Few AK variants capture the imagination quite like the AKS-74U. Designed to arm special operations forces and vehicle crews with a compact firearm chambered for rifle ammunition, The AKS-74U is essentially a shortened version of the Russian AK-74. While the reputation of the gun’s performance in combat is mixed, there is no denying the appeal of the compact 5.45x39 mm-chambered carbine. Here in the U.S, many enthusiasts enjoy owning intriguing pieces of military history, like the AKS-74U. Unfortunately, most commercially available samples of semi-auto clones routinely sell for well over $3,000. Another hurdle to AK-74U-clone ownership in the U.S is the dwindling supply of 5.45x39 mm ammunition, for which the guns are chambered.
So, what should one do if they find themselves with an itch to own such an intriguing Kalashnikov variant reminiscent of the classic 74U? Until relatively recently, the answer was unclear. The ideal platform for the American market would need to maintain a similarly short barrel length to the 74U but be chambered in the widely available 5.56 NATO cartridge. On top of this, it would help if the platform were priced more reasonably than similar offerings have been in the past. Luckily, Arms of America has stepped up to the plate to provide the American market with just such an offering, as produced by the FB Radom factory in Poland.
The FB Radom name has been well known in Europe for many years and is becoming better known in the United States as well. The manufacturer has produced a host of military firearms over the years. Many of Poland’s own armed forces can be seen carrying FB Radom-produced firearms in photographs today. Among these guns is the Beryl line of firearms, a modernized AK-style rifle originally chambered in 5.56 NATO. Like the AK-74, the Beryl was adapted into a more compact variant for specialized uses. This platform is called the Mini Beryl and is offered to the U.S. market as a semi-automatic, large-format pistol.
Like the military version carried by some units in the Polish armed forces, the Mini Beryl pistol is built to exacting standards with high-quality components. The short, 9.375" barrel is cold-hammer-forged and should provide excellent longevity. The pistol comes standard with sturdy polymer furniture that looks quite good. While the polymer furniture works perfectly fine, users who desire the retro look of the classic AKS-74U will be happy to know that the Mini Beryl pistol can also be purchased with wood furniture.
The Mini Beryl Custom Bundle is a package available from Arms of America. These are the folks who took the initiative to get the Mini Beryl pistols here to the United States. On sale at a price point of $1,400 at the time of this writing, the Mini Beryl Custom Bundle is truly an excellent value. You get a sleek, Krink-style Polish AK, chambered in 5.56 NATO and adorned with beautiful wood furniture for significantly less than most similar builds and offerings. The furniture comes in your choice of four colors, and two different brace options are offered, depending on availability. The original polymer furniture is included with the bundle, should you want to change it in the future. Additionally, the Attero Arms Bravo Mount is available for purchase with the bundle. This mount allows the user to replace the factory Beryl rail with a low-profile mount for red-dot sights using the Aimpoint T2 mounting pattern. More on that later.
The Mini Beryl’s furniture as provided in the custom bundle is comfortable and eye catching. The model used for testing was equipped with the deep red color variant. As is customary for many AK-pattern rifles, the wood fore-end is not checkered but does have two palm swells that help keep the front of the gun anchored during use. The pistol grip has horizontal cuts that result in a solid grip, despite the smooth finish. The brace used for testing was the SB Tactical SOB47. This brace provides a stable shooting platform for the large-format pistol. Of the two brace options available from the company, the SOB47 is sturdier and is worth consideration. But while the SOB47 may be perfectly adequate, the other brace option, the SB Tactical AKTF, may be the way to go. Its ability to fold would be especially beneficial on this particular pistol. Plus, for those who want a look more similar to the Classic Krinkov, the AKTF is aesthetically similar to a standard triangle folding stock.
