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Best .308 AR for the Buck?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Zerstoerer, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. Zerstoerer

    Zerstoerer Member

    Dec 5, 2005
    Desert Southwest
    Undecided between an Armalite AR-10 or DPMS or any AR-15 based .308.
    Alternatively PTR-91 or wait for the Kel Tec RFB?

    The Saiga in .308 appeals but has there ever been a succsessful scope mount for the AK-47 action?
  2. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Elder

    Oct 14, 2005
    Northwest Arkansas
    You'll be delighted to learn that Saiga's come with an excellent QD rail mount attached to the side of the receiver.
  3. gotime242

    gotime242 Active Member

    Jan 26, 2005
    I had a saiga .308 with a 20 dollar scope mount from cheaperthandrit that worked really well. I mounted a simons white-tail and it held the zero fine.
  4. hags

    hags Active Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    Chain o' Lakes, Illinois
    The Armalite SASS looks really nice.
    You can also get the Knight Armament SR25 or the M110.
    Not a fan of DPMS but their LRT-SASS looks interesting.
  5. navajo

    navajo Member

    Mar 29, 2003

  6. Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow

    Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow member

    Nov 14, 2007
  7. anymanusa

    anymanusa Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Beautiful South

  8. rbernie

    rbernie Senior Elder

    Jan 21, 2004
    Norra Texas
    I have a bunch of 308 semis, including Saigas and AR10s. My first AR10 was an Armalite, because that is what I found first. It worked well, was well built, and was backed by excellent support from the factory. I have never felt poorly for having gotten it, and I've added several more to the safe since then. The DPMS is a fine rifle and is well-supported by DPMS should there be any issues. I am not sure that you can go wrong with either.
  9. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Elder

    Aug 11, 2005
    Elbert County, CO
    I'm loyal to Armalite because I've had nothing but positive experience dealing with them. Never had warranty issues, but lots of Q's about updates, accessories, etc. Always very helpful people on the phone, and I've never been put on hold for more than a moment.

    I suppose I should also mention that the product quality is top notch. I have an M-15A2 carbine, an AR-10A2 carbine and an AR-50.

    When I was shopping around for my AR-50, I called them to find out if I was being reasonable asking my FFL to do the sale for $2750 instead of the $2,999 he had quoted me (another shop more than 100 miles away said $2650). They wouldn't tell me exactly what dealer/distributor cost was, but would say that he should still have a "healthy profit margin".
  10. Crunker1337

    Crunker1337 Participating Member

    Apr 12, 2007
    The KAC .308 must be good... because it costs thousands of dollars more than the PTR91, AR-10, or Saiga.
    Can't go wrong with a Saiga or the PTR, both the Kalashnikov and G3 design are rugged and reliable. AR-10's great too; accurate Stoner design plus plenty of accessorization options.
    What exactly will the purpose of this rifle be?
  11. JWarren

    JWarren Senior Member

    Jan 5, 2007
    MS and LA
    I've owned a number of .308 military-style rifles. These include:

    -HK-91 (original HK)
    -L1A1 (inch pattern FAL)
    -Saiga 308 (converted to traditional)
    -DPMS LR-308

    Of those that I have had, I am most impressed with the LR-308. I find that its fit and finish is better than the others that I've had, and the accuracy surpasses (some by a LOT) any of the above rifles. While I cannot really say (due to low round count on my LR-308 and only using specific ammo) about reliability, my LR-308 hasn't had a failure yet.

    -- John
  12. Girodin

    Girodin Mentor

    Mar 22, 2008
    Jwarren how do you compare the saiga .308 to the others?
  13. JWarren

    JWarren Senior Member

    Jan 5, 2007
    MS and LA

    I'll do my best to answer your questions.

    It may be best to first give my run-down on the converted Saiga 308 and then do some comparisons.

    The Saiga is a solid, well-built rifle. Period. I solidly NEVER had a misfeed or failure to go boom out of the rifle. It is probably the most accurate AK that you can get. Vepr's may on par or more accurate, but you'll pay that way-- and you will not have the aftermarket support. I really don't know personally anything about Vepr's, however.

    With premium factory loads (Winchester Ballistic Silvertips, 150 grain) and using a magnified optic, I was able to get benched groups of about 1-1.5 MOA at 100 yards out of a 16" barrel.

    Let me say something about the accuracy, however. Those 1-1.5 groups were HARD to get for me. Perhaps it was my lack of practice with the AK Tapco G2 trigger I had in the rifle, but the slop that I had in the trigger made it easy to pull off target. I had to really work to get the shot off just like I wanted it to be.

