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Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby Swifty Boy » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:53 pm

I wrote this as a magazine article but decided to post it here and on Full Bore instead in case anybody is interested in the gun (I guess most UK shooters don't even know it exists):

For those of us interested in the Kalashnikov series of weapons, there are a few options still open to us in the UK. If you enjoy shooting centrefire rifles you can opt for a Saiga straight pull version of the classic military gun in either 7.62 short or 5.56 Nato with a variety of barrel and furniture configurations.

If you enjoy sending a few more rounds downrange and want a modern semi automatic rifle (i.e. not the old Armi Jager rifle), you now have two choices. One of these is the German Sports Guns (GSG) AK47 which, whilst endorsed by Mikhail Kalashnikov himself, deviates significantly from the looks and build qualities of the original rifle. The GSG gun has been around for a while now and seems to have been labelled with the 'cheap and cheerful' tag that the GSG-5 (MP5 replica) also enjoys.

Whilst other users might find this acceptable, the slightly odd looks and lower quality materials used in the build of the GSG just aren't for me. My interest was therefore piqued when Oleg Savochkin at FSU Connections said that he was bringing some Saiga 22s into the UK.

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I had seen pictures of the Saiga 22 at the IWA gun show on the internet but very little was known about the rifle at the time because it had only been released in Russia. It took Oleg two years to bring just three of these rifles in as samples and I had let him know I was potentially interested in one of them. However they were an unknown quantity and I wanted to have a good look at the rifle before laying down my hard-earned so I met Oleg at Bisley for a test shoot.

Initial impressions were good! The rifle appeared to be a genuine 1960s AKM (modernised AK47 with a stamped receiver) that had been taken out of storage and converted by the factory to fire a .22lr round. The receiver, gas tube, front and rear trunnions, sights, top cover, fire selector, wooden furniture and bakelite pistol grip are all as per a 1963 (or thereabouts) AKM. The .22lr cleaning rod attachments are held in a capsule which can be inserted into a spring-loaded trapdoor in the rifle butt as per the original AKM.

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Differences from the original AKM seem to be: a new full outer diameter barrel bored for .22lr, a new lightened steel bolt, a semi automatic trigger group, a bakelite 30 round magazine with a .22lr insert and a new recoil spring and recoil rod assembly. The rifle has been re-built, proofed and marketed as a new rifle and comes in a cardboard box marked 'Saiga 22 hunting carbine' with a cleaning rod / kit and instruction manual. The gun has had a new serial number and markings electro-pencilled on by Izhmash at the factory. The magazine is an original Izhmash orange bakelite 30 round 7.62 x 39 magazine which has an insert installed to hold a 10 round .22lr pistol magazine. The original follower and spring are held inside the 7.62 magazine body and push the pistol magazine up to engage firmly with the internals of the rifle.

Oleg and I set about test-firing two of the rifles and loaded up the magazines with a variety of ammunition, standard and high velocity. I found that standard ammo worked best in the gun with a stock recoil spring (more on that in a bit) and would feed reliably. I was using Eley Sport which is very greasy though and eventually it would 'gum' the rifle up, leading to stoppages. After cleaning the rifle would run fine again. Of the high velocity ammo, CCI Minimags seemed to work best and the rifle would burn through them nicely. Satisfied with what I had seen, I decided to take one of the rifles off Oleg's hands!

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I have been using the rifle quite a lot at the 25 yard indoor ranges that I shoot at and have probably put a thousand rounds or so through it by now. I prefer to shoot copper coated ammunition and use CCI Minimags in my Pro TSC 1911 too so I was determined to use them in the Saiga, but on the odd occasion the Saiga 22 bolt would catch a spent case on the forward stroke. The recoil spring seemed to be a little weak for what I was asking of it from the high velocity ammo so I did some hunting about in my bits box and replaced the recoil spring with something slightly stiffer. This slowed the action down to the point where the spent case was well clear of the gun before the bolt returned to battery and has cured all cycling issues. I can now rattle off ammo as fast as I can pull the trigger with no worries about jams.

The gun seems to group fine with Minimags and I've been shooting 1 inch groups at 25 yards standing with the iron sights, but to see what it can really do I need to mount a sight (probably using a replacement top cover with an integrated rail) and take it to the 50 and 100 yard range near me. I'll try and do this over the next couple of months.

After shooting, the gun is very easy to disassemble and clean, especially in comparison to a lot of the other 'military style' .22s. Remove the magazine and check the rifle is unloaded. Set the selector to 'fire' (either the fully automatic or semi automatic positions will do!) Press the button at the back and remove the top cover, push the recoil rod forward to disengage it and lift to remove the recoil rod and spring. Draw the bolt back and lift it out of the rails. That's it! You now have excellent access to the trigger group, breech and barrel. The bolt is very simple with two extractor claws and the firing pin channel to clean periodically. The magazine can be stripped into its component parts very easily if necessary too.

