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Lo-Cap AK-47s: We Compare K-VAR VEPR, CIA N-PAP Rifles

With everything going on in the world today, interest in self-defense rifles has skyrocketed. Until recently, semi-automatics were flying off dealer shelves and prices were sometimes double what such guns sold for only nine months ago. Naturally, many shooters are having trouble finding what they want, which usually means rifles that can accept standard-capacity (20- or 30-round) magazines. However, you may be able to find and more easily afford a category which well loosely call low capacity rifles - e.g., those made for single-stack magazines and which arrive from the manufacturer with 10-round magazines.We recently tested a couple of lo-cap rifles to see if they could live up to their standard-cap counterparts that can be so hard to find. The Century International Arms N-PAP M70 7.62x39mm, $750, is an AK-47 manufactured by Zastava, a Serbian arms manufacturer, and its receiver is cut to accept a single-stack magazine. Our test gun came with two plastic single-stack 10-round mags. Going head to head against the PAP is the K-VAR VEPR AK-47 imported by Arsenal. The VEPR has a reinforced receiver manufactured by Molot in Russia and and ours came with two plastic 10-round mags. Both rifles can be modified to take standard AK-47 magazines, but in some states that is not an option now, so we tested both in their as-delivered capacity. Heres how our testers assessed them:

Lo-Cap AK-47s: We Compare K-VAR VEPR, CIA N-PAP Rifles

With everything going on in the world today, interest in self-defense rifles has skyrocketed. Until recently, semi-automatics were flying off dealer shelves and prices were sometimes double what such guns sold for only nine months ago. Naturally, many shooters are having trouble finding what they want, which usually means rifles that can accept standard-capacity (20- or 30-round) magazines. However, you may be able to find and more easily afford a category which well loosely call low capacity rifles - e.g., those made for single-stack magazines and which arrive from the manufacturer with 10-round magazines.We recently tested a couple of lo-cap rifles to see if they could live up to their standard-cap counterparts that can be so hard to find. The Century International Arms N-PAP M70 7.62x39mm, $750, is an AK-47 manufactured by Zastava, a Serbian arms manufacturer, and its receiver is cut to accept a single-stack magazine. Our test gun came with two plastic single-stack 10-round mags. Going head to head against the PAP is the K-VAR VEPR AK-47 imported by Arsenal. The VEPR has a reinforced receiver manufactured by Molot in Russia and and ours came with two plastic 10-round mags. Both rifles can be modified to take standard AK-47 magazines, but in some states that is not an option now, so we tested both in their as-delivered capacity. Heres how our testers assessed them:

Two 7.62x54R Semiauto Rifles: Surplus Tokarev Beats PSL-54C

The Mosin Nagant bolt-action rifle was superseded by the need for a semiautomatic rifle firing the same potent caliber. Simonov came up with a design in 1936 that didnt win universal approval, and shortly thereafter Tokarev came up with his models 1938 and 1940 SVT rifles (costing about $500 to 700 today), the latter version being one-half the subjects of this report. The other half is the more recent Romanian PSL-54C (about $700 without scope), which still takes the rimmed 7.62 x 54R cartridge. This rifle resembles the AK-47, and is in fact based on it. It was issued as a designated marksman rifle. Normally scoped, our test sample had only iron sights.We shot these two rifles with Russian ball of two different types. Note that this ammunition is available inexpensively, and also with soft-nose steel-jacket bullets. Most armorers we know say to avoid soft-nose ammo in semiautos, so we did that. Most Russian-made ammo weve seen locally uses steel cases, but Norma has loaded it in recent years with brass cases, and still offers brass cases and bullets for the reloader. Several other manufacturers offer modern ammo with a great variety of bullet designs for this still very popular cartridge. All the bullets weve seen loaded in Russian ammo are steel-jacketed, even the soft-nose ones. Here are our test results.