    While my 20 round magazines from FBMG were exceptionally reliable, I have never cared for polymer magazines. That was always kinda a "turn-off" for me. And they are not cheap. I looked into both of the following options:

    1.) modifying the rifle to accept unmodified M-14 Magazines
    2.) modifying the M-14 magazine to fit an unmodified Saiga mag well.

    I abandoned option #1 because I was concerned about how much metal I would have to have removed from the front trunnion and if that would substantially weaken the rifle. Will at Red Stick Firearms (Baton Rouge, LA) told me that he could do it on a limited basis and that he's had success. It just didn't become cost effective for me to do it.

    I really looked into option #2, and I have the instructions to do so saved on my computer. I was a bit concerned about magazine reliability, but it seems that they will work fine. I sold the rifle before I got around to trying any modified M-14 magazines.

    I truly dislike the feel of an unmodified Saiga. If I were getting another one, I would make sure I was planning on converting it back to the traditional configuration. It just feels better to me. And it looks right.

    Like all AKs, I think that the finish could be stronger. I duracoated mine with Duracoat Black Oxide soon after I got mine and that solved that.

    Now... why did I get rid of my Saiga 308?

    Well, I spent quite a bit of money on mine in an effort to make it as accurate as I could. I made a mistake. While the Saiga is perfectly accurate enough for most uses, I was envisioning something more precision-oriented in a semi-auto format.

    No AK-based rifle will give you what I was trying to achieve. That doesn't take away from them. It just isn't what they were designed to do.

    My precision semi-auto dream started when I was in HS in 1986. I tried to start towards a PSG1 clone back then and that was why I had the HK-91 as a base rifle. The project failed due to the fact that there simply wasn't available aftermarket parts at the time. They may have existed, but without the internet, I couldn't find them. What I never realized that the PSG1 did not live up to the hype about it, either.

    So.. that preludes to the comparisions. Please understand that I am comparing the Saiga 308 to specific rifles that I had the opportunity to own. I may not have owned the best examples of those rifles (I'll explain in my comparison.)

    Saiga 308 v. HK-91:

    If I had to choose between these two rifles, I would probably pick the HK if price is not considered. I felt that the HK was every bit as solid and reliable as the Saiga. Magazines are significantly cheaper. (at one time you could get 100 magazines for $200).

    The HK felt more "there" if that mades sense. The controls and parts interlock just felt right to me.

    My HK never misfired. When it needed to shoot, it shot. Period.

    However, the HK destroyed brass and then threw it 30 feet at a 30 degree angle to the forward-right as if trying to hide the evidence of its crime against brass. Reloading isn't that much of an option here.

    Next there is the trigger. My nephew's cap pistols have a better trigger pull to them. I am sure that someone does a trigger job for it, and I would seek out that person immediately.

    But now lets remember that we are comparing a VERY expensive firearm to a not-so-expensive firearm.

    The Saiga becomes the winner hands-down. It is hard for me to conceive of a scenerio where you would come out financially ahead in getting the HK over the Saiga-- EVEN considering the difference in magazine costs.


    Saiga 308 v. L1A1 (inch pattern FAL)

    This will be a dismal comparison primarily due to the example that I had in the L1A1.

    My L1A1 was a Century import. It had the "unibrow" feed ramps (as opposed to the widow's peak.) I didn't know any better at the time.

    The damned thing was NOT reliable. I polished the feed ramps, I adjusted the gas system, I spent a LOT of time on FALFiles.com asking for help. Nothing.

    The only thing that I learned was that although the "inch" pattern was supposed to be able to use both inch and metric magazines, mine would only feed reliably with inch-pattern magazines. That means that I'd have to still spend upwards of $20 bucks per magazine to get reliable ones. That hurt.

    But still, they made the rifle more reliable.

    Listen, I know I could have finally got the gun running right. It just takes time. But you know what? That's a pain. I once had a vintage Mercedes 500SL that I was restoring once, too. And after $$$$$, I realized that a new BWM Z3 would do the exact same thing, have a warranty, and I'd still come out cheaper than fixing the old Mercedes. Sure, I lost some of that vintage "style," but I had a lot more confidence in it.

    I started to feel the same way about my L1A1.

    And let's talk about accuracy. It is a solid 2MOA rifle at 100 yards with an optic. It was no more accurate than the Saiga 308-- in fact I thought it was worse.

    Still, for the money that a FAL goes for, I would expect more in both the reliability and the accuracy departments.

    Someone will be along shortly to decry what I have said about the L1A1 (or FAL's in general.) They will remind me that mine was a CIA and you can't compare that to an Imbel or DSA. They are right. You can't.