The controls on the Mini Beryl are enhanced from the standard AK-pattern counterparts. The safety selector sports three generous ledges that allow for easier access to the selector with a single finger for right-handed shooters. Left-handed shooters like myself will also find that these ledges make it an easy task to smack the selector down into the fire position quickly during drills. Moving down to the magazine release in front of the trigger guard, users will find the flared shape of the Mini Beryl’s magazine-release lever to be easy to activate using either a finger or a fresh magazine. The flared portion is situated lower than some other AK magazine releases, which makes it even easier to hit when in a rush to reload.
The unique rear sight of the Mini Beryl sits in the channel of the accessory rail. The sight has two settings: a 100-meter notch sight and a 300-meter peep sight. The 100-meter setting provides a more traditional AK-style sight picture, while the 300-meter setting provides good target clarity and greater precision. Both sight settings remain visible even when an optic is mounted to the rail. If a user prefers using a red dot, and doesn’t want the added bulk of the rail, they can opt for the previously mentioned Attero Arms mount. The Attero mount allows for an optic to be mounted directly to the Mini Beryl in place of the entire rail and rear sight unit. I can see this being a very popular option with those who favor small red-dot optics, like the Holosun 403C.
While I really enjoy the aesthetics of the Mini Beryl with its wood furniture, the performance of a firearm is always most important to me. When I hit the range with the Mini Beryl, I was pleasantly surprised by its shooting characteristics. The Mini Beryl is easily one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had to date with a large-format pistol. It handles extremely well, with a similar recoil impulse to that of a Daniel Defense Mk18. That is to say that the Mini Beryl is utterly stable when fired. It really shines when used at close range in fast-paced and dynamic shooting scenarios. Surprisingly, rapid fire with the Mini Beryl produced decent groups. This could be attributed in part to the Mini Beryl's weight of 6 lbs., unloaded, slightly more than a Mk18. The weight feels like a great balance in that it’s light enough to run around with and heavy enough to soak up what little recoil the 5.56 NATO cartridge puts out. The gun’s uncanny stability and ease of rapid fire most likely comes down to the trigger. The trigger feels both light and surprisingly smooth for a mil-spec AK trigger. The reset is solid and tactile, further aiding the shooter in putting shots on target rapidly.
Multiple kinds of .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO ammunition were used during testing. Most of the ammo used was Buffalo Cartridge Company 55-grain FMJ loads. Ammo was loaded into polymer FB Radom magazines, the kind included with the Mini Beryl. Throughout testing, the Mini Beryl exhibited 100 percent reliability with both .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO loads. This was not all that surprising, as the quality of the gun is apparent even at a glance.
While all 5.56 NATO-chambered firearms with shorter barrels have been known to suffer when it comes to ranged ballistics, the Mini Beryl provides excellent performance within the ranges for which it was designed. Like the classic AKS-74U, the Mini Beryl should not necessarily be looked at as a cut-down rifle, but rather as a beefed-up pistol chambered in a rifle cartridge. Performance on cardboard and steel IPSC targets within 200 yards was impressive, especially while the Trijicon MRO was attached to the rail system. With a red-dot sight attached, the Beryl had no problem placing offhand shots on the 200-yard target and doing so consistently. While it was fun to shoot the Mini Beryl out to the 200-yard target, I feel it is capable of a bit more, and would like to do some longer-range testing in the future to see what the true limits of the platform are.
The Mini Beryl as it comes in the custom bundle from Arms of America may be the best-kept secret currently on the AK market. The bundle seems to be well worth the current price of admission. It fills a unique niche in the market and comes in at a good value in a configuration unlike anything else out there currently. The colorful wood furniture is sure to turn heads at the range, if the massive pressure wave of 5.56 NATO fired out of a barrel under 10" doesn’t do it first. The gun is just plain fun to shoot, and that’s possibly its greatest strength. The lack of recoil, retro looks and solid construction make it hard to beat. It has so much more character than run-of-the-mill AR pistols, and has a certain distinguished air that is lacking in many AK pistols. For more information on the FB Radom Mini Beryl Custom Bundles, visit armsofamerica.com.