Nowadays, if a country doesn’t have domestic production of AR-15 pattern rifles, then it either has very restrictive firearms ownership and manufacturing licensing legislation or just a very small and immature arms industry. With the modern CNC machinery and outsourcing options, the AR-15 is relatively easy to produce and/or assemble. This weapon system is very attractive both to manufacturers and customers in that it’s a modular firearm allowing to easily change configurations and calibers, it has the largest aftermarket support and in general, it’s just a great lightweight and accurate design. It seems like the AR-15 must have almost guaranteed success in the civilian market of any country.
Now, Russia does not have the world’s strictest gun legislation and it has a huge arms industry. However, the Russian civilian market wasn’t really accepting the AR-15 for quite a long time. All early attempts of making an AR-15 (e.g. by Molot Oruzhie and ORSIS) pretty much failed and these guns were discontinued shortly after their introduction. However, recently, the Russian AR-15 market started to show signs of life and I suspect it will grow unprecedentedly fast in the foreseeable future. Let’s try to find out the reasons for previous failures, analyze the current trends as well as see who makes AR-15s in Russia today.
I think the primary reason why the AR-15 had a hard time surviving in the Russian market is the AK-47 and the general perception of these two weapon systems in Russia. The majority of male population in Russia (which is the primary customer group for firearms) is familiar with the AK-47 not only because it’s ubiquitous in Russia, but also because many of them have been issued an AK during their conscription service in the Soviet or Russian military and know about the reliability of the AK platform not just from the stories told but based on their own experience. So AK has a very good reputation in Russia, and rightly so. As opposed to that, the AR-15 has an undeservedly poor reputation usually based on myths and prejudices. What I have been observing in the Russian gun community is praising the AK to a level of a wonder weapon that neither the AK nor any other firearm is, and bashing the AR overexaggerating the shortcomings of its design and ignoring its advantages.
Similarly, a “mistrust” to the .223 Remington / 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge and the overwhelming popularity of 7.62x39mm may also be reasons for ARs’ poor sales. Russians really love the 7.62x39mm, so much that they even jokingly call it “our orthodox cartridge“, meaning the right caliber for them. That’s probably why many of the Russian AR-15 manufacturers offer their rifles chambered in 7.62x39mm.
Another reason for AR-15’s failures in the Russian market should be the price. With the largest AK manufacturing companies being in Russia (namely, Kalashnikov Concern and Molot Oruzhie), it is of no surprise that the Russian market is flooded with excellent quality and at the same time reasonably priced AK pattern rifles in a wide variety of configurations and caliber options. For example, a Saiga-MK rifle (civilian copy of AK-103) has an MSRP of 36,890 rubles (about $575), a Molot Vepr in 7.62×39 is listed at an MSRP of 38,700 rubles (about $600). As you’ll see in a moment, the ARs in Russia are way more expensive with even the cheapest ones costing about 2.5-3 times more than the mentioned AKs.
The cost and availability of ammunition should not be a restricting factor in the popularization of the AR-15 in Russia, because most of the large domestic ammunition manufacturers (e.g. Barnaul, TulAmmo) do sell affordable .223 Remington ammunition on the local market. In Russia, cheapest .223 Remington and 7.62x39mm rounds cost about the same: 12-15 rubles ($0.19-$0.23) per round. Affordable AR-15 magazines made by PufGun are also readily available.
As you can see, there have been several obstacles in the way of the AR-15 that made it difficult for the black rifle to have any significant presence on the Russian market. However, things are now changing. What we can now observe promises to be a booming AR-15 market in the near future because more often than ever we learn about another Russian company getting into the AR-15 game. Apparently, there is a growing demand. Whether the reason is that more people want to try different weapons or the AK market is simply oversaturated, the ARs are clearly getting more popular. Probably the growth of the practical shooting community also contributes to this trend.
Now let’s take a look at the companies that currently domestically manufacture or assemble AR-15 pattern rifles in Russia. The list below goes in no particular order.
