Caliber - 5.45x39
Capacity - 30 rounds (standard; can accept magazines from 5 to 45 rounds)
Action - Gas-operated semi-automatic
Barrel - 16 inches
Weight - ~7 lbs.

Update

Background
Drawing upon the American success with the 5.56mm round in Vietnam, the Soviet Union set out to develop a small-caliber infantry rifle of its own in the early 1970s. This project culminated in the AK-74, essentially an AKM reconfigured to fire the 5.45x39 M74 round. As such, the -74 shares its predecessor's general appearance, design and attributes, including ruggedness and reliability. Due to the ballistics of the lighter, faster 5.45x39 round, the AK-74 exhibits improved accuracy and lethality, with less recoil. The MKII was among the first civilianized AK-74s to be imported into the United States in the mid-1990s. It was built in Romania by the state arsenal at Cugir, and formerly imported by Intrac Arms of Knox TN. I bought my rifle from Troy Sellars at InRange in early 2002. He had a few still new-in-box that he had bought directly from Intrac before they went out of business. I paid $300 + my local dealer's receiving fee.

Fit and finish
My MKII arrived exactly as they had come from the importer - with honey-blonde laminated furniture including a thumb-hole stock, and an AK-74 compensator permanently welded onto the front sight base. Readily apparent was the upturned cocking handle, canted at about a 45-degree angle rather than being perpendicular to the bolt. This uniquely Romanian feature is supposed to facilitate cocking with the off hand, which comes over the top of the gun to grasp the handle. Troy told me this rifle was new-in-box, and he wasn't kidding; it was still wrapped in plastic and coated in preservative grease. The gun was accompanied by an AK cleaning kit and Romanian green webbed sling, but was missing its magazine. I Emailed Troy to inform him of this, and he apologized for the oversight by sending me a four-pack of brand-new E. German 30rd bakelites! Thanks!

Once the gun had been thoroughly degreased, its inner AK beauty started to show through. Overall quality of this '97-vintage Intrac MKII is far superior to the more recent SAR-2. The black finish is a darker and is devoid of runs and handling marks, and the blonde laminate wood makes for a striking visual contrast. I found that this thumbhole stock design (adopted from the Romanian PSL sniper rifle, aka "Romak III") increased trigger reach too much to be comfortable or usable, but that was of no concern given the project I had in mind. The only other gripe I have is that the gun was not refinished after the compensator was welded on, so there is some discoloration at the weld points.

Makeover & Accessories
I bought this gun with the intention of turning it into a clone of the Russian folding-stock AKS-74, which I did (see bottom of page). After keeping this configuration for a couple years, I decided to honor the rifle's heritage by transforming it into a clone of the AIMS-74 Romanian service rifle. Both conversions required careful traversing of the minefield of Federal gun restrictions. In order for the gun to be imported, it had to have a thumbhole stock. To dispense with this in favor of a pistol-grip configuration, meant rebuilding the gun using no more than 10 imported parts from the BATF's parts list, thereby making it a domestically produced rifle in the eyes of the law. To remain compliant with the 1994 "assault weapons" ban, a rifle with a detachable magazine and a pistol grip cannot have a folding stock, so the Romanian wire side-folder had to be fixed open. Once the ban sunset in September of 2004, I was legally able to return the stock to a fully-functional condition (see update below).

The BATF's parts list contains 15 items applicable to my stamped-receiver AK. Since I could only have 10 or fewer imported parts, I had to replace 5 native parts with US-made equivalents. The parts I chose were the gas piston, pistol grip, hammer, trigger and disconnector (the latter three being known collectively as the fire control group or "FCG"). If the AK-74 compensator had been removable, I would have had to replace one additional foreign part to balance it out. US-made gas pistons, pistol grips and other compliance parts are available through K-VAR, TAPCO and other reputable vendors. I decided to go all-out with the FCG, and purchased an adjustable trigger kit from Red Star Arms. Produced in cooperation with Power Custom, this trigger kit allows a wide variety of adjustment, from a super-crisp single-stage pull to a smooth two-stage military feel. Fitting the trigger group required the assistance of a machinist friend of mine, and involved slightly relieving the front of the trigger opening with a hand file to allow for proper clearance.

With the conversion completed, I decided to add a couple of accessories. To complement the stubby Romanian folding stock, I ordered a Bulgarian strap-on recoil pad from RPB. This is the same pad commonly found on AKS-74s equipped with an underbarrel grenade launcher. It adds about an inch of pull to the stock (great for long-armed shooters) and about 1/2 inch of drop in the toe. Looks great, feels great and is somewhat of a conversation piece as well. I also replaced the AK rear sight with the "Mojo" aperture style sold by Red Star Arms. It is adjustable for elevation AND windage by means of small allen screws, and it provides a much better sight picture than the standard AK iron sights.

Range testing
With all this work being put into the gun before it had ever fired a shot, I was understandably eager to get the Intrac out to see if it shot as good as it looked! Zeroing with iron sights was easy; gross adjustments are made on the front sight as normal, but fine-tuning is done with the rear sight. This eliminates the need to have the front blade excessively tall or drifted dramatically to one side. Once adjusted, the Mojo sights were a breeze to pick up. The combination of a better set of sights and a 4-lb. single-stage trigger pull allowed me to hit an 8 x 11" steel swinger with boring regularity at 100 yards, and to shoot groups on paper nearly half the size of what I'd been able to do with my SAR-2. Recoil with the 5.45 is minimal, and is even further reduced by the Bulgarian rubber pad.

The Bottom Line
I consider myself lucky to have found an Intrac MkII, which shows a level of quality not seen in the more-common SAR series. And doubly so to have gotten such a good deal on it, at a time when importation of any 5.45 AKs was sporadic at best, and even used SAR-2s fetched outrageously inflated prices! Converting the MkII to the AKS-74 and then to the AIMS-74 pattern was a fun project, and the result is an attractive, accurate rifle that's a ball to shoot!


AKS-74 configuration on left, AIMS-74 configuration on right.


Update 9/13/04 With the expiration of the onerous 1994 "Assault Weapons" ban, domestically produced semi-automatic rifles can once again possess certain cosmetic features such as flash hiders and folding stocks. Because it contains fewer than 10 imported parts from BATFE's list, my MkII is considered a domestic rifle in the eyes of the law. Accordingly, I have converted its folding stock back to operational condition. This feature greatly reduces the rifle's overall length, allowing easier storage and transport.

Update 4/04 The MkII has gone back to its roots! It has now been converted to a clone of the AIMS-74 rifle issued to Romanian forces, and the review has been updated accordingly.

Update 10/02 I recently attended a shoot with Hoosier members of AK47.NET. It was my first real opportunity to expose my AK-74s to heavy use. With five shooters and a multitude of rifles (not just AK types) on hand, 'shoot a gun 'til it smokes, then let it rest and pick up another' was the order of the day. Both the Intrac MkII (shown being evaluated by JPelaston) and the SAR-2 gobbled up all the ammo we fed them, and asked for more! The MkII drew several positive comments, both from the members in attendance and from those viewing the pictures in cyberspace. She's a looker. ;-) Thanks to AK-Nut for the pic!


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