It’s no secret that I’m a diehard Kalashnikov fan. I love the features that make the platform legendary: reliability and durability. On the other hand, I don’t love the ergonomics, inherent imprecision, bad trigger or miniscule iron sights. Overcoming the sights is easy enough with a good rail and solid optics, but the other faults of the platform aren’t easily fixed, right?
While AK fans have known of the quality of Bulgaria’s Arsenal rifles for years, new shooters might not be so informed. The majority of Bulgaria’s AK rifles look like their ex-soviet counterparts, however, where the Russians settled on slight variations of their stamped receiver rifles for special operations, the Bulgarian military took a more archaic route.
The SAM7SF-84 is an amalgamation of old and new rifle designs. It uses the classic gas-piston operation of the AKM series of rifles, retains the older milled method of receiver construction and adds modern fire controls and a folding stock that won’t interfere with mounting optics made of steel tubing. It’s the platypus of rifle designs. Like the odd-looking platypus, the SAM7SF can seem out of place amongst its peers, but in practice, exceeds them.
The SAM7SF overcomes many of the design limitations of the AK platform. A milled receiver offers great barrel stability over stamped receivers, causing the SAM7SF to be more accurate than any standard AK rifle. Furthermore, thanks to the CNC milled/forged construction of the SAM7SF, the parts fit together better than ever before and the action is smooth out of the box. The bolt effortlessly slides in the receiver’s rails, unlike standard AKM rifles that need thousands of rounds to feel polished. This slick action translates to a glass-rod trigger. Yes, you heard me correctly, a glass-rod trigger on an AK rifle.
The overbuilt receiver also means the magazine well won’t wear for decades and eliminates mag wobble, symptomatic of lower quality kit-built AK rifles. Since AK magazine changes are never as fast or smooth as an AR or M-16, it’s a tremendous boon to have it alleviated in anyway possible.
The accuracy of the SAM7SF is spectacular for an AK rifle and on par with most modern sporting rifles in the same price range. Accuracy testing was done with three different ammunition loads: 128gr FMJ TulAmmo, 124gr FMJ Wolf WPA and 123 gr FMJ Red Army Standard ammunition. All three loads were 100 percent reliable across five different magazine types used. The WPA and TulAmmo grouped similarly, while the Red Army Standard shot tighter, though slightly higher, groups.
When comparing the SAM7SF to traditional AK rifles, the location of the safety lever cannot be stressed enough. Standard AK safeties require the user to either possess orangutan thumbs or remove the shooting hand from the pistol grip to actuate. What some people might consider a nuisance for plinking or detrimental for competition, could be the difference between life and death in a defensive scenario. Thankfully, the SAM7SF’s safety lever reciprocates to the pistol grip, where it can be toggled easily with the thumb of the shooting hand. This slight improvement does wonders for the AK platform’s ergonomics and makes this writer wish for them on all his AK rifles.
Sadly, the SAM7SF is limited in terms of customizability. Neither the buttstock nor the pistol grip can be replaced with aftermarket parts – none exist that fit. Nevertheless, the standard side rail allows for either Russian scopes or a scope rail to be attached and the SAM7SF utilizes 24×1.5mm threaded muzzle devices, found on all 100 series AK rifles.
Unlike the 100 series of Kalashnikov rifles, the SAM7SF’s stock folds away from the side rail and is made of durable, heavy gauge steel. While certainly not as light as polymer furniture, the steel buttstock balances out the extra heavy, milled receiver.
Milled AK rifles are known in the collector’s world as the cadillac of AKs for their high build quality and the SAM7SF is no exception. From the internal machining and the precision of the milled receiver to the finish and reliability, the SAM7SF exudes quality. With an MSRP of $1,650 the SAM7SF-84 is at the top of the AK spectrum in terms of price, but also represents the pinnacle of AK perfection.
Shooters seeking to purchase their first AK might want to look elsewhere, unless they will be content with owning one AK — no other AK will feel as consummate. If you’re an AK fan but have always held some secret jealousy and contempt for AR owners and their ergonomic rifles, buy the SAM7SF-84. Life is too short to shoot substandard guns.