Arsenal’s SGL31 5.45x39mm

The Kalashnikov has been, from its beginnings in the late…

The Kalashnikov has been, from its beginnings in the late 1940s on to its use in today’s post-Cold War Russian Federation, something of an evolutionary revolutionary. Although the basic premise of the AK-47 was radically advanced in its day—namely being an intermediate cartridge-based “assault rifle” developed from the hard-earned knowledge gained in the urban combat of World War II—the design has been updated over the decades to keep it as cutting-edge as possible.
While the AK-47’s design approach may have been revolutionary, its production methods have always been somewhat dated. Originally designed to feature a stamped-steel receiver, early AKs actually employed milled steel receivers because of complications that arose with those first stamped versions. In addition, the rifles employed wooden stock sets.
Despite its somewhat traditional construction the AK was far advanced compared to many of its contemporaries. With its 7.62x39mm cartridge and detachable 30-round magazine, the AK offered the rate of fire of a sub-machine gun combined with the power of a rifle.

Nonetheless, by the late 1950s the Soviets recognized that the basic AK platform could use some modernization. The resulting adaptation, known as the AKM (with the M standing for modernized or modernizirovany), employed a newly designed stamped-steel receiver that reduced both weight and production costs, and a laminated stock set that was stronger and more resistant to harsh environments than traditional wood. Other changes included a ribbed top cover that was thinner and lighter and a slant muzzle brake.

A New Standard
Although the new AKM brought the Kalashnikov design forward in both its composition and construction, and it still compared quite favorably against the arms of the day, the West was about to raise the stakes with a radically new military rifle—the M16.

Adopted by the US military in the early 1960s, the M16 set new standards in construction, operation and ballistic capabilities. Whereas the Soviets had wholeheartedly embraced the intermediate cartridge concept with its 7.62x39mm immediately following WWII, the West and NATO (at the urging of the United States) initially stayed with a more traditional-style rifle cartridge in its 7.62x51mm (.308).

However, with the adoption of the M16, the West moved in a radically new cartridge design direction with the 5.56x45mm (.223). Propelling a roughly 50- to 60-grain projectile at around 3,200 fps (feet per second), the light-recoiling 5.56x45mm cartridge represented the next step in intermediate cartridge design—and arguably a step beyond the Soviet 7.62x39mm.

The upper echelons of the Soviet Defense Industry looked very closely at the new 5.56x45mm cartridge and determined that the standardized Soviet 7.62x39mm cartridge deserved a second look, as well as the AK platform itself. The result, introduced in 1974, was the AK-74, an adaptation of the AKM chambered for the new 5.45x39mm cartridge.

The 5.45x39mm stacked up favorably against the West’s 5.56x45mm, propelling a lightweight 50- to 60-grain bullet at around 3,100 fps. In addition, it featured a similar overall length to the 7.62x39mm, meaning that the basic AKM platform could be modified to fire it.

The new AK-74 rifle that resulted was a relatively understated adaptation of the AKM. Featuring a laminated stock set and a stamped steel receiver, the 74 had a longitudinal cut in the sides of the buttstock, composite magazines with a restrained orange hue and a highly effective muzzle device.
Although the AK-74 was a highly capable arm and a logical next step in the evolution of the AK-pattern rifle, its construction and manufacture was still dated when compared against the new M16 with its use of advanced alloys and composites.

In the late 1980s, combat experiences gained in Afghanistan resulted in the Izhmash Arms Factory, a Soviet armory that produced Kalashnikovs, taking another look at the AK-74 platform. The goal was to create a modernized version that updated the materials, construction and configuration of the rifle.

First and foremost, it was decided that the stock sets of the 74 should be made from modern synthetics that would hold up better and be lighter than the laminated wood previously used. In addition, the composite magazines of the 74, which had a dull orange hue, had proven to reflect both sunlight and moonlight. As a result, new magazines were produced from black plastic. To facilitate the use of optics and night vision equipment, a universal mounting rail was developed that was affixed to the left side of the receiver.

The series of rifles that resulted represented a notable evolutionary step up from the basic AK-74, ultimately embodied by the new AK-74N variant that featured cutting-edge design and materials.

Load Comments
  • Ron

    I have had an Arsenal SGL-31 5.45×39 for about 4 months and put about 600 rounds through it. The front sight is a little canted and some of the shine has come off part of the dust cover. The gun is sighted in and is very accurate. Love the gun and would recomend it to anyone that wants an AK-74.

  • Comrade Ryanchenko

    Have had one of these for a month or so now and shot over 1000rds of Wolf and Silver Bear out of it. Very very satisfied. No jams or malfunctions. We can hit metal plates 6″X8″ at 200 and 300yds quite consistently. Trigger gets some time to get use to but once you manage it, it’s a ball. Has a long first state, strong and solid second stage. Overall it’s an A+.
    Have had over 14 AK-74 and 20 AK-47 rifles over the years.

  • Anacondavet

    A little research on your part would tell you that the N designation was dropped some time ago. All ak 74 series rifles come with the side rail mount now

  • Bueford Horndyke

    Chill Mark W. If you’re such an expert, why don’t you write an article?

  • mark wilson

    The model of AK74 this article refers to is the AK74″M” NOT the “N” ….The N model was a standard 74 with the optic mounting rail, intended for night vision, the AK74 M is the AK74 Modernized, thus the “M” designation…more research would lend to a more accurate and interesting article….