After some gentle *persuasion*
by other experts in the subject matter, I finally decided to buy an AK variant. It so happened that I had a chance to order one of the last Saiga Russian made rifles steadily increasing in price due to the current ban on Russian firearms. I got mine for $650. This one goes by the name "Kalashnikov Concern", which is as Russian as it gets, and made in Izhevsk by hung-over Russkies. It came looking like this:
Basically, you get the barebone and modernized version of an AK-47/74 suitable for hunting, and yet moddable to the takticool standards which some of us tend to uphold *giggle*. The biggest difference between Saiga and non-Saiga is the distance the trigger is positioned (closer to the butt to accommodate Monte Carlo stock shooting and slightly different magazines). Anywho, on the same day as my rifle was picked up at the FFL, the Tapco conversion kit arrived in the mail. Here's what it looks like now, pre-forend modification. I'll post this thing with the picatinny forend configuration after it arrives this week:
Here's what a target looks like after 100-yard iron sights only practice (yes, it's the 50% scaled-down contour, and it's hard to see target clearly at that distance):
I just have to say, I'm in love with this thing now. Not a single malfunction. Not. A. Single. One. Recoil is ridiculously low, thanks to Tapco stock. Barrel stays nice and steady. Trigger pull (based on what I've read) is longer and not as crisp as battle AK, but personally I did not find that to be a huge issue. My target speaks for rifle's ability to hit what needs hit without any optics. Ammo is cheap and it can be any ammo you wish, from steel cased to brass to gold/platinum. It just friggen works.
Cleaning this thing at home must've been the simplest cleaning job I have ever done to date. Aside from the gas piston head in need of de-carbon scrub, the gun was virtually carbon-free, and chromed barrel needed a few jigs with a copper brush dipped in solvent followed by two patches. For target practice this rifle is simply unbeatable. Magazines designed specifically for Saiga are available, unfortunately I could not find any other color than black. It is possible to modify regular AK magazines to fit Saiga, but that's a different topic matter. And, of course, for everything else if you want a firearm that fires every single time you pull the trigger. I definitely recommend it as a part of anybody's arsenal.