Classic Military Bolt-Action Rifle Shootout: Lee Enfield Wins

During World War I and World War II, and in some cases beyond, there came four great bolt-action rifles in martial actions: the Lee Enfield, the Mauser, the Mosin Nagant and the Springfield. While there were many variations among the rifles, we all know what a Lee Enfield and a Mauser look like. The Nagant was produced in the many millions, and the Springfield is sometimes regarded as a rifle with almost magical accuracy. These rifles wrought many a bloody victory for one side or the other in warfare from about 1903 onward. The Lee Enfield and Mauser rifles are still seen in action in Afghanistan today. Recent events in India showed Indian security forces armed with the Lee Enfield, probably a homegrown version. These rifles simply refuse to die. While these four are the great battle rifles of the 20th century, there were other contenders for the test program that were considered and discarded. The excellent Schmidt Rubin straight-pull rifle was considered, but since it didn't figure into warfare it was not included. The French rifles are a bit quirky for our tastes, and ammunition is difficult to obtain. Likewise, the Italian Carcano is not really in the league with the others. We admit the Japanese Arisaka is an omission, but we were unable to find a suitable firing version within our time frame. We used four rifles primarily during the test program and added two special interest rifles for a side comparison as well. In the end we think we have a good idea of the handling properties of the rifles used in the Great Wars.

Mosin Nagants: We Pit Two Versions of the Hoary 1891/30

The ancient Mosin Nagant rifle has a storied history. It was the first magazine rifle adopted by Russia, back in 1891. The early versions harked back to Civil War rifles as to overall length. The first version of the rifle was over 50 inches long, and by 1930, as with our test rifles, the length is still over 4 feet. Add a bayonet and the gun resembles a spear more than a modern rifle. However, the basic design is still being used by many troops who need a stout bolt-action rifle, well over a century after its introduction. The Mosin Nagant will never win any beauty contest, mostly because of its drop-down magazine, and we don't know of any custom sporters built on them, though they surely exist. However ugly the rifle may be, it has served long and well as a prime military weapon.

In this report we tried to find out how good a military rifle the 1930 variant was, and if it was any better with a scope. To that end, we acquired two of the long Model 1891/30 rifles, which designation indicates the original design was seriously modified in 1930. One of our test rifles was a common variety and the other, the "sniper" version with a reproduction period scope. The two rifles came with a package of bayonet, sling, and cleaning materials. We tested them with three bullet types and weights, 150-grain soft-point boattail, 182-grain FMJ BT, and 203-grain soft point. The first two types of our test ammo were made by the Serbian Prvi Partizan company, and the third by Brown Bear, out of Russia. Here's what we found.

Mannlicher-Style Hunting Rifles: CZ Outduels Ruger and Steyr

The full-length stocks of Mannlicher-style rifles make them distinct, evoking the aesthetics of one of the most iconic rifles ever manufactured. In 1903 the military rifle company of Mannlicher-Schonauer introduced a sporter rifle. This Austrian-made Mannlicher sporter became the stuff of legends and would be used on all types of game from African savannas and the mountain ranges of Europe to here in the U.S. They were fast-handling carbines that offered a silky smooth bolt-action and packed a punch. Ernest Hemingway owned and wrote about the "little Mannlicher," and W.D.M. "Karamojo" Bell used one exclusively on elephant. These short rifles had characteristics unlike other bolt-actions then or now. Along with the full-length stock that ran to the barrel muzzle, originals had a split bridge action. Since the bolt handle was positioned forward of the trigger assembly, unlike most bolt actions where the bolt handle is aft of the trigger, the bolt needed to pass through the bridge to cycle. The Mannlicher-Schonauer is also known for its fixed rotary magazine, set triggers and a flat, butter knife bolt handle.We wanted to find some current representatives of the type that we hoped would evoke the performance and styling reminiscent of original sporters-fast handling, smooth-cycling action, short barrel, butter knife bolt handle, and full-length stock. To our delight, we found the $2999 Steyr Classic Mannlicher CL FS, the $894 CZ 550 FS, and the $1222 Ruger No. 1 International. All three of our test guns sported full-length wood stocks with checkering. They also shared 20-inch-long barrels-the CZs barrel is actually 20.5 inches-iron sights, and sling swivels. Open sights are rare on todays hunting rifles, and the iron sights on our test carbines gave them even more charm and begged to be used. Accordingly, we test the set with and without optics. The two Europeans were chambered in 6.5x55mm, and the Ruger came in 7x57mm, aka the 6.5 Swede and 7mm Mauser, respectively.Lets see which one of these carbines stays truest to the spirit of the originals.

