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Range Report: Converted Saiga 308 16.5" bbl

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I did the conversion last year, but only recently bought a scope.


This is the build:


16.5" barrel Saiga 308.

Dinzag Arms polished Arsenal 2-stage trigger.

Tapco forearm.

CAA grip w/ Kvar NATO LOP AK stock equipped with rubber butt pad.

Kalinka tall-height side-rail scope mount (allows use of iron sights or scope, and removal of dust cover and bolt carrier without removing the scope/mount assembly).

Nightforce NXS compact, 2.5-10x32mm


Shooting Federal ammo with 168 grain Sierra Matchking bullet.


I had 2 groupings of 3/4" at 100 yards with a slightly warm barrel (each shot touched one of the others in each grouping).


Shooting was done with front and rear sandbags and at 10x magnification.


I'm really happy with how the build turned out; I just bought another Saiga 308 in same barrel length so I can build a duplicate.

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Congrats, my son and myself have a bit of fun.

We shoot 10 rounds in less than 60 seconds, try it, it aint as easy as you think.

Edited by RED333
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My other carbine arrives tomorrow, I'm doing the build in January. I suspect it's repeatable; these Saiga 308s are exceptionally well built.


Nope you will never see its like again.


Its a 4MOA rifle with crap milsurp/steel ammo, 2MOA with the right (125gr seems likely) custom ammo, and I have yet to see sub MOA that wasnt just a fluke.


Twist rate is all wrong for heavy loads @1:12, and lets face it precision and reliability do conflict.

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I will give you my two,(2) teenager granddaughters, (for educational purposes only) for your scope. The best I got using 175 gr. "Special Ball" LC was just under 2 inches at 100 yards. Ten shots over about 5 minutes. Old Leopold 3x9x40 scope. Even then I had to fudge on the elevation a bit.


And ... never start a new paragraph with a conjunction. No ... wait ... first I had to remove and shim my factory side receiver scope mount mount. It was way off both up and down and also left to right. Not even close. I used automotive valve adjustment shim stock and went back with short nuts and bolts.


Now you got me wanting to go ahead and have another fun project seeing how well my Saiga 308 16" bbl rifle will shoot. I think the sweet spot with the 1x12 twist may be around 150 grains. I have a buddy who hand loads. I do not. Maybe we can do come trading around for some good hand loaded ammo. Thanks for your test results. HB of CJ (old coot)


Lets see here ... Slug the bore and cast the chamber. Recrown the muzzle. A much better trigger. Excellent hand loads using the proper diameter bullet and case length. Confirm the exact head space. Re use our old Leopold scope. Perfect autumn weather conditions. Sounds like fun to me!

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So, just a couple of thoughts based on some of the responses I have read.



1. As an engineer, I know that a rifle's performance (in terms of accuracy and consistency) is not aliatory (meaning that it is not dependent on luck).  The performance is the sum of an equation consisting of multiple variables, generally falling into 1 of 3 categories:  rifle, shooter, and ammunition.  There are many variables within these three categories, and some of these are interdependent; for example a crisp, 2-stage trigger with a clean break is an improvement to the rifle, but can reduce hand movement of the shooter during firing, reducing impact on aim and therefore improving accuracy and consistency of the rifle-ammo-shooter system.  Similarly, a high magnification scope can improve eyesight and allow for a narrower range of accuracy.  I like to think of it as there being three inherent levels of accuracy, one in the rifle, one in the shooter, and one in the ammo.  The combined accuracy will not be any better than the worst level of accuracy of one of these categories; i.e. the best rifle and ammo in the world cannot compensate for a poor shooter, and an expert shooter with a perfect rifle will not shoot as well with poor ammunition.


2. From a manufacturing standpoint (and I am an SME Certified Manufacturing Engineer with 5+ years working as a machinist and CNC programmer), it makes sense for any manufacturing facility including an arsenal to standardize on components as much as possible in order to facilitate bulk purchases that reduce unit cost and lower overall cost of produced products.  This philosphy applies whether you are making cameras, rifles, field artillery, bombs, televisions, or car engines.  So if you are making a hunting rifle and a military rifle in the same caliber (such as 5.45x39 or 7.62x39) it would make economical sense to use the same barrels in both rifles, with minor changes in gun-drill length for slightly longer barrels.  I suspect that there is little difference between the barrel blanks made and used for the military-issue AKs and the civilian-use Saigas, based purely on common-sense manufacturing philosphies, and the fact that both sizes of barrels have a lot of nearly identical outer-dimensions


