Arsenal USA Model SSR-85B 7.62 x 39mm (Russian), $550


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 companies all over the world, one of which is Arsenal USA Co.

We got one of that company’s rifles for a recent test. It fires the .30 Russian Short, which the 7.62×39 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 7.62×39 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.

The Arsenal USA SSR-85B, $550, per the company website, was the result of the marriage of a Polish PMKMS parts set with a Hungarian-made FEG SA-85M stamped-steel receiver.

Our 85B’s metal was finished in well-done Parkerizing, and featured a blond hardwood stock set that was imported from Hungary. Some of us didn’t like the light color of the wood, but all agreed it had absolutely excellent finish and inletting. The wood was elm. The stock was slightly larger than all the adjacent metal, which allows for contraction of the wood over time.

The stock was fitted with a ribbed butt plate made of steel. The buttplate was so smooth the ribbing didn’t seem to help hold the stock in place on our shoulder. The black-polymer (U.S.-made) pistol grip was comfortable and appeared to be well made. The U.S.-made trigger was outstanding in its look and finish, and it linked the shooter to the gun with a pull of 5.0 pounds, the best of the three rifles tested. The double-action pull took about 4 pounds to get the trigger to the break point, and another pound to release. The final pound was creep-free and crisp. This was an excellent trigger by any measure.

The overall look was pure AK. There was a welded-on muzzle brake cut at a slant to help keep the muzzle down. It kicked some of the sound back at us, but seemed to reduce the muzzle lift when compared with the other two rifles. The 85B had a totally secure and rattle-free cleaning rod beneath its barrel. The stock had a rear sling swivel and also a fixed loop on the left side of the steel forend cap. A sling came with the rifle.

The safety was the usual long AK lever that blocks the ejection port and prevents cycling the bolt when lifted upward to the “on” position. The rear sight was a ladder type, calibrated to 800 meters. The front sight was the typical AK post-on-a-screw, but it was slanted left as though bent. This anomaly turned out to be caused by the slightly left-positioned front-sight base, and it necessitated the front sight to be shoved as far right as it could go. The rifle still shot slightly to the right, and we thought this should have been properly adjusted by the factory. Though both the rear and front sights can be moved to compensate for elevation changes, there is no way to adjust the rear sight for windage, short of cutting its square notch wider.

Like most AKs, this one had no hold-open for the bolt. The bolt closed after the last shot, so unless you were counting, you would not know the gun was empty until the hammer fell on an empty chamber. The ten-round magazine showed slight traces of rust here and there along its welded joints, though we didn’t consider it serious. The mag was at first difficult to insert into the new rifle, but during our shooting tests it became easy to install and remove. By the end of our shooting tests the magazine clearly showed scratches in its Parkerizing from use, though the rifle itself still looked like new, except for the beginnings of the normal scratch on the right side of the action from the safety.

As with most AKs — in fact, all of them we’ve shot — this rifle was perfectly reliable. There were no failures to feed, fire, or eject. Ejection was more than brisk. Empties were slung into next week. Accuracy was dismal at best, not really a surprise. We tested with Winchester, and two types of Russian ammunition. The Arsenal USA’s overall average accuracy for all shots was about 2.7 inches at 50 yards, pretty much what we’ve come to expect from the always-reliable (so far!) AKs.


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