Jim Grant gets his hands on the Arsenal SLR-107UR AK Carbine. Keep reading to find out if this compact rifle is better than American AKs?
U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- There was a time when high-quality mil-spec AK carbines like the Arsenal SLR-107UR could be purchased for around a thousand dollars; sadly that time has definitely passed. The good news is that although these guns are no longer inexpensive, they can still be found. But what exactly makes an AK worth $2,000?
Arsenal SLR-107UR AK Carbine
Before we get into the review and evaluation, let’s take a look under the dust cover and at the history of Bulgarian assault rifles to better understand this little Arsenal AK carbine.
For those of you new to the AK, or even Arsenal’s offerings, the SLR portion of the 107UR designates the gun as having Bulgarian origins, while older SGL models were built off Russian Saiga sporting carbines. If you want one of the latter, save your pennies. After Obama cut off Russian imports in 2014 in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea, prices have steadily soared on all SGL rifles.
But back to the gun’s origins.
The Arsenal SLR-107UR is basically a civilian legal version of the Bulgarian select-fire AR-SF chambered in 7.62x39mm round – but that’s not an entirely true statement. Stay with me, it gets pretty confusing.
See, Bulgaria stopped producing stamped-receiver AK carbines more than two decades ago as part of their adoption of NATO-standard 5.56mm ammo.
Because the Bulgarian military-industrial complex never completely tooled up their 7.62mm AK line for stamped receiver production – at least for domestic use. Though they did build several 100-series AKs in 7.62mm, 5.45mm, and 5.56mm for export, but that’s another story entirely.
One thing we do know is that with the adoption of the 5.56mm round, Bulgaria made all of its future select-fire assault rifles for domestic use on milled receivers. Which, if you know anything about the development of the AKM and the AK-47, is backward.
Part of the original AK’s development was the use of a milled receiver on early models because the manufacturers were struggling with properly heat-treating the stamped receivers. It was done as a stop-gap to hurry along the production process and field more Avtomats in the Soviet military. The gun was always meant to have a stamped receiver, but it wasn’t until the production of the Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovannyj (AKM) or Assault Rifle, Kalashnikov, Modernized, that the Soviet engineers would field the gun in its current state.
But Bulgaria, a former Soviet Satellite State, didn’t begin production of any version of the AK until the 1950’s when it tooled up the famous Circle 10 factory for the AK-47 in 7.62mm as well as the B-10 Recoiless Rifle. The factory would continue to produce the milled-receiver AK-47 for decades, only adopting a stamped receiver gun with the adoption of the AK-74 and its lightweight 5.45mm cartridge in the 1980s. Before we continue, I know some of you out there reading are going to tell me I’m wrong, and that you’ve seen pictures of stamped 7.62x39mm Bulgarian AKMs.
At least, you think you have. Bulgaria fielded large numbers of stamped AKM carbines, but nearly all of them were sent to them from Russia as military aid. Widespread production of stamped 7.62mm AK guns didn’t commence until Bulgaria began exporting guns both for foreign militaries, as well as American civilian shooters. But these were based on AK-100 series guns, and not true AKMs.
The closest thing Bulgaria fielded to the Arsenal SLR-107UR AK Carbine, is their AR-SF stamped AKS-74u assault rifle in 5.45mm. But truth be told, there was never a widespread adoption of a 7.62x39mm Kinkov in the Bulgarian military. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if some clandestine operations made use of a custom-built one with a PBS-1 sound suppressed attached.
Milled or Stamped AK? Does it Matter?
Objectively – not really. At least not in terms of performance or practical longevity.
Personally, I’ve heard plenty of AK ‘experts’ tell me that milled guns are more accurate, and that may be marginally true. But there are only four noticeable effects of having a milled gun over a stamped one to the average end-user.
- Milled guns are much heavier than stamped guns, making them more tiring to carry, but have less felt recoil.
- Milled guns tend to have smoother actions.
- Milled AKs aren’t always compatible with stamped gun furniture, so you’ll have to modify railed handguards or buttstocks to fit.
- Currently, no side-folding polymer or triangular folding stocks properly fit milled receiver guns. (Yes, I know about the SAM-7SF, but that features a welded-on rear trunnion which adds unnecessary length, bulk, and weight to the gun. It also looks awful.)
Arsenal SLR-107UR Features
With all of that confusing history out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the features and operation of the Arsenal SLR-107UR.
Like the AKS-74u it was based off, the SLR-107UR is a shortened version of the long-stroke, piston-driven AKM carbine seen around the globe. Like both the full-sized AKM and the compact AKS-74u, it feeds from a detachable, box-type stagger-column AK magazine. The included magazine is sadly only a 10-round stubby version of the Bulgarian Circle 10 Waffle polymer magazine, but the gun can utilize any mil-spec AK magazine. This includes stamped steel models of every generation, bakelite polymer magazines, modern 100-series injected polymer magazines and even modern Magpul AK Mag examples. Though it is considered haram to run a Magpul magazine in an otherwise military-spec AK – like driving a restored ’64 Corvette Stingray with modern chromed aluminum wheels.
But I digress, the SLR features all the same controls as a standard AKM rifle. Meaning, a massive safety lever on the right side, a fully-reciprocating charging handle integral to the bolt carrier/piston, and a small stamped magazine paddle release. Like most AKs, the Arsenal lacks a bolt hold open and doesn’t lock open on the last round unless a shooter is running a Yugoslavian-pattern magazine. (And even then, the second the magazine is removed from the magazine well, the bolt with slam closed!)
