5.56 AK options

All posts tagged 5.56 AK options

Earlier in the month I posted an article explaining why folks in the U.S. should consider an AK in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington.  Well, the Zastava Arms produced, Century Arms imported PAP M90NP could be the Best of All Worlds.  It’s basically an imported AK chambered in 5.56 NATO /.223 Remington, that accepts AR-15 mags, and has some SPR-spec features.  If you can find one, you’d be hard pressed to do better for the ~$800 price point.


First, what’s an SPR?

SPR is currently accepted to mean “Special Purpose Rifle“, and references the M16/A4 rifle platform modified at SOCOM’s request for vastly improved, longer range accuracy and terminal performance.  The latest incarnation, the MK12 Mod 0, is used by U.S. Army Special Forces / Rangers, U.S. Navy SEALs and U.S.M.C. Force Recon.  While the complete list of MK12 Mod 0 SPR specs is detailed, I’m only going to highlight the 18″, free-floated, heavy-contoured barrel, and 1:7 twist rate for purposes of this post.  Those traits reduce barrel harmonics and stabilize heavier, 69 – 77 grain bullets, enabling the rifle to meet its goals.  Civilian legal (semi-auto) SPR rifles, SPR uppers, and those with ‘SPR-like‘ features are available, but anything AR based with SPR features runs well over a thousand dollars, and goes up very quickly from there.  We’ll come back these specs in a bit, so keep ’em in mind.


The Zastava M90NP:  A high-quality AK, chambered in 5.56 NATO offers SPR-like features for a very reasonable price!


Aside from just being an AK chambered in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington, the M90NP provides a few SPR-spec features at fraction of the price. (I told you we’d come back to those specs.)  Zastava Arms has been producing firearms for 160 years, and currently produces a range of AK pattern, modern small arms for military, hunting and sporting purposes.  Not newcomers by any stretch, many of their offerings are a cut above, with a higher quality fit and finish and a better feature set than the competition.  The M90NP is no exception.  While the title of this post is admittedly a bit tongue-in-cheek (no mass produced AK is going to best a true mil-spec, hand-selected  SPR), the M90NP is loaded (pun intended) with great features, and ‘tics‘ quite a few SPR-spec boxes:

  • The M90NP has an 18.25”, cold hammer forged, heavy-contoured barrel, with a 1:7 twist.  By AK standards, the M90NP actually has a fairly thick barrel, a common trait of Zastava rifles.  That heavier, cold hammer forged, 18.25″ barrel, with a 1:7 twist provides improved longer range accuracy, and terminal ballistics, the same way that heavy, 18″ barrel and 1:7 twist do for an SPR.  Reduced barrel harmonics.  Longer powder burn.  Ability to stabilize heavier, more accurate, harder hitting bullets.  Those are great features for the money, certainly when you compare the M90NP to other 5.56 chambered AKs, and even when compared to entry level ARs in the ~$800 price range.  While AK isn’t traditionally known for match-grade accuracy, what are we really talking about, in practical terms?  Is it the difference between one-hole groups, and  2 – 5” groups at 100 yards?  That might not matter to the average, casual shooter.  It’s certainly not material for normal hunting, or defensive situations, where pie-plate and center of mass accuracy, respectively, are considered good enough.  Top the M90NP with a high-quality scope and, feed it match-grade, 69 – 77-grain ammo, and have the nut behind the trigger properly adjusted :-), and who knows how those groups might just tighten up quite nicely.  (We might just do that in the future.)
  • The M90NP takes ubiquitous, inexpensive M16/A4/AR-15 magazines.  That’s right.  Not only does the M90NP fire the most popular round in the U.S., but it also accepts all variants of the most popular magazine in the land, including GI issue mags and Magpul PMAG mags among others.  AK purists love to hate the polymer magazine adapter, and some have voiced concerns about its reliability, but polymer hasn’t been a problem for GLOCK.  It’s the same adapter used on the popular Zastava M85NP Pistol, and per all reports I’ve seen, it’s been proven rugged and reliable on both guns.  From a form over function perspective, this is actually a great, cost effective solution, especially when compared to other 5.56 AK variants that take proprietary, expensive magazines, which are sometimes as hard to find as the rifles themselves.
  • The M90NP is built like a tank because it’s based off a rifle designed with the ability to launch grenades.  The receiver is stamped from extra-thick, 1.5 mil steel, and it has the bugled front trunnion, so the M90NP is much stronger than the average AK.  While it certainly makes a great SHTF, camp or survival rifle, it’s no lightweight, and wouldn’t be my first if a lot of on-foot miles were on the agenda.  That said, the extra weight isn’t an issue for most recreational shooters or varmint / predator hunters.  If, God forbid, you need the M90NP in a defensive situation, I bet you won’t notice the 2 – 3 extra pounds, and I’m sure you’ll be thankful for the M90NP’s ruggedness and capability.