    But even at dead-nuts reliability, you still have a 2 MOA or worse rifle. Optics mounting solutions aren't the best. Yes, I had the DSA extreme duty optics mount, but I was never satified with its lock-up mechanism. It has more things that can go wrong than an integral rail that you'd find on an AR.

    So, as I see it, if you spend the extra coin for a DSA or Imbel FAL, you get the SAME reliabilty and similar accuracy as a Saiga 308. If you spent the SAME coin as a DSA or Imbel FAL, you have a less accurate and less configurable rifle than an AR-10 or LR-308.

    Your advantage with the FAL is that magazines will be cheaper. However, with those cheaper magazines, there will be a certain percentage that will be unreliable-- thus upping the cost of the reliable magazines. At this time, you can get stainless steel CProducts magazines for the LR-308 for as low as $23 each if you buy 10 at a time. Plus any unreliable magazines could be swapped out. You can do the same with FBMG with their 20 rounders. You can't do that with surplus magazines. That made my direction easier to consider.

    There is a scenerio where the FAL would be a better choice. This exists when you are buying a LARGE quantity of magazines. You'd eventually come out ahead on the FAL-- but not if you had a rifle like mine that only took inch-pattern magazines. You'd come out ahead eventually on metric-pattern magazines.

    All in all, if you are looking for a reliable, pretty accurate semi-auto EBR that you are not as worried about add-on's, the Saiga 308 likely will beat out the FAL-- and just about any others here. If you are trying to squeeze out more accuracy or want more configurations, there are other options.


    Saiga 308 v. LR-308 (or perhaps AR-10)

    For me, this obviously goes to the LR-308. After all, I sold my Saiga project to start my LR-308 project. But let's look at the reasons why. They may not at all apply to others like they did to me.

    As mentioned above, I wanted more accuracy. I was willing to sacrifice some "percieved" reliability to achieve that. None in the semi-auto EBR world rivals the LR-308 (AR-10) in this department -- save a modified M1A loaded.

    The AR 308 platform has shown that it can compete against turn-bolts in the accuracy department.

    There is a plethera of aftermarket support for the LR-308 and AR-10. You can get anything from Free Float tubes, match triggers, high-end optic mounts, and match barrels for the rifle.

    Because of the modularity of the rifle, changing the configurations is far more simple and less prone to error.

    But there are sacrifices.

    If you go from a Saiga 308 to a LR-308 like I did, you go from a long-stroke gas piston to a direct-impingment gas system. Instead of the gases hitting a pistion, they are blown directly into the bolt. Many will say that this is a far less reliable gas system, and I am inclined to agree. At the same time, many will say that the DI gas system is part of the reason that you can get the accuracy you can out of an AR platform. This has to do with the simplicity and the low-mass of the bolt carrier. I am inclined to agree with this assessment, as well.

    The tolerances of the Saiga 308 have a lot to do with the accuracy and reliablity differences. The Saiga-- like other AKs-- has more tolerance between parts. This additional "slop" aids reliability, but sacrifices accuracy from my experience. Conversly, the LR-308/AR10 has much tighter tolerances that give exceptional accuracy at the cost, perhaps, of the extreme reliability you would see in an AK platform.

    So, you really start to look at 1) A $500 1-2 MOA rifle that is extremely reliable verses 2) A $1,000 sub-MOA rifle that is fairly reliable.

    Magazines for the LR-308 will be cheaper if you get CProducts as opposed to DPMS. If you do with DPMS, they will be roughly the same cost.

    The LR-308 is heavier than the Saiga 308-- expecially mine which has a 24" Stainless Steel Bull Barrel. You can shorten the length of a Saiga 308 more than you can a LR-308 if you chose to put on an ACE folding stock. The buffer tube of the AR design limits the amount you could shorten a LR-308/AR-10 if that is a consideration.

    Optics can be mounted on either rifle. I do belive that the intergal rail upper of the LR-308 is more stable than that of the Saiga 308. However, if you are looking at the Saiga 308, chances are you aren't looking for an extreme accuracy rifle. Therefore, the Saiga 308 scope rail will not hamper you in any way.

    Now lets get into the costs a little deeper.

    If you get a LR-308, you CAN get one for just under $1000. You may not get the exact configuration that you wanted to end up with, but you can change that easily. I've been doing that to mine slowly, but I got caught with deer season. That has me taking a few months off of my project.

    In my rifle's final configuration, I will have approximately:

    $2,000 in the rifle itself.
    $350 in optics mounts/BUIS
    $1,200 in optics
    $350 in magazines
    $250 in the carry case

    Now, there is NO reason that someone with other goals for their rifle should have that much in the LR-308. You could get away with:

    $1,000 in the rifle
    $100 in BUIS
    $0-whatever in magazines

    With all the work that I did on my Saiga, I end up having about $1000 in my Saiga. But I have a tendancy to go over-board.