Again, like nearly all AK rifles, the SLR-107UR features post and notch iron sights. But it differs from full-sized AKs by how the rear sight cannot be adjusted to several different range settings but instead features a folding notch that switches between a 100m and 300m zero. The former of which is marked, “п” for постоянная (postoyannaya) or “consistent/permanent” which designates the gun’s sights will be point of aim, point of impact at 100m. That said, the front sight is still fully adjustable for windage and elevation.
Speaking of which, just below the front sight, the SLR-107UR features the correct 90-degree gas block for modern 100-series AKMs that includes the 24mm RH threads for mounting either a Bulgarian style four-piece flash hider/muzzle booster, an AK-7-style brake, or a special suppressor like the Wolverine from DeadAir. But shooters won’t be able to mount any of these muzzle devices until the barrel is chopped down to the correct 8.1in length – though you’ll need to get a $200 tax stamp first.
As it ships, the gas block’s threads are topped with a simple thread-protector, through which the 16-inch chrome-lined barrel protrudes. This barrel is not threaded, though presumably because most people will opt to SBR the gun in the future. (I know I do)
Behind it, the SLR-107UR features ribbed Krinkov-length handguards which do a good job of dissipating heat, but like all shorty AKs, the SLR gets hot very quickly. Just behind this, on top of where the rear sight would normally lie on a standard AKM, the SLR features a hinge for its dust cover/rear sight combo. The rear of which locks into the receiver itself with the recoil spring guide that acts as a locking tab.
Beneath the cover, the SLR features a standard AKMN-style sight rail that allows shooters to properly mount optics on the gun and really stretch its legs. Though one note of caution, because of the different rear sight, the SLR-107 cannot utilize rails meant for standard AKs. So be sure to buy one designed for Krinkov-style guns. Personally, I found that buying a rear-justified mount from RS Regulate combined with their low-profile AKOG optics mount, made for an excellent combination.
Below the sight rail, the Arsenal uses a standard 100-series polymer pistol grip that will be a little too small for shooters with large hands. Thankfully, it attaches to the receiver VIA a standard AK pistol grip “T-Nut” meaning it’s compatible with any in-spec AK pistol grip.
Finally, at the rear, the SLR includes a left-side-folding polymer stock with a stamped steel ribbed butt plate. The stock locks neatly along the left side of the gun when folded, but cannot be folded if an optics rail is attached to the gun. Once folded, a shooter simply needs to depress the stamped-steel button on the back of the butt plate to release it. Unlike Russian polymer folders, it lacks an additional rear release button on the rear trunnion.
How did the pricey pseudo-Krinkov perform?
Spoilers, it’s an AK.
The Arsenal SLR-107UR never malfunctioned in the 450 rounds I’ve thus fired through it without cleaning. The majority of these rounds were from six different manufacturers, loaded from loose ammo can I had sitting around from previous reviews over the past 10 years. I tested every magazine I had on hand with the gun, and all locked up perfectly. This includes military surplus stamped steel magazines from the following countries: Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Egypt, Hungary, Iraq (a borrowed magazine from a friend, but I believe it came from an Egyptian Maadi, however, the magazine found its way back from, ‘the sandbox’ during the early years of the war), Poland, Romania, Russia, and Yugoslavia.
I also tested bakelite magazines from Russia, commercial Polish magazines, US-made Magpul, Tapco, and US Palm polymer magazines (all generations), and waffle-pattern Circle 10 polymer magazines from Bulgaria, and every single one ran fine and locked up with no issues. Though some of the steel magazines did have a little bit of wobble to them, but that is to be expected.
Accuracy from the gun was predictably good, though not match-grade, Gucci-AR-15-good. It’s an AK after all.
That said, utilizing the RS Regulate AKOG mount and a Trijicon VCOG, I was able to squeeze out 2.8-3.0in groups at 100 yards when fired from a rest. These groups would grow by about half an inch after two or three mags as the barrel really warmed up.
Recoil from the little gun was more stout than from a standard AKM, due to its reduced overall weight and lack of a muzzle device. But was by no means uncontrollable. I would liken it to firing 44 Magnum from a heavy lever-action carbine, or 6.8 SPC from a full-sized heavy AR. Less than .308, but noticeably more than a 5.56mm AR-15.
Is the Arsenal SLR-107UR Worth $2k?
No. Not to the average shooter.
Yes, the cool factor of the gun is indisputable, and the fit and finish are very good – for an AK. It is still a mass-produced modernized AKM designed for hard use, and essentially a very rugged tool coated with what amounts to high-temp engine paint on top of parkerization. But it’s still a tool. Unless you’re an AK aficionado, or a collector, or just a big-time AK enthusiast looking to build a ‘correct’ AKSU SBR in 7.62x39mm, the Arsenal is going to be too expensive to justify.
That said, the build quality on this gun is miles beyond anything made in America. Don’t let the shills or fanboys tell you otherwise, it’s not as simple to properly build an AK carbine as many would think.
So with that in mind, this is the perfect AK for shooters who want to buy once, cry once. Take it from someone who bought a pair of SGL rifles back when they were only $750 (they now fetch $3,000!), you will never lose money on an Arsenal AK.
About Jim Grant
Jim is one of the elite editors for AmmoLand.com, who in addition to his mastery of prose, can wield a camera with expert finesse. He loves anything and everything guns but holds firearms from the Cold War in a special place in his heart.
When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife, son, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.