It’s hard to keep a secret, especially for two years. For the last few weeks, Arsenal has been sending out newsletters and suggesting the SAM7SF will be the most finely tuned and advanced member of its SAM family the AK community has every known. The result of Arsenal’s secret project, called “The Game Changer,” was shown to the world on August 7th, 2013.
Before that date, a select group of evaluators at Guns & Ammo were given a first look at the very first sample. It’s finished in black, wears a U.S.-manufactured Bulgarian-style handguard with gas tube cover, and looks like it should already be a member of the SAM7R family. But if you look closely, you’ll see why Arsenal is particularly proud of this one.
We have yet to completely evaluate the Arsenal SAM7SF AK-47 on the range, but look for a full report in an upcoming issue of Guns & Ammo magazine on newsstands.
Bulgarian milled receivers are known for having first-rate machine work with a lack of tool marks, and this one, with steel parts finished in matte black enamel, is no different. The surface still reveals the grains in the steel, but, due to the forging-then-machining process, all air pockets, internal voids and small cracks that would deteriorate strength are eliminated. Today, those machines are CNCs rather than mills, and it’s a very expensive process that affects the price of these rifles. You can recognize a milled receiver by the rectangular-shaped divot on each side just above the magazine.
“[The] Bulgarian military wanted to stick with milled receiver[s] because it was more dependable,” says Vartan Barsoumian, CEO of Arsenal Inc. Arsenal set up high-speed cameras and compared AKs built on milled receivers with AKs built on stamped receivers to illustrate why stamped receivers are inferior to their forged-then-milled receivers. “On this video, rivets and small parts were moving as the stamped receivers twist and flex,” Vartan says. “The Bulgarian military was convinced that it needed to stick with our milled receivers, but they demanded a more accurate AK. So we built them to shoot very tight groups; an inch and a half at 100 meters.”
To ensure a good first impression with its customers, Arsenal is using a laser system to test the alignment of its sights and testfires every AK for accuracy before it ships. There’s a lot of pride riding on quality, and Arsenal is betting that the SAM7SF will become the new standard for comparing AKs.
We found no sight adjustment was needed at 100 meters, which we credit to the properly fit sight block, Parkerized leaf sight (0-800m), tight fit of true-spec parts and the Bulgarian-manufactured 16.3-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel. The barrel carries a 1:9.45-inch twist rate and hard-chrome bore and chamber.
“It takes six times the effort to make our polymer magazines than other companies that mold theirs,” Vartan asserts. “An individual spends four to five minutes putting 10 components into the mold before it closes, and just two magazines are coming out of that mold. The magazine is then machined by 20 operations to complete it. That makes it the most expensive AK magazine, but we do it for unparalleled reliability. This is the most reliable AK magazine ever.”
When Bulgarian AKs like the SAM-series come in to the U.S., they are 100 percent sporting firearms per import regulations. This means that the receivers aren’t cut to accept high-capacity magazines. Arsenal’s facility in Las Vegas, Nevada takes these sporting AKs and remanufacturers them accordingly. Afterwards, a rifle like this SAM7SF will accept standard, 30-round capacity AK magazines, it is given a bayonet lug and a grenade launcher lug then built with the necessary amount of U.S.-made parts to be 922(r) compliant.