Mannlicher-Style Hunting Rifles: CZ Outduels Ruger and Steyr

The full-length stocks of Mannlicher-style rifles make them distinct, evoking the aesthetics of one of the most iconic rifles ever manufactured. In 1903 the military rifle company of Mannlicher-Schonauer introduced a sporter rifle. This Austrian-made Mannlicher sporter became the stuff of legends and would be used on all types of game from African savannas and the mountain ranges of Europe to here in the U.S. They were fast-handling carbines that offered a silky smooth bolt-action and packed a punch. Ernest Hemingway owned and wrote about the "little Mannlicher," and W.D.M. "Karamojo" Bell used one exclusively on elephant. These short rifles had characteristics unlike other bolt-actions then or now. Along with the full-length stock that ran to the barrel muzzle, originals had a split bridge action. Since the bolt handle was positioned forward of the trigger assembly, unlike most bolt actions where the bolt handle is aft of the trigger, the bolt needed to pass through the bridge to cycle. The Mannlicher-Schonauer is also known for its fixed rotary magazine, set triggers and a flat, butter knife bolt handle.We wanted to find some current representatives of the type that we hoped would evoke the performance and styling reminiscent of original sporters-fast handling, smooth-cycling action, short barrel, butter knife bolt handle, and full-length stock. To our delight, we found the $2999 Steyr Classic Mannlicher CL FS, the $894 CZ 550 FS, and the $1222 Ruger No. 1 International. All three of our test guns sported full-length wood stocks with checkering. They also shared 20-inch-long barrels-the CZs barrel is actually 20.5 inches-iron sights, and sling swivels. Open sights are rare on todays hunting rifles, and the iron sights on our test carbines gave them even more charm and begged to be used. Accordingly, we test the set with and without optics. The two Europeans were chambered in 6.5x55mm, and the Ruger came in 7x57mm, aka the 6.5 Swede and 7mm Mauser, respectively.Lets see which one of these carbines stays truest to the spirit of the originals.

French MAS Semiautos: History-Making Rifles Compete

Long before WWI the French were hard at work on semiauto rifle designs. Unfortunately they didn't have much in production at the start of the Great War, so they fought that war largely like the rest of the world did, with bolt-action rifles. It was not until 1949 that France had its own successful semiauto rifle in the MAS, chambered for the 7.5x54mm cartridge, which is similar to the 7.62 NATO round. That rifle was designated the Model 1949, and it incorporated some features of the bolt-action Model 1936, including its cartridge, rear-sight arrangement and two-piece stock. Later modifications developed the M1949 into the Model 1949-56. For this report we acquired one of each type from Collectors Firearms (www.collectorsfirearms.com), the M1949 chambered for the original cartridge and the ‘49-56 rechambered by some arsenal to 7.62 NATO. The French cartridge is a bit longer and very slightly fatter than the NATO cartridge, so we presume the barrel had to be set rearwards to effect the conversion.

MAS stands for Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de St-Etienne. This is a gas-driven design that would be familiar to the fans of the various AR-15/M-16 rifles. The gas tube impinges directly on the bolt carrier, blowing it rearward with each shot. There are no moving parts, like pistons or pushrods, in the gas system.

Although the rifles had essentially the same actions, the M1949 had only a stacking lug at the front and no muzzle brake, presenting what amounted to a naked barrel muzzle. The ‘49-56 had a grenade launcher, muzzle brake/flash hider, and folding grenade sights. The rear sight on each rifle was an aperture, adjustable upward from 200 to 1200 yards. The front blade on the M49 was a fixed post, but the later rifle had an elevation-adjustable front post.

The detachable magazines had their clasp as part of the magazine, a simple and rugged system that locked into a notch cut in the right side of the action. The 10-round magazines were interchangeable between our two test rifles. Apparently higher-capacity magazines have been available for the MAS rifles. The original parts kits issued with the rifles apparently were well thought out and included critical spare parts, magazines, bayonet, cleaning stuff, and for some, a compact 3.9X scope. All the MAS rifles have a rail on the left side of the action permitting easy scope mounting.

The later rifle had a larger trigger guard, permitting firing with gloves. Both rifles had a simple leather sling attached to the left side of the rifle. The 49-56 had a black slip-on recoil pad, apparently original issue.

Each rifle had a two-piece hardwood stock with a wood hand guard covering the forward part of the barrel and the gas tube. The woods were plain walnut and birch. The safety consisted of a lever located to the right front of the trigger guard. In the safe position it partially obscured the trigger opening, which was more obvious for right handers. Both bolts had a serrated white plastic covering on the bolt knob. The actions were solid, well-made, nicely machined items that looked to be extremely strong. There were no plastic nor flimsy metal parts anywhere on either rifle. These were serious war-time rifles made to work and to last.

