Caliber - 5.45x39mm
Capacity - 30 rounds (standard; can accept magazines from 5 to 45 rounds)
Action - Gas-operated semi-automatic
Barrel - 12.3"
Weight - 6.6 lbs.

Update

Background
In 1990, an improved version of the 5.45mm AK-74 called the AK-74M was introduced into Russian military service. The new rifle featured polymer handguards instead of wood, and a new type of solid polymer folding stock to replace the triangular metal style of the AKS-74. It also featured numerous other small design changes geared toward boosting durability, performance and ease of manufacture. The AK-74M became the basis for the "Century Series" of rifles which were aimed primarily at the law enforcement and export military market. The AK-101 and -103 are full-size service rifles identical to the AK-74M, but chambered in 5.56x45 (.223) and 7.62x39, respectively. The AK-102, -104 and -105 are classed as "small size assault rifles" ("carbines" in American terminology) and are chambered in 5.56x45, 7.62x39 and 5.45x39, respectively. These weapons fill the gap between the full-size rifles and the diminutive AKS-74U "Krinkov", providing a lighter and more compact package than the former, with better range, accuracy and lethality than the latter.

I was fortunate enough to have fired a real select-fire AK-105 at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in the spring of 2004. The gun in question was a post-86 dealer sample built by Troy Sellars of InRange. He brought it, an AKS-74U, an AKSU and a shorty M-16 for me and some other members of AR15.com to play with. The AKS-74U was a kick, but the -105 was pure pleasure. Its longer sight radius and lower rate of fire made it much more accurate and controllable than the Krinkov, and the heat-shielded polymer handguard made a world of difference in shooter comfort once the gun heated up under rapid fire. I decided right then that I had to have a semi-auto clone of that gun, but the idea was put on the shelf until late 2005, when I happened upon an Arsenal SLR-105 at a closeout price...


Base Rifle
The SLR-105R (above) is a semi-automatic AK-74 style rifle assembled by Arsenal Inc. in Las Vegas, using a Bulgarian barreled action and a US-made stock set and fire-control group. The quality of Arsenal AKs is generally very high, and the guns command premium prices, even on the secondary market. The -105R is a "ban compliant" configuration, with a fixed stock, no bayonet lug and a cap permanently welded over the muzzle threads. With the demise of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, such "neutered" configurations became unnecessary (except in those states with local bans) and many wholesalers and retailers marked them down significantly in order to make room in their inventory for full-featured rifles. The SLR-105 features a stamped-steel receiver with standard Warsaw Pact optics rail on the left side; a hammer-forged, chrome lined barrel; and black polymer furniture similar to that found on the AK-74M and "Century Series" rifles. The action was decidedly smoother and the finish of much higher quality compared to my Romanian MkII or later SAR and WASR series rifles.

I filed an ATF Form 1 ("Application to Make and Register Firearm") in November of 2005 to register the gun as a Short-Barreled Rifle, which would allow it to legally possess the 12" barrel length of a true AK-105. While I was waiting for the form to be approved, I began to look for a gunsmith to handle the conversion work. My first thought was to ask Troy Sellars, since it was his gun that had been the inspiration for the project. But he was in the midst of a run of Yugo M92 special edition rifles and would not be taking new work for the foreseeable future. So I solicited quotes from half a dozen other AK 'smiths. Price and estimated turnaround time varied widely, but Ken Kubin at Global Military Gunsmithing stood out as being competitively priced, quick to answer my questions, and well regarded on Gunco.net and other forums. My approved Form 1 came back on February 9, and the gun and required conversion parts went out to Ken the following week.


Conversion
I received the rifle back from Global in about 3 months, which I judged to be reasonable. Communication with Ken was excellent, and he handled with aplomb the few little "snags" that came up during the process.

The workmanship on the conversion was excellent - the receiver mods for the sidefolder mechanism were the correct dimension and position; the stock released smoothly and latched securely; the barrel shortening was expertly done and an 11-degree target crown was put on the muzzle (overkill for this kind of weapon); and the gun was refinished in black GunKote which closely duplicated the appearance of the original finish. Finally, in a display of remarkable attention to detail, he even shortened the cleaning rod so it would fit under the 12" barrel and properly lock into place behind the muzzle device. The only problem I noticed right off the bat was that Ken had neglected to return the copy of my Form 1 that I had provided, along with the original US-made solid stock. I asked him about this and he swore he had included the stock, but agreed to send out a replacement Bulgarian stock that he happened to have on-hand, along with my Form 1. Both arrived a couple weeks later.

