders and muzzle brakes that are manufactured for this thread giving the end user several choices of accessories.
The SLR-105 lived up to the author’s expectations at the range. Having past range time with some of Arsenal, Inc.’s other offerings, these expectations were already elevated. The first thing the shooter will notice is the comfort of the NATO stock. Measuring at an additional 1-1/4 inches longer than the standard stock on the authors Maadi 7.62x39mm AK series rifle, the extra length was immediately recognizable. The cheek weld is a little more natural and the extra length keeps the shooter from crowding the receiver. As mentioned earlier, the trigger was extremely smooth, especially when compared to a standard, unmodified AK variant. The recoil was quite light in comparison to the 7.62x39mm cartridge, making follow-up shots a little faster. The author was able to shoot an off-hand, 19-shot, rapid-fire group at 50 yards that measured under 6 inches. A disciplined shooter with a steady rest should be able to expect excellent groups with the SLR-105 rifle.
The 5.45x39mm Cartridge
The 5.45x39mm round, designated the M74 cartridge, was developed in response to the US 5.56x45mm (.223 Rem) round. Currently, the majority of the AK style rifles are chambered in 7.62x39mm, the M43 cartridge, developed and utilized by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. The 7.62x39mm round remains the most popular and common ammunition for this family of firearms worldwide. The M74 cartridge and an entire new family of firearms started to replace the M43 system in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and started making appearances in many of the countries surrounding Soviet Union in the late 1980s. The attraction of this new round was the seemingly lighter recoil and increased accuracy. Ammunition utilized for this testing pf the SLR-105 consisted of WOLF, 60-grain, 5.45x39mm FMJ. For comparative purposes we used WOLF 122-grain, 7.62x39mm FMJ ammo in the Maadi variant. The following ammunition specifications were provided by the manufacturer and include their 62-grain .223 Remington FMJ specifications for comparison.
Caliber Weight Type Primer Muzzle Velocity (FPS) Muzzle Energy (FtLbs)
5.45×39 60gr FMJ Berdan 2,936 1,148
7.62×39 122gr FMJ Berdan 2,396 1,555
5.56×45 62gr FMJ Boxer 3,025 1,260
An All-Star Lineup
Arsenal, Inc. has a large number of firearms in their current, previous and future lineups. They have over 50 models and configurations on their website alone, all in various stages of availability. Please check with them and watch their website regularly for new additions. There are many new firearms on the horizon. SLR-105 Rifles are available exclusively through Lew Horton Distributing Company.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Phone: (888) 539-2220
Fax: (702) 643-2088
Lew Horton Distributing
PO Box 5023
Westboro, MA 01581
Phone: (800) 446-7866.
Parts and Accessories
Phone: (702) 364-8880
Wolf Performance Ammunition
1225 North Lance Lane
Anaheim, CA 92806
SLR-105 A1 R
Overall Length: 38.18 inches / 970mm
Barrel Length: 16.33 inches / 415mm
Barrel Twist: 1 in 7.67 inches / 1 in 195mm
Weight (No Magazine): 7.09 pounds / 3.22kg
Rate of Fire (Semiautomatic): 40 rpm (practical)
Effective Range: 546 yards / 500 meters
Maximum Effective Range: 2,187 yards / 2,000 meters
Receiver Construction: Stamped receiver
Point of Manufacture: Bulgaria
Point of Assembly: Las Vegas, USA.