  • The M90NP has adjustable gas settings.  This is something you won’t even see on most AR’s, and it’s a nice feature.  Setting “1” allows the most amount of gas to escape, thereby driving the bolt rearward with the least amount of force, and having the least felt recoil.  Setting “2” is the middle setting, which is where most M90NP owners tend to leave it.  Setting “3” allows the least amount of gas to escape, thereby driving the bolt rearward with the most force.  I haven’t had the rifle long enough to really test this out, but in theory, setting “3” can come in handy if you’re shooting particularly light loads, or if your rifle is excessively dirty and having trouble cycling the bolt.  Just note setting “3” has the harshest felt recoil, and is harder on parts.


  • The M90NP has a bolt hold open on the safety selector.  This is another nice trait of Zastava produced rifles, and actually a great overall safety feature.  Not only do many ranges require a bolt hold open of some kind, but being able to keep that bolt open can help you ensure your firearm is unloaded during cleaning and maintenance, or otherwise when working with your rifle.


So, who should consider the Zastava PAP M90NP?

Anyone looking for a cost effective, feature rich, modern sporting rifle based on arguably the most rugged, reliable platform in the World, that shoots the most popular round, and accepts the most popular magazines in the U.S.  Again, it’s the Best of All Worlds, with SPR-like features, from a company with a long history of producing high-quality, AK pattern rifles – and it’s relatively cheap.  

  • It’s an absolute blast (pun intended) at the range, and makes an outstanding ranch or truck gun – almost forgotten and basically neglected until needed.
  • If you’re heavily invested in the AR platform and ready for something new or different, the M90NP is a great, relatively low cost option.
  • If you’re AK-curious, the M90NP is the perfect option, without the need to commit to a new caliber, .  No new ammo, magazines or cleaning supplies.
  • If you’re an AK fan concerned about the future availability of cheap 7.62 x 39 ammo, the M90NP is an absolute no-brainer.
  • If you’re concerned about the future availability of such imported-based rifles, get an M90NP while you can.  


Competitive Options? How about, NONE!

Not only is the M90NP feature-wise the best 5.56 AK option available, but as of mid-2016, it’s the ONLY new production option readily available.  Arsenal discontinued their line of Bulgarian based SLR-106 5.56 chambered AK firearms in May 2013, making used SLR-106s very rare, and very expensive.  While supposedly new production, imported models exist, the Polish Beryl Archer is just as elusive, rare and expensive as the out of production SLR-106.  I couldn’t find a new Beryl Archer in-stock anywhere; not locally, nor online.  If you are lucky enough to find an SLR-106 or a Beryl Archer, expect to pay at least $1300, and that’s for a used rifle.

Hell, even if you could get a new SLR-106 or Beryl Archer, the M90NP has the better combination of features, for almost half the price, and may have a nicer fit and finish.  (I’ve not had a chance to get my hands on an SLR-106 or Beryl Archer for comparison purposes.)  The SLR-106 and Beryl Archer have 16.25″ barrels.  I’ll take the extra two inches.  (That’s what she said…)  The SLR-106 and Beryl Archer take proprietary, hard to find, imported, expensive magazines.  Neither has a selectable gas block.  Finally, the Polish Beryl Archer’s barrel has a 1:10 twist rate, which is a bit too restrictive for shooting heavier grain bullets.  So, unless you’re a collector who needs the Arsenal SLR-106 or the Polish Beryl Archer, I can’t think of one logical reason to pay over 50% more for arguably less rifle.  I’ll happily take the new-production, M90NP all day long, every day, with it’s heavier 18.25″, cold hammer forged, 1:7 twist barrel and AR magazines, and I’ll spend the leftover five-hundie on accessories, ammo and magazines.  Century Arms International has exclusive rights as the sole importer of M90NP rifles, and they are in-fact out of stock, with no plans that I’m aware of to get more anytime soon.  Get one SOON if you’re considering one of these fine, high-quality, feature-rich, imported rifles.    


Where to purchase the Zastava PAP M90NP.

If you’re in Northern NJ, you can find a great selection of Zastava PAP M90NP rifles, with all of the extremely important compliance work already done, as well as many other fantastic firearms and accessories, at RTSP in Randolph.  Of course, RTSP is an FFL, so even if you are not in NJ, they will be more than happy to ship an M90NP to your local FFL, and if you live in another ban state, RTSP is more than capable of completing any compliance work that needs to be done before shipping the rifle.  Just make sure you let them know exactly what needs to be done, since you are responsible for knowing your local laws!

I may do a future range review, but if you are not familiar with them, RTSP is Northern NJ’s premier indoor range, store and training facility.  They’ve earned a Nation Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) 5-Star range rating, which means RTSP demonstrates excellence in all aspects of management and operations, including appearance, customer service, amenities, customer development and community relations.  Their entire staff, including on-site gunsmiths, is extremely knowledgeable and friendly.  Their range facility is fantastic, with a huge selection of rental guns.  Their large retail space is fully stocked with handguns, rifles and shotguns, from the most high-end, semi-custom and custom works of art, to the more common, everyday guns, and they have plenty of popular accessories in stock.  Their state of the art training facility includes classroom, range, shoot house and digital simulation capabilities.

