Arsenal SGL20 7.62x39mm

The Kalashnikov, easily one of the most prolific and influential…

The Kalashnikov, easily one of the most prolific and influential firearm designs of all time, has a bit of a tortured history on these shores. Due to the nature of its origin and the realities of the Cold War-era of the 20th century, opportunities for owning a semi-automatic Soviet-bloc variant of this firearm could be few and far between.

arsenal2With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, many doors were opened to the West in regards to the importation of firearms from these nations. As a result, offerings from countries like Romania and Bulgaria were suddenly available, giving US consumers a chance to own Eastern European Kalashnikov variants. However, due to legal wrangling and the side effects of post-Cold War trade agreements, true Russian Kalashnikov variants in original military-style configurations were practically unavailable in this country.

However, Arsenal Inc., a company known for its line of extremely high quality Bulgarian-based Kalashnikov variants, is now offering a rifle that seeks to remedy this situation. It is accomplishing this by offering a production model semi-automatic variant of a true Russian Kalshnikov, available right here in the United States. The rifle is the SGL20, and it is the result of a joint effort between Arsenal Inc. and Legion Ltd., the custom shop of the Izhmash Arms Factory in Russia.

For Soviet firearm enthusiasts, Izhmash is a revered name with its legendary factory logo, the upward pointing arrow, found on a host of Russian arms throughout the nation’s storied history. The Izhmash Arms Factory, located in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurt Republic, has the honor of being the largest firearms producer in Russia, dating back to its founding in 1807 by the express order of Tsar Alexander I. Tied intimately to the martial history of the Russian nation, the Izhmash plant produced more than 10 million carbines and rifles during World War II, and has been involved since the end of that war with the production of the AK-47 and its variants. To say that Izhmash knows the ins and outs of Kalashnikov production would be a gross understatement.

Taking the extremely high-quality of the Izhmash products to the next level is the factory’s custom shop, Legion Ltd., Arsenal Inc.’s partner on the SGL20 project. Legion Ltd. has its own production line where it manufactures high-end variants of the factory’s standard production guns, utilizing hand-selected components and employing detailed attention to fit and finish.
So how did a custom shop of a renowned Russian arsenal get involved with a Las Vegas-based Kalashnikov manufacturer? “We pride ourselves as being a manufacturer of the highest quality products,” says Harry Pakhanyan of Arsenal Inc. “This partnership between Arsenal Inc. and Legion Ltd. is the result of mutual goals and shared visions.”

Pakhanyan explained that although Legion Ltd. had a strong presence in the European and Russian markets, they had not managed to gain a foothold in the US market. At the same time, Arsenal Inc. was looking to offer consumers a true Russian Kalashnikov in an original military-pattern configuration. Recognizing their shared interests, the project ultimately resulted in the SGL20.

Known as a Saiga, the Legion Ltd. rifle imported into this country is manufactured in what has known as a “sporting configuration,” the trigger and trigger mechanism moved back to the rear of the receiver and the vertical pistol grip removed. In the place of it is a conventional-style curved pistol grip stock at the rear of the receiver. In addition, the Saiga’s magazine well cannot accept double-stack, high-capacity magazine, and the forend system is redesigned.

To legally reconfigure these Saiga rifles into an original-pattern Kalashnikov, it is required that a prescribed number of parts in the rifle be manufactured here in the United States. However, due to the extensive modifications required in making the Saigas legally importable, reconfiguring them into an original pattern is a little more involved than simply swapping out a few parts. In addition to the US-manufactured pieces, the magazine wells of the rifles must be cut open to accept high-capacity magazines and the triggerguard and trigger mechanism must be moved forward to accommodate the original-style pistol grip.

To make such extensive changes, Legion Ltd. wanted a company with the knowledge, skill set and background to properly do this work. “They were looking for a company that would maintain their renowned level of quality. We were looking for a high-quality product that would serve as a platform for our project,” Pakhanyan explains. He pointed out that Legion Ltd. was happy to learn that Arsenal Inc. had the proper tooling and quality control required to work on their rifles. According to Pakhanyan, the partnership was easily formed.

Gun Details
arsenalsgl20Further enhancing authenticity, the SGL20 sports proper dimples above the mag well and correctly positioned notches for the large safety lever.

So what is it about the SGL20, whose moniker uniquely identifies the rifle as a high-end Saiga from Legion Ltd. and indicates it is the company’s second offering of this sort (it offered an SGL10 in 2008) that is so special? Offering an original-style Kalashnikov built on a true Russian rifle, Arsenal Inc. and Legion Ltd. have added a unique product to the realm of standard-production Kalashnikov rifles on the US market.

Its overall appearance and general configuration, the SGL20 is quite similar to the 7.62x39mm AK-103 rifle, part of the line of AK-100 rifles developed by Izhmash in the early 1990s for export. The entire series ranged in chamberings from 5.45x39mm to 5.56x45mm to the traditional 7.62x39mm.

The AK-100 series featured all the modern upgrades and tweaks developed in the Kalashnikov over its many decades of existence. This is why, despite its traditional 7.62x39mm chambering, the AK-103 featured ultra-modern AK-74-style features such as a grooved buttstock and large muzzle brake. The only prominent difference between the SGL20 and AK-103 (apart from the semi-automatic operation of the former) is the fact that the SGL20 does not feature the AK-103’s side-folding, full-profile buttstock.

