AES-10B: Romanian 'SAW' Comes to America
January 30, 2019
Century Arms announced on January 30, 2018, the availability of newly manufactured models of the highly sought after the Romanian AES10B in 7.62x39mm and the Romanian PSL in 7.62x54R rifles.
The AES10B is modeled after the Romanian version of the RPK featuring a heavy barrel profile, RPK bipod and clubfoot stock. The AES10B includes a 30-round magazine.
“We haven’t brought in the AES10B or PSL rifles in many years. AES10B availability has dried up due to a lack of the parts kits used to build them and surplus PSL rifles are being sent to other parts of the world before we are able to acquire them,” said Vice President of Business Development William Sucher. “We have continued to look for a solution for the American market due to the high demand for these models even though the days of low-priced surplus options are long gone. After reviewing all options and working with the manufacturer, we were able to acquire and bring in small quantities of these as newly manufactured rifles, albeit at a higher price, but still uniquely rare and desirable.”
Century Arms will have a limited quantity of these newly manufactured rifles and have sold out of the initial shipments. Guns & Ammo is proud to offer you the following review that originally appeared in Guns & Ammo’s Book of the AK47.
If you asked 10 different gun owners why they made the decision to purchase their first Kalashnikov, you’d likely get 10 different answers. Maybe that’s because, unlike many other types of military-style rifles, there seems to be a different AK variant that suits the particular needs and tastes of every gun owner.
Hardcore shooters simply like the inexpensive entry fee, and this is exactly how more than a few guys got their start building a sizable collection. Just a quick walk down a local gun show aisle will turn up quite a few nice-looking commercial AK variants that can be purchased for a real bargain compared with other types of military-style semiautomatic long guns.
On the other end of the spectrum, many folks who consider themselves serious gun collectors value their Kalashnikovs for the rich history they represent. These guys are addicted to accuracy, but I don’t mean the shooting kind.
However, perhaps the most practical and fastest-growing segment of the AK market is made up of great numbers of shooters who have discovered the potential an AK has in regard to sporting modifications. And it’s not particularly just for show, either. These Kalashnikov owners are serious shooters (often ex-military or law enforcement) who wish to enhance the ergonomics and efficiency of the AK platform to its maximum levels.
All of these activities have greatly accelerated the popularity of the semiautomatic AK. A credit to this growth, marksmanship instructors and the aftermarket community can no longer afford to ignore this expanding venue.
Most of us probably fall into one or more of these three extreme categories. Under normal conditions, this would necessitate owning a number of very different firearms, right? Well, maybe not.
On rare occasions a product comes along that crosses over multiple fields of interest and seems to satisfy a much larger segment of the shooting community than other similar offerings. I’m quite sure the AES-10B, distributed by Century International Arms, qualifies.
It fits the most meager of budgets, has a higher built-in accuracy potential than most original-caliber AKs and, above all, is a bonafide collector’s piece that any AK aficionado would be proud to own.
If it is not already obvious, let’s go ahead and mention that it’s far from being suitable for CQB roles or 3-Gun matches, but I have to give it the highest marks in terms of both collectability and shooting fun.
RPK FACT SHEET
Some of you may not know that the AES-10B is essentially a semiautomatic version of the military, select-fire RPK light machine gun. The Soviet-designed Ruchnoy Pulemyot Kalashnikova, or Kalashnikov hand-held machine gun, is basically a heavier, long-barreled version of the AKM infantry assault rifle but meant for the squad automatic role. In fact, both the RPK and the AKM were introduced in 1959, and both entered limited production by late 1960. These rifles have an identical operation and also share basic fire control, bolt group and gas system components. If you can operate, disassemble and properly clean an AK47, then you can handle an RPK.
Unfortunately for collectors, not a single semiautomatic Russian-made RPK was ever imported into the U.S., nor will one ever be, most likely. It’s not 1980 anymore, and now we have laws and regulations that have closed off most avenues for legally acquiring such a specialty rifle.
Are there any alternatives? Chinese and Yugoslavian preban RPKs were imported into the U.S. back in the late 1980s and can still be purchased from secondary market sellers for extremely large amounts of money. These are certainly not an option for the average shooter with the average discretionary spending budget.
