Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Tuesday on Monday
Got back last night from Red Oktober, the very first all-AK championship match, in St. George, UT. The land around St. George is arguably some of the most spectacular on the planet…Zion, Monument Valley, the Virgin River Gorge. And it's familiar, thanks to John Ford and his most famous star, John Wayne. The Southern Utah Practical Shooting Range has grown by leaps and bounds since the last time I was there (filming COWBOYS, parenthetically) and is one of the best ranges for our style of shooting I've ever been on.
Name sponsor was Rifle Dynamics, probably the premier custom AK maker in the country, with a host of other AK suppliers on board, including Century Arms, K-VAR, Dead Air with their AK-specific suppressor aptly titled the Wolverine, M13 Industries and others. The match was the brainchild of my friend Brian Nelson, who served as Match Director. Brian and I (along with his dad, Ken) have shot both Cowboy and 3-Gun together…in fact, we were on the same squad at one of the Crimson Trace Midnight 3-Gun matches.
I thought the match was superbly designed. It wasn't a 3-Gun match, with extreme athleticism and long-range shots…this was an AK match after all…but the stages were innovative, fun and challenging without requiring 300-yard shots and shooting while you're strapped into a bondage device with a ball gag. My favorites included a stage based on ENEMY AT THE GATES, which had the shooter starting in ditch under a blown-up bridge. Another house-clearing stage had the shooter use a breeching shotgun to enter the house, followed by a flash-bang grenade. C'mon…that's FUN, which is what shooting is supposed to be! Ranges were out to 100+ yards on a couple of stages, and more than on new competitor discovered the Zen of Zeroing the hard way.
What struck me and Brian was the number of totally new competitors — people who have never competed in any kind of match. In the SHOOTING GALLERY episode (you should see it around the end of January 2017), I refer to the "Lost Tribe of the Kalashnikov." AKs were all the rage a few years back, but as ARs came to dominate the market —and thanks to the staggeringly large aftermarket, becoming both more versatile and more accurate — the AK slipped from its high point.
One of the highlights of filming this episode was meeting Jim Fuller, the founder of Rifle Dynamics and one of the 3 nicest people in the world. Jim has done something I think is unique, beyond building the best AKs in the world. The thrust of Jim's focus has been and continues to be building the AK's culture, the Lost Tribe of the Kalashnikov. He teaches classes in AK building, essentially training his own competitors. He worked with Sharp Bros., the manufacturers of some of the most…eclectic…high end AR lowers on the market, to create arguably the best milled AK lower in the world. It was great to spend some time with Jim, and I think you're going to be impressed.
A bottom line? I'm an AR guy and have been for decades. While I've shot many AK platform and various ComBloc guns, I don't think I've ever owned an AK. That said, the Rifle Dynamics AKs were superb, lightweight, fast-handling and accurate. The custom guns accentuate the AK's advantages — weight, a bullet-proof magazine, comfortable ergonomics, a couple of effective cartridges and reliability that is stone-cold legendary — while delivering what AR shooters have come to expect — accuracy, modularity and superb handling characteristics. Comes at a price, but what doesn't?
I plan to film an AK build with Jim at the Sharp Bros. facility in Nevada for SGO early next year.
BTW, I have ordered a sort-of AK, one of the new Galil ACEs in 7.62 X 51 NATO. I absolutely loved that gun when I first shot it over in Israel. It's handling characteristics are, at least to me, flawless. A lot of the issues with earlier Galil iterations have been corrected. Judicial use of polymers have gotten the .308 ACE under 9 pounds, roughly on par with the SCAR 7.62, the Colt 901 (without the quad rail) and the Ruger SR762 and only slightly heavier than the "lightweight" DPMS Gen II.
The ACE runs with the standard SR-25/PMag magazines, of which I have a ton or so around the Bunker. The charging handle is moved to the left side, which I like, and the stock is reasonably comfortable. Mine will be topped with a Trijicon MRO.
Can't wait to get mine!