Takedown for these rifles was remarkably simple. After clearing the rifle, remove the magazine and let the slide go forward. Then slide the large button at the rear of the receiver downward, toward the wrist of the rifle. Press forward on the top-rear portion of the action, which is the cover, and when it moves just over half an inch toward the front of the rifle it can be lifted off toward the rear, releasing tension on the recoil spring. Then slide the bolt carrier rearward until the bolt and carrier are all the way back, and they can then be lifted out. That's it. With a normal cleaning rod the barrel must be cleaned from the front. For reassembly reverse the process. You have to fight the spring a bit, but it's an easy job. If you have to remove the trigger assembly, you'll need a screwdriver to remove a slotted screw at the rear of the trigger guard.

Largely because of extremely poor winter weather, we tested the two rifles with one type of ammo each. For the Model 1949 we used Serbian Prvi Partizan 139-grain FMJ, and for the 1949-56 we used Magtech 150-grain FMC. Here's what we found.

7.62x39mm Semiautos: Three Alternatives to the AR-15 Rifle

Interest in defensive carbines has grown so much that aftermarket catalogs such as Brownells (www.brownells.com), now mail a separate issue dedicated to the AR-15 platform. But the AR is not the only available long gun and 223 Remington/5.56mm is not the only round available for self defense-for instance, theres the 7.62x39mm. This round was developed by the Soviets circa 1943. According to some loading manuals, popularity of this cartridge in the United States saw a boom when GIs returning from Viet Nam brought home Communist Bloc weapons. Since then, other more American designs have been chambered for the 7.62x39mm. For example, our test weapons were the $966 Ruger K-Mini Thirty-P/20 No. 5853, and the AR-15 style DPMS Panther 16-inch 7.62x39mm No. RFA2-762-16 carbine, $850. Pitted alongside those two guns was a Standard SKS Type 56 with an aftermarket stock, the Advanced Technologies Incorporated Fiberforce unit. The addition of a synthetic stock has become a popular choice for those wanting to modernize their SKS rifles.[IMGCAP(1)]To perform our tests, we traveled to American Shooting Centers in Houston. Here we had our choice of benches facing towering berms at distances of 50 yards to 600 yards downrange. Since we would classify none of our test guns as match-grade target rifles and we would be firing with only the supplied iron sights, we set up at the 50-yard line. Our shooting team consisted of a third generation U.S. Marine on the trigger and an experienced spotter with a High Definition Swarovski Optik 10x42mm binocular to provide instant feedback without the shooter having to dismount.For test ammunition we began with three different rounds. Winchester USAs Q3174, Federals A76239A, American Eagle, and 124-grain soft point Military Classic ammunition from Wolf. The Winchester rounds were topped with a 123-grain full-metal-jacket bullet, and the American Eagles featured 124-grain FMJ slugs. But we were forced to switch from the Wolf soft points to Wolf 122-grain copper-jacket hollowpoints to complete our tests. Both of the Wolf rounds were Berdan primed and utilized steel cases. But we found that neither of our modern guns would reliably break the primer on the soft points. The only visual difference between the two Wolf rounds, aside from the bullets, was sealant surrounding the primer of the 122-grain ammunition. In contrast, our SKS shot reliably with every type of ammunition we could find.Accuracy data was collected by delivering 10 shots to the target. We then used a measuring technique that determined the center of the group. Our accuracy chart lists Average Group Radius, the average distance that each shot printed from dead center, Maximum Spread, the widest separation between dead center and a single shot, and Maximum Shot Radius. Average Group Radius and Maximum Spread were measured to the center of each bullet hole and these measurements express average group size and largest group, respectively. Maximum Shot Radius was measured from the furthest edge. If a circle was used to "lasso" every hit on target, Maximum Shot [IMGCAP(2)]Radius would equal the diameter of the circle.But theres more to a rifle than shooting from a bench. Here is what we learned.