A few parts kits have also made it into the country over the years, and this can be a good route to go if you have a nice one with a decent barrel and can afford the time and money to build one. You usually get what you pay for in this area, and depending on the builder you select, the results may or may not be exactly what you expected. The kit, receiver and build can easily set you back well over $1,000.
THE ROMANIAN SAW
This is where Century International Arms and the AES-10B start to make a little sense. In the mid-’60s, the Romanians adopted the Soviet RPK as the Puşcă Mitralieră model 1964 (PA Md. 1964). Eventually, they were building their own examples with domestic parts. These rifles differed very little from the original Russian variant. Except for finishing methods, tool marks and the use of several different bipod designs, they were essentially dead-ringers with all the important features of the originals.
In any case, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, a great deal of surplus militaria and semiautomatic versions of military rifles started being exported to the U.S. market from Eastern Europe. These countries no doubt wanted to take full advantage of their newfound international trade freedoms.
A major participant was, of course, Romania, which had an enormous hand in producing and exporting Soviet-based weapons all over the world during the Cold War.
After dealing with several smaller import companies, by the late 1990s RATMIL Cugir arsenal (in Cugir, Romania) contracted with U.S. importer Century International Arms, which has since become its primary distributor inside the United States.
Since that time, Century has imported semiautomatic, U.S.-legal versions of just about every model of Romanian Kalashnikov. Many of these, including the AES-10B, are legally considered U.S.-manufactured rifles due to the 922r-compliant U.S.-made parts that are installed in them.
Not too many years ago, Century began marketing a version of the RPK called the AES-10, later dubbed the AES-10A. This rifle had a pseudo-RPK look but was basically only a long-barreled AKM with an RPK buttstock and bipod. It did not have the heavy-duty receiver or thick-contour barrel, and for this reason the AES-10A did not appeal to many collectors.
THE FIRST MODEL AES-10B
An updated version called the AES-10B began to show up in Century flyers and at local gun shows a few years ago. This time around, the rifle was a great deal more Mil-Spec. The early AES-10B actually had the desirable military-specification heavy chrome-lined barrel and the bulged RPK receiver barrel trunnion to support it. The receiver was stamped from 1.5mm heavy-gauge steel and assembled in Romania by the same folks who made the military rifles. This meant it was 50 percent thicker than most AKM types. The laminated wood furniture supplied with these new rifles was Romanian military RPK pattern, to include the distinctive clubfoot-shaped fixed buttstock and extra-wide lower handguard. Century supplied the rifles with a U.S.-made plastic pistol grip, fire control group, piston rod and magazine parts to comply with federal regulations.
The earliest AES-10B did have a few drawbacks from a strictly cosmetic viewpoint. For one, the bipod was not of the correct RPK type. It was the short PK pattern and did not attach to the cleaning rod properly. Second, the rifle seemed to have been made from a mix of new and refurbished parts that were numbered to match each other. The barrel trunnions were scrubbed, and a dot-matrix serial number was applied, which, although it might be a moot point for shooters, did not particularly enthuse military collectors.
THE NEW IMPORTS
All this changed dramatically about a year ago, when a new and very special variant of the AES-10B was introduced here without fanfare. Using the same model name—which is unfortunate due to its specialization—the new rifle was essentially a new-condition, factory-assembled, semiautomatic folding-stock variant that was built using new-condition parts pulled from vintage “numbers matching” (and apparently unfired) 1989–90-dated Romanian paratroop-specific military RPKS rifles.
Century’s ad copy on this limited-edition rifle told the tale of how these were recently discovered in a military warehouse someplace in Transylvania, as part of a deep storage in case of war with neighboring countries. This seemed like a tall tale to me at first, until I actually ordered one last year.
I had already owned the earlier AES-10 model, which was a nice rifle at a good price. However, the new folder was much better in many respects, at least in the opinion of this long-time collector. Even if you ignore the especially nice fit and finish of the newest offerings or the correct adjustable-type Romanian RPK bipod, the fact that the core elements were assembled in the original military factory in Romania and the trunnion retained intact Communist-era military markings were massive pluses.
You are essentially paying about $650 retail for a U.S.-legal rifle built at the original factory with a factory-made Mil-Spec semiauto receiver, using vintage, like-new, Cold War-era matching parts, i.e., a custom-built, ready-made rifle priced substantially lower than the average intact barrel parts kit with a well-used bore.
