In the sixty-five years since that have passed since the adoption of the AK-47 by the Soviet Armed Forces in 1949, more than 75 million AK-47s have been manufactured. If you throw all of its variants—including the 5.45x39mm chambered AK-74 and its variants—the number of “Kalashnikov family” weapons produced is estimated at over 100 million. More AK-type rifles have been produced than all other “assault rifles” combined. There’s a reason for that…
The AK-47 was designed to be a cheap, simple and easy to manufacture selective fire service rifle, which perfectly matched Soviet Cold War military thinking that weapons and equipment—as well as soldiers—were disposable items. In addition to Russia, military variants of the AK-47s were produced by at least 30 other countries. Quality of manufacture ran the gamut from excellent to one short step above junk, but the vast majority were of sufficient quality to establish the AK-47’s reputation as a highly reliable, very lethal weapon that pretty nearly any ^ss#o!e could learn to shoot well enough with just a few hours of training.
Early production AK-47 used stamped sheet-steel receivers, which created a number of manufacturing problems for the Russkies. The “fix” was to substitute a heavy machined steel receiver, but it was expensive to manufacture and slowed down production to such an extent that AK-47s did not reach Soviet troops in any significant numbers until 1956. In the seven years it took the Russians to debug the AK-47, Soviet troops continued to field their semi-auto SKS rifles almost exclusively.
The Russians continued to refine the AK-47, and in 1959 introduced the AKM (Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy), a “modernized” version of the original. Ironically, the AKM was built on designed redesigned stamped sheet-steel receiver, and was fitted with a slanted muzzle brake to reduce muzzle rise under full-auto fire. A “hammer retarder” was also added to prevent the weapon from firing without the bolt being in battery and to reduce the full-auto cyclic rate to conserve ammunition. The vast majority of AKs produced outside of Russia were of the AKM type.
While it would be tough to improve on the ubiquitous AK’s reliability, there’s plenty of room for improvement otherwise, and a small company in Philippi, West Virginia has been doing just that for some time. Perhaps better known for its AR variants, Blackheart International (BHI) is big into AKs as well. BHI was founded in 1999 by Erik Lawrence, a former U. S. Army Special Forces operator, in his garage in Pennsylvania. In 2005, he moved the company to Philippi, West Virginia where it has continued to expand. BHI is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, and a big part of their business is with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. Thankfully, however, they find time to make lots of cool guns for the rest of us.
One of their latest and greatest creations is the 10-inch-barreled M92 AK SBR ($1,399) you see here, which is a modern spin on the familiar, short-barreled “Krinkov” style rifle. “SBR” stand for short-barreled rifle, which is any rifle with a barrel length of less than 16 inches. SBRs are illegal for us peons to own without special dispensation from the Feds, but the process is pretty simple and not terribly costly or time consuming. As long as you’re not a convicted felon, and as long as you live in a state that permits its citizens to own registered SBRs, you’re good to go. In a nutshell, here’s how it works.
Locate an Class 3 SOT dealer in your area. This is an FFL dealer with a Special Occupational Tax Class 3 license to deal in machine guns, suppressors, SBRs, etc. If your local gun shop does not have a Class 3 SOT license, they can probably direct you to a dealer who does. If not, just log onto www.nfadealers.com and find one.
Have the Class 3 SOT dealer order a BHI M92 AK SBR for you if he doesn’t have one in stock. He’ll help you fill out and submit the BATFE Form 1 (downloadable at www.atf.gov). Send it in to the BATFE with a check for the $200 tax payment, and you’re done. When your permit comes in—which could take a few months—then your Class 3 SOT dealer can transfer your BHI M92 AK SBR to you. Simple, huh?
