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Dead Air Wolverine PBS-1 & Gemtech Arsenal, Inc. AK – Soviet Styling, American Execution

We Go Hands on with Dead Air and Gemtech AK Cans

The idea of slapping a suppressor on an AK has always been appealing. In practice, however, an AK with a silencer can leave much to be desired. Right from the start you’re fighting an uphill battle. There are several issues at play, each being a potential deal breaker in their own right. And when they form a confederation? Let’s just say that after a couple of attempts ourselves, we haven’t bothered to try again in a long time.

Part of what gifts the mythological reliability of the Kalashnikov is the shear volume of gas the system puts out. Sticking a muffler on the muzzle can surge the gas flow, causing issues. Not only is recoil more violent, but the rifle is louder than other rifles at the shooter’s ear due to increased ejection port exhaust. You’re also amping up the wear and tear on your rifle.

Muzzle thread concentricity is an ongoing concern with AK rifles. Having bore and threads aligned to NASA-level tolerances is less of a concern when running a short, slant brake. But, mount 7 or 8 inches of suppressor on the end – and concentricity matters a helluva lot more. Soviet manufacturing was never highly regarded for its precision, and that theme continues with many an AK, despite advances in modern manufacturing techniques. Furthermore, mounting solutions for commie thread patterns are nowhere near as common as their western brethren.

Today we’ll be covering two different, but equally brand-new (and all-American) options from Dead Air and Gemtech. Both companies approach the unique challenges of putting a can on a Kalashnikov from discrepant directions, but they have the same goal dead in their sights.

While there are umpteen methods to address these issues such as cutting new threads and having other [invariably expensive] custom work done, Dead Air set out to solve them all in one go. Instead of trying to tailor the rifle to the silencer, they decided to tailor the silencer to the rifle.

They call it the Wolverine PBS-1. As the name implies, it’s aesthetically patterned after the original PBS-1. We’ve seen cans like this before from some other manufacturers, but unfortunately a few of those companies stayed a little too true to the original, unexceptional Soviet design with layouts largely consisting of thin and straight baffles. They typically had the same unexceptional performance, too.

Dead Air promised the internals would be modern, so we headed out to Utah to meet the Wolverine PBS-1 in person. Bear in mind, our observations are based on preproduction samples. Some aspects of the Wolverine PBS-1 may change by the time it ships. We’ll point out anticipated changes as we move along.

 

Dead Air Sandman-S (left), Wolverine PBS-1 (right)

Dead Air Sandman-S (left), Wolverine PBS-1 (right)

In order to address the gas issues, the team at Dead Air used their Sandman-S silencer as a starting point. The Sandman-S is a lower backpressure model, which is louder at the muzzle than the larger Sandman-L model, but is quieter at the shooter’s ear.

“It’s a balance,” says Mike Pappas, HMFIC at Dead Air. “If you maximize muzzle suppression, you pay the price at the ejection port.”

Internally, the Wolverine PBS-1 is not exactly the same as the Sandman-S. It’s evolved into its own design, but the team at Dead Air retained the desired lower backpressure. And, its endcaps are interchangeable with the endcaps from the Sandman-S, though the final standard exit diameter had yet to be determined.

The suppressor core is machined from Stellite and fully circumference welded for maximum strength. “We wanted to make it as tough as the rifle it’s made for,” says Gary Hughes, AK nerd supreme of Dead Air.

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Not only did the PBS-1 styling allow for a classic look and feel, but that bulbous base allows for a multitude of threading arrangements. While the Wolverine PBS-1 is a direct thread silencer, there’s a little more going on than initially meets the eye. The mounting system is a two-piece affair consisting of a thread adapter (available in a number of foreign and western pitches) and a locking collar.

The adapter and locking collar are counter threaded to each other to prevent unintentional removal. In other words, if the thread adapter is a left-hand thread, the locking collar is right-hand. To install, the Wolverine is first threaded onto the barrel as far as it will go, and then the locking collar is tightened down to the rifle. There are relief cuts in the locking collar to engage the spring-loaded pins on AK front sight bases to further fasten the suppressor and keep everything in place.

