I bought a SAM-7 just over a year ago. It was the 733rd one made. The bolt carrier was a dirty grey color, the firing pin was allowed to travel loose in the bolt, and the end of the firing pin was a square protrusion. The overall quality of the gun was superb, but I sold it to buy a Sig 220ST. I missed it.
A few weeks ago I bought another SAM-7, and I swear that this rifle is a few steps ahead of the first as far as the quality of the parts and fit & finish are concerned.
On the new SAM-7, I have:
* a Very Nice, solid black bolt carrier
* a spring-charged firing pin that does not allow the pin to travel freely within the bolt
* a rounded, circular surface at the rear of the bolt which the hammer hits to manipulate the pin
* trigger pull feels even more smooth
* the finish seems to be of greater quality than the first
AND MOST OF ALL, the barrel seems to handle the heat far better than the first. Perhaps I am wrong, but after firing several dozen rounds through this gun at a rapid pace, the barrel does not visibly appear to be hot. I remember that barrel of the first gun would would start smoking from the heat after the first two magazines.
Even the rear sight seems to look better, although they are both functionally identical.
And of course, the rifle ran without a hitch!
I'm feeling an urge to get another!
Does anyone else notice these differences? Every time I look at this gun, I feel satisfied and impressed with my purchase.
Arsenal recently switched to a spring loaded firing pin assembly on all new rifles. This was done because they were concerned about people using US commercial 7.62x39mm ammo in their rifles and the possiblilty of a slam fire because of softer commercial primers.
Also, and this isn't so far fetched, they were concerned that Russian ammo may be cut off in the future, as it has been with China, so they were looking ahead at possiblities.....
I own an Arsenal Inc. Classic, and it also has the phosphated bolt and carrier rather than the new black enameled one. I have a new SA-M7S and the black enamel looks good, but I'd also be happy with the gray phosphate on the bolt and carrier. Not a biggie for me.
These guys are here to stay and the quality of their rifles is superb. Fit and finish may be improving, but they were already damn good to start with. By far the best over the counter AK's you can buy.
What I believe has changed between the earlier SA M-7 examples and the ones purchased today, is as follows:
*The early SA M-7's final black painted finish over the phosphate was not as well applied as it is done today. Today they seem to do a better job at consistantly applying the better final finish.
*Todays models have the black finish applied to the bolt carrier (not so on the earlier examples).
*Todays gun has the spring loaded firing pin set up (earlier guns having the traditional free floating type). IMO, the new set up is a definite improvement.
*While the earlier models were sent out with American made (milled from forgings) fire control groups (hammer, disconnector, and trigger), todays guns have the same U.S. milled hammer and disconnector, but have a milled from forgings Bulgarian trigger rather than an American made one.
Overall I believe todays examples are a better product. As Templar said, these were good guns to begin with, but have been inching up to be even better than they were before. That is a very good thing, since many companies go the other direction once they are feeling good about their products recognition.
These guys, on the other hand, really seem to want to stay on top of the pack.........and IMO, that is exactly where they are........ON TOP :)
I agree that these are the best standard production AK's being offered to the American public today. Arsenal Inc is the "ONLY" US AK builder that is licensed by a true former Com Bloc AK company to make these things. The fact that the company licensing Arsenal of Nevada is Arsenal of Bulgaria.........can't hurt either :)