D&L SPORTS SLR HY­BRID

ELITE AK OR SO­LU­TION LOOK­ING FOR A PROB­LEM?

Recoil - - Front Page - BY TOM MAR­SHALL

The AK mar­ket is be­gin­ning to feel the ef­fects of a phe­nom­e­non that’s all but busi­ness as usual for AR shop­pers. With the re­peated waves of panic buys, and our leg­isla­tive branch firmly con­trolled by a party that’s sup­pos­edly look­ing out for our Se­cond Amend­ment rights, many peo­ple have al­ready pur­chased the ri­fles they need or want. In re­sponse, man­u­fac­tur­ers have been striv­ing to come up with new and unique vari­a­tions of a base ri­fle so pro­lific that de­mand for it has slowed sig­nif­i­cantly.

For all its ben­e­fits, the Kalash­nikov plat­form lacks a de­gree of mod­u­lar­ity that’s trade­mark of Amer­ica’s black ri­fle. Mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the AK some­times re­quire ad­di­tional ef­fort and TLC. The re­sult­ing ar­ti­san in­dus­try of AK builders has pro­duced some in­tensely re­fined ver­sions of Rus­sia’s chief ex­port.

D&L Sports is a small gun­smith shop with an ex­ten­sive his­tory of qual­ity work, pri­mar­ily on 1911 pis­tols. But they re­cently added a house-blend AK ri­fle to their lineup. Us­ing an Arse­nal base gun, they re­fer to it as the SLR Hy­brid. Our sam­ple pack­age in­cluded a very thor­ough in­struc­tion manual, the ri­fle, and two mag­a­zines.

FIRST IM­PRES­SIONS

The first thing we think any­body would no­tice about the SLR Hy­brid is that it has a very dis­tinct aes­thetic, even for an AK. The hand­guard is a wide, round num­ber with all kinds of slots and holes. This free-float tube in­cludes a se­ries of holes drilled through­out to at­tach Pi­catinny rail sec­tions at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Ac­cord­ing to the in­cluded lit­er­a­ture, these rail pieces are pro­duced by D&L and hand-honed in­di­vid­u­ally.

While the qual­ity of ma­chin­ing and the ar­ti­san ap­proach are com­mend­able, this setup left us scratch­ing our head. There’s a solid se­lec­tion of high-qual­ity AK fore-ends cur­rently avail­able in the af­ter­mar­ket. Fur­ther­more, the con­cept

of screw­ing in in­di­vid­ual sec­tions of Pi­catinny rail to mount ac­ces­sories all but died out many moons ago. If you’re in­stalling a pro­pri­etary hand­guard, why not one that’s KeyMod or M-LOK com­pat­i­ble — this would de­crease weight, re­duce bulk, and al­low di­rect at­tach­ment of a wide va­ri­ety of ac­ces­sories.

Mov­ing south of the hand­guard, there are a num­ber of mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the re­ceiver it­self. The tra­di­tional rear sight is gone, re­placed with a short Pi­catinny base that car­ried an Aim­point Mi­cro on our test gun. Par­tic­u­larly unique about this sight mount is the built-in fold­ing rear sight. It’s a non­ad­justable pis­tol-style notch, com­ple­mented by a front sight that also folds down. Both front and rear com­po­nents are equipped with bright tri­tium in­serts. It’s am­ple sight to cover you in the down-and-dirty if your red dot should fail, and we like the de­sign.

Be­low the sights, the charg­ing handle has been moved to the left side of the re­ceiver. The handle it­self is large enough to gain pos­i­tive con­trol with­out much ef­fort and should look fa­mil­iar to any­body who’s ever run an FAL. The mag­a­zine well is large enough to drive a truck through and flared like the bot­tom of the Lib­erty Bell. If you like mag­wells, this one should def­i­nitely get your mojo go­ing. If not, you’ve been warned.

What truly made us bite our lip about the mag­a­zine well are the myr­iad holes drilled into it. It gives the piece a dis­tinctly cheese-grater ap­pear­ance that’s per­va­sive through­out the en­tire build. The AR-style stock tube and bolt car­rier

also sport the Swiss cheese fash­ion style that, frankly, looks like a high school shop stu­dent ate all their Hal­loween candy and then let loose with a drill press. We’re not sure what the in­tent was be­hind drilling so many holes, par­tic­u­larly into parts in­side the ac­tion that come face-to-face with all the crud that x39 ammo is known for. Our ini­tial thought was weight re­duc­tion. But, even with all the ven­ti­la­tion, this par­tic­u­lar Kalash­nikov vari­ant tips the scales at 9.3 pounds un­loaded.

