When sanctions hit Russia and word got out that Russian AKMs would no longer be filtering into the United States, I went in search of a nice Saiga. I was able to locate an older 100 Series Russian Saiga in 7.62×39 for a reasonable price given the circumstances. But after seeing Definite Arms’ custom-grade DAKM-4150, I knew the next step. I packed up my new Saiga and shipped it directly to Definitive Arms for a similar customization package. I procured some of the conversion parts needed and shipped them separately. Then I sat back and waited for my newly converted Saiga to be finished.
Definitive Arms Saiga 7.62×39
The timing couldn’t have been better, as the owner of Definitive Arms called and asked if I’d like to upgrade to the company’s brand-new adjustable front sight/gas block combo. He was about to publicly release them, so I jumped at the chance and was the first customer to be running this new setup.
If you don’t know, Definitive Arms is one of the most recognizable names in the AK marketplace. It’s owned and operated by Chase Sisgold, a truly down-to-earth guy who puts his passion of metallurgy and fabrication into every rifle that leaves his shop. In addition to building AKs, DA also fabricates some pretty innovative firearm accessories as well.
Definitive Upgrades for My Saiga 7.62×39
Enter the first ever adjustable gas block/front sight assembly combo for the AK. It’s literally as simple as pushing in a detent and rotating the dial for your desired gas setting. This adjustable gas block assembly enables the user to run a sound suppressor more reliably. Plus, this combo shifts some of the front-end weight closer to the shooter, which is always a bonus. For reference, I was able to dial down to the 6th setting, and the gun was light on recoil while ejecting casings a couple feet away. Then I dialed the gas block up to the highest “D” setting, or what Chase called the “Battle Setting,” where the gun’s still able to run reliably while utterly filthy. That setting had the Saiga running like a beast and ejecting spent shell casings approximately 12 to 15 feet away.
Rather than keep with Russian tradition and 24×1.5 right-hand muzzle threading, I instead opted for 14×1 left-hand muzzle threading. This would allow me to install a wider variety of muzzle brakes and flash suppressors, not to mention parts with the standard AKM. Definitive Arms also made a custom sleeve on a lathe; it covers up the factory dimples from the previous factory front sight installation. Additionally, the company made a custom piece allowing a detent installation for 14×1 muzzle accessories. That was in addition to the whole host of other custom work Definitive Arms puts into every AK that passes through its doors.
I don’t like a lot of whizzbang gadgets hanging off my rifles. I still live by the old adage “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.” Plus, the more crap you hang off of your rifle, chances are good that it’ll snag on gear and things around you in close quarters. So, I carefully considered this build’s components. The Troy railed gas tube was an easy choice; it allows for more mounting options should I decide to change things down the road. While perusing the AK Operators Union (AKOU) store, I saw the TDI Arms AKML aluminum lower handguard. I remember Rob Ski speaking very highly of it, so I placed an order for it as well as an RS Regulate optics mount for this project.
Almost every AK I’ve built has received a Krebs Custom rear peep sight and ambidextrous safety as well as an XS Sight Systems tritium front sight insert. My Saiga got the same treatment. This combo has worked great in the past for me, so why change?
A Definitive Arms AKM4 Stock Adapter replaced the factory stock, allowing installation of a collapsible stock. Being able to adjust the length of pull is crucial for those who have to sometimes wear body armor. For the actual stock, I wanted something light, solid and adjustable. The Battlelink Minimalist from Mission First Tactical (MFT) got the nod.
When it comes to triggers, I like to use U.S.-made components to help count towards that pesky 922r compliance garbage. There are some great options out there, but I personally favor the AK Trigger from ALG Defense. You can tune it yourself for a more “combat rifle” feel or a lighter, precision-centric pull. According to my Wheeler trigger pull gauge, the ALG trigger on my build weighs in at 4.5 pounds. Each weapon I’ve carried in service to God, country and community has not had a trigger weighing less than 4 pounds. There are very good reasons for this, so I keep my dedicated defensive weapons between 4 and 4.5 pounds as well. Any creep was hardly noticeable—it’s just a short, smooth pull and an icicle-like break at the end. The reset is also very nice. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with the Geissele family of triggers.
