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Preview – Century AK SBR

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Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

Believe it or not, Century Arms is the most prolific AK builder in the U.S. It shipped over 60,000 guns last year, a number that dwarfs any other manufacturer or vendor, and in order to keep up with demand, it was forced to add capacity to its Vermont facility — a piece of good news that no doubt was celebrated by Senator Sanders.

We laid hands on the newest of the milled-receiver C39V2 models because A, we’re leery of Century’s reputation in the AK realm, having a long enough memory to recall the Tantal fiasco, and B, we love SBR’d AKs, as the x39 round shines in this application.

Lift Hood, Kick Tires
The chopped C39 lets you know right up front that its receiver is milled from a solid chunk of 4140 American steel, as it’s one heavy mofo — if you’re used to the feel and heft of stamped-receiver AKs then the extra meat comes as a bit of a shock. Fortunately, this being an SBR, the mass is distributed between the hands, rather than hanging forward in space, and it’s actually quite nimble when it comes to transitioning between targets. Racking the bolt produces another pleasant revelation. Instead of feeling like you’re ripping a beer can in half, the carrier glides back and forth on well-machined and polished rails. And why shouldn’t semi-literate peasants have nice stuff?


Pressed into the receiver is a barrel. But, of course, you say — it would look pretty stupid without one. This barrel, however, is a little different from the usual AK tube as not only is it made in the USA, it’s also concentric and finished in black nitride, which means that it should not only be accurate, but also last a long time. Whoa, there! An accurate AK? What is this unicorn of which you speak? Century uses a variety of barrel manufacturers to produce blanks for their guns and, in our sample at least, the quality of surface finish both inside and out was superior to just about anything we’ve laid hands on in the AK world.

Drawing from our stash of Federal soft points and Ukrainian FMJ (the latter, sadly, no longer available due to the plant going bang after being hit by a missile in 2014), we were able to produce 2.5 MOA groups from a sandbag rest. According to the Century rep who furnished the carbine, that particular gun had close to 12,000 rounds through it, which made its performance all the more impressive. Traditionalists will be less impressed by the A2-style birdcage flash hider. A curious mix of west and east, it marries the familiar AR looks and performance with a .30-cal exit hole and left-handed metric threads, and is one part that the end user will probably swap out.

Riveted to the left side of its monolithic receiver in the usual spot is an optics rail. AKs are notorious for their widely varying manufacturing tolerances, especially between different nation state producers. When it comes to mounting glass it would seem that the various satellite members of the former Warsaw Pact had an informal competition going — to see who could deviate furthest from the Russian design without being slapped down by Moscow. As complex pieces of kit like optics were never supposed to be issued to every infantryman (after all, the biggest news of 2013 in Russian defense equipment procurement was the adoption of socks — we kid you not), there was considerable latitude in design and execution.

To U.S. engineers, this proved to be somewhat frustrating and in the end they simply said, “Screw it! We’re designing our own.” So they did. And the result is not bad. While it’s just about possible to field strip the weapon without removing the mount, trying to reassemble it is an exercise in frustration (note to Century: QD latches are a thing these days). The mount is, however, robust and offers some fore-and-aft latitude when it comes to attaching your favorite optic. Evidently, the consensus at Century HQ was that everyone’s favorite optic is an Aimpoint Micro, as there was a dedicated mounting bracket for that sight packed with our test gun.


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