Twice in the past week, the New York Times has published articles on Izhevsk Machine Works rifles being sold in the United States under the Saiga brand name.
On Aug. 14, the Times published an article by Andrew E. Kramer entitled Importing Russia’s Top Gun, with the more descriptive URL, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/15/business/a-kalashnikov-factory-in-russia-survives-on-sales-to-us-gun-owners.html.
Despite the gun’s violent history — or perhaps because of it — American hunters and gun enthusiasts are snapping up tens of thousands of Kalashnikov rifles and shotguns. Demand is so brisk that the factory has shifted its focus from military to civilian manufacture over the last two years. United States sales of the civilian versions, sold under the brand name Saiga, rose by 50 percent last year, according to officials at the factory,known as Izhmash.
Over all, the United States is the world’s biggest market for civilian guns. That is partly because of comparatively lenient gun ownership laws, which have become a topic of renewed debate after a rampage last month in which a masked gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Although no Kalashnikovs were involved, police say one weapon used by the man charged with the shootings, James Eagen Holmes, was a popular semiautomatic pistol made by the Austrian company Glock.
I’d point out that Glock is based in Smyrna, Georgia, but that would only serve to show how poorly the author researched his article.
In an unsigned follow-on editorial posted Aug. 16, the Times editorial board posted That Hot New Rifle From Russia, which began with a howler:
In an eerie postscript to the cold war, American gun enthusiasts have been buying Kalashnikov rifles and shotguns by the tens of thousands, helping the Russian arms manufacturer stay afloat in a global market oversaturated with its AK-47s, long the weapon of choice among the world’s insurgents and armies. American sales of single-shot civilian versions of the Kalashnikov rose by 50 percent last year among buyers impressed with the automatic model’s lethal accuracy in the world’s trouble spots.
That the author mentioned “Kalashnikov” and “accuracy” in the same sentence tells you about as much as you need to know about the firearms ignorance of the Times editorial board. Calling the rifle a “single-shot” just adds to the stupidity. AK-pattern military rifles are known for their stellar reliability in the harshest conditions, but that reliability comes from having very loose tolerances that keeps the weapon running even when it is incredibly dirty. Those same loose tolerances compromise accuracy, and the AK has typically been considered a 300-yard gun at the very best, while the AR-15/M-16 fielded by the United States is viewed to be lethal to twice that range with standard 5.56 ammunition. Variants of the AR-15 platform, such as my Templar Custom 6.5 Grendel, are accurate out to 1,200+ yards in the hands of a capable shooter.
Dishonestly, both the article and the editorial refuse to note that the AK-47 military rifle and the Saiga hunting rifles are substantially different designs, using different magazines, fire control groups, and other parts. Gunsmiths or hobbyists can change the stock of the Saiga or convert the 7.62×39 version to use standard AK magazines to look like the AK-47, but the conversion neither offers an increase in lethality, accuracy, range, or rate of fire from the factory rifle.
The purpose of the article and editorial seem to be on denying American shooters a firearm merely because it was made in the same factory as more famous military arms.