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Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S

Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S
This is my Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S. It’s a semi-automatic clone of the Arsenal Bulgaria AR-M1. It’s milled receiver Kalashnikov (typical of Arsenal designs) in 5.56x45mm. I personally consider it a Bulgarian AK-101 after the Russian designation for their 5.56x45mm Kalashnikov, although I believe they were develop at nearly the same time independantly. The original AR-M1 was built to aid in the transition of former Eastern Block countries to standardize around 5.56x45mm in joining NATO without having to purchase foreign weapon systems. Apparently, they are made for export as well (not too surprising, really), as I have seen images of them deployed in South America and Indonesia. As Russia hadn’t produced a 5.56x45mm Kalashnikov before the end of the Cold War, later designers in Bulgaria, China, Finland, Germany, Israel, and Romania produced their own unique variations in 5.56x45mm that didn’t have even remotely standardized cross-compatible components. Even something as basic as the magazines aren’t standardized. All borrowed heavily from AKM’s and AK-74′s, but at least in Bulgaria it was recognized that big problems could result if soldiers mistook 5.45×39 magazines for 5.56×45 magazines (or vice versa), so they intentionally made parts incompatible between their AK-74′s (also with the model number AR-M1). The end result for me is that I have to buy expensive, and rare (relative to any other AK mag type) Bulgarian waffle mags in 5.56x45mm. Few were imported into the USA due to the AWB. The fact is that they were designed after 1994 therefore couldn’t be imported legally in a high capactiy configuration (high capacity being capable of holding more than 10 rounds). Somehow, a bunch were imported and distributed, but “a bunch” was still a lot smaller number than the millions of standard AK mags imported at the time. Where you could buy 30 round East German pre-ban bakelite AK-74 mags for $5, a Bulgarian waffle in 5.56x45mm ran $35.

I purchased this particular rifle in April 2004. I ordered it and a SA M-7 S from the now defunct FAC America. The SA M-5 S arrived in short order, but the SA M-7 S went on backorder and was eventually cancelled without my knowledge. As is my luck with firearms, despite being an ultra-reliable Kalashnikov action, this rifle didn’t run 100%. I would get odd stoppages that didn’t seem to follow any particular magazine. Sometimes I would get bolt-override, other times I would get rounds that wouldn’t feed properly and do this:
Wolf 5.56x45mm round with bullet pushed back into casing
Basically, a round being fed from the magazine would get pushed straight into the lower lip of the chamber instead of riding up the feed ramp. The force was enough to push the bullet back into the casing. I contacted Arsenal about my problems, but they assured me that the rifle wasn’t at fault. They said the problem lay in my magazines, describing that there were two version of the 5.56x45mm waffles in circulation and that I must have some of the “old” versions that the rifle was not designed to use. I took a set of calipers to my mags and couldn’t find any major differences in their dimensions. There was some variation, but not enough to classify 2 separate dimension sets. As the AWB came to sunset in September 2004 I sent the rifle and my mags to Firing Line to post-sunset my rifle by changing out the front sight block with one from an AK-74 (to gain a threaded muzzle and bayonet lug) and take a look at my feeding problems. Firing Line determined that my front mag catch was installed/setup about 0.125 inches too low and fixed it. I believe that goes to show just how much tolerance the Kalashnikov action has if it can take such a critical mounting size difference and still function as reliably as it did. I also had them install a TDI Ergo grip as it doesn’t quite fit milled receivers out of the box. It just requires a bit of dremmeling, but I don’t have the tools. It came back in the condition shown in most of the photos here. I have since changed the rear stock to an M4 SOCOM stock via a very nice milled receiver to AR stock adapter from Blackjack Buffers as you can see in the top picture. It gives me an adjustable length of pull while still remaining very rugged.

The net result of all that is a very very comfortable and fun rifle. It’s a decently accurate Kalashnikov that utilizes a very common American round, and is easily handled by large and small shooters alike. It’s uncommon enough that both Kalashnikov collectors and the average joe ask what it is (I had a police officer ask if it was a Galil). I expect it to give me a long service life. It makes a great rifle for introducing new shooters, because it has a light enough recoil not to hurt anybody (I’m even talking about people that weigh less than 100 pounds), looks cool (very important to new shooters), and blazingly loud. With the AK-74 muzzle break, it’s painfully loud for everyone standing near the shooter. The key is not to be standing next to it while someone is shooting it. Being behind the shooter is a walk in the park.

Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S
Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S
Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S
Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S
Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S
Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S
Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S
Arsenal Inc. SA M-5 S