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Three rifles Stoner didn't design: got the AR blahs? Fortier says consider these black rifle alternatives!

The AR invasion continues unabated. If anything it is growing, especially with the rising popularity of Rob Silvers' .300 BLK cartridge. The popularity of the AR stems from its modularity and ability to easily transform to fill a wide variety of roles. ARs seem to be everywhere.




Not only are they slapped across the cover of numerous magazines but they fill the pages as well. There are entire magazines devoted to nothing but ARs. The Sportsman Channel goes so far to have a whole TV show dedicated to hunting with ARs. I love ARs, but sometimes the flood Makes My head hurt.

Perhaps you feel the same way. Possibly you own an AR or two and are looking for something different. Or you may simply have no interest in ARs. Maybe you'd like a rugged and reliable semi-automatic rifle based upon a different Military design, but would prefer not to stray from 5.56x45mm. After all, there's nothing wrong with leering at gas-pistons and side-folding stocks.

Plus the 5.56x45mm is a great cartridge with many fine attributes. It's capable of excellent accuracy, very economical, plus there are a host of modern loadings to increase its range, penetration and terminal performance. If you step away from the direct gas impingement design for a bit you might notice another great design or two.


So I set out to do just that. I decided to search about and find three different rifles Eugene Stoner had nothing to do with. They needed to be classic designs With a proven track record. Plus I wanted them all to be chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO.

While there are many other great intermediate cartridges available, the 5.56x45mm still remains king. Plus I felt it important to offer a spread in price. So I searched around a bit and came up with these three interesting AR alternatives for you to consider.

Century International Arms' Golani Spoiler

Not just an assault rifle, the Galil became the "Hebrew Hammer" used to smite the foes of Israel. Developed for, and fielded by, the Israeli Defense Force, many consider the Galil assault rifle the pinnacle of the AK's evolution. Galils have always appealed to American shooters. Back in the 1980s, noted firearms trainer and author Chuck Taylor touted his 'Taylor Modified 7.62x51mm NATO Galil to be 'the choice' for a fighting rifle. The biggest drawback to the Galil in the eyes of American shooters was simply the price. It was an expensive rifle with equally expensive accessories.

Today, original IMI-built rifles remain expensive and desirable collectibles. However, there is a less expensive option. In 2007, Century International Arms, Inc. introduced the Golani Sporter. This is a clone of a Galil AL Built on an American receiver using many surplus Israeli parts, the Golani Sporter is an economical alternative to an expensive IMI-built rifle.

Now some of Century's previous manufacturing endeavors have turned out better than others. Some of their projects have had issues and there was a recall on Golani Sporters shortly after this model was introduced. However, this is not a new project and they Worked through the teething problems.


Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO

Operation: Self-loading, long-stroke gas system with rotating bolt

Length: 38.6 inches, 29.2 inches with stock folded

Barrel: 18 inches with 1-9 inch twist

Weight: 8.6 pounds

Feed: 35-or 50-round box

Sights: Front--Protected post adjustable for windage and elevation

Rear--300 and 500 meter flip apertures

Street Price:$650

The design itself is basically a product improved Kalashnikov. Unlike the Soviet and ComBloc models though, the Galil is a bit more refined. It was originally intended to perform dual roles, as both an assault rifle and as a squad automatic weapon.

To accomplish this, it was built using a heavy forged steel receiver. This is actually the design's Achilles' heel. Using of a machined rather than stamped steel receiver means the Galil is heavy for its caliber. Its excessive weight failed to endear it to IDF troops, who preferred the much lighter M16 family.

Replaced in IDF service, many Galils have hit the surplus market. This has allowed Century to introduce the Golani Sporter. Built on American-made receivers they are fitted with new U.S.-made barrels. These feature a 1:9 twist but are not chromelined. Along with the receiver and barrel there are also some internal parts which are US manufactured. Steve Kehaya of Century stated the rest of the parts are refinished Israeli manufacture.

