Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

NY Times attempting to gin up interest in ban on Russian rifles

Written By: Bob - Aug• 17•12

Izhevsk Machine Works Saiga rifle. Not your father’s AK-47.

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,

Kramer laments:

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.

Saiga, in popular .308 Winchester. Suitable for most big game.

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.

A Saiga rifle with scope looks and functions like any other rifle.

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.

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  1. Sean says:

    besides…I at least when I think Saiga…think the fully automatic shotgun

  2. Larry says:

    Besides, many other weapons manufacturers made military arms alongside of civilian versions so Saiga/Izhevsk is doing the same thing as Colt, Winchester, etc., not to mention the fact that various popular bolt-action (and for that matter, semi-auto) hunting rifles are based off of former military designs.
    I have a .223 Saiga that I have moved the trigger group and thrown the contents of a Magpul catalog at, it’s a fun gun but it isn’t nearly as accurate as my other Commie rifle…a 1943 Mosin which has actually been used in combat.
    Something the “Fudds” need to understand…to a gun grabber their deer rifles look an awful lot like sniper rifles, and their ultimate goal is to take them all regardless of what they admit to in public.

  3. Steven says:

    First off – that one weapon you mentioned : Templar Custom 6.5 Grendel – wow, wish I could afford that one. My next purchases will be either 2 High Point carbines in .45 ACP, or a AR-10 .308 type platform. I want both, but as we all know, guns are not cheap.

    Any advice on a good, INEXPENSIVE (have some pity on us regular Joes fellas, lol) .308 in semi, that I can “rail-up” and add extras onto piece-meal, would be greatly appreciated.

    I am a military guy, and must admit, in advance, of my ignorance on non-military weapons – and weapons outside of the U.S. military that I have not been trained on / handled. (Both Soviet/Russian types (little exp) and civillian ones (very little)

    So, that said, since this site is EXCELLENT for gun rights and knowledge, can some kind soul explain to me what the internal differences are between the AK-47 and Saiga?

    I own 2 AK-47s. I bought them because, besides my AR-15 which I can “work” when drowsy, in the dark, and in any other condition, that the weapon is dirt simple to understand and maintain, and because of it’s ruggedness.

    Oh, on a lighter note, and with pride, I have recently ‘updated’ my AK’s with the following add-ons:
    1) Strike Force AK Stock Kit
    2) AK47 Side Mount with Double Rails
    3) Military Law Enforcement Steel Inserted Leg Mil Spec Polymer Composite Grip+Bipod+side Rail
    4) Tapco Intrafuse AK Slot Muzzle Brake
    5) AK Valmet Galil Recoil Buffer
    6) BSA Optics 1 x 30mm Stealth Tactical Series Riflescope

    I’m basically trying to take a rugged reliable base platform and ‘upgrade’ it to optimize it for a CQB to mid-range (up to, say about 200-250m range) weapon.

    So – any input on my ‘upgrade’ is certainly welcome and if anyone can explain the differences between the AK and the Saiga would be welcome.

    BTW, I lurk her constantly, and love this site.

    – Steven

    • Larry says:

      Saiga is a brand name that Izhevsk uses for its civilian semi-automatic versions of the AK. The biggest visual difference is the trigger groups are moved back to use the installed Monte Carlo stock and the foregrip is different, having no upper. They have internal differences as well, of course, since they are semiautomatic only.
      The linked article is pretty good at explaining the differences.

  4. Heartless Libertarian says:

    Couple of nitpicks on vocabulary:

    First, ‘tolerances’ vs ‘clearances’: I’ve seen interviews with Mikhail Kalishnikov discussing the topic. Tolerances are the allowable dimensional +/- on the parts of the weapon. Clearances are space around moving parts. It is the latter (especially compared to the AR family’s ‘cylinder inside a tube’ bolt carrier) that help with the AK’s reliability.

    Second, while .223/5.56 ARs can be very accurate at 600m, their lethality at that range is questionable. Not that I’d want to get shot by one, but still.

  5. douglas says:

    Great article as usual- except- Glock is correctly identified as an Austrian company. The US division is based in Smyrna, Georgia, but Glock GmbH is based in Austria. See your own link.