The Cugir WASR-10: Function Over Form

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WASR rifles are workhorses and a longstanding fixture of the American AK market. Built tough enough to take a beating and ask for seconds, these Romanian AKMs are still highly sought after despite the availability of shinier, prettier Kalashnikovs.

What Sets The Romanian WASR Apart From Other AKs?

  • Built With Original Soviet Manufacturing Methods
  • 80,000-100,000 Round Lifespan On Full-Auto
  • Chrome-Lined Barrel
  • Standard AKM Pattern Design
  • Several Available Variants

Romanian-made AKs have been coming into the U.S. from the state-owned arms factory Cugir since the 1990s. While the cost of AKs has exploded this past year, for most of the WASR's importation history the rifle has been one of the most affordable and quality AKs you could buy. Comparatively, WASRs are still typically cheaper than Zastavas or WBP Foxes.

While Cugir’s pistol version of the WASR, the Draco, has been very difficult to find for some time, there seems to be a steady stream of WASRs. 

Cugir WASR-10
Cugir WASR-10

Made To Be A Worker, Not A Looker

WASRs are excellent rifles, but they’re not for everybody. Depending on what you want out of your AK, a Cugir gun may or may not fit.

These are military rifles, and they feel like it. Rugged and solid in construction, WASRs long for use. The bluing found on Zastavas will look much nicer for your social media posts. But the Parkerization on WASRs will stand up to your abuse.

While Zastavas and WBP Foxes come with handsome wood, the furniture on a WASRs was meant for replacement. Whether your version includes blonde balsa or cheap black plastic, they are as fragile as they are ugly. Upgrading the furniture is priority No. 1 on any new WASR, but there is plenty of military surplus wood or quality aftermarket parts to address this shortcoming.

Finding furniture for a WASR is much easier than for a Zastava, due to the fact that it is a standard AKM pattern. This means that furniture designed to fit the original stamped Russian AKM design should fit the rifle, regardless of country of origin. My WASR has a mix of Romanian and Russian wood installed on it. As for installation, swapping furniture is a breeze for any skill level.

Other features of the WASR that are desirable are its scope rail and threaded muzzle. Mounted on the side of the receiver, the scope rail is the standard Russian style that has a plethora of optic mounting options both original and aftermarket. There are original Russian PSO magnified scopes and BelOMO Belarussian red dots as well as aftermarket mounts that provide Picatinny rails atop the receiver.

The muzzle is also threaded for the AK-standard 14×1 LH pitch. This allows for the largest compatibility of 7.62 muzzle devices. Whether that is the included regular slant-brake, something fancier, or even a Wolverine PBS-1 suppressor, it can be mounted to your WASR with ease.

In fact, essentially every element of the WASR is built to standard AKM spec, outside one small detail. Standard AKMs have a distinctive dimple on the side of the receiver above the magazine well, and even older WASR variants like the SAR-1 featured it. Newer WASRs lack this dimple, but there is a good reason for it. As explained in a previous article on Cugir and the Draco, due to importation laws AKs are brought into the United States with single-stack magazine wells. They are opened up stateside by the importer, in this case, Century Arms. According to AK YouTuber Rob Ski, who has spoken to workers at the Cugir plant, leaving the dimples off simply makes it easier for the Century employees to file off the necessary metal within the magwell. Cugir compensates for this by welding a reinforcement bar inside the receiver, so strength is not compromised. Considering this portion of the importation process had some past quality control issues, if this change makes it easier for Century to restore the rifles to their proper configuration, it seems worth it.

WASR-10 with Belarussian optic
WASR-10 with Belarussian optic. Notice the missing receiver dimple. Photo: Wikipedia

Built Cugir-Tough

Besides the select-fire feature, WASRs are essentially indistinguishable from their military counterparts. In fact, semi-auto WASRs have actually seen military service, under the United States of America no less. In the early 2000s the U.S. Army needed 7.62×39 AKs to supplement certain forces in the Middle East and Africa, so they procured a number of WASRs. Used by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of these rifles were even sold as surplus stateside a few years back.

The popular rental-gun range Battlefield Las Vegas has some of the best data on AK lifespans in the world simply due to how many people visit them each year. Their WASRs, which they have converted to full-auto, have had more rounds put through them than possibly any other WASRs on Earth. Battlefield Las Vegas claims, they have never shot out a WASR’s chrome-lined barrel, and the rifles they have killed were due to cracked trunnions. This is typical for stamped AKMs after 80,000-100,00 rounds. Even after reaching the failure point, all it takes is a front trunnion and barrel swap to put a WASR back into commission. With this kind of longevity, it's safe to say that most WASRs will outlast their owners.

Ugandan Security Forces in Iraq holding WASR AKs, standing with US contractor
Ugandan Security Forces in Iraq holding WASR AKs, standing with an American. Photo: Atlantic Firearms

Variants

There are a few WASR variants currently imported by Century. We already discussed the standard AKM-pattern model that comes with either wood or plastic furniture. This is the most common variant, called the WASR-10. Here is a brief overview of three other variants:

WASR-10 UF: The under-folder model, the rifle is exactly the same as a standard WASR besides the rear trunnion and stock. AKs require a special rear trunnion to accommodate an under-folder stock, making it much easier to buy one built at a factory rather than converting a fixed-stock trunnion model yourself. These are less common but make for a good choice if you value compactness. Keep in mind the lack of a cheek rest on the under-folder stock makes it uncomfortable to shoot.

WASR-10 Underfolder
WASR-10 Underfolder.

RH10: These are one of the more common variants, and again are the same as WASRs in every detail besides one: the gas block. The RH10 features a combination front sight block and gas tube, unlike standard WASRs where they are separate. The difference is mostly aesthetic and does not affect the rifle’s function, but the combo gas block makes it far easier to chop the barrel and convert it to an SBR if you so desire.

RH10
Cugir RH10. Photo: Primary Arms

WASR Paratrooper: The paratrooper model has a combination front sight and gas block similar to the RH10, but it is one inch shorter. This is because the paratrooper model is actually based on the Romanian PM md.90 short rifle, or Draco configuration. These are imported with a barrel over 16” purely for legal reasons. The paratrooper model also has a standard rear trunnion but comes with a Romanian push-button wire folder stock instead of the normal fixed-stock. These models are not as common as the RH10 but are even better for converting to an SBR due to the shorter gas block and included folding stock.

WASR-10 Paratrooper
WASR-10 Paratrooper. Photo:Primary Arms

WASR 2s and WASR 3s

Quite a few years ago, Romanian AKs were available in three calibers: 7.62×39, 5.45×39, and 5.56×45. These were known as the SAR or WASR 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Cugir still has the manufacturing capabilities to produce these calibers, as they still build them for military contracts across the globe, as well as for their own armed forces. While AKs chambered in the other two calibers will never be as popular as the original 7.62 version in America, 5.45 has been gaining a following here as of late and 5.56 is more common for American shooters to have already stockpiled. Why have they not been imported for so long? Zastava and WBP Fox have no history producing 5.45 guns, so Cugir remains our last hope for newly produced, foreign-made AK-74 style rifles. Hopefully, Century will eventually place another order for WASR 2s to provide more competition within the American 74 market which is currently dominated by the sub-par rifles of Palmetto State Armory.

Romanian AKs of any variant or caliber are excellent, military-grade Kalashnikovs. For those seeking a real workhorse AK that will make it through the apocalypse, you can’t go wrong with a WASR.

For more information on WASRs, please visit centuryarms.com.


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