By Jeff W. Zimba
Arsenal, Inc. is a Las Vegas based company that has become synonymous with high quality Bulgarian AK-47 type rifles with a long history in excellence and innovation. They have just adopted a new project, and while it is similar to their traditional product line in some aspects, it also couldn’t be further away. For those of us in the “scattergun” world that have been waiting for something different to happen with the smaller caliber Saiga shotguns, our day has arrived.
The Russian-Bulgarian Connection
In the pages of Small Arms Review we have spent a great deal of time reviewing the products by Arsenal, Inc. From original and refined to radical and pioneering, they have yet to disappoint. Their common thread has always been the Bulgarian designed AK family of guns. Their latest project utilizes the Russian manufactured Saiga .410 shotgun. We really didn’t know what to expect and our curiosity was peaked.
Regular readers of Small Arms Review know we have spent a considerable amount of time learning about the wildly popular Saiga shotgun system and sharing our findings. Until this time, the emphasis has been placed on the 12-gauge. This exercise will focus on the .410 platform and given Arsenal, Inc.’s thirst for quality and originality, these specimens have been built to the exacting specifications of the original Russian AK-74 system.
The Arsenal, Inc. System
Having handled some of the “off the shelf” Saiga .410 guns in the past, we were uncertain how this project would play out and fit into the normal style of the Arsenal, Inc. established product line. From the muzzle to the butt plate and everything in between, the Saiga .410 has been modified with hand selected premium components to replicate the AK-74 in every way possible. With their reputation of high quality and attention to detail on the line, the Arsenal, Inc. Saiga .410 project was a bold move and has proven to be every bit as worthy of bearing the Arsenal, Inc. name as we had hoped.
These shotguns are manufactured in the famous Russian Izhevsk factory and still bears the telltale arrow and triangle markings from this establishment. The guns are brought into 922(r) compliance and remanufactured in the United States, using American made parts, with exacting detail to the original Russian AK-74. All new markings on the shotgun receiver are done with the original font type and placed in their correct locations. The selector notches have been properly positioned and even marked with the letters “S” and “F” in the proper place. The correct magazine dimples, not used on standard Saiga shotguns, are added to aid in guiding magazine placement and even the “X” and “Y” reinforcement stampings are used on the SGL41.
In order to properly replicate the AK-74, a new safety/selector lever with the original shape and dimple position has been added along with the correct trigger guard and magazine latch. The gun has been redesigned to utilize the right retainer for the lower handguard and an exactingly accurate, vented gas tube and AK-74 muzzle brake, complete with the standard 24×1.5mm right-hand threads and bayonet lug drilled for the cleaning rod like the original. As an additional feature, the SGL41 has retained the original 15×0.75 threads under the new muzzle brake allowing the owner to use multiple chokes to tune the system to specific game and ammunition.
The fire control group has been replaced with the Arsenal, Inc. double stage parts ensuring a clean and crisp break with every squeeze of the trigger. The left side of the receiver has a standard Com-Bloc military scope rail allowing the use of numerous optics and accessories.
The furniture is the standard military AK-74 polymer furniture also utilized on their SGL21 and SGL31 rifle line, complete with stainless steel heat shield in the lower handguard and Warsaw Pact length buttstock with metal butt plate and spring-loaded cleaning kit access door. The sling swivels are on the left side of the buttstock and the gas block, respectively.
The takedown procedure for regular cleaning and maintenance is identical to the rifles in the AK-74 line, including the locking top-cover latch, top cover, recoil rod with captive spring and bolt/carrier unit. Any AK aficionado will immediately feel at home when field stripping the SGL41.
Live Fire Testing the SGL41
Prior to our first trip to the range we picked up a quantity of Winchester 3-inch ammunition. Armed with several boxes of 11/16 ounce #6 shot and 1/4 ounce hollow point slugs, phase one would be a simple function test with both loads, loaded into the stock 4+1 magazine intermittently. After running several magazines with zero failures of any kind we proceeded to the accuracy testing. We started with the #6 shot which boasted 1,135 fps and from 25-yards a 5-round burst peppered every section of a standard B27 target. With every 5-shot burst, the results were the same, total and complete coverage. It is our understanding that Buckshot is where this system really shines but as of this writing we have been unable to locate any from our usual sources.
The next exercise was to shoot the slugs with the aid of the open sights. These rounds boasted a muzzle velocity of 1,800 fps. With every group fired, off hand at 25-yards, the results were the same with each new magazine. The first round would hit exactly where it was intended with the remaining 4 rounds opening up away from the bulls eye and typically stringing to the right a bit.
Arsenal, Inc. has built a reputation for quality firearms over a very long period of time. They followed suit with their SGL41. The fit, finish and function met our high expectations for this system. There was never a failure to function at any time. The recoil with both rounds was almost nonexistent, although the slugs had an occasional light sting to the cheek when fired. There was also a considerable amount of muzzle flash when shooting slugs. At an introductory MSRP of $599 for the SGL41 as tested, we expect it to be a popular addition to fill many collection voids. We also expect the price to increase very shortly as this special price is over $700 less than it would cost to do the same build from a Saiga-410, piece by piece.
Arsenal Inc. SGL41 Specifications
Caliber: .410 (.410x3in.)
Barrel length: 19 inches (483mm)
Overall length: 38.5 inches (978mm)
Weight, empty: 6.85 pounds (3.11kg)