Finally, Copper Custom Armament applied a custom Cerakote finish in house. Since it needed a new finish after the conversion, I spoke with David from Copper Custom and let him run wild with it. What you see is a custom pattern exclusively from Copper Custom Armament. Those folks really outdid themselves, and now the Saiga really blends into the high-desert environment I live in.
Two more upgrades were in order for my custom Saiga. When Crimson Trace introduced its LiNQ laser and light system to the world, I knew that I had to have it. Available for ARs as the LNQ-100G and AKs as the LNQ103G, this system essentially consists of a pistol grip that wirelessly controls a small rail-mounted light/laser module. You read that correctly. The signal actually transmits wirelessly, like Bluetooth, to activate the green laser or 300-lumen white light. You can also control the module directly via a button built into its backside.
It’s actually a really cool setup and retails for $430. But a quick Internet search netted me prices as low as $349 from various distributors. The LiNQ system works just as intended. Given my previous life, I decided to walk around my house clearing rooms late one night testing the LiNQ system out, and it’s pretty friggin’ sweet!
What about an optic? The Aimpoint CompM5 fit like a glove thanks to the RS Regulate 301M and AKML mounts. Actually, RS Regulate has been my go-to company for all of my AK mounts because of how great they work while adding very little weight.
The Aimpoint CompM5 is nothing short of ingenious. It’s the only red-dot sight I know of with a high-strength 7075-T6 aluminum housing, as well as advanced optical lenses with a protective front “window.” It’ll run for an astounding 50,000 hours on an easy-to-find AAA battery. Oh, and then there’s Aimpoint’s stellar reputation for making some of the most robust and reliable red-dot sights on the market. And thanks to the RS Regulate mount, the CompM5 rides snugly over the dust cover but doesn’t prevent the dust cover from being removed or reinstalled. I can’t think of a better option for an AK.
A Saiga 7.62×39 Ready For Battle
Fully assembled, this custom Saiga from Definitive Arms is truly amazing! It’s a super-effective battle rifle that weighs in at 9.07 pounds unloaded, with the ALG Defense trigger tuned for a crisp, clean 4.5-pound break. In terms of accuracy, guns that are factory built can vary from those that are modified by a custom shop, especially AKs, but I was still impressed to see that I could achieve a 1-inch group at 100 yards with this Saiga and Hornady’s 123-grain SST ammo. You simply can’t ask for much more out of a rifle that started life in a Russian factory before being customized by a shop as good as Definitive Arms. The results speak for themselves.
As of this writing, I’ve sent 2,500 rounds through the barrel. This Saiga is solidly built, and thanks to all of the precise machining, I have no doubt that it will be passed down through generations of my family. If you happen to be perusing the Internet and see a Definitive Arms AK being offered up for sale, I’m sure it will bring the same smile to your face as it did to mine. But just wait until you take it to the range for the first time; that’s where the fun really begins.
Definitive Arms Saiga 7.62×39 Specs
- Caliber: 7.62x39mm
- Barrel: 16.5 inches
- Overall Length: 35 inches
- Weight: 9.07 pounds (empty)
- Stock: MFT Battlelink Minimalist
- Sights: XS front, Krebs Custom rear
- Action: Piston-operated semi-auto
- Finish: Cerakote
- Overall Capacity: 30+1
- MSRP: N/A
Definitive Arms Saiga 7.62×39 Performance
Load: Velocity, Accuracy
- Golden Bear 125 SP: 2,332, 1.40
- Golden Tiger 124 FMJ: 2,383, 1.70
- Hornady 123 SST: 2,287, 1.00
- Red Army Standard 122 FMJ: 2,371, 1.30
- TulAmmo 124 8M3 HP: 2,395, 1.20
- Wolf 123 HP: 2,354, 1.20
Bullet weight measured in grains; velocity in fps by chronograph; and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 100 yards.
This article is from the April/May 2020 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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