Review: VEPR II vs. AK-103 from AK-USA


rock jock
June 13, 2003, 05:46 PM
Thought I would post a review for those considering one of these rifles:

I picked up my NIB AK-103 today, having purchased it last week from a poster at Not one for patience, I immediately went out and put 80 rounds through it. My initial impressions were very favorable. The only other AK I have fired was a VEPR II in 7.62x39 that I sold to buy this gun.

Anyone familiar with the VEPR II will tell you that it is not the standard AK variant and consequently there are a lot of contrasts between these two guns, even though they are both Russian-made. I was very happy to find that the AK-103 is MUCH lighter than the VEPR and as a result handles easier (the weight of the VEPR II is one reason why I got rid of it). The AK-103 comes up to the shooting position quickly and seems slightly easier to get on target. Recoil was surprisingly light for the Russian 7.62 round, actually less than the VEPR and probably due to the MB.

Fit was very good and comparable to the VEPR. I was disappointed, however, in the powdercoat finish which I had been told was superior to anything on other AK's. It seemed inconsistent in places and blurred out some of the factory stenciling. Not a bad finish by any means and certainly acceptable, just not as great as I had hoped and probably a little less quality than the VEPR.

Ergonomics were generally good. It certainly felt better in my hands than the VEPR II. The pistol grip was similar and the forestock felt much better (more natural I guess). The VEPR, however, had a better LOP and made the AK-103 feel short. Actually, the stock AK-USA uses felt so short that it was difficult to keep the rifle pulled into my shoulder and it kept slipping out. I understand that this is a standard stock length for "true" AKs. If so, they must measure it based on Chinese males or Russians wearing heavy wintergear. If the AWB goes away, I'll have add a folding stock with an extended length. Or maybe I'll just get used to it.

The trigger on the AK-103 is very nice and, I think, slightly better than the VEPR II trigger - lighter and a little crisper.

Reliability was excellent in the 80 rounds I put down range although this is pretty much par for the course for AKs.

Accuracy is difficult to call at this point, since I did not bench rest the gun. I do know that I was getting 2.5" groups with my VEPR II off a bench and with iron sights. If I get anything close to that with my AK-103, I'll be thrilled. I don't really care for AK sights anyway, so I'm thinking I'll buy a Kobra red-dot for it in the future.

Finally, if there is any category where the AK-103 wins hands down, it is aesthetics. The gun has the "evil black rifle" appearance that looks so cool and traditional AK-type furniture which is a huge improvement over the VEPR II stock set. Guys at the gun shop were much impressed.

Overall, I am happy with the switch. Everything I disliked with my VEPR II has been resolved with this purchase, I think. I should mention that I had considered having Kreb's do a custom job on my VEPR II to make it more "traditional" in style, but I found out that would have cost $600, which would have made the final product over $1,100. This is way too much for any AK, IMO. As it was, the AK-103 from AK-USA cost $695, which is roughly twice the cost of a SAR-1. However, I have handled SAR's before and while they may have the same reliability, the are not in the same ballpark.

This gun will now go in my safe next to my AR. True detente in my opinion.

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June 13, 2003, 06:24 PM
Picture? Can brand new AK-103s be had or are they all pre-1989?

rock jock
June 13, 2003, 06:51 PM
Brand new. My understanding is that two Russian companies were made exempt from the AWB (or '89 ban?) to appease the Russian govt., which was (and still is) suffering from economic hardship. The AK-103 is essentially a Saiga that has been made legal for import by the addition of American made parts. No pics at this time, but I will try to post something later tonight.

June 13, 2003, 07:23 PM

Super groovy.

Takes pre-94 mags though, right?

rock jock
June 13, 2003, 07:35 PM
Oh, yeah. I need to find a reasonably-priced Chinese-made 75-round drum. I saw one on a local website, but the guy wanted $125, albeit NIW. I'm hoping the price drops after than AWB expires. Then I can look just like the N. Hollywood BG's.

June 13, 2003, 09:42 PM
Sorry to hear you aren't that fond of the powdercoating. I have a SAR-1 that AK-USA redid in the "older" style powdercoat (more texture than the newer style and not quite as refined) and I love it. The finish is very resistant to wear and extremely easy to maintain. Is yours done in the older rougher style powdercoat? May want to give Chris a call....he stands by his work. As for the stock must have a "standard length stock" which is indeed designed for people of a smaller size. I also find this a bit short and uncomfortable to use. KVAR (makers of the furniture on your 103) does however make a "NATO length" buttstock that is 1 1/2 inches longer and much more comfortable. They can be had for about 40 bucks IIRC and you probably wouldnt have trouble selling yours on if you wanted to. Don't know if you are set on the Chi-com drum or not, but TAPCO has a good price right now on Romanian drums with pouches.

Good Luck.

rock jock
June 13, 2003, 10:30 PM

I am not disenchanted with the powdercoat finish. Chris did a good job, its just not the work of art I expected. Thanks for the tip on the NATO style stock. I'll have to shoot it a little more to see if I can get used to it. FWIW, I compared the AK-103 to my M4gery with A2 stock and the LOP is the same on both guns. I think I figured out what was bothering me - its the size of the buttstock, not much area to cover the shoulder.

rock jock
June 13, 2003, 11:53 PM

rock jock
June 14, 2003, 12:03 AM

pic 1 of 2

rock jock
June 14, 2003, 12:05 AM
2 of 2

June 14, 2003, 03:01 AM
Very nice AK! By the way, how's the muzzle brake attached? is it permanently fixed there or can you unscrew it and clean the interior?

rock jock
June 14, 2003, 11:58 AM
Its a post-ban rifle, so I think it is permanently attached.

June 15, 2003, 03:27 PM
How does it compare to the Arsenal Inc. SA M7? I'm looking into getting an AK variant.

June 15, 2003, 07:41 PM
This one went for $85.00 not too long ago:

June 15, 2003, 08:36 PM
How does it compare to the Arsenal Inc. SA M7? I'm looking into getting an AK variant.

The AK103 from AKUSA compares very well with the SA M7, the attention to detail on AKUSAs guns are better and so is the trigger. Also, the Arsenal guns happen to have milled receivers. Where AKUSAs 103s and 74 builds use stamped receivers, which I happen to prefer.

I like the old powdercoat finish Chris uses at AKUSA, its very durable as mentioned above. Overall, their new finish has a nicer look (its slightly less durable though).

Also, I would use "work of art" to describe a Ferrari.....not an AK (no matter how nice the build/finish).

June 15, 2003, 08:58 PM
How much can you get an AK 103 for? The SA M7 seems to be priced more reasonably.

June 15, 2003, 10:00 PM
How much can you get an AK 103 for? The SA M7 seems to be priced more reasonably.

SA M7s are priced lower because they are essentially production guns. Where Chris at AKUSA has to convert Saigas into 103s, needing pricey parts to complete the job. Also, there is the time he takes in converting a gun, the guy is a perfectionist (prices I believe are in the $700 range currently).

I like the SA M7 (except for the standard models funny looking brake), both are nice guns don't get me wrong......each has their own advantages.

The best idea is to have both if you can :cool:

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