The afore­men­tioned stock tube has a stor­age com­part­ment that, on our sam­ple gun, held a cleaning kit. The end of the tube has a screw-in cap that’s easy enough to open and close. How­ever, ac­cess­ing it isn’t as quick as it sounds. The stock is held in place by two hex head set screws that must be com­pletely backed down be­fore the stock can slide in or out to set length of pull. Both screws must then be tight­ened all the way down once the length is set. While the tube looks like an AR-style stock tube, it doesn’t func­tion as such. You can’t plug in a stan­dard AR butt­stock to re­place the one with set screws.

It would seem the stock that comes on this gun is the one you’re stuck with. Said unit is also ca­pa­ble of stor­ing an ad­di­tional mag­a­zine latched into the butt­stock it­self. Ours is cur­rently hold­ing a 10-round AK PMAG, al­though oth­ers do latch in. And the stock tube doesn’t fold. On the bright side, if you don’t feel like jack­ing with set screws just to reach the in­ter­nal stor­age

com­part­ment, you can al­ways stuff your small sun­dries into the Mag­pul grip that has a small pocket in­side.

Lest we be ac­cused of judg­ing a book by its per­fo­rated cover, it seemed to be only fair that we bring this thought-pro­vok­ing piece of work out for field test­ing.

ROUNDS DOWNRANGE

We put sev­eral hun­dred rounds through the SLR Hy­brid, us­ing an eclec­tic ar­ray of am­mu­ni­tion, rang­ing from Tiger Im­ports to Sil­ver Bear “Match” to Fed­eral, Hor­nady, and Red Army Stan­dard. The ri­fle ran ex­actly as an AK should — so con­sis­tently as to be bor­ing. The trig­ger ap­pears to be of ALG prove­nance, trip­ping our pull gauge at just un­der 3.5 pounds. It’s cer­tainly lighter than we’re ac­cus­tomed to for AKs, but it’s a re­fresh­ing change and en­ables more pre­cise en­gage­ments — at least, as pre­cise as you can get for an AK. Out to the 50- to 60-yard marker, this ri­fle held groups no­tice­ably tighter and more con­sis­tent than other AKs we’ve shot.

How­ever, the mod­i­fi­ca­tions made to this ri­fle did lead to some in­ter­est­ing quirks with the manual of arms. As pre­vi­ously men­tioned, this model is set up with a left-side-only charg­ing handle. To achieve this ef­fect, it ap­pears that the orig­i­nal right-side handle was ground down, leav­ing a small nub on the bolt car­rier.

An AK’s se­lec­tor lever is de­signed so that, in the up (safe) po­si­tion, you’re un­able to charge the weapon. But this nub is sized and shaped per­fectly to kick the safety lever down into the fire po­si­tion when you run the bolt. The safety on our D&L AK re­mains func­tional in the sense that it still pre­vents the weapon from fir­ing. But it no longer keeps the bolt from cy­cling.

This “fea­ture” might prove a boon to those who would keep this ri­fle stored in con­di­tion 3 — maybe un­der the bed or in the trunk. In that case you could leave a full mag in­serted with the se­lec­tor on safe. When needed, run­ning the bolt would both cham­ber a round and kick the se­lec­tor down into

fire. We’re not 100-per­cent con­vinced this was an in­ten­tional de­sign fea­ture, as there’s noth­ing about it listed in the com­pany lit­er­a­ture in­cluded with our test gun. But, like it or not, it’s there.

The other sig­nif­i­cant difference in func­tion­al­ity has to do with the mag­a­zines. Our test gun came with two: a 30-round Cir­cle 10 and a 10-round PMAG stored on board the stock. In ad­di­tion to these two, we used sev­eral other 30-round PMAGs — both the stan­dard Gen 3 and MOE va­ri­eties. While the in­cluded mag­a­zines locked into the weapon eas­ily, our per­sonal mags re­quired sig­nif­i­cant manual as­sis­tance to seat prop­erly. Specif­i­cally, we had to brace the stock of the ri­fle against our chest and pull the mag­a­zine back with both hands in or­der to get it to latch into place.

