Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two part series on our coverage of the Big 3 East Fall , a convocation of journalists and industry reps who gathered in DeLand, Florida in early October.
Definitive Arms unveils a 6.5 Grendel Prototype
To say Chase Sisgold, founder of Definitive Arms, is a rising star in the AK space is an understatement. Chase produces very highly regarded AKs and brought his newest model, the DAKM, to Big 3 East. It’s his version of a bare-bones AK which a conventional fixed stock that sells for about $1000. But don’t let the bare bones thing dissuade you. The particular DAKM he brought to the event was a spitting image of a battlefield rifle, right down to the nicked buttstock and worn out looking finish on the receiver. I suspect, given the gunsmith, this AK would be a better rifle than what you’d find abandoned in some poppy field in Afghanistan. The trigger was superb and if your shopping for an AK in the $1000 range the smart money says consider a DA.
The real ace that Sisgold had up his sleeve for Big 3 East was a prototype custom VEPR chambered in 6.5 Grendel. VEPRs in 6.5 Grendel have just started coming into this country from the Molot factory in Russia and the cognoscenti have been waiting to get their hands on one. This a round is made to order for long distance shooting and Sisgold’s prototype was put through the paces by a number writers including Tim Harmsen of Military Arms Channel who seemed ecstatic at the opportunity to shoot this gun.
Definitive Arms put their own imprimatur on this gun which included an AR-style magwell and a collapsible stock (and handguard) from Magpul. Sisgold also replaced the stock VEPR trigger with a tweaked Tapco G2. Other touches included a Magpul pistol grip and Zhukov handguard. The crew that had a chance to shoot the gun (alas I left too soon!) was consistently hitting targets at 500 yards.
What about ammo? Fortunately our friends at Wolf Performance Arms are selling Russian-made, steel-cased 6.5 Grendel in this country so there shouldn’t be a problem in this department. The rifle had a new Hi-Lux CMR 1-4x scope (which also was just introduced at Big 3 East) mounted on an RSR Regulate system.
It’s not certain the DA version of this rifle will be available to the public in any numbers but stayed tuned. It may happen and we’ll be the first to let you know.
Krebs Custom introduces a modular muzzle device
Back in the not too distant past when the AK was still considered the “enemy’s gun”, Marc Krebs bucked conventional wisdom and began improving where Mikhail Kalashnikov left off. Year after year he’s come up with innumerable ways to make the staple of the Eastern Bloc into a more modern, refined rifle. Given my personal interest in the AK, I was curious to see what Kreb’s was up to this year.
Marc was not able to make it to the Big 3 East Fall but in his stead came his #2, Brian Conrad. Brian showed off the company’s AC-15 and their Krinkov-style “Assneck” SBR with an 9.25″ barrel.
The AC-15 also has its barrel shortened (by about 2″) and is made “legal” by welding on a muzzle device to the length is 16″. It was lighter than the average AK, ergonomically correct and a downright hoot to shoot. It comes with an AR-style front and rear sight system mounted on a long rail designed by Krebs. I find the AR sights on the rifle easier to aim and point than the standard AK.
The “ASSNECK” was also fun to shoot and, at distances under 200 yards, equally lethal. This variant includes the SpeedLoad system which entails a mag well flange which helps guide the operator’s magazine into the magwell.
Additionally, it has a magazine ejection spring and extended magazine release. This offers the user with the ability for a one-handed magazine ejection, while simultaneously speeding up the insertion of a full magazine.
Kreb’s newest product is a modular muzzle device (see above photo) that incorporates his four pronged flash hider with a “screw-on” muzzle brake. Everybody likes options and if you need more than a flash hider or are concerned about the prongs getting snagged you simply screw on a brake without the hassle of taking off the old muzzle device.
This variant also includes the SpeedLoad system. This system includes a mag well flange which helps guide the operator’s magazine into the magwell. Additionally, it includes a magazine ejection spring and extended magazine release. This provides the user with the ability for a one-handed magazine ejection, while simultaneously speeding up the insertion of a full magazine.
Tennessee Arms founder, Dave Roberts, a former Marine and Blackwater operator, knows something about lugging a rifle around in the hot sun. The Harvard-educated entrepreneur, a native of Dyersberg, Tennessee, told me that his home town happens to be in the midst of a region that has fabricated polymer automobile parts for many years. When he wanted to build an AR polymer lower, he knew exactly where to find the IP to accomplish this. The rest is history.
Roberts has been building well regarded polymer lowers for the AR15 since 2012 and has taken his product line one step further by bringing the first AR 10 (.308 platform) DPMS style lower to Big 3 East. Despite the bad rap that some polymer lowers have received in the marketplace, Roberts says he’s manufactured about 10,000 AR 15 lowers products that are nearly always defect free.
He claims his new “AR-308” lower is robust enough to handle the stresses of a .308 round and then some. He’s reinforced it with ribs and integrated a marine brass fitting for the buffer tube. He said it’s been tested with a number of heavy duty uppers (including a 50 cal Beauwolf and BMG) with no problems. “You can run it over with truck or even put it in a vice and so that the walls of the magwell almost touch and it will snap back”, says Roberts.