Here’s what to expect when you open the package. The semi-auto only M92 AK SBR is built in Serbia on a top-quality Serbian stamped-steel receiver, and chambered in 7.62x39mm. It takes down just as quickly and simply as any AK . . . because it is an AK, but one with a lot of improvements built in. The 10-inch barrel has a muzzle shroud that is integral with of the front sight housing and is threaded to take a variety of muzzle devices. It comes from Serbia with a thread protector spot welded to the muzzle shroud for compliance with U. S. law, but BHI removes the spot weld and installs a Krinkov-style muzzle brake that suppresses most of the muzzle flash and a bit of the report.
The receiver is fitted with an enhanced safety selector lever a with bolt-hold-open notch, and the top cover swings up on a hinge at the forward end of the receiver to keep it with the gun when pulling out the guts. The “guts” consist of the long recoil spring, bolt carrier with attached gas piston/operating rod and bolt group. The gas piston/operating rod is somewhat shorter than that of a standard AK-47 because of the reduced barrel length. The trigger is of the single-hook design, and has a pretty decent pull as AKs go.
One of the most unique features of the M92 AK SBR is its vented, machined aluminum quad-rail handguard which is sourced and installed by BHI. It offers an 11-slot Picatinny top rail for attaching long or unlimited eye relief optics, two 13-slot side rails and one 13-slot bottom rail. In typical Krinkov fashion, the rear sight is welded onto the top cover and has flip-up slotted leaves, one marked with a “4” and the other marked with a “2” with white dots on either side of the vertical sight slot. The front sight is standard AK fare—drift adjustable for windage and screw adjustable for elevation—but it also has a flip-up tab with a prominent white dot, undoubtedly intended to be used with the corresponding 2-dot rear sight leaf. A non-rotating, BHI-exclusive, single-point sling adapter is permanently attached to the right rear of the receiver. A SAW-style pistol grip is standard equipment, but our rifle was equipped with the optional and far-superior Stark Equipment SE-1 AK handgrip.
Attached to the aft end of the receiver is a U. S. made Ace tubular buttstock with rubber butt pad installed by BHI that. The buttstock folds up against the left side of the receiver simply by pushing up against its retaining spring to release the locking mechanism. Overall length with the Krinkov-style muzzle brake is 21.75 inches with the buttstock folded and 30.25 inches with the buttstock deployed. Empty weight is 7 lbs. 1.5 oz. without magazine. The M92 AK SBR comes with two 30-round steel magazines and a plastic hard case.
For testing we mounted a an Aimpoint Micro T2 red-dot sight in the top rail, as well as a Stark Express Grip ($29.95) on the handguard’s bottom rail. Rather than being vertical, the rubber-covered Express Grip is angled to the rear by about 45 degrees. The angle works with the biometrics of your support arm
Not surprisingly, the M92 AK SBR was 100% on our Salute Products steel plates, with no failures of any kind. The Aimpoint Micro T2 was the perfect choice for the fast-paced drills on the steel, making it very easy to quickly change and acquire the next plate. The M92 AK SBR was very fast to swing and we noticed no significant difference in perceived recoil between it and a full-size AK.
For accuracy testing we mounted a Aimpoint Micro T2 red-dot sight on the top rail and went to work from the bench at 50 yards. Testing ammunition consisted of steel-case Hornady 123-gr. SST (2,350 f.p.s./1,508 ft. lbs.), brass-case Hornady 123-gr. Z-Max Zombie Defense (2,360 f.p.s./1,521 ft. lbs.), Wolf 124-gr. Military Classic (2,330 f.p.s./1,497 ft. lbs.) and Herter’s 123-gr. SP 2,340 f.p.s./1,496 ft. lbs.).
The best 3-shot group was turned in by the steel-case Hornady 123-gr. SST, measuring 1.07” center to center. The M92 AK SBR, however, showed almost no ammo preferences, as all of the other brands of ammo tested printed within a quarter to a half-inch of the best group.
As we were writing this article BHI began production of its own line of AKs, so chances are that by the time you open that box your M92 AK SBR will be 100% made in the U.S.A. See it at your Class 3 firearms dealer, or for more information contact Blackheart International, Dept. OT; Tel.: 681-404-5656; E-mail: [email protected]