    If you got a Saiga 308 for $500, you could convert it for $150 tops. Or you could do what I did and buy it pre-converted. I paid $650 for mine preconverted.

    If you are looking for a general purpose 308 semi-auto EBR, you could EASILY come out ahead on the Saiga 308 over the LR-308/AR-10. If you wanted 10 CProducts LR-308 magazines to go with your rifle (two ARE included), you'd spend about $230 dollars (you'd end up with 12 with the two included-- I did this to get the bulk order price break) If you bought the DPMS magazines, you'd spend about $400.

    No high capacity magazines are included with the Saiga 308. That equals around a $80 price consideration. To get 10 (and you'd end up with 10, not 12) FBMG high cap magazines, you are looking at about $450.

    Like other rifles, there is a point where the cost difference of the rifles goes away and the costs of magazines become the greater factor. Most people don't get to that level-- thereby making the Saiga 308 more cost-effective.

    But let's also not forget that the Saiga 308 is likely a much more reliable rifle.

    It really becomes somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison between the two rifles. What is better ultimately depends on what you are hoping to achieve with the rifle. There are some areas where the LR-308/AR-10 is dramatically the better choice. There are other ares where the Saiga 308 is the better choice. For me, the LR-308 was the better choice. It will not be that way for others.

    I hope this helps.

    -- John
  14. Zerstoerer

    Zerstoerer Member

    Dec 5, 2005
    Desert Southwest

    thanks for taking the time to write this up.
  15. JWarren

    JWarren Senior Member

    Jan 5, 2007
    MS and LA
    no problem, my friend. I hope that it helps someone find exactly what they are looking for. Mistakes ain't cheap.

    -- John
  16. Crunker1337

    Crunker1337 Participating Member

    Apr 12, 2007
    That's probably one of the most helpful, well-thought out posts I've seen on THR. Kudos to you, sir. What sort of optics do you suggest on a .308 Saiga?
  17. VE2RF

    VE2RF New Member

    May 23, 2008
    I love the Armalite's.

    I have two AR-10's, built my dad an AR-10, and I have an AR-180B.

    I wouldn't own anything else at this point, and I've tried many others.
  18. JWarren

    JWarren Senior Member

    Jan 5, 2007
    MS and LA
    Crunker1337 wrote:

    Thanks, my friend.

    If I were mounting optics on a Saiga, it would depend on the use. I used the 8X PSOP on mine. I liked the optic as being a rugged optic. However, it wasn't all that great for what I did with it (twilight hunting). It isn't all that bright in light transmission and has a yellowish tint to the glass.

    I'd first decide what magnification I needed before deciding on a direction. Then I'd look to what kind of light transmission I would need.

    Then obviously, you have to consider budget.

    There are some good offerings in a variety of ranges that would sit on a Saiga well. What you would have to do to mount any non-Russian optic on a Saiga is get the flat-top base. You can get one from Kalinka Optics.

    A few choices in the 3-9 -"ish" range (I mean this as something that roughly would do that same thing.) that won't break the bank:

    -Nikon Prostaff or Buckmaster (great light transmission-- Dad has two)
    -Bushnell 3200
    -Burris Fullfield II
    -Millet TRS-1 (mixed reviews, but I think overall favorable-- won't have the best light transmission)
    -Leupold VX-II

    I have a Leupold Mark 4 on my LR-308, but I don't know that it would be used to its abilities (or price tag) on a Saiga 308. However, you CAN get GREAT deals on these on AR15.com that are used in their Equipment Exchange. It seems that this is the season for everyone who had Mark 4's to upgrade to Nightforce NXS's.

    If I were fitting another Saiga 308 for eyes, I would probably lean more towards a Nikon Buckmaster if I wanted more light transmission or take a chance on the Millet TRS-1 if I wanted more "tactical" features (I say "take a chance" because I have not personally used one.)

    In the 1-4 range, you may be more limited:

    -Leupold makes a low power VX-II that you may want to look at if you need more light transmission.
    -Bushnell has (I think) a low power 3200 if I am not mistaken.
    -Weaver makes a low power 1.5-4
    -Millet DMS-1 is a great optic for the money.
    -Now that Bushnell has bought Millet, they have a 1-4x22 with a hunting ill dot.

    I have a Millet DMS-1 on my AR M4-gery that I have been impressed with. The light transmission isn't near as high as something like my Leupold Mark 4 that is on the LR-308, but it isn't bad. It is well worth the $200 I paid for it. And it is one of the few in that price range that you can get with illuminated recticle. It would go great with a Saiga 308, in my opinion if you wanted a 1-4.

    -- John

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