Romanian WASR: the best AK for Today’s Shooter?

Two fighting carbines started life as lowly Romanian WASRs. The standard WASR (top) features a Belorussian PO 3.5 scope, aftermarket furniture, a Hogue grip and an AK-74-style muzzle break. The IO Stg2000C (bottom) features a Bushnell Trophy red-dot, Streamlight 120 lumen flashlight and Brownell’s Aluma-Hyde II camouflage paint. Photo by Carla Varisco-Williams.

SARASOTA – As he was lying in bed recuperating from wounds received in the Second World War, or as it’s still called today in the Russian Federation the “Great Patriotic War,” Mikhail Kalashnikov sketched out the first designs of the rifle that bears his name.

He developed his Avtomat to protect his country from another invading horde. In this he certainly succeeded. No army has crossed a Russian border since the Germans.

I’m sure he never could have imagined his design would one day become the most mass-produced firearm in the world. More than 100 million AKs have been manufactured in dozens of countries, and some versions even bear the “Made in the USA” label.

Today the AK is legendary for its reliability and its hard-hitting 7.62 bullet.  Sure, it’s not as accurate as an M4, but it’s accurate enough. Neither is it as ergonomic. The safety on the AK isn’t as quick or as clever as an M4’s. That’s why many just leave it off.

With new rail systems and quality accessories being developed every day, the AK has become a legitimate choice as a modern fighting carbine.

If you’re forced to pick one AK, and money is no object, take a look at the Enhanced Speed Load Tactical Rifle by Krebs Custom. It’s perhaps the finest AK ever made. Its magazine-well flange and enhanced mag release solve what many say is the AKs biggest drawback, slow reloads. The quad rail and A2-style flash suppressor are a nice blend of M4 technology. In fact, there’s more rail space on Krebs Custom gun than on many M4s. The rifle retailed for more than $2,000 a few months ago. Nowadays, it’s sure to command much more.

A more affordable option is the guns made in the desert by Arsenal Inc. – especially the SLR-107 series. They’re the first American-made AKs, and have been rolling off the assembly line in Las Vegas since 2000. They’re a fine rifle, with fit and finish far superior to the rifles imported from former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries.

Their Russian left-side folding stock is rigid, and a handy option for anyone who has ever tried to get in and out of a vehicle quickly with a long gun. Unlike a lot of cheaper under-folders, the Arsenal stock doesn’t get sloppy over time.

The best value is still the Romanian WASR – the least expensive and most common AK on the market.

You could buy two WASRs for the price of an Arsenal, and five WASRs for the price of one of Kreb’s masterpieces, with enough left over to buy a case of ammo. Cost, however, isn’t the only consideration.

Despite its poorly-finished laminated wood furniture, thin parkerizing you can scuff with a thumbnail, the WASR still runs like a sewing machine. It’s a a beast. They also dress up nicely with aftermarket rails, plastic furniture and other tactical add-ons.

Perhaps the best WASR is the Stg2000-C by IO, their version of the East German Wieger rifle, which was produced at the end of the cold war but never widely sold after the Wall came down.

It comes with an RPK-style buttstock, proprietary handguards and an M-16-style birdcage flash hider, but at its core it is still just a WASR.

Most WASRs come with the standard Soviet side rail, an important addition to any AK and more solid than any handguard rail system.

I’ve mounted a rail on the IO WASR, which holds both a red-dot and a flashlight. On another I mounted a Belorussian PO 3.5 power scope. Neither has lost their point-of-aim even after abuse I would never have visited upon a Krebs or Arsenal gun.

They’re not pretty, but a WASR will run. After all, that’s all you need in an AK.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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