Circle 10 AK has made a name for itself in being a small, but high quality AK parts producer and designer within the industry. At that, the company is able to bring to market products that are economical as well, from the Scout Optic Mount, to the Alfa forward rail mount developed in conjunction with Manticore Arms. In addition, as an AK parts dealer on their own accord, Circle 10 AK has always known to be reputable and reliable among AK owners.
Disclaimer- Circle 10 AK and Circle 10 are two completely different entities, Circle 10 AK is an American firearms and parts company that is based in the Mid West, while Circle 10 is a Bulgarian firearms company based in Bulgaria.
Not to be content with the status quo, Circle 10 AK decided to put together an entire rifle, the first of its kind for the company that normally deals with parts and magazines. That rifle is the subject of this review, and TFB has been fortunate enough to have a significant amount of time with the rifle. It was originally inspired by what Larry Vickers deemed to be important for features in a modern AK platform. But at that, this is exactly the extent of Vickers’ involvement with the project-
For nearly a year we have been in discussion with industry professional Larry Vickers about what could be used to modernize a nearly 70 year old rifle design and keep it’s reliability in simplicity. With his input we went to the drawing board and came up with a prototype that was used in an AK training class in July of 2015. After receiving praise from Larry and some feedback, here’s what we came up with.
Essentially Circle 10 had been dealing with making parts and selling parts for while, and had gotten around to the idea that they could actually put out an entire rifle. Manticore Arms was of a similar sort of mentality, when I interviewed Sven last summer, he mentioned that his ultimate end goal, would be to put together a complete rifle in the future. Although the rifle that Circle 10 AK will be offering isn’t completely made from scratch, it is most definitely a “Circle 10” AK, as it includes everything the company would like to see on a fighting AK in 5.45x39mm. Why 5.45 and not 5.56? Both Larry Vickers and Circle 10 AK have the 5.45 as one of their favorites for a variety of reasons, but the company will be coming out with these rifles in all 3 calibers, 5.45x39mm, 5.56x45mm, and 7.62x39mm. These are built from base model Arsenal 104,105, and 106 models as well.
To begin with, the telescoping stock is a Bravo Company Gunfighter stock in tan. It telescopes within a range of around 4 inches, so your length of pull can be greatly adjusted in or out. The stock is depressed by pressing in on the lower portion, where the usual AR platform telescoping stock can be adjusted. I liked this choice for stock alot because the plunger is extremely large, making a quick adjustment very easy. Because it was so new, it was a little difficult at first but after a range session or two, the stock warmed up quite nicely and adjustments were being made very easily. It shoulders quite nicely as well, with an expansive cheek rest area.
The folding stock is a collaboration between Circle 10 AK and Manticore Arms, and is their F3 Flush Fit Folder. It has a cutout with it that allows it to fold up against an AK sighting mount quite nicely, and of course flush to the rifle with the stock in the extended position. The holes where the telescoping stock clicks into are very numerous, so a shooter can adjust the moving portion of the stock to half inch sections, in whatever they see fit. It does not lock in the closed position, only in the extended position. The locking mechanism is the traditional AK74 triangle stock folding button, located on the left side of the rifle.
To be honest, this was the only part of the rifle I had some qualms with, and could see room for improvement. First of all, I believe that a folding stock on a rifle or submachine gun should be locked in the stowed/closed position. If the rifle is stowed in a compartment, it isn’t much of a deal, however if the rifle is being carried while the stock is folded, this is a large issue because the stock will continually be slapping against the rifle. In addition, if it is fired from this closed position, there is nothing keeping the stock from opening up while the shooter is firing it. The next issue I see is the cutout in the tube. This cutout allows the stock to be folded with the sighting mount that many AK74 parts kits come with, such as the Bulgarian parts kit that the Circle 10 rifle is built upon. However, because of this, the stock can really only be in an extended position when folded, or else it doesn’t become flush with the rifle. And in order to have the stock in an extended position, it has to almost be fully extended. Which leads to another issue in that the stock doesn’t really need to go that far out. When it is extended, I mean it is fully extended, with a length of pull that makes shouldering the rifle somewhat difficult. You might say this is necessary for larger people, but I had a shooter at the range who was a pretty big guy, around 6’3, and the body to match. He shouldered it in the fully extended position, and it was still too much for him. In order to alleviate this issue, I think just removing the bolted on sight mount would be a good start, because the SOMK rear sight mount is perfectly adequate for any red dot optic.
Moving up from the stock, the rifle has a U.S. Palm AK Battle Grip pistol grip that allows for a solid grip while shooting the rifle. The trigger is an ALG from ALG Defense. When I first started shooting the rifle, the trigger was hanging up a few times on the reset, but after a magazine or two, this stopped happening and it performed flawlessly. Much like the stock, it just had to have some rounds through it in order for it to really function properly. The break was extremely clean, and the reset had a positive tactile feel to it.
