with Andrew L. Butts
SHOT Show 2014: The Archer AK-47 clone in 5.56 NATO
The Archer is the U.S.-compliant import model of the Polish Beryl
Walking through many of the displays at SHOT Show 2014 quickly confirms that the AR-15 is king of the modern sporting rifle hill. Booths are filled with rails, barrels, optics, conversions, adapters and magazines, all designed to enhance the AR’s usefulness as the design continues to prove its adaptability.
However, in the AR-centric United States, it is easy to forget that there are actually other semi-auto rifles in use around the world. Don’t get me wrong — I like a good AR as much as the next guy, but sometimes I do enjoy seeing other designs.
One pleasant surprise from my SHOT Show visit is a rifle being imported from Poland. This rifle is called the Archer and might appeal to those shooters and collectors who long for something outside the AR family.
An AK in 5.56 NATO/223 Remington
At first glance, the Archer appears to be a clone of the AK-47. In fact, in its operation, it is a Kalashnikov assault rifle. What separates the Archer from most other AKs is this rifle’s chambering.
It is actually spec’ed and built as a factory 5.56 NATO/223 Remington designed for the Polish Army. Actually, the Archer is the U.S.-compliant import model of the Polish Beryl.
A brief history lesson is in order. The Beryl is based on the Polish Tantal, which was that nation’s military rifle late in the Cold War. Being controlled by her Soviet masters, Poland standardized on the 5.45x39 Russian cartridge. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Poland decided to part ways with the Russian cartridge, but not the rifle, and the Beryl was born.
The Beryl is probably one of the most advanced AK-pattern rifles in current military use. It sports such modernized features as a long optics rail interface, heat-resistant plastic furniture, an adjustable stock, and a 30-round magazine. Despite some modern updates, the rifle is through and through a true Kalashnikov pattern, with the rugged durability and reliability that has made the AK a standard in much of the non-Western sphere of influence.
The Archer — a civilian semi-auto version of the Beryl assault rifle — is made at the famous FB Factory in Radom, Poland. It is imported into the United States with a magazine well that will not accept a standard high-capacity magazine.
Once in the States, the Archer is machined to accept the military-pattern magazine and the required number of U.S. compliance parts are installed to make the firearm legal for sale while giving it some appeal to collectors and military arms enthusiasts. I’m told by the importer that the U.S. parts consist of the fire control group (three components), the plastic magazine (another three components) and the muzzle brake.
All this “U.S. parts” stuff is the result of an import ban enacted 20 years ago, and the 922 compliance issues are beyond the scope of this quick article. Anyway, the installation of these parts means the rifle can be sold legally here in America with a pistol grip and the ability to accept a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds. Ugh...
Regardless of the change in some internal components to meet import law requirements, the Archer uses, at its heart, the Beryl barrel, which is produced via hammer forging. Hammer forging is known to produce barrels with excellent dimensional properties and outstanding longevity. This should make the Archer one of the better choices in the current AK market and one that will undoubtedly be a better firearm than a used surplus-parts kit that is assembled using a mass-produced inexpensive barrel and a U.S. sheet metal receiver.
With a price that’s close to many of the good-quality AR-15s on the market, the Archer will appeal only to those true AK aficionados or the most dedicated of military firearms collectors. Still, it is sometimes nice to take a stroll and see what other grass is growing out there.
The Archer is being imported by I.O. Incorporated, 2144 Franklin Drive NE, Palm Bay, FL 32905. Phone number (321) 499-3819. Give them a shout if you’d like more information.