April 02, 2015
AK carbines are known for their legendary reliability and ruggedness, but few shooters consider Mikhail Kalashnikov's crowning achievement when searching for a compact fighting rifle. That's because many of them don't know about Bulgaria's take on Russia's AKS-74U, the Arsenal SLR-104UR.
The first time most Americans caught a glimpse of the AKS-74U was when images of Soviet soldiers invading Afghanistan reached Western news outlets. Mujahideen fighters, who captured the rifle from Soviet Armor crews, nicknamed the diminutive AK, Kalinnikov. American audiences eventually corrupted this term into the name most shooters know it by today: Krinkov.
The Krinkov is the Soviet Union's response to its military's dire need for a modern submachine gun to equip armored vehicle crews. Chambered in 5.45x39mm, the Krink doesn't fit the Western definition of an SMG but rather that of a short carbine. In many ways, the AKS-74U is the Soviet equivalent of an M4 carbine.
Like the M4 series, the AKS-74U is a shortened version of an intermediate caliber select-fire rifle, using a shorter barrel and gas system. Also like the M4, its compact size and soft-shooting nature made it popular with law enforcement.
Shooters longing to have their own compact Kalashnikov are in for quite a shock. Any Russian-made AKS-74U carbines are select-fire only and demand prices equivalent to a new German sports car. Less expensive parts kit builds are available but are either of questionable quality or include lengthy build-times. Seeking to quench America's thirst for a compact AK carbine, Arsenal of Las Vegas began importing semiautomatic Bulgarian AKS-74U carbines.
The Arsenal SLR-104UR is a long-stroke, gas-piston operated, rotating bolt semiautomatic carbine chambered in 5.45x39mm. It feeds from standard AK-74 magazines and ships with either a five-, or 30-round Bulgarian Circle 10 polymer magazine. These are widely considered the most durable and reliable military AK magazines available.
The Bulgarian military's love of polymer isn't restricted to the magazines, though. Taking a nod from the AK-100 series of rifles, the SLR-104UR ops for heat-shielded polymer handguards in lieu of the lacquered wooden handguards traditionally found on the AKS-74U. Arsenal also does away with the traditional triangular metal folding stock, replacing it with an AK-100 series polymer folding stock.The polymer stock is objectively a better option, as it affords shooters a more comfortable and consistent cheek weld while reducing overall weight and shifting the balance of the carbine towards the muzzle.
Despite these departures, the Arsenal Krinkov retains many of the iconic features of the Soviet sub-gun. Most notably, it keeps the simplistic rear sight assembly welded to a hinged dust cover. Where full-sized AK rifles feature a rear sight leaf adjustable for drop, Krinkov rifles utilize a folding notch with two settings. The first setting with an "ÐŸ" designates point blank and ranges out to 300 meters. The second setting labeled, "4-5" is for engaging targets from 400 to 500 meters. Both are optimistic, given the short, unforgiving 9.3-inch sight radius of the carbine.
Despite this abbreviated sight radius, the SLR-104UR can provide adequate combat accuracy. While the weapon isn't suitable for long-range precision shooting, it's more than capable of hitting man-sized targets out to 400 meters with iron sights. This is due to the flat-shooting nature of its high-velocity 5.45x39mm round.
Shooters looking to get the most performance from this combloc carbine will want to invest in optics of some variety. This is one of the few areas the SLR-104UR struggles with. Due to the size and shape of its special rear sight, most American rails designed for standard AK rifles cannot be mounted. AKS-74U-specific scopes and red dot sights exist, but they are pricey and difficult to find. Thankfully, a few companies have designed railed handguards and special rail mounts that bolt to the existing rear sight.
The ergonomics and controls are classic AK; people either love or hate them. Shooters accustomed to running Soviet rifles will feel right at home with the SLR. The rifle has superb balance and feels remarkably light despite its extended 16 1/4-inch barrel.
Where this carbine would really shine is with an NFA-regulated 8.5-inch barrel. What the rifle would lose in projectile velocity and effective range, it would more than compensate for with faster handling and portability.
Although the days of cheap surplus 5.45mm ammunition have passed, the SLR-104UR's hammer-forged barrel still retains its chrome lining. Chrome better resists the corrosive salts found with the primers of surplus Soviet ammunition. While the latter portion isn't as important since the ban of the formerly inexpensive 7N6 cartridge, it still gives the barrel increased longevity compared to stainless ones.
Clearly the engineers at Arsenal understand this, as the SLR-104UR includes a threaded front sight tower that allows shooters to install the iconic combination flash hider / muzzle booster should they choose to convert the weapon into an SBR at a later date. From the factory, the rifle ships with a thread protector to cover the 24x1.5mm threads.
That said, even when equipped with a longer barrel, the Arsenal SLR-104UR is a quick-pointing, soft-shooting, relentlessly reliable carbine. Whether shooters are looking for a compact, hard-hitting truck gun, a lively range-day plinker or the perfect addition to a bugout bag. They won't be disappointed with the Arsenal SLR-104UR.
Even though Soviet surplus 7N6 ammo is no longer being sold, Arsenal's SLR-104UR retains a chrome-lined barrel, which will still result in increased barrel life.
Most Americans first became familiar with the AKSU-74 when they saw Soviet soldiers wielding them during the Soviet War in Afghanistan. Although it's different than the AKSU-74, the SLR-104UR takes most of its cues from the original Krinkov.
The SLR-104UR accepts standard AK-74 magazines and ships with either a five- or 30-round Bulgarian Circle 10 polymer magazine
, widely considered the most durable and reliable available.
Arsenal did away with the traditional triangular metal folding stock in favor of an AK-100 series polymer folding stock. The author feels this is an improvement over the original as it offers a more comfortable cheek weld and reduces overall weight.
The SLR-104UR ops for heat-shielded polymer handguards in lieu of the lacquered wooden handguards traditionally found on the AKS-74U, one of several changes Arsenal made to the design.
The front sight of the Arsenal rifle is the same as that featured on the AKSU-74.
The stock locks in place after folding.
Folded to the left side of the receiver, the Arsenal SLR-104UR can still be fired and the controls can be accessed.
AKS-74U-specific scopes and red dot sights exist, but they are often pricey and difficult to find. Luckily, a few companies have designed railed handguards and special rail mounts for the AK platform that bolt to the existing rear sight.
As with original Krinkov rifles, the SLR-104UR utilizes a folding notch with two settings instead of the AK's adjustable rear sight leaf. The first setting with an "ÐŸ" designates point blank and ranges out to 300 meters, while the second setting labeled '4-5 ' is for engaging targets from 400 to 500 meters.