The Golani Sporter is fitted with a six-port birdcage flash suppressor which is also designed to launch rifle grenades. This is fitted to an 18-inch barrel that is approximately .59" in diameter behind the flash suppressor and .68" behind the gas block. The gas block sports a bayonet lug, sling mount and the front sight assembly.

A black synthetic forearm with heat shield is fitted, but it lacks an upper handguard. It's also interesting to note the receiver has bolt lug recesses milled directly into it for the bolt to lock into rather than having a separate barrel extension. The bolt handle is turned up to make it easier to manipulate with the left hand.

While it sports a standard AK-pattern safety, an additional safety lever is mounted onto the left side of the receiver above the pistol grip. Unfortunately, this operates by pulling the safety to the rear to place the weapon on Fire. To place the rifle on Safe you push it forward.




The front sight is a protected post, adjustable for windage and elevation. The rear sight is a protected L-shaped flip aperture mounted onto the rear of the top cover. Range settings are 300 and 500 meters. In addition to the regular iron sights, the Galil is also fitted with flip-up tritium night sights.

While the Golani Sporter has the flip-up night sights, the tritium lamps are either missing or dead. The receiver is also cut to allow a special optics mount to be fitted.

Feed is from robust steel magazines with a standard capacity of 35 rounds. Synthetic magazines are also available, as are higher capacity 50-round magazines. Magazines rock into place and are released by an AK-type lever magazine release. A synthetic pistol grip and a robust metal side-folding stock are fitted.

Similar in profile to the folding stock utilized on the FAL series, this unit locks rigidly into place. It also easily folds out of the way when not required. The Golani Sporter is 38.6 inches long (29.2 inches with the stock folded) and weighs 8.6 pounds without sling or magazine.


To say that the Golani Sporter is "old school" would be an understatement. This is a rifle from a previous age when reliability and durability were paramount Being a member of the Kalashnikov family, it is simple to strip, maintain and operate. Accuracy, though, is noticeably improved over a run of the mill AK.

While the sights are good for a combat rifle, they are still rather basic. However they are easier to zero than a ComBloc Kalashnikov. The steel magazines are robust but can be dented and rust. Magazines are also fairly expensive, with surplus pieces running around $35.

In the hands the Golani Sporter handles about as well as an empty dump truck. Loaded and fitted with a sling it dresses out at over 10 pounds. That's a bit much in my book for a thin-barreled 5.56x45mm rifle. On the plus side, even though noticeably over-gassed (typical Kalashnikov) it's a very controllable piece. The flash suppressor is a bit dated and there are better designs available today, but it works. If you don't like it, replace it with something better.

The design of the side-folding stock is very robust but the 13.5 inch length of pull may be a bit long for some. If you don't mind the weight, Kalashnikov style controls and it being a bit difficult to mount modern accessories, then it's one to consider. Street price runs around $650, so it's fairly affordable.


My suggested upgrade to bring the Golani Sporter up to date would be a Midwest Industries handguard system. This consists of an upper and lower handguard with M1913 rails machined at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock. Made from 6061 hard anodized aluminum, this system mounts very easily using the included tools. Everything is included for installation, which takes just minutes. Midwest Industries' system allows a red dot sight to be mounted easily, along with other accessories such as a white light. Price is $129.95.

Arsenal, Inc. SLR-106FR

Unlike the Golani Sporter, Arsenal's SLR-106FR isn't a Western evolution of an AK: it is an AK. But it's not just any AK, the SLR-106FR is considered by many to be one of the best of its kind. The core of the rifle is produced by Arsenal Co. Ltd. of Bulgaria, with certain components manufactured by Arsenal, Inc. of Las Vegas to make the rifle legal here in the United States.

And who is Arsenal Co. Ltd.? Their story begins in 1878 when Prince Alexander M. Dondukov established a special factory to meet the needs of the newly formed Bulgarian Army. In 1948 when the factory passed from the Defense Ministry to the Ministry of Industry it received the simple designation of Factory-10.

Ten years later, the Soviets tooled the factory up to produce AK-47 assault rifles. The first example rolled off the assembly line in 1958, and by 1982 Bulgaria's Factory-10 had produced one million of them. These rifles equipped not only the Bulgarian Army but were also widely exported. Manufactured to Russian specifications, the quality was excellent.


