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Part I: Initial overall impressions

First of all, I'd like to say that I own several Arsenal SA M7 variants, including the SA M7, SA M7 Carbine, and SA M7S, so I have other Arsenal rifles to compare this to. Secondly, since Arsenal's announcement that they are going to concentrate on manufacturing stamped receivers much more than milled ones, all I wanted was a "shooter". I have decided, for the most part, to leave my mint condition SA M7's in like-new condition since it may become very difficult to find a factory made AK with a milled receiver in the future. That is the only reason I purchased an SLR101. Because it is converted from a single-stack to a double-stack rifle, I consider the SLR101 to be a "B" List rifle: not as nice as an "A" List rifle like an SA M7. I'm therefore not worried about it getting "beat up", as the rifles I use in competitive matches inevitably end up looking like battlefield pick-ups.

I drove to the nearest stocking Arsenal dealer 50 miles away. They had two SLR101's: a black one and a green one. The black one obviously had a single-hook trigger, and something that disgusted me: the gas tube latch was so obviously out of alignment that it would not lock down in the detent on the rear sight base, in fact, the little "stud" on the gas tube latch was not even touching the rear sight base. Could this have happened after the rifle left the factory? Yes, but it reminded me of the things that used to disgust me about Romanian SAR's, so I passed on it. I bought the green one instead.

The green furniture had a little bit of a flaw in the "texture" of the green stock, giving it a "brushed" appearance in spots. I also noticed that the pigment in the green pistol grip did not completely "fill" the upper grip area, leaving a flesh-colored portion at the top of the grip that looked "unfinished." This area was only about a centimeter or so. As I wanted this rifle for a "shooter", I didn't let this bother me. The fact that my dealer only had one green one left me little choice.

The green one has a double hook trigger. The fire control group appears to be the new type as promoted by Arsenal/K-VAR, with the exception of the trigger, which is the "humpback" type and is probably Bulgarian. The hammer is marked "US"; the disconnector is unmarked as far as I can tell, but it and the hammer have an identical finish. The trigger's finish is somewhat different. Even under a good light it is difficult to tell if it is blued or painted in a very deep black.

Other US-made parts are the pistol grip, handguards, and buttstock. I will tell you right now that most photos you see on the internet do not do justice to the color of the OD green stock; most cameras use a flash indoors, and this gives the impression that the stock is a lighter shade of green than it really is. The color of the stock is a dark OD green, a shade or two darker than the standard olive green canvas sling included with most Bulgarian rifles (it is NOT the bluish green of some Eastern European slings). It is approximately the color of any US LBE web gear from the Vietnam era.

The receiver cover and gas tube are a little more loosely fitted than on an SA M7. I didn't notice it until I got home, but one of the flutes on my gas tube actually has a small dent in it. (I have other gas tubes, so if it doesn't work I'll just use one of them). The detent for the gas tube latch is a little shallower than on most SA M7's I've seen, but it holds the latch in place.

Not surprisingly, the rifle reminds one of an SLR95 with a pistol grip stock added. The cleaning rod will NOT mount under the barrel like it will on the SA M7's, and, also unlike the SA M7's, the serial number is etched into the receiver cover and these etched digits are left "in the white." I'll probably paint over the numbers to prevent rust. The overall finish of the rifle is as good as any standard SLR95, with the exception of how quickly this finish wears off the magazine well.

There has been some controversy over the hardness of the mag well. Since the rifles are converted from single-stack to double-stack mag capability, there has been some question as to the wearability of this part of the receiver. I am assuming that the "soft" portion of the receiver will be a narrow "ring" where the receiver was re-machined to take double-stack mags, and that this narrow "ring" will wear more quickly than the rest of the mag well. To test this, I simulated about 50 mag insertions and noted any changes.

The paint in the mag well chips very quickly, leaving shiny metal. In 50 mag insertions, however, I did NOT notice any excess wear beginning. I also note that of the threads I've read on various boards concerning the SLR101's, that I've never read one complaining of "mushy" metal in the mag well, so it's probably not going to show up. I will keep this in mind, and submit another thread later if I notice the mag well wearing inordinately fast.

The mag well is not particularly tight, as some people have noted on their SLR101's. My mag well is actually fairly loose with surplus East German Steel mags. The shorty polymer mag included with the rifle fits like a glove.