3. Battle rifle barrels (such as those chambered in calibers such as 5.45 or 7.62) arent that accurate because quite frankly they dont have to be.  A less accurate barrel is cheaper to manufacture, and a 2.5 MOA barrel will be capable, at 500 yards, of hitting a target of approximately 12.5" diameter, or "minute-of-man".  A marksman rifle shooting a high-powered cartridge such as 54r, 30-06, or 308 win must be able to hit the same 12.5" at approximately 1,000 yards, implying a functional accuracy requirement of at least 1.25 MOA.  Of course the more accurate the rifle / shooter system, the further out the rifle can be used to engage targets.  Rifles intended for hunting, competition, or long-range sniping are made with accurizing improvements (many associated with dimensional tolerances) in order to accomplish the desired level of performance.


4.  Although the 308 win / 7.62x51 is a commonly-used military and hunting cartridge in the west, Izhmash historically has not, to my knowledge made any military-issue firearms in this caliber.  This means that any barrel blank used must be capable of containing high chamber pressures of a 308 round (which are 38% higher than 7.26x39 by SAAMI test).  For comparison, the SAAMI max chamber pressures for four cartridges are as follows:


7.62x39:   45,010 PSI

7.62x54r:  52,000 PSI

5.45x39:   55,114 PSI

308 win:    62,000 PSI


Additionally, assuming the shoulder dimension is the largest pressure-containing cartridge dimension, and using the thin-wall pressure vessel formula, and assuming a design factor of 1, and a material strength of 75,000 PSI, I calculated a minimum barrel diameter needed to contain the maximum chamber pressure as a comparative measure of the absolute minimum diameter of barrel blank needed for each caliber.


7.62x39:   .634"

7.62x54r:  .773"

5.45x39:   .632"

308 win:   .830"


Additionally I calculated the same minimum barrel diameter for a .223 using the same methodology; it came out to be .614".


It is interesting that although Saiga 7.62 and Saiga 5.45 barrels have different bore diameters, they have nearly identical outer diameters, due to different chamber pessures.  This would be a Hell of a concidence.


Of course, for manufacturing reasons, each steel barrel forging would actually be a bit larger, to allow for removal of forging scale and clean-up machining.  Ideally you would want as little extra material as possible in order to reduce the cost of the barrel forgings, especially in a mass-production application like a state-run arsenal or a large arms manufacturing company (such as Colt and the M4).  While domestic, US-made replacement barrel blanks are available from companies like Schilen in standard sizes exceeding 1", this is more about buying 1 size of raw material to facilitate manufacture of a wide variety of calibers and desired barrel diameters.  If Izhmash made every barrel out of a 1.5" diameter blank the additional cost of material and machine time to remove it would drive their costs through the roof.  Based on my forging-buying experience, I would estimate that about .125" of additional material would be sufficienty for cleaning up any mill scale for the largest dimension on the OD of a barrel blank.


The key take-away here is that it you could concieveably manufacture every rifle made by Izhmash using 2 different sizes of raw barrel blanks.  This is EXTREMELY COMMON in manufacturing operations across a variety of industries world-wide.


A smaller diameter blank of about 750", could produce the 7.62, 5.45, and .223 rifle barrels, used for the bulk of the rifles produced by Izhmash (I would guess upwards of 75% of their rifles).  A second, larger diameter blank of about 1" in diameter could be used to produce rifles in 308 win and 7.62x54r, at a cost savings (compared to buying 1" blanks for every single rifle barrel).  The cost-savings from having 75% of their forgings be a bit smaller should outweigh the added cost from having 2 sizes of forgings.


5. Now lets talk a bit about barrel machining.  The choice of lathes, tooling, CNC programming, competency of machine operators, and quality of measuring instruments for a given rifle barrel is dependent on the desired outcome.  In other words, if you are making a sniper, marksman, or hunting rifle barrel, you want better processes, tools, and staff to facilitate that end.  Most arsenals are set up in "cells", with each cell being focused on either a given process or set of processes that are product specific.  It is very unlikely that all of their rifle barrels are machined on the same machine tools by the same people.