Today the factory is still producing Kalashnikov rifles under the name Arsenal Co. Ltd. Indeed, they have been a large supplier to coalition forces, such as the new Iraqi Army, engaged in the Global War on Terror. On this side of the pond the Las Vegas firm of Arsenal, Inc. has been licensed by this historic Bulgarian firm to produce Kalashnikov rifles. In addition it has also been supplied with their manufacturing know-how garnered from 43 years of experience.

The SLR-106FR is based upon the AK-74M and, unlike the Golani Sporter, is built on a stamped sheet metal receiver. I am not one to wax eloquent over traditional Old World AK-47 receivers machined from a solid billet of forged steel. A stamped receiver is easier to produce, less expensive, lighter in weight and cools quicker. I personally see no advantage, but many disadvantages to machined steel receivers. So I believe the Russians got it right by dumping the old milled receiver back in the 1950s.


Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO

Operation: Self-loading, long-stroke gas system with rotating bolt

Length: 36.9 inches, 27.5 inches with stock folded

Barrel: 16.3 inches with 1:7 inch twist

Weight: 7.4 pounds

Feed: 5-, 10-, 20-or 30-round box

Sights: Front--Protected post adjustable for windage and elevation

Rear--Tangent with U-notch adjustable from 100-800 meters

Street Price: $1,000

Mated to the front of the 1mm thick receiver is a 16.2-inch chrome-lined cold hammer-forged barrel. To allow use of a wide range of projectiles, the barrel has six-groove rifling with a 1:7 right-hand. twist. This twist rate allows use of even heavy 75-and 77-grain loads. Cross-pinned to the muzzle is a front sight base with 24x1.5 threads. Threaded onto this is an AK-74-type muzzle brake. This simple device reduces both recoil and muzzle rise, but increases the sound/flash signature.

Inside the receiver, the rifle's fire control parts are made by metal injection molding. These are polished by hand to provide a crisp trigger pull. Better still, Arsenal, Inc. redesigned the disconnector virtually to eliminate the trigger slap that often plagues semi-automatic Kalashnikovs.

One interesting change is the addition of a spring-loaded firing pin to the bolt. This will help ensure a slam-fire does not happen, even with commercial match ammunition.

The protected post front sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation when zeroing. The rear sight is an unprotected sliding tangent with a U-notch graduated from 100 to 800 meters with a 300 meter battle sight setting. In addition, a rail on the left side of the receiver allows Eastern Bloc day/night optics to be easily mounted.

The furniture is a rugged black synthetic similar to that used on current Russian rifles. The fore-end is based upon the current Russian pattern but is improved through the use of a stainless steel heat shield. Mounted at the rear of the receiver is a tough side-folding buttstock which locks securely in place with zero play. Pushing a button allows it to fold and lock onto the left side of the receiver. A button located below the cleaning kit trap in the buttplate releases the folded stock allowing it to be snapped into place.

Feed is from 5-, 10-, 20-and 30-round capacity magazines. These are molded from black, green or translucent, fiberglass-reinforced thermoplastic polymide and available from K-VAR. The SLR-106FR is a compact 36.9 inches long and weighs a handy 7.4 pounds. Folding the stock drops the overall length 1 to just 27.5 inches. Finish is black satin baked enamel over phosphate.


Build quality of the SLR-106FR is very good. It's a nice looking piece in the hands it's a much better handling rig compared to the Golani Sporter. I find it quick to the shoulder and easy to control. Accuracy is very good, but it's difficult to shoot to its potential using the standard iron sights. To get the most out of this rifle requires an optic.

A red dot or low powered magnified scope brings, this rifle to another level. This rifle will flatten LaRues at 400+ yards when mated to a low-power optic. Other than the typical AK weak Points, I find it hard to find fault with this model. The side-folding stock design is very robust, reliability of the rifle itself is excellent and the trigger pull is quite acceptable.