The parts kit is a Bulgarian Model SLR 104 FR, stamped receiver. This covers the barrel, front sight, receiver, trunnion, and receiver cover. The entire rifle is cerakoted with a tan finish. This is to include some of the internals such as the bolt as well.
Safety is made by Krebs, and is their Mark VI enhanced safety for stamped AKs. Manipulating the safety is simple because a shooter can use their trigger finger to push up or down on the It has a notch for locking the bolt to the rear with the safety on, but with the addition of the extended bolt handle, this notch needs to be cut out some more for it to fit because currently the bolt can be locked to the rear but only some of the time. The extended bolt handle itself is another excellent addition, making the process of charging the rifle and manipulating the bolt extremely easy, almost smooth as butter because of the amount of grip that a shooter can put on it.
Magazines are standard AK74 5.45x39mm bakelite magazines or any market equivalent. The rifle will ship with the addition of one Bulgarian new circle 10 magazine and a hard case.
The rear sight base has a Circle 10 SOMAK rear sight mount. This has a section of picatinny rail on it, and is around 3 inches in length. A really neat feature about the mount is that it has an integrated rear sight notch within it. Of course, this isn’t adjustable, but it lines up perfectly with the front sight post, and that is adjustable for elevation. I conducted all shooting with this set up, and the rifle was shooting great, without an optic. Extremely surprising to me was when I was making consecutive hits out to 200 meters on steel with just this iron sight set up. As a back up iron sight system, this is absolutely ideal.
The extended Key Mod Alfa rail is an excellent addition to the rifle, and a case could be made for this new generation of rail designs really bringing the AK platform into the 21st Century. It has picatinny sections before and after the gas block, with five sections of Key Mod running alongside the bottom, 3 and 9 o’clock positions, in addition to two sections that are in between these. Slanted vents are added on the top section to increase heat ventilation coming off of the piston action of the rifle and the gas coming out of it. I will add that where the front sling swivel is poking out from the Alfa rail, the swivel tends to get rather hot during a course of fire, while the Alfa rail around it is at a much lower temperature. Touching it while holding the rifle will be noticeable but it won’t give you a burn of any sort. Honestly with the Key Mod sections galore, I wouldn’t mind it if Circle 10 simply machined the sling swivel off, with a vast amount of Key Mod speciality sling swivels out there on the market for purchase. On this the rifle will come with a BCM Gunfighter Vertical Grip Mod 3. This grip leaves just enough room to hold on to, but also acts an an excellent forward grip for incorporating whatever Costa “C” grip you want to use on the rifle.
The compensator is a Bulgarian 4 piece flash suppressor and it does an excellent job of controlling muzzle rise. The thing is built like a tank as well, considering the cone that is inside of it. Shooting the 5.45 round in a standard AK74 set up, with a standard 74 compensator makes follow on shots easy enough, but with this compensator, it feels more like a .22 Magnum of some sort. An important thing to note about this device is that it isn’t permanently attached to the barrel, users can change it out to any compenstor they wish with respective to the current muzzle threads.
Shooting the Circle 10 AK
We shot around 300 rounds through the rifle, over the course of three range sessions. Ranges between 200 meters and 50 meters and in. We worked with magazine reloading drills, in addition to shooting at steel targets, and paper ones. On paper at 75 meters in the offhand position, the rudimentary open sights brought in a group of around 11 inches, essentially keeping all the rounds on paper. With optical sights, I see no reason why this group wouldn’t decrease in size over time. But at 200 meters, as mentioned earlier, we were making first round hits on 16 inch wide steel targets, with those same simple open sights. As also mentioned previously, that sling swivel had a tendency to heat up, but it is nothing that a pair of gloves or machining off the swivel entirely can’t fix. The folding stock had zero wobble when in the extended position, and parts didn’t start coming loose either. Ammunition used was a mixture of Soviet 5.45 in spam cans from the 1980s, and some modern day 5.45, both produced no malfunctions or failures to fire.
An AK platform rifle, is an Ak, no matter what you put on it. Whether we are looking at a Polish WASR or the latest from Rifle Dynamics. As long as the operating system is left relatively untouched, the rifle has that reputation for reliability that makes it so incredibly popular all over the world, and beginning to be much more so in the United States. Maybe the Rifle Dynamics will have somewhat fewer malfunctions than the WASR over the course of the rifles service life, but in the end, the design is hard to screw up. With that being said, what makes the Circle 10 AK worthwhile and a welcome addition to the AK market is the choice of parts that have been put into it, bringing the platform into the 21st Century. As stated before, my only qualms with the rifle is really just the stock set up. I believe a better one could be implemented, or at the very least, a return to the triangular stock that would latch when closed. Manticore even makes an upgraded version of this for the U.S. market. MSRP for the rifle is $1995 for all calibers. Currently the 7.62 models are out of stock, but the 5.45 and 5.56 versions are ready to order from the website.
Much thanks to Paul F. for some of the input and test firing of this review.