Supply of the bespoke .22lr parts is perhaps the main issue that someone might have with this rifle. However I am really impressed with how solid the gun and how over-engineered it is for .22lr. The components are all made from high grade steel and even if something major like the firing pin broke, it would be something any competent gunsmith would be able to knock up in no time. The trigger group parts and selector are all available commercially and easy to get hold of. Regarding the selector, please note that even though the rifle has a fully automatic position, this is just a sign of its heritage and the gun is semi automatic only!

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Spare magazines are not currently available and 10 rounds is, let's face it, just not enough for a semi auto, especially something with a military slant like this. I therefore set about making some spare magazines for it. The 7.62 bakelite or steel magazines are readily available in the UK and are pretty cheap, £12 or so if you hunt about. I ordered a few to have a play with and thought about what I might use as a .22lr insert. I happened to have a CZ452 10 round magazine which I test fit into the 7.62 magazine body and it seemed as though it might work....a bit of filing and wedging the insert into the 7.62 body later I have a spare 10 round mag. I have subsequently used the same technique to graft two CZ452 10 round magazines together to make an 18 round mag which is much more like it!

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There are two versions of the Saiga 22 available from Izhmash. This one is based on the 1960's AKM with fixed wooden furniture, orange bakelite magazine, slanted muzzle break (threaded for a moderator but held in place by a welded 'nub' on the front sight block. This could be ground off if necessary to allow the use of a -14mm thread moderator) and no side rail for a scope, so open sights only. The other version is based on the 1990's AK103 which has black polymer furniture with a side-folding stock, a black polymer 7.62 magazine, AK74 style flash hider (screw cut although I believe with a 24mm thread) and a side rail for mounting a scope.

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So am I happy with the rifle? I am but I'm biased having been interested in AKs for a long time. The gun is probably the most 'realistic' .22lr military rifle clone we are likely to see in the UK because of the original components used in the AKMs manufacture. I can't see it having any problems with reliability because of the sheer quality of the materials used compared to most new .22lr rifles. Availability of spare magazines will likely be the only frustration for a new owner but if you don't mind getting your hands dirty I'm sure there are a more than a few options for making your own. The two spare mags that I have made have fed without issue and I will continue experimenting to get that bit more capacity!

Any questions about the gun just ask.

*Edited to add I paid £900 for this but no doubt Oleg could reduce the price by bringing a larger quantity in. Steep for a .22lr I know if you compare it to a 10/22 or something but as a couple of military style comparators, the Lantac Raven is about £1,000 or HK 416 clone around £800.

Matt
Last edited by Swifty Boy on Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby Fenrir » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:04 pm

Very interesting, I enjoyed reading that. What is the rrp as I think I missed it on the first read through.
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby Swifty Boy » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:11 pm

Sorry missed that out, have added it above for clarity. Glad you enjoyed reading it!
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby flintlok » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:00 pm

Cool, those 22 aren't available in the US although there is some movement to import them. That would be a neat 22 to own and it sounds as though it much more accurate than the real thing. There are plenty of aftermarket “add on’s” for the Saiga AK that could dress the rifle up nicely.
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby libensvolenspotens » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:03 am

Very interesting read ! :thup:
Many thanks for your time & effort! :thup:

Cheers,
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby TJC » Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:24 am

Thanks, appreciate the post. Looks like a lot of fun.
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby Circus Orange » Fri Sep 07, 2012 3:10 pm

Swifty Lad, give us a review of your 1911 please!!!! :thup: :thup:
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby petterchan » Sun Nov 04, 2012 2:12 am

nice review Swifty Boy..very interesting nice to read some reviews about guns

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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby Buffy Vampire Slayer » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:01 am

very good write up and pictures :thup:
enjoyed reading that even though i have no use for this type of gun :grin:
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby nickhornet » Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:08 am

very good write up...

I have a couple of saiga.. .223 & .308... the .22 looks fun for plinking.. :thup:
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby URX » Mon Nov 05, 2012 3:01 am

got a major case of 'want one' going on now :thup:
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby Swifty Boy » Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:18 pm

Thanks for the comments, I'll keep this updated: I've been shooting the Saiga pretty much every week and am really enjoying it. I've now made another 18rd mag using the same method and think I've got to the bottom of the 'caught case in the bolt' problem. The ejector tab was sat a little low and every so often it would flick a case up into the action. I have adjusted the tab to sit flush against the bolt and this has made extraction much more consistent. Will report more after the weekend. I do actually fancy the AK103 type with a low mag scope mounted for Bianchi style comps...

Nickhornet, how do your Saigas shoot? And by .308 do you mean the SVD or a sporter?

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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby nickhornet » Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:14 pm

Hi Matt

The .308 is a very nice shooter.. its the AK Saiga-M action, thumbhole sporter with shorter SV barrel.. excellent bit of kit :thup: a pleasure to shoot..
saiga_m.jpg
saiga_m.jpg (8.1 KiB) Viewed 9332 times


Below is the AK .223
1-saiga ak 223.jpg


Below is the Dragunov - what a monster this one is........
dragunov tigr 7.62 x 54r.jpg
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Re: Saiga 22 (.22LR AKM) review

Postby Swifty Boy » Sun Nov 11, 2012 6:31 pm

Testing out my alteration to the ejector and the spare 18 round magazine...works well!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/oCQTGc2N4vY[/youtube]
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