Personally I would swap the muzzle brake for a flash suppressor and the stock safety for one with an easy to manipulate extended tab. The only thing I really don't like is the rear sling swivel is on the right side of the stock. Plus I'm not thrilled with the fact that you cannot fold the stock with an optic attached using a side-mount.

The SLR-106FR is not inexpensive, with a street price of around $1,000. However it's a good rig. The 5.56x45mm cartridge brings much more to the table than the 5.45x39mm, which is limited by the selection of available loads. Be aware though, 5.56x45mm magazines are on the expensive side and less common than 7.62x39mm or 5.45x39mm magazines. Expect to pay slightly over $30 for one with 30-round capacity.

My suggested upgrade for the SLR-106FR is a Parabellum Armament AK Adaptive Rail System. This places a M1913 rail above the top cover, allowing easy mounting of optical sights. The unit itself consists of just three major components, a replacement top cover, a Mil Std 1913 rail section and a block that interfaces the two together. Plus the system incorporates a fixed back-up rear sight designed to allow a red dot to co-witness with it.

The system is surprisingly simple. As nothing is mounted to the side, it does not interfere with side-folding stocks. Weight is 7.9 ounces; however the removed parts weigh 3.7 ounces. So total weight added to the rifle is just 4.2 ounces. Installation is simple and straightforward. With the mount installed you can still easily remove the rifle's top cover for cleaning. Price is $129.95 from Aim Surplus.


While the Golani Sporter and SLR-106FR are traditional designs from days past the SCAR 16S is a new face. Developed for the U.S. Special Operations community, Barbeque National de Herstal's SCAR won the SOF Combat Assault Rifle competition for which it is named. Intended as a replacement for the current issue Colt M4A1 carbine, it was designated Mk 16 Mod 0 by the U.S. military.



Its service life was brief: it was withdrawn while the U.S. military focused on its 7.62x511run big brother. The design did not simply disappear, though, as FNH-USA developed a commercial version for the U.S. market. Called the SCAR 165, it's basically a semi-automatic SCAR-L Mk16 Mod 0 fitted with a 16.25 inch barrel and a different muzzle device. An interesting design, the SCAR 165 is built on proven principles.

The heart of the rifle is an extruded aluminum upper receiver. This has a full length 1913 rail for mounting optics, black synthetic case deflector and is the serialized part. A multi-lug rotating bolt housed inside a bolt carrier rides inside. Method of operation is gas by a short-stroke piston with a multi-position gas regulator. An ambidextrous reciprocating charging handle is fitted as are accessory rails mounted at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock.

Folding back-up iron sights come standard. The front sight features a post adjustable for elevation and folds forward and out of the way when not required. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation and also folds.

Fitted to the upper receiver is a polymer lower. This sports ambidextrous safeties and magazine releases. A rather heavy trigger is installed which FNH-USA lists as having a pull weight of 6.25 pounds. The rifle feeds from standard M16 pattern magazines.

While the standard M16A2 pistol grip is familiar, the SCAR 16S's stock certainly is not. A side-folding design, it also collapses. It locks solidly in place with zero movement and can be extended through six positions. In addition a two-position cheekrest is incorporated. Lower it when using iron sights or raise it if using optics.

The barrel has a very light "pencil" profile. It's 16.25 inches long, hammer forged and chrome lined. Barrel twist is 1:7 and the muzzle is threaded in the standard 1/2x28 TPI. Fitted to the muzzle is a combination flash suppressor/muzzle brake from PWS.


Although classified by the BATF as a muzzle brake, this device doesn't emit a flash as large as most muzzle brakes. Like the military model, the barrel can be easily swapped out on the SCAR 165. Multiple sling mounting points are fitted on both sides of the rifle. Overall length with the stock extended is 37.5 inches and 28 inches with it folded. Weight is a handy 7.25 pounds and finish is Flat Dark Earth.

Although the small diameter barrel heats rapidly, it keeps the front of the rifle light. This makes it quick to the shoulder and fast handling. If you don't overload it with accessories, you'll find the SCAR 165 to be fairly nimble moving easily from target to target.