He says the difference between his products and his competition is the quality of polymer. Instead of using what he refers to as “toy grade” plastic, his company uses the same polymer that auto companies use to fabricate suspension bushings and the like that can handle extremes in stress, exposure to weather, oil, etc. Material failure, he says, is not an issue with the lowers he builds. According to Roberts they are “over-engineered”.
His main “problem” seems to be the crappy reputation of his competitors in the polymer lower space which reflect badly on his company. He finds himself have to allay the fears of consumers about polymer AR lowers.
He is unequivocal about the quality of his products which he backs this up with a lifetime guarantee.
Of course the obvious advantage of polymer is its incredibly light weight–.33 lbs., Robert’s says it’s 50-60% lighter than an alloy receiver. I did shoot the AR 308—however it was off the bench. I didn’t shoot it offhand because the model available was fitted with a bipod and an enormous scope. I can only imagine what it would be like to shoot a stripped down (6 or 7 lb 308) with iron sights.
Roberts said he built this for the working man but I suspect he’ll have more well-heeled customers when they discover how light it is.
The lower’s aesthetics were pleasing. It didn’t look “plastic” and in fact without looking closely it’s hard to discern that it’s a polymer receiver. It’s available in any number of colors including black, flat dark earth, rifle green (Magpul OD), stealth grey (Magpul grey), ping and OD Green. Thus, you can match it with an upper if you are so inclined. (Roberts says he will be offering a complete rifle in the future that will have an upper manufactured by Head Down Firearms).
Last but not least the price is right. He offers both stripped and 80% lowers (with a jig) for $85–considerably less than the $200 or so that it would take to purchase an aluminum alloy version. One of my future projects is to build a Tennessee Arms AR 308 from an 80% lower and report back to my readers.
Turkish Guns ‘n Ammo from Zenith
Every time I go to SHOT, the annual firearms industry show in Vegas, I encounter Turkish products in lavish booths. From what I’ve experienced–at the show and on the range–Turkish arms are well finished, high quality, and reasonably priced. This should come as no surprise. Turks know something about making weapons. They needed an arms industry to run a little endeavor called the Ottoman Empire that stretched from Europe to the Middle East and lasted about 465 years.
Today Turkey still has a well-regarded arms sector. As members of NATO, they field the largest standing army on the continent and produce a plethora of small arms and munitions to keep their soldiers in guns and ammo.
They also export a lot of arms. It’s just that you just don’t hear about them too much them in this country.
There’s a reason for this. In my opinion they don’t do the best job of marketing their products in this country. I’m not quite sure why, I can only speculate that there’s a cultural divide and lack of knowledge about the US market.
This may change.
Enter Zenith Firearms, a US company, founded by a Turkish-Americans Kutlay Kaya and his wife and partner, Hanri Kaya. Their firm imports Turkish-made striker fired semi-auto handguns, HK-style roller-lock pistols and rifles, long guns and, some very cool 1911s. They are also in the ammunition importing business.
Zenith’s team, led by Mike Farruggio and his lieutenants —Joel Snivley and Chase Welch are experienced industry pros and veterans. All did an excellent job of communicating the strength of their products at Big 3 East.
As alluded to earlier, in addition to its firearms, the Kaya’s have a separate company called ZQI which imports ammunition into the US. I’m not talking milslurp stuff from Russia or Ukraine that will corrode your barrel. ZQI’s products come from a factory that produces ammo for Turkish Army which means it’s certified to NATO spec.
Farruggio said that ZQI ammo was formerly available at Walmart but this is no longer the case. The company currently distributes through their own supply chain.
The upshot is that you can manufacture ammo a lot less expensively in Turkey than this country so essentially you’re getting Mil-spec ammo (7.62×51 and 9mm) at very good prices. Their IMI 9 x 19 mm Luger, Ex-Star (JHP), 115 gr goes for about 30 cents a round for a 1000 round case and the least expensive .308 is the MKE 7.62 x 51 mm M80 (Guardian) which goes for .45 cents per round for a 640 count box. A cursory comparison on the Internet illustrates that these prices are very competitive.
I had an opportunity to shoot almost all of Zenith’s firearms at the event and they worked flawlessly. Price for the lowest end 1911 starts at $475 and the polymer “Girsan” 9 mm is $399. All the guns I saw were nicely finished and as aesthetically pleasing as any handgun made in this country.
One comment about their roller block HK variants. They are not cheap clones or knock-offs. They are manufactured in Turkey in collaboration with HK and are of very high quality. Prices for this series begins at $1600.
In conclusion, this company is bringing in inexpensive, well made firearms and ammunition. The company just needs to get their name out there and I suspect Farruggio’s team will be successful at marketing their products in the American bazaar.
(I should note that Century Arms, which also showed up at Big 3 East for a day, displayed its own Turkish semi-autos, including a semi-auto 9 mm model with an integrated red dot optic).
Robert F. Kay is the author of How to Buy an AK-47 which is available on Amazon.
Photos by Rob Kay
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