Af­ter some care­ful side-by-side com­par­i­son, we re­al­ized that the two mags in­cluded with the gun were both dim­pled on the left feed lip. These dim­ples cor­re­spond to a small hump on the bot­tom of the ejec­tor, al­low­ing the in­cluded mags to fit smoothly. The un­mod­i­fied mags from our per­sonal stock only fit when ag­gres­sively mus­cled in. Af­ter this, we tried a whole slew of dif­fer­ent AK mags. Rus­sian slab-side, Rus­sian Bake­lite, Hun­gar­ian tanker mags, Bos­nian FDL, Chi­nese steel mags, and AK-103 mags all fit. Un­mod­ded PMAGs and Cir­cle 10s didn’t.

Some of the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by D&L reads as fol­lows: “There is no guar­an­tee that ran­dom bat­tle­field pickup mags are go­ing to work in all guns. I rec­om­mend shoot­ers get the mags they may need when they or­der a car­bine, then they can all be tested for fit and func­tion, and the car­bine’s se­rial num­ber put on the bot­tom of the mag. Then use a drop pouch and don’t abuse a crit­i­cal part of the re­li­a­bil­ity chain. Mag­a­zine fit is crit­i­cal to re­li­a­bil­ity. Poly­mer and over­molded mags of­ten re­quire ex­tra fit­ting, and it is a toss up with steel mags too.”

While we agree qual­ity mag­a­zines are an im­por­tant fac­tor in the over­all re­li­a­bil­ity of any weapon, this ver­biage is at hard odds with con­ven­tional wis­dom. Mag­a­zines are, at the end of the day, con­sum­able com­po­nents. Like brake pads on a ve­hi­cle, their im­por­tance doesn’t make them im­mune to the need for pe­ri­odic re­place­ment. Fur­ther­more, these mod­i­fi­ca­tions take one of the most pro­lific battle ri­fle de­signs in mod­ern his­tory, for which there is a well-es­tab­lished di­men­sional stan­dard, and “con­verts” it to run on mag­a­zines that need to be fit­ted for func­tion. To seek clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the is­sue, we spoke with Gary Hughes of MOD Out­fit­ters. His take on AKs and mag­a­zines went like this: “...we fit the gun to work with a va­ri­ety of mags, Ro­ma­nian, Pol­ish, Rus­sian, etc. Al­ways fit the gun to those mags. With Amer­i­can made or poly mags you do the op­po­site. With those mags, you fit the mag to the gun. By and large an AK

should not re­quire cus­tom-fit­ted mags of any sort.”

Upon ex­am­i­na­tion of the ejec­tor, the humped de­sign ap­pears sim­i­lar to those found on the AK-74, which may also con­trib­ute to the need for mag­a­zine fit­ment ...

THE SMOK­ING GUN

The amount of ef­fort put into this ri­fle is clear, and we ap­plaud D&L for the high level of crafts­man­ship.

But, ar­guably it seems that much of the ef­fort could have been bet­ter ap­plied. The amount of time spent on light­en­ing holes alone could’ve been all but elim­i­nated through dif­fer­ent parts se­lec­tion. Con­sid­er­ing that the weapon weighs over 9 pounds af­ter re­mov­ing all that metal, it’s as if they were fight­ing their own de­sign choices. But we ad­mit freely that this is only our par­tic­u­lar ex­pe­ri­ence with the ri­fle. Your mileage may vary, and if the aes­thetic ap­peals to you, then it may be just what you’re look­ing for.

The sheer weight of this ri­fle and the cus­tom D&L muz­zle brake make for a no­tice­ably flat-shoot­ing ri­fle.

Once screwed into place, the stock doesn’t budge or rat­tle. But adjust on the fly, it does not. The fold­ing BUIS on this gun are push­but­ton ac­ti­vated with pos­i­tive lockup in both po­si­tions. The stock tube givesyou a fairly large amount of space to stow main­te­nance or other sup­plies onboard the weapon.

This mag well may be one of the most for­giv­ing we’ve seen for rapid reloads.

The in­cluded poly­mer mags re­quired some fac­tory fit­ment to work prop­erly. Steel mags we bor­rowed from friends locked in with­out is­sue.

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