The stock is comfortable and the rubber buttpad keeps it from sliding around. Plus the large footprint spreads felt recoil over a large area. I also appreciate the cheek riser. Although simple, it provides a positive cheek weld, even with optics.

In addition the short arc of rotation of the safety is also a plus compared to the AR's 90[degrees] of rotation. Another nice feature is the ability to lock the bolt back with one hand, something you can't do with an AR. Throughout testing, magazines ejected cleanly and there were no stoppages or malfunctions of any kind. Accuracy is very good all the way out to 500 yards with quality match ammunition.

While the SCAR 16S performed extremely well and exhibited excellent practical accuracy, there are a few negatives. The standard trigger, is on the heavy side. It makes it difficult to shoot this rifle to its potential. Also, depending upon the mount, it's possible to whack your knuckles on your optic mount when running the charging handle. Plus not everyone will like the reciprocating nature of the charging handle itself. I'm also interested to see how the polymer stock holds up under hard use. I would also take the PWS combination muzzle device off and throw it in the trash. It makes a lousy muzzle brake and an even worse flash suppressor.

My main gripe though is regarding the easily changed barrel. Currently FN-USA offers nothing for accessories. No extra barrels of differing lengths or different calibers. This rifle has a lot of potential, but don't expect to see FN-USA take advantage of it.

FNH and FN-USA have really dropped the ball in this regard. They should have introduced caliber conversion kits in 6.8x43mm SPC, 6.5min Grendel, 5.45x39mm and .300 BLK. This would have increased sales of this model. But they haven't and they probably won't.

They are too busy chasing military sales to bother with actually listening to the U.S. commercial market. Even so, the SCAR 16S is an interesting design with a number of nice features. Price though is very expensive. Street price is currently running around $2600.

My suggested upgrade for the SCAR 16S is to take the stock trigger out and toss it into the trash next to the muzzle device. Bill Geissele offers a substantially better trigger group called the Super SCAR. This is a two-stage unit with a very short reset. Pull weight is substantially decreased over the heavy GI proof factory piece. Well designed, handsomely made with performance you can feel it's highly recommended. Like the rifle though, it's not cheap at $400.


Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO

Operation: Short stroke gas with rotating bolt

Length: 37.5 inches with stock extended, 28 inches with stock folded

Barrel: 16.25 inch hammer forged and chrome lined with 1:7 inch twist

Weight: 725 pounds

Feed: AR-15 type detachable box magazine

Sights: Front--Post front sight adjustable for elevation

Rear--Fully adjustable rear aperture

Street Price: $2,500

Manufacturer: FNH-USA

             Golani Sporter

Load          Weight (grs.)  Velocity (fps)     100 yards

Hornady                  60            2965           2.8

Wolf                     55            3018           3.6


Load          Weight (grs.)  Velocity (fps)     100 yards

Black                    77            2658           2.3
Hills Mk262
Mod 1

Hornady                  60            2902           2.7

Wolf                     55            2932           3.1

                   SCAR 16S

Load          Weight (grs.)  Velocity (fps)     100 yards

Black                    77            2645             1
Hills Mk262
Mod 1

Hornady                  60            2876           1.3

Wolf                     55            2888           3.4

Groups are an average of four 5-shot groups, fired from a rest.
Velocity measured 12 feet from the muzzle at an ambient temperature
of 80[degrees] F.


Aim Surplus

888-748-5252 /

Arsenal, Inc.

(888) 539-2220 /

Century International Arms, Inc.

(800) 527-1252 /

Black Hills Ammunition

(605) 348-5150 /


703-288-1292 /

Geissele Automatics

610-272-2060 /

Hornady Mfg. Co.

(800) 338-3200 /


(702) 364-8880 /

Midwest Industries

262-896-6780 /

Parabellum Armament Co.

855-war-gear /

Wolf Performance Ammunition

(888) 757-9653 /
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Title Annotation:David M. Fortier; Eugene Stoner
Author:Fortier, David M.
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 20, 2012
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