However, it is more than simply the overall look and configuration of the SGL20 that makes it so appealing to Kalashnikov enthusiasts. Sure to enliven purists, the SGL20’s stamped steel receiver sports the renowned Izhmash upward-pointing arrow logo and minimal commercial markings. In addition, the receiver also has the proper dimples above the opening of the magazine well and the correct “X” and “Y” shaped reinforcement stampings for the trigger and hammer pins. Further enhancing its authenticity, the SGL20’s receiver has correctly positioned notches for the safety lever. Inside the receiver, the SGL20 sports a correct bullet guide for a double-stack magazine.

Arsenal, in addition to its extensive modifications regarding the placement of the triggerguard and widening the magazine well, adds several of its own high-quality parts to the rifle to bring it into compliance with US law. These include the polymer stock set, the fire control group and the one-piece-design muzzle brake. To mount the AK-74-style muzzle brake, the SGL20 features an AK-74-pattern front sight block with 24×1.5mm right-hand threads and forward-positioned bayonet lug to account for the brake.

Further characteristics of the SGL20 include a 90-degree gas block with proper vent holes, incorporated into latter-era Kalashnikovs to help prevent bullet shearing, and a metal AK-74-style ribbed buttplate. A 1,000-meter rear sight unit and optic mounting rail on the left side of the receiver rounds out the package. The rifle is supplied with a 30-round ribbed polymer magazine.

Con’t. on page two.

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  • chad

    ak 47 /arsonel sgl 21-84 is perfect close combat seek n destroy machine for any guy that cant buy a full auto. sweet sweet piece .im planning on going to some competitions in the not to far future and ill definately get some customers.thans for noticeing. chad

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  • parish

    Greetings i have an SGL 21-71 and love it a well made semi automatic rifle without the b/s from the ar system that seems to always fail for some reason…. this rifle i can bet my life!!)

  • Dennis Math

    I am an FFL holder and have purchased for customers as well as myself several variants of the AK over the years. Though there is no beating the top notch (currently designated) SAM7 with its milled reciever, I can honestly find no disadvantage in owning the current crop of stamped reciever Saiga reconfigurations. They are VERY accurate. If you want to make an improvement I would recommed the installation of a trigger plate available from several suppliers to replace the “Shepards Crook” but most especially, invest in a trigger assembly made by Red Star. It is fully adjustable and can be set to operate in either single or double stage operation. On my latest “keeper” Ak, an SGL 21-71 (NATO length stock) I installed both the trigger plate and the Red Star trigger and found I owned the finest AK I have ever fired from an accuracy standpoint. I would in fact put my AK up against most AR type rifles on any 100-200 yard range…and I dont have to deal with the incredibly overcomplicated design flaws of the AR type rifle. I now own an AK with a trigger that breaks right at 3lbs with NO creep….it breaks like a tiny glass rod. If you are younger than I and can still use open sights effectively, I would also suggest upgrading to one of the fully adjustable rear sights that utilize fiber optics (of course replace the front sight with a fiber optic sight). I use a Redfield 3X9X40 scope on the KVAR side rail mount and have replaced the foreend with an aftermarket aluminum foreend that features four sets of rails. Mine currently carries a streamlight TLR1, a fully adjustable laser sight that fits neatly in front of a multi postionable fore end grip. Up top sits an Eotech with side positioned buttons so that I can use a magnifyer with the Eotech (no need to pay the big bucks that Eotech demands for their magnifyer, there are other excellent makers that offer optics for use with the Eotech for a fraction of the extravagant cost of the Eotech….the Eotech sight itself…well, you cannot cut corners there. It is really sweet having a rapid acquisition whose red dot is a mere 1moa….I have little use for those 4-8moa sights some use..I want to hit exactly what I aim at not within 4-8 inches from it.
    A chamberable laser bullet like device makes zeroing everything extremely easy.
    I highly recommend even the stock version of this series of rifles. My next “keeper” will be the Saiga 12 gauge shotgun… accessories promise to provide me with a great deal of fun and more than enough protection from just about anything that breathes.
    These are the finest AK variants currently being made, flat out.

  • just took my recently purchased SGL21-61 out to the range for a test firing. what a GREAT SHOOTING WEAPON! i have 2 wasr ak’s which i love to shoot but the SGL 21 is on a whole different level.accuracy at 100 meters is outstanding! it breaks down and cleans very easily. a QUALITY rifle.

  • ak fiend


  • I was thrilled with the last Gunners match the other day, i hope we can get the points up and win the premier league, Come on you gooners!

  • I own 2 one sgl 20 and one 107
    bought are outstanding rifles very accurate.

  • Dennis Math

    I’ve owned a couple of these rifles and have fired well over 10,000 rounds with NO failure to fire using Wolf and Brown and Silver Bear ammo. Considering some of the ammo, that really says a LOT about the rifle. Scoped you can really wring suprising accuracy out of these rifles. I even put an EoTech on one and it made for an accurate and fast to acquire the target rifle. Superb workmanship and one hell of a great rifle. I just put a Tapco folder on one and its nice. The available regular looking folder that is available looks a lot better than the Tapco though and that might be my next purchase. GREAT RIFLES!!