There is another curious thing: The bolt is of the "skinny" type just like the Russian Saiga, and is not of the larger diameter of a standard AK, and the SA M7's. I do not know the reason for the smaller diameter of the bolt: it appears that a standard extractor and firing pin are fitted to the bolt. The bolt carrier, of course, has a smaller diameter groove for the bolt. Other than that it is a standard bolt carrier. It might seem like the "skinny" bolt has something to do with a single stack rifle, but this is just speculation. I've not heard of any malfunctions of "double stack" rifles with "skinny" bolts. I also checked the chamber area: a wider double-stack bullet guide appears to have been fitted. The firing pin is free-floated.

Looking at the scope rail, the two end rivets are machined over so that they're almost invisible on the outside of the receiver. Why this was done is not known. This "machining over" was not done on any SA M7S I've ever seen. Inside the receiver, the rivet head that protrudes into the mag well is appropriately filed down (otherwise it makes the mag well tight and mag insertion difficult). All three rivet heads look mostly completely "squashed" into position, with the exception of the rear rivet, which looks "squashed" down on only one side. When a rivet is installed it both swells in the hole and is "crushed" into the flat surface of the receiver. The inside of this receiver was "stepped" a little in the machining process, so the rear rivet did not have as much surface to be "squashed" into. Not being an expert on rivets and rivet installation, I don't know if this rear rivet is one to watch for looseness, or if it's just cosmetic.

Overall impression: I can detect some of the rougher Combloc manufacturing in this rifle. The finish is a rough matte black as opposed to a velvety sheen on the SA M7's. This is no problem; I prefer function and reliability to looks, but I thought I'd make note of it. The SLR101S is not quite as nice as the SA M7, or more accurately, the SA M7S, which it more accurately compares to. It just doesn't have the finish, the tightness, or the overall impression of quality as an SA M7. I'm not saying it's bad, just that the SA M7 is nicer. It should be: it's usually $100-200 higher than the SLR101S.

My price: Retail $688.00 plus tax. The SA M7S I purchased in December 2003 was over $750.00. This stocking dealer currently did not have any SA M7S's, but I suspect would be charging closer to $800.00 for one at this point in time.

Is it worth it? First impressions say yes; I won't know for sure until I've run some ammo through it to make sure it functions as well as any other AK. It seems worth a look as it's $100 or so less than the comparable SA M7S. Personally, I think this rifle would be priced about right at $550.00, but we live in a world where the milled receiver is fading fast from Arsenal's inventory, so we're kind of stuck. I'm just glad I FINALLY got a green one.

I haven't shot this rifle yet. As I'm on vacation the next two weeks, stay tuned for a range report.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Part II: Range report

My range report will be short and sweet.

I don't shoot paper targets for group; I just shoot at aluminum cans and other similar-sized targets at 100 yards. I put around 150 rounds through the rifle. I never noticed any more wear on the mag well opening.

In a nutshell:

The rifle was perfectly reliable.
I hit everything I aimed at.
I didn't have to touch the sights.
Surprisingly, my PK-01 red dot sight that I sighted in on my SA M7S was perfectly sighted in for this rifle also.

My final evaluation: The SA M7's ARE nicer, but my only real complaint about the SLR101 is that the paint chips easily, moreso than an SA M7.

If you can find an SA M7, get it. The fit and finish will be better, and they are made from the get-go as double-stack rifles. If you can only find an SLR101, don't be afraid to buy it either. They are somewhat of a "bastard" child since they are converted from single-stack to double stack rifles, but if that doesn't bother you, then the SLR101 shoots just as well as an SA M7.

With Arsenal drastically cutting back on production of the milled receiver, the day will come when a person new to either the SA M7 or the SLR101 will probably have to choose what's available. I say both rifles will perform flawlessly, and there should be no reason to shun the SLR101. The SA M7's are nicer, though, and worth the $100 or so extra to get one.
 

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sounds like you had a good day at the range. nouthing like test running a new toy :)
 

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Zoid-- that is a great write up.

And don't you just love it when you get your hands on a new rifle and everything works right and it puts little holes where you are aiming.! !

:notworthy
 

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I love my SLR101 too!

I can't figure out why this one has the skinny bolt and all the SA M7's have the bolt that everyone knows for the AK. :confused:
 

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How much are excellent condition SLR-95's worth these days? I picked one up at a gunshow this weekend for $500. My first milled receiver AK and it is nice.
 
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