Gun Digest

5.56 Beryl AKs From FB Radom: Poland’s Service Rifle Available Stateside

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The FB Beryl is one of the nicest AKs still being imported, but its unique Polish features also make it one of the most expensive.


Features Of The Beryl M1-223S:

As communism collapsed around Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, Poland said goodbye to Warsaw Pact cartridges but decided to hold on to their AKs. As eager as they were to embrace the West, one might have expected the Poles to cast aside their AKs with the rest of their socialist past, but their commitment to the Kalashnikov stayed true. The eventual result of their commitment was the wz. 96 Beryl, the first standard military issue AK to be chambered in a NATO cartridge. Prior to this, AKs chambered in .223 or 5.56 were made exclusively for the commercial market and suffered from some reliability issues, mainly due to their magazines. This reputation began to change when the Poles adopted the FB Beryl in 1997, demonstrating that 5.56 AKs were a viable platform when built to military specifications.

The wz. 96 Beryl is still Poland’s service rifle as of 2021. The same factory in Radom that tooled up to produce AKs for the first time in 1957 is still making them today, and not only for the Polish armed forces but for the global commercial market as well. They are undoubtedly high-quality guns, but is the FB Beryl the right AK for you?

FB Beryl M1-223S, import model.

The wz. 96 Beryl

Named after the element beryllium, the wz. 96 Beryl was designed in 1996 following the abolishment of socialism in Poland. The fall of the USSR led the Poles to abandon their development efforts on their new 5.45 Tantal rifles, switching instead to 5.56 NATO and the creation of the Beryl.

At its heart, the Beryl may just be an AK chambered for 5.56, but what really makes this rifle unique are the many small changes made to its design. While some of these changes are considered standard for an infantry rifle today, keep in mind that many of these ideas were still novel in the 1990s. The U.S. military was only just beginning to field M16s with flat-top receivers, and Russia’s AK-74s had hardly changed since they were in Afghanistan. When the Poles went to develop the Beryl, they were really undertaking an AK modernization project before it was cool.

Early wz. 96 Beryl Photo:Wikipedia

The most obvious design change to the Beryl is its caliber. AKs had been chambered in .223 and 5.56 before the Beryl, but they were mostly developed for commercial export by companies like Valmet and Norinco. Besides some earlier experimenting done by the Yugoslavians, the wz. 96 Beryl was the first true military AK chambered in this caliber. The new caliber resulted in lengthening the barrel about two inches beyond that of a typical AKM, done to increase the performance of the lighter projectiles.

The Beryl’s gas block is angled at 90 degrees like the AK-74, and the barrel and handguards have been fitted to mount the Polish Pallad grenade launcher. The original design also had a metal, tubular folding stock which was replaced by a collapsible design in the Beryl’s 2004 update. Both stock styles attach to a standard AK fixed-stock rear trunnion, meaning Beryl stocks can be used in other fixed-stock trunnion AKs and vice versa. Some handguard styles also had Picatinny rail segments for mounting vertical foregrips as well.

The rear sight base and rear trunnion on the Beryl have also been cut to accommodate the FB Beryl rail system. This cleverly designed strut arches over the receiver and securely locks in place to provide rail segments for the mounting of optics. Many would consider this system to be an upgrade over the Russian’s AK optic solution—the side-mounted dovetail rail.

FB Beryl rail system on a 7.62 Beryl. Photo:Wikipedia

The wz. 96 Beryl in 5.56 has been used by Polish NATO coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. A typical modern military configuration for the Beryl utilizes an EOTech sight mounted to the FB rail system, the new collapsible buttstock and a railed handguard with a vertical grip.

Polish Special Forces soldier with Beryl in Iraq, 2005. Photo:Wikipedia

The FB Beryl M1-223S

This is Fabryka Broni’s semi-auto export version of the wz. 96 Beryl. It is imported into the U.S. in an import-compliant configuration and then converted into a traditional AK layout. To comply with 922 R regulations, the Beryls are sold with an American-made muzzle brake, pistol grip, buttstock and fire control group. Of the parts to select for compliance, these are good choices as they leave the stress-bearing guts of the rifle intact and 100% Polish in origin.

The included American-made muzzle brake looks identical to those found on Polish military Beryls, but it has been threaded on instead of pinned. This is one deviation from the military version that is beneficial, as it can now be swapped for something else by the user if so desired.

Two more small improvements on the commercial model not found on the military version are the enhanced safety selector and magazine release paddle. Both of these have been extended to make their manipulation faster and easier.

Beryl M1-223S enhanced safety selector and magazine release.

A batch of FB Beryl rifles was recently imported, but they sold out within the day despite costing $1,500. The only explanation for their popularity is that Americans like Polish guns, because other makes of 5.56 AK have had trouble selling here in the past. The next batch is expected to arrive in October (2021), so mark your calendar if you’re in the market for one.

The fit and finish on FB Beryls is excellent as well, and the iconic Fabryka Broni stamp on the receiver works as a cherry on top.

The FB Beryl is a great rifle, and the fact that it was born out of one of the original AK factories is a guarantee of quality construction. It doesn’t have the classic AK looks, but it does have classic AK roots, and those are much more important for a weapon you may someday have to rely on. Their unique Polish features and connection to modern military history make them even more interesting for practical shooters and collectors alike.

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