These rifles are finished in a Mil-Spec matte-textured dark-gray oxide coating, and they come either with or without a finish on their wood furnishings that can be either laminated or, more rarely, solid wood.
The built-in adjustable-leg bipod is a great accessory at the local range for bench/prone shooting or at any fixed firing position where a wall acts as a barricade. It does seem to adversely affect accuracy to a small extent. The rifle can be carried with the bipod extended, of course, or it can be folded out of the way when mobility or space is an issue.
The folding stock, which is of the first-pattern Romanian wire-type design, has a right-hand pivoting hinge and a push-button release. Some people will like its convenience for transit and storage, but others will find it less than comfortable when shooting. It can be easily removed and replaced with a fixed buttstock, if necessary. Also, a new shipment of fixed-stock models of AES-10Bs, now being supplied from popular vendors, e.g., J&G Sales, are becoming available with the same great features.
These rifles are also fitted with carry handles, which I find very convenient on a long, heavy rifle of this type. The location and angle of the handle seem well balanced and centered, even for the lighter folding-stock variants. The handle is well placed for off-hand shooting from the hip or folded out of the way while shooting from the prone position.
Many of you are no doubt wondering how this rifle might stack up to the average 16-inch barrel AK on the rifle range.
Well, it fires the same venerable and extremely popular M43 7.62x39mm cartridge as the AK-47 and feeds from the same standard-issue box (or drum) magazines. This cartridge guarantees plenty of hard-hitting, lethal midrange stopping power with acceptable accuracy out to at least 350 meters.
Considering that the round was designed from the ground up to perform at its best within the performance envelope of an assault rifle, it’s at the very least a compromise in effectively filling the role of a dedicated sniper cartridge. That means I didn’t expect any tackdriving at 400 meters.
In any case, as one of my old gun-enthusiast friends recently commented, “Seven inches of extra barrel and sight radius will only help.” I agreed, and after some range time myself, I can assure you that the heavy trunnion design and long, thick, 23-inch, factory-made, roll-forged barrel no doubt helped accuracy substantially. Even with the classic tangent iron sights (which feature a convenient windage-adjustable rear leaf assembly), I repeatedly shot about three MOA at 100 yards using Wolf-brand standard ball ammunition with a folding-stock AES-10B.
In fact, a quick survey of fellow owners resulted in some very respectable and honest range reports. Apparently, 100-yard groups printed from these heavy-barrel Kalashnikovs hover around two to three MOA, out of the box, using both irons and low-magnification glass. At longer ranges, one owner reported “most every shot of a 20-round Hungarian mag hit the 20-inch steel at 600 meters with irons. Sight leaf was set on six. It then became one of my favorite rifles.” Considering these positive reports from satisfied owners, I’d say that this has to be one of the best-shooting 7.62mm rifles available for under $700.
These are certainly far from being a scientific test or sniper-grade results, but they do give an approximation of how accurate these rifles are. The long barrel should also extend this type of accuracy farther downrange, compared with the standard-length 16-inch AK47/AKM types chambered in the same 7.62x39mm caliber.
In comparison, those shorter rifles (depending on the make and type, and shooter skills) typically deliver 100-yard groups in the four-to- six MOA range using traditional iron sights. Of course, there are exceptions.
Optics are a no-brainer today, and these rifles are equipped with a standard left-side receiver-mounted optics dovetail plate. The supplied dovetail will accept almost any Com Bloc-type mount, sight or scope. For this caliber, 1X red dot sights work great and fit the performance envelope of the round.
Using a Belarus PK-01VE 1X red dot I acquired through Oleg at Parallax Trading Co., I was able to obtain near-two-MOA accuracy with extremely fast target acquisition. Although my eyesight is far less than perfect, eye strain was a nonissue (aiming with both eyes open) when compared with squinting to align the irons. If you have a desire (and the real estate) to stretch out this rifle’s legs a bit, other types of magnified riflescopes can certainly be mounted.
In conclusion, I hope that some of what I’ve said here has piqued your interest in this long-barreled AK enough to persuade you to check one out.
To learn more about the AES10B, PSL and Century’s other models, please visit CenturyArms.com.
Century International Arms
Parallax Trading Co.
U.S.-made AK pistol grips