Range Report
My first range session was to test for function and to get the gun sighted in at 50 yards. I started by taking a few single shots, then emptying a couple full magazines in controlled rapid fire. The trigger pull was pleasant for an AK - smooth and fairly light with no hint of slap - and recoil was minimal, as expected. The bolt speed seemed much slower than my Romanian AK-74; there was almost a palpable "ka-chunk" as it moved back and forth. The Russian polymer stock is by far the most comfortable sidefolder I've ever encountered, and was well worth the hassle and expense of obtaining it! The 4-piece Bulgarian flash suppressor (aka the "beercan") did an excellent job taming the fireball out of the short barrel and projecting the muzzle blast and report forward of the shooter; no wonder John Noveske glommed onto the design and started putting these on short-barreled AR's! No function problems of any kind were encountered.

Moving over to the 25/50 yard bench to get the sights dialed in, I encountered a problem almost immediately. I was able to adjust for elevation easily enough, but found that the front sight required excessive windage adjustment to shoot point of aim at anything beyond extremely close distance. To get the gun zeroed at 50 yards required moving the front sight post leftward, almost to the limit of its travel! While this approach worked, it was aesthetically unpleasant and indicated that the front sight/gas block had been improperly installed. Rather than send the gun back to Ken for correction, I was able to purchase a windage-adjustable RPK rear sight "on the cheap" from a member on one of the Internet gun boards I frequent. This allowed me to move the front sight back toward center by adjusting the rear sight to compensate, and when so zeroed, neither of the sights are excessively off to one side. Another range trip had the gun shooting point of aim in short order, and producing groups surprisingly good for a short-barreled weapon. I was a happy camper.

Modifications
The AK-102/104/105 series is similar to the US military's M4 carbine in concept, size and intended purpose. Given that, and inspired by the upgrades made to AKs in service with the Polish and Bulgarian militaries, as well as US security contractors in Iraq, I decided to make some modifications to my -105 in an effort to improve the ergonomics and functionality of the platform, thereby closing some of the gap between it and the M4. Mods included: SWIFT extended safety lever with bolt hold-open notch; Ultimak Scout Mount with co-witnessed SPOT MKIII red dot sight, ACE Galil-style pistol grip, TDI railed lower handguard w/ vertical grip, and a Gear Sector single-point sling. Reviews of these products can be found on the AK Gear Page.

Druthers
Obviously, the front sight/gas block was a major disappointment. The alignment problem would've been immediately apparent had Ken test-fired the gun for accuracy rather than just for function; how any 'smith could put a new front sight on a gun but NOT think to check sight alignment/zero is beyond me. I'm sure if I'd returned the gun, Ken would've made it right, but installing an adjustable rear sight was a far cheaper and easier solution. It is also worth noting that the quality of the rest of the build, as well as Ken's excellent communication and reasonable prices, far outweigh the single problem I had with my particular gun. As a result, I still recommend contacting Ken @ Global for any AK project you might have in mind.

Bottom Line
The Arsenal SLR-105R is a reliable, high-quality AK-74 pattern semi-automatic rifle. The AK-105 conversion performed by Global Military Gunsmithing has turned the SLR into a compact, fast-handling carbine that is a pleasure to shoot and has a huge "cool factor". Finally, the addition of a few well-thought-out upgrades greatly improved the gun's utility and ergonomics, bringing the AK platform into the 21st Century.


Update 5/2/07 I recently used the AK-105 for the AK Operators Course put on by EAG Tactical at the Boone County Sheriff's Dept. range. Over three days and 1170 rounds fired, the -105 never missed a beat. What's more, it helped me take High Shooter honors, for which I received a tactical/hydration vest from Camelbak. Very cool! This experience taught me that I can shoot my -105 about as well as I can shoot my M4, but I have to work harder to do it with the AK.


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