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The VEPR II is a semi-automatic sporting rifle based on the RPK platform. Produced in Russia’s Molot factory, this is a real AK-type rifle. Featuring a heavy barrel and a thick 1.5 mm receiver, it’s significantly more substantial than your average AK-type rifle. The model I chose has a short 16.25-inch 1:12 chrome-lined hammer-forged barrel, a combination gas block and front sight, and is chambered for the fantastic .308 Win cartridge. A pinned and welded muzzle nut hides standard 13×1 mm threads. The advertised weight from the retailer was 7.2 pounds, but my bathroom scale tells me the rifle weighs in closer to 7.5 pounds unloaded. It’s not a big enough difference to matter to me. The rifle comes with a beautiful walnut thumb-hole stock and fore-end. They come in right- and left-hand stocks.

Unlike its brother, the Saiga, the VEPR’s trigger resides in the proper location. One would think this fact should make it a better candidate for conversion; however, the receiver’s slant-cut rear throws a wrench in the gears. Several companies offer adapters that will allow any standard AK-type fixed stock to be installed. Ace offers a receiver block, making it compatible with any of their stocks. It’s an easy enough fix, but adds an extra expense and complication for anyone wanting to convert a VEPR rifle into a more traditional configuration. The fit and finish on this rifle are fantastic. A smooth satin finish cleanly hugs the rifle. Cycling the bolt is a truly wonderful experience. I have never handled a smoother AK action. The trigger has a very small amount of travel and a very clean break. The rifle shipped with a five-round and a ten-round magazine. Several companies offer U.S.-made magazines with higher capacities.

I purchased this rifle as a multipurpose carbine. I wanted something of moderate weight and size. It needed to be tough and reliable, and needed to be something I could use for home defense and deer hunting in brush. The rifle needed to be low enough in recoil that the lady of the house could also handle it. Originally I had chosen a standard 7.62×39 AK-pattern rifle for this role, but a few nighttime visits from a troublesome black bear convinced me I needed something with a little more punch. I had been eyeing a Saiga .308 for some time, and when I found a good deal on a VEPR II, I sold my 7.62×39 WASR without hesitation and bought the VEPR. I couldn’t be happier. The quality difference between this and my trusty WASR is huge.

On the range, the VEPR is rather pleasant. It’s not as loud as one would expect. Recoil isn’t much more than its 7.62×39 counterparts, and it has the appetite of an AK, which is to say it eats everything. The muzzle flash is impressive to say the least. The sights were not dialed in from the factory. At 50 yards, I was hitting about 6 inches to the left. Elevation and windage are adjusted with the front sight, like any AK. For me, windage was not an easy thing to adjust. I tried everything from a brass punch to an AK sight tool, to a large bench vise. In the end, I wound up using a 3-pound hammer and a steel punch. It took several hard whacks to move it about half a millimeter. Thankfully this was all that was needed. Shooting unsupported at 50 yards in the dark, I was able to get decent five-shot groups. My best was about 1.5 inches; my worst was just shy of 3 inches. The trigger is a thing of beauty. It has a very small amount of smooth slack, followed by a glassy break. The positive click of the reset is both easy to hear and feel. I love this trigger.

The balance and handling of this rifle are great. The short barrel makes it very easy to swing and bring on target. Comparing the rifle to other .308 semi-autos like the FAL, and DPMS’ 16” .308 offerings, I was very impressed by the low weight of the VEPR. The sights are very easy and natural to acquire. As with all of my guns, a little red nail polish on the front sight makes it easier to pick up against dark backgrounds. I intend to make a few changes, partially to allow the legal use of 20-round magazines. I see a decent red dot or 1-4x scope in this rifle’s future. It’s absolutely a keeper. For the $600 I paid for this carbine, I feel like I stole it. Quality is on par with far more expensive .308 semi-autos. If you’re in the market for a do-it-all rifle, this very well may be it.