ARAK-21 Multi-Caliber Rifle
Oleg Volk 05.03.15
7.62×39 rifles are generally known as reliable but not all that accurate. The reputation came primarily from the combination of AK47, Vz58, or SKS with iron sights and Combloc military surplus ball ammunition. 4-6MOA is typical for that kind of set-up and, in the original doctrine, entirely sufficient for creating beaten zones around enemy troops.
Out of curiosity, I started playing with 7.62×39 AR, bolt action, and other non-traditional designs. One of them is the ARAK21 multi-caliber rifle previously available only with 5.56mm and 300BLK (7.62x35mm) barrels. Once the 7.62×39 barrel became available, I wanted to try it out.
While 5.56mm and 300BLK use the same bolt, 7.62×39 required a new bolt individually headspaced to the barrel with attached gas regulator. The barrel is retained by the forend, which in turn is held with six hex head screws.
Swapping the barrel is a matter of about 30-40 seconds, and replacing the bolt takes about as long. Since I did not have any dedicated 7.62×39 magazines, I use a Unimag for my testing.
While a little excessive for field use, I mounted Lucid 4-16x scope, which conveniently featured close focus for the 25 yard indoor range.
The testing was much eased by the nearly non-existent recoil of the long-stroke ARAK21. I had a somewhat precarious perch on the narrow bench of the otherwise ideal, windless and air conditioned Nashville Armory range, but eventually made a rest for myself out of a couple of beanbags and a rifle case.
My early tests with other guns of this caliber were so disappointing that I wondered if ammunition was at fault. A competent friend handloaded a few soft points for me; the group just 3/4″ wasn’t particularly remarkable–that’s 3MOA.
G2 Trident, not yet available commercially in 7.62×39, was a bit better. I shot several groups all around 9/16″ or 2.25MOA.
Prvi Partisan soft point gave a tight 5/8″ or 2.5MOA. This ammunition consistently produced very tight clusters. For reference, it shot 2MOA in CZ527 bolt action.
Federal Fusion was the accuracy winner at 1/2″ or 2MOA. I shot several groups with each load, and the results were quite consistent. As the group above illustrates, the shooter was likely the ultimate limitation, and my samples are useful more for the relative ranking of the loads and less for finding the accuracy limits of the rifle itself. My guess is that a better rifleman with a more field-practical 1-6x or 2-7x scope would get similar results in nature.
Besides the decent accuracy and low recoil, the newest ARAK21 has ejection ports on both sides. Turning the bolt 180 degrees changes the direction of ejection. The process takes a few seconds, and so does changing the charging handle from left to right. Initially, I was concerned about the powder fumes from the off side, but it turns out none were emitted. So the rifle proved extremely comfortable in use and, within the limitations of the shooter, fairly accurate.