It is very logical to assume that barrels for Dragunov / Tigr, which require better machining quality to facilitate the higher accuracy requirements, are simply machined better than their 5.45 or 7.62 counterparts, resulting in a more accurate rifle.  So the question is, who is finish machiing the 308 barrels for Saiga rifles?  Given the ratio of 5.45 & 7.62 rifles to those in 54r and 308, and the similarity between barrel requirements for a hunting rifle and a marksman rifle, IT IS REASONABLETO ASSUME THAT THE 308 WIN BARRELS ARE PRODUCED AND MACHINED IN AN IDENTICAL FASHION TO THOSE FOR THE DRAGUNOV / TIGR.  This would explain a number of Saiga 308 users (including myself) who find ourselves in possession of rifles that perform far better than "standard" AK rifles from the same factory.


6. If you are manufacturing a rifle specifically for a longe-range hunting application then high accuracy is a requirement and the rifle has to perform at a certain level to be successful.  The fact that the Saiga 308 has a thicker barrel than the Dragunov / Tigr is likely because of the higher chamber pressure of the 308 cartridge (which has a 20% higher chamber pressure than the 54r).


7. Now lets talk about ammo.  For 5.45 & 7.62, there is a lot of militury surplus ammo out there.  The consistency of bullets is better than consistency of powder.  The worst russian milsurp I have ever seen was in 54r, where bullets had variation in powder load up to 1 full grain.  There is also commercial ammo; in my experience Tulammo, bear, and most recently Red Army Standard are ok at best, on par with standard Remington and Winchester white-box.  You have to remember that the tolerances in bullet, casing, and powder loads are a function of the equipment that makes components and is used in assembly.  Match-quality ammo is just higher quality standards, which cost more, but also results in more consistent performance, reducing the size of shot groups.


I have many times shot a rifle with standard off-the-shelf ammo, followed by match quality ammo.  The difference is so great that its like shooting a completely different rifle.  I suspect that too many people discount the value of consistent, match-grade ammo.



CONCLUSION:  If you really want to test the accuracy of a rifle, you have to eliminate variation in performance as much as possible.  Removing shooter bias through the use of bipods or sandbags, a crisp 2-stage trigger, consistent ammo, and a high-powered optic allowing more consistent aiming will result in a rifle performing at its absolute best.  I believe that it is highly likely that Saiga 308s are made to a higher quality standard than other Saiga calibers that utilize the same processes and tooling as military rifles, which have a looser set of requirements.


I will know for sure in a couple of months when I finish building my duplicate Saiga 308 carbine (its currently about 30% done).  About the same time I should have the new scope on my long-barrel Saiga 308, with a tuned bullet load, and I will report on that once I get it to the range.

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Wow, thats good, very methodical and thought out, although i have to disagree that the saiga 308 barrels are made in similar fashion to tiger and svd barrels, svd barrels use a elecro something machine that removes several microns per pass to make the grooves in the rifling, where the saiga is a hammer forged barrel. But i like your thought process.

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Zag, what you are describing is known as EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining). This process is used to drill holes, machine out pockets, and cut grooves.


EDM is not a substitute for hammer forging, HF is simply a process for creating the raw material (as an alternative to casting, hot forging, and other forming methods). Think of it this way, every manufacturing process is either additive (adding material to a part, such as welding, pouring a casting, or 3D printing), subtractive (removing material such as machining, drilling, or grinding), forming (which just changes the shape). Hammer forging is a forming process that changes the shape, reduces impurities in a piece of metal, aligns the grain and alters properties to produce a specifically-desired set of material properties. EDM is a subtractive process.


Also, EDM is VERY expensive. To use this process to create rifling would require a custom machine tool the likes of which would exist nowhere else in the world, and add a couple of thousand dollars to the cost of manufacture. What is the source of your information?

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I watched the russian tv program that talked about the design and creation of the svd a while ago. It may have been on youtube too, its in russian though. I will find it and post link.

Watch "свд драгунова (1/4 серия)." on YouTube

свд драгунова (1/4 серия).:



Its a 4 part series in russian.

Watch "свд драгунова (2/4 серия)" on YouTube

свд драгунова (2/4 серия):

Watch "свд драгунова (3/4 серия)" on YouTube

свд драгунова (3/4 серия):

Here is the 4th one.


Watch "свд драгунова (4/4 серия)" on YouTube

свд драгунова (4/4 серия):

Thats how i understood it in russian, i may be wrong but as far as i can make out of it, its edm process. Specifically for svd.

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Well, I don't speak Russian, but I could see how EDM rifling would reduce machining stresses on the barrel (compared to more traditional methods), and also be more accurate rifling than hammer-forging around a rifling die.


And when it comes to hammer forging, that can be done without without rifling.


I kinda want to pull a barrel out, saw it in half, and look at the rifling under a microscope now (EDM is very different than forging or machining methods).

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