Last Friday night I ran across an Arsenal SAM-5 AK in 5.56mm at Surplus City in Feasterville, PA. Having been on the lookout I snagged it in lieu of the Colt 6520 I was this close to buying. Today I got the chance to shoot it at Wicen's Range in Furlong, PA.
According to the datestamp in the manualy, my SAM-5 was made in July 2005. The manual states that it should have the Warsaw Pact length butt, while Arsenal's website says it should have the NATO butt. My rifle has the longer, NATO butt, which I am going to replace. Fit and finish are excellent, while the trigger is outstanding. It's got a little bit of creep but it is light. The muzzle is threaded and fitted with a removable fish gill muzzlebrake. I may replace this with a flash suppressor.
Before leaving the house this morning I field stripped the rifle, lubricated it, and ran a patch through the bore to remove any excess oil.
The SAM-5 came with a single Bulgarian 30 round black polymer waffle magazine. I ordered a half dozen clear Bulgarian 20s from K-Var so hopefully they'll arrive soon.
I ran 100 rounds of Wolf Gold M-193 Ball (made by Prvi Partizan) through the SAM-5. Early on in the first magazine, twice the trigger failed to reset until I tapped it with my finger. My SLR-101SG did the same thing and has been flawless for several hundred rounds since then, so I figure that there must've been a burr than needed to be smoothed out.
Aside from the two aforementioned trigger reset failures the rifle performed perfectly. Accuracy at 100 yards was so-so: I could keep all my shots inside the black of a 100 yard smallbore target. That's about as good as I can do with open sights on a gun with such a short sight radius.
Arsenal states in the manual that their rifles are laser boresighted at 100M. If so, somebody putzed with the sights afterwards, because while windage was very close, elevation was about 10" high at 100 yards. One and a half turns to raise the front post fixed that.
The Wolf Gold ammo is pretty clean. Very little fouling made its way back into the action and the bore didn't require much cleaning. I plan to buy more of this ammo.
When I tried to remove the gas tube I needed a hammer and brass punch to move the retention lever. I discovered why when I tried to put the gas tube back on. The surface on the top of the gas tube where it's cammed into place by the retainer needed to be beveled more. A minute with my Dremel and a grinding stone fixed that, but I have to wonder how the factory got the gas tube on withouth marring the finish, something I was not able to do. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that my rifle came from the factory this way, given Arsenal's reputation and my previous experience with my SLR-101SG.
Overall, the SAM-5 is a very nice rifle. I had a couple of minor malfunctions very early on but that issue seems to have been related to break-in. The gas tube problem was annoying but easily fixed. Once I receive the shorter butt stock and extra magazines, this may become my go-to rifle.