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On the preproduction models we shot, it took a little bit of work to lock everything down. It wasn’t difficult, but it took a couple of tries to get comfortable with the mounting system. Dead Air says this is one of the areas they’re looking to improve on production models.

Due to the, ummm “generous” tolerances of foreign thread patterns, the bore diameter of the Wolverine PBS-1 is slightly larger than your average silencer. One of the reasons for a replaceable endcap is that even with the most egregious threading, the endcap is still the part most likely to be struck by an exiting projectile. Dead Air says this will be an exceptional performer for short-barreled rifles, even on non-AK western guns. For us, we plan to mount one on a SCAR CQC for maximum annoyance and confusion.

All of this adds up to: Don’t do anything special, just put it on and shoot.

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SO HOW’S IT SOUND?

We don’t hold an OSHA compliance verification rating, but nobody shooting the Wolverine complained about the noise levels. We were comfortable shooting without hearing protection in the open air. The general recommendation for any supersonic suppressed centerfire is going to be to wear some ear pro. No issues with short-barreled 7.62×39 nor full auto, or even when mounted on a rare Yugoslavian 7.62N AK.

Pick one up and in no time you’ll be speaking with a terrible fake Russian accent and toasting За здоровье!

Anticipated release is late summer 2016 with an MSRP of $1,050.

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The second of our dedicated AK cans this issue hails from the great state of Idaho, where Gemtech created it in a joint venture with Arsenal. The brand-new, as of March 2016, design was developed in order to complement Arsenal’s lineup of both 7.62 and 5.45 rifles. That means this is a 100-percent titanium unit that adds only 19.5 ounces and 7.5 inches to the muzzle, despite being full-auto rated with a heavy-duty blast chamber. Although it’s presently available only as a package deal through Arsenal, there are plans to release it as a separate product in the future.

In order to ensure longevity in a platform that’s notorious for third-world levels of quality control, Arsenal hand-selects each rifle that’s to be paired with a suppressor, checking for concentricity and runout in both the bore and muzzle threads. A proprietary, two-lug Quickmount adapter is then installed, which also serves as a flash suppressor when the can is not in place.

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We shot the suppressor on both 7.62 and 5.45 rifles and had little in the way of expectations when it came to being hearing safe. Although we didn’t have a dB meter on hand, report from the supersonic, steel-cased ammo was comfortable in the 50-yard, U-shaped bay we used and the perceived noise of bullets on steel was louder than the muzzle blast.

Again, this was a purely subjective test, but we wound up putting several magazines of each caliber through the same can, with the small-bore sounding quieter than its big brother. Swapping between guns proved to be an easy (if hot) exercise, which we expect has something to do with the can reciprocating about 1/8th of an inch on the mount at each shot, as shown by our high-speed camera. This movement may serve to scrape carbon from between the mount and the corresponding surfaces in the suppressor body.

Specifications, (subject to change with production model)

dead-air-armament-wolverine-psb-1-002

Make:
Dead Air Armament

Model:
Wolverine PBS-1

Caliber:
7.62N and below, to include 5.56, 5.45, and 7.62×39

Construction:
Stellite and Stainless Steel

Length:
7.2 inches

Diameter:
1.5 inches (body), 1.9-inch (base)

Weight:
20.8 ounces

Decibel Readings:
137dB [muzzle] 142dB [at-ear] (from 16-inch 7.62×39 AKM)

MSRP:
$1,050

URL:
www.deadairsilencers.com

gemtech-arsenal-inc-ak-002

Make:
Gemtech

Model:
Arsenal, Inc. AK

Caliber:
30 cal

Construction:
Titanium

Length:
7.5 inches

Diameter:
1.625 with shroud

Weight:
19.5 ounces

Decibel Readings:
7.62×39 / 142.4 at 1 meter left / 138.5 at shooter’s ear
5x45x39 / 142.4 at 1 meter left / 138.0 at shooter’s ear

MSRP:
$999

URL:
www.gemtech.com

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