ADAR assemble their 2-15 rifles with barrels outsourced to Molot and the rest of the parts outsourced abroad. Being the subsidiary of a large Russian rifle stock manufacturing company called Art-Decart, they offer several unique wood furniture options. The ADAR 2-15 rifles are chambered in .223 Remington and priced at about 120,000 rubles ($1,870).
Earlier, ORSIS used to assemble AR-15 rifles from imported parts but the recently announced ORSIS-AR15J rifle is completely manufactured in-house. This rifle is offered in .223 Remington and 7.62x39mm caliber options. The MSRP on ORSIS’s website is 140,000 rubles ($2,185).
During the Arms & Hunting 2019 exhibition, TechCrim has introduced AR-15 pattern rifles (model TK515) chambered in 7.62x39mm and .366 TKM. These rifles are based on Chinese Norinco piston operated ARs and Molot barrels. The TK515 rifles are not yet listed on the company’s website but reportedly, they will cost around 110,000 rubles ($1,717).
Kurbatov Arms R-715 is also a relatively new rifle. It is chambered in .223 Remington. As seen on the company’s social media pages, they are manufacturing the receivers in house. The rifle is listed on a retailer’s website at a price point of 99,000 rubles, which is roughly $1,545.
FORT is probably the only Russian company that exclusively makes AR-15s. Its product line has been introduced recently. They make rifles with a carbine, mid- and rifle-length gas systems with 12.5″, 16.5″ and 20.5″ barrels respectively. The barrels are outsourced to Molot Oruzhie.
The AR-15 pattern rifle listed on this company’s website is called GM-15 and it can be ordered chambered in .223 Remington, 7.62x39mm, .222 Remington, 22 PPC, and 6mm PPC. This company is affiliated to the Russian National Benchrest and Varminting Federation (in fact, they share the same website) and that’s probably the reason for offering those benchrest calibers. SKAT also makes an AR-10 pattern rifle called GM-15-10 available in .308 Winchester, 6.5×47 Lapua, 7mm Remington SAUM, and .260 Remington.
Souz-TM has just entered the Russian AR-15 market with a wide selection of AR-pattern (STM-series) rifles. The company offers their rifles chambered in .223 Remington (model STM-15), 9x19mm (STM-9), .40 S&W (STM-40), 7.62x39mm (STM-7), 6.5 Grendel (STM-GR), .300 Blackout (STM-300), and 366 TKM (STM-366). These ARs feature milled receivers, Cerakote finish, and FAB Defense or DLG Tactical furniture. The PCCs take Glock mags. With the exception of one option, the rest of these rifles have an MSRP of 190,000 rubles ($2,965).
Besides the above mentioned domestically produced or assembled AR-15s, there are also several imported guns made by the Chinese Norinco, Italian ADC, German Schmeisser and maybe a couple of other manufacturers. The imported guns are priced similarly or more than the locally made ones and oftentimes have variable availability.
As you can see, the AR-15 is expensive in Russia. The AR in Russia is still a gun that costs about three AKs. I think whoever manages to offer rifles priced in par with AKs (whether locally made or imported), will get a huge slice of the Russian gun market pie. Note also that currently AR-15s in Russia are offered by the smaller companies. Giants like Kalashnikov Concern and Molot Oruzhie are probably still observing the trend and want to carefully judge the demand and predict the perspectives of these developments. For the large manufacturers, tooling up and setting up manufacturing lines is a way more costly process and misevaluated market size and demand may become a disaster. At any rate, if one of these guys decides to enter the market, they will probably be able to offer AR-15s that won’t break the bank and will be affordable for the average
I hope you found this attempt of analyzing the Russian AR-15 market an interesting read. If you think I missed something important or didn’t mention a company that has also entered the Russian AR market, please don’t hesitate to tell me in the comments section or shoot me an email. Thanks for reading!