7.62x39mm Semiautos: Three Alternatives to the AR-15 Rifle

Interest in defensive carbines has grown so much that aftermarket catalogs such as Brownells (www.brownells.com), now mail a separate issue dedicated to the AR-15 platform. But the AR is not the only available long gun and 223 Remington/5.56mm is not the only round available for self defense-for instance, theres the 7.62x39mm. This round was developed by the Soviets circa 1943. According to some loading manuals, popularity of this cartridge in the United States saw a boom when GIs returning from Viet Nam brought home Communist Bloc weapons. Since then, other more American designs have been chambered for the 7.62x39mm. For example, our test weapons were the $966 Ruger K-Mini Thirty-P/20 No. 5853, and the AR-15 style DPMS Panther 16-inch 7.62x39mm No. RFA2-762-16 carbine, $850. Pitted alongside those two guns was a Standard SKS Type 56 with an aftermarket stock, the Advanced Technologies Incorporated Fiberforce unit. The addition of a synthetic stock has become a popular choice for those wanting to modernize their SKS rifles.[IMGCAP(1)]To perform our tests, we traveled to American Shooting Centers in Houston. Here we had our choice of benches facing towering berms at distances of 50 yards to 600 yards downrange. Since we would classify none of our test guns as match-grade target rifles and we would be firing with only the supplied iron sights, we set up at the 50-yard line. Our shooting team consisted of a third generation U.S. Marine on the trigger and an experienced spotter with a High Definition Swarovski Optik 10x42mm binocular to provide instant feedback without the shooter having to dismount.For test ammunition we began with three different rounds. Winchester USAs Q3174, Federals A76239A, American Eagle, and 124-grain soft point Military Classic ammunition from Wolf. The Winchester rounds were topped with a 123-grain full-metal-jacket bullet, and the American Eagles featured 124-grain FMJ slugs. But we were forced to switch from the Wolf soft points to Wolf 122-grain copper-jacket hollowpoints to complete our tests. Both of the Wolf rounds were Berdan primed and utilized steel cases. But we found that neither of our modern guns would reliably break the primer on the soft points. The only visual difference between the two Wolf rounds, aside from the bullets, was sealant surrounding the primer of the 122-grain ammunition. In contrast, our SKS shot reliably with every type of ammunition we could find.Accuracy data was collected by delivering 10 shots to the target. We then used a measuring technique that determined the center of the group. Our accuracy chart lists Average Group Radius, the average distance that each shot printed from dead center, Maximum Spread, the widest separation between dead center and a single shot, and Maximum Shot Radius. Average Group Radius and Maximum Spread were measured to the center of each bullet hole and these measurements express average group size and largest group, respectively. Maximum Shot Radius was measured from the furthest edge. If a circle was used to "lasso" every hit on target, Maximum Shot [IMGCAP(2)]Radius would equal the diameter of the circle.But theres more to a rifle than shooting from a bench. Here is what we learned.

We Try a Trio of 7.62mm Russian Rifles: Arsenal USA Wins The Day

Despite its being the most prolific rifle in history, Mikhail Kalashnikov's AK-47 is still being manufactured in a vast variety of offerings at locations all over the world. One of those locations is Houston, Texas, where the Arsenal USA Co. assembles AKs using parts from Hungary and some made in Houston. We got one of that company's rifles for a recent test, pitting the hybrid U.S./foreign product against an imported wire-stocked Romanian-made rifle from Southern Ohio Gun. To complete the group of 7.62mm Russian rifles, we got a VZ 2000 from Ohio Ordnance Works. The VZ-2000 can be mistaken for an AK-47 look-alike, but is actually a close semiauto copy of the Czech Model 58.

All of these semiautomatic rifles fired the .30 Russian Short, which the 7.62x39 is sometimes called. We've recently noticed bargain-priced surplus rifles in odd calibers, but two boxes of ammunition can cost as much as the rifle. Not so the .30 Russian Short. We found 7.62x39 ammo to be plentiful and generally not very expensive. If you want to have fun with your AK, it's nice to know the fodder won't break the bank.

More SKS Rifles! Albanian and Yugoslavian Imports Slug It Out

The SKS is a homely brute, and many of its simple mechanisms are largely outdated by today's weapons' standards. But it works. It, like so many rifles based on the tapered 7.62 x 39 round, catches the cartridges that its two-piece bolt strips out of that fixed, ten-shot magazine with great ease. It fires them reliably and slings out the empties like an outraged matron encountering last week's garbage. The accuracy isn't generally good enough to be called that, unless you've got a lucky specimen on your hands. On average, they seem to shoot M1-Carbine-size groups. They'll put most of their shots into a four- or five-inch circle at a hundred yards, and that's plenty good enough for their intended job. But you'd never write home to mama about how attractive a rifle an SKS is.

Cut The Fat, Not The Meat

At this magazine, we do something that a lot of other magazines and websites do — recommend firearms that our readers might like to...