Check out this fantastic video for more info on RTSP:


When selecting the rifle for this review, the extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff at RTSP allowed me to examine their entire inventory of at least a half-dozen M90NP rifles, so I could hand-pick the best one – and they didn’t rush me at all!  Lest anyone think I got special treatment, this was during normal business hours, with plenty of other patrons around.  I almost couldn’t believe it.  That level of customer service is a stark contrast to other places I’ve shopped, where it took effort to get the owner to take even just one rifle down from the wall for me to examine, when I was the only person in the store.  Anyway, I ran down the usual, ‘imported AK QC checklist’ while looking over the M90NPs in RTSP’s inventory, checking for loose rivets on the receiver, canted front sights, canted gas selector hold-downs, or cycling issues.  Honestly, all of RTSP’s M90NPs were good.  Any one of them would have been acceptable.  In fact, I was surprised at how buttery smooth the M90NP’s action cycled, compared to some N-PAP M70 AK’s I’ve handled in the past.

Normally I would field strip, and thoroughly clean any new gun before taking it to the range.  I was already at the range, short on time, and as Brad and I joked, the M90NP is an AK…  So after Brad graciously allowed me perform a basic function check and run a bore snake down the barrel to ensure the rifle was safe to fire, I headed right to RTSP’s 25-yard rifle range…

How does it shoot?  What do I like, or not like?  What’s next?

You’ll just have to wait!  This post is already a monster.  Who knows, it might even be the start of a new series.  I have two different range reports and a bunch of changes in mind I may share in the future.  I mean, it’s already a bastardized, non-purist AK, so it’s the perfect platform to mod!

Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.


There are many who believe Mikhail Kalashnikov’s rifle design, itself heavily influenced by John Garand’s M1, is the most rugged and reliable rifle platform in the World.  Since being introduced in 1947, the AK-47 has been involved in every single, major world conflict, and while slightly refined over the last 69 years, the basic, fundamental, operating design remains unchanged.  If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.  The AK-47 has certainly endured the test of time, and proven itself reliable in some of the worst conditions imaginable.  Like it or hate it, you have to agree that even purely as a mechanical device, the AK-47 deserves serious respect!  It can be ridden hard, and put away wet, with minimal maintenance, and just keeps going.  (Not something I recommend you try with an AR.)

GoldenTiger762In case you haven’t noticed (2016 Firearms Industry Predictions & Why You Need to Consider the AK-47), the AK has become extremely popular in the United States over the last few years.  As of this writing, a variety of import based, and 100% U.S. made AK pattern rifles are available to civilians.  Big-name, major accessory manufactures, like Magpul and Geissele, have also started producing AK specific products, highlighting and increasing its continued popularity.  (If you build it, they will come…)  That said, most current AK offerings are chambered in traditional 7.62 x 39.  That’s understandable since 7.62 x 39 is easy to shoot, proven very effective, and for the moment…yes, for the moment…good, non-corrosive, imported ammo is both cheap, and plentiful.  Did I say for the moment?

The Case for an AK in 5.56 NATO!


DCF 1.0

Different 5.56 NATO Rounds

We in the United States of America are a nation of AR-15 fans.  It’s estimated that throughout the U.S., there are between 1.5 – 3.2 million AR-15s owned by civilians, and the great majority of them are chambered in 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington.  (As of mid-2016, that’s probably a low estimate, and doesn’t include all of the other semi-automatic and bolt action rifles also chambered for 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington, many of which accept AR-15 magazines.)  That means 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington and AR-15 magazines are ubiquitous.  I’m sure most of you have at least a few hundred rounds of 5.56 / .223 Remington, and at least a handful of AR-15 magazines in your house right now, not counting any secret stash.  Lucky for us, the 5.56 x 45 is a NATO cartridge, so chances are very good 5.56 / .223 ammunition will continue to be readily available and affordable, well into the foreseeable future.  

So 5.56 / .223 is plentiful, affordable, fun and easy to shoot all day long, without developing the dreaded flinch.  It’s a great round for general target shooting / paper punching, competition, varmint hunting, predator control and certainly home defense.  Hey, the 5.56 x 45 is still the intermediate cartridge of choice for all NATO countries.  The same cannot be said for 7.62 x 39.

What happens if the administration decides to ban the import of all 7.62 x 39 ammunition, which can happen in an instant, with the stroke of a pen?  How long would your current supply last?  How easy would it be to find more?  How much could you borrow or barter for from friends and neighbors?  Sure, a few big name U.S. ammo manufacturers have started producing 7.62 x 39, but have you checked prices?? I wouldn’t exactly call it cheap!!  Purists will have a hard time accepting an AK-47 chambered in anything that doesn’t begin with 7.62, and end with 39, but there’s definitely a lot more 5.56 NATO / .223 Remington than 7.62 x 39 out there, and the 5.56 / .223’s long-term future is definitely more secure.  If you live in the U.S., having the most rugged and reliable rifle in the world, chambered in the most common, readily available caliber in the country makes a lot of sense.


Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!

© 2016 Inside The X Ring.