A little over a year ago, April last year, a pre-release replica of the AK-12 carbine by LCT was delivered to our editorial office. It was interesting as not much earlier, specifically in December 2018, the first batch of the new AKs was delivered into the hands of Russian soldiers. Today we have the opportunity to test the second AK-12 replica on the market, this time made by Arcturus.
The Chinese MOS company, the owner of the Arcturus brand, has been producing very decent replicas for several years now. However, it became really famous this year, thanks to the replica of the HK416A5 rifle, which is very faithful to the original. Its extensive review can be found here: LINK.
Here we will only mention that the GR16MOD5 (the replica carries this designation) is a dangerous competitor to the Umarex/VFC duo, which produces HK licensed replicas. Of course, the latter have markings consistent with the original and slightly stronger internal parts, but they are also much more expensive (at the time of writing this text, the price difference is over 180 EUR). Arcturus also wins against the comparison with a higher muzzle velocity straight out of the box (400 fps vs 330 fps of the Umarex product). One has to admit, however, that the MOS handled the RAL8000 colored version a bit worse than VFC as the anodized parts (the stock and the stock guide) came out, hmmm ... a bit golden.
We had the opportunity to see the AK-12 replica, which is called the AT-AK12 by Arcturus, more closely at the stage of advanced prototypes and ready production versions. Therefore, now, when we received a retail copy, there were no surprises: MOS did a very good job for the second time, the replica looks perfect. Although we still haven't had contact with the real firearm version, based on experience with other weapons, we can say that the AT-AK12 looks very believeble.
Basic technical parameters:
- overall length (stock collapsed/fully extended stock): 880/950 mm;
- overall length with the stock folded to the side (in transport position): 700 mm;
- inner barrel length: 450 mm (the manufacturer specifies the lengths as 425 mm);
- inner barrel diameter: 6.01 mm;
- magazine capacity: mid-cap (adjustable) holding 30/130 BBs and hi-cap holding 500 BBs;
- weight, without battery and magazine: 3280 g;
- muzzle velocity: 410 fps.
The replica has a built-in spring release mechanism known from the earlier AK Arcturus models, and similarly to them, it is equipped with a micro switch instead of a traditional contact switch.
The AK-12 has one more absolutely unique feature. It is about the possibility of quick spring replacement - without disassembling the replica - from the outside. It is the first AK system rifle replica with such functionality on the market.
Of course, the replica comes with a short manual, but it comes from an old stock, because there is no AK-12 replica in any of the illustrations but models produced earlier. In addition, we get a quality control certificate with the measurement of the muzzle velocity, a patch with a Velcro, a sticker on a magnetic foil and a certificate with muzzle velocity measurements carried out by the Taiwangun's service. This is topped off with two magazines (an adjustable real/mid-cap and a hi-cap) and a disassembled rear sight sight and two Allen keys.
For the most part, the carbine is made of steel and fiber-reinforced nylon. All parts are black, but due to the different production technologies and probably the way of applying color, the shades of the parts differs, which has a good effect on the final appearance of the whole. All coatings are carefully applied and show high abrasion resistance. We tried to gently "age" the cover and the receiver of the carbine. In both cases, we obtained absolutely no effect. This suggests that if the dyeing wears off at all, the process will be very slow and only in places exposed to constant contact with the equipment worn during airsoft games.
Moving on to details... The receiver is a bent steel sheet, dyed and secured against corrosion by an electrochemical method. Structurally, it resembles a receiver used in AK/AKS-74/AKS-74U replicas. On the left side there is a button used for folding the stock. Above the magazine well there are the markings of the caliber, 5.45x39, and the model 6P70 (6П70), and at the bottom front there is an additional pin, which in the AK-12 secured the handguard and the gas tube cover.
On the right, there are new markings of firing modes - in the original AK-12, apart from full-auto and single fire, there is also a 2-round burst setting. This setting was correctly replicated and placed between the full-auto and single fire modes, but the replica does not have this function.
When the safety/selector lever is in this position, the replica still fires in full-auto. The description of the single fire setting is placed like in other AK replicas, but there is no characteristic cavity where the safety/selector lever arm could stop. If you want to shoot in single fire, the lever must be pushed all the way down, beyond the outline of the receiver.
This is not an error or an inaccuracy - it is exactly the same in the real firearm. And here I should congratulate Arcturus as it was easier to "take a shortcut" and make the selector the same as in other AK replicas, but it was done just like in the original.
The safety/selector lever has an additional tab that makes it easy to use with the index finger. It can be done without any problem, but switching into full-auto setting takes some getting used to. Moving the lever all the way down to the single fire setting is not difficult. From the technical side, it is worth mentioning two things here. The first is how the lever is attached. The protruding "mushroom" is a nylon cap covering an Allen key hole in a screw, which the lever is screwed with. Therefore, it is not worth damaging the screw flange by trying to unscrew it. It is better to use a sharp tool to remove the cap and unscrew the screw when needed. The larger of the keys attached to the replica is used for this.
The second thing is an additional spring element, that does not appear in other replicas, riveted on the inside of the lever. Its role is to keep the lever in the position set by the shooter. This is another proof of Arcturus' great care for details.
In the magazine well there is a flat polymer element secured with one screw, which facilitates quick attachment of a magazine. The solution is neither new nor unique, but it is effective, therefore it is very good that it was used.
For those who don't know anymore, I explain how it works. The insert prevents the magazine from entering the chamber too deeply as it guides the magazine tab directly to the latch, which prevents incorrect magazine insertions, which can be rather unnerving.
In the area of the trigger guard, on the left side, just before the trigger, there is the already mentioned main spring release button.
The receiver cover is also made of steel, but it gives the impression of being painted, not oxidized. The upper mounting rail, typical for the AK-12, is permanently attached to it with rivets. The rail perfectly matches the upper mounting rail of the gas tube cover.
The replica comes with a detachable rear sight that can be mounted anywhere on the rail, extending the aiming line. It is a classic sight known from many AK models, in which a round aperture was used instead of the traditional U-notch sight. The sight is scaled up to 800 meters. In addition, on the right side there is a screw that allows to adjust the sight horizontally. The screw can be rotated when lightly pulled along the axis. The sight should be slid over the rail and secured with a single setting screw. It is done with the smaller of the Allen keys that come with the replica. The screw is accessible after lifting the sight arm and there is no flat spring that to obstruct this.
The most important feature of the cover is the way it is attached differently than other AKs. There is no typical latch here as it is connected to the receiver with two hooks in the rear part of the replica, that are invisible from the outside, and after being moved as far forward as possible, it is secured with a bolt rotated by 90 degrees.
The cast bolt carrier is made of iron-containing material. It is rather not steel, although magnets are attracted by it. Due to the size of the return spring, it can only be retracted 5/8 of the length of the ejection port. The mechanism supporting the dummy bolt carrier is the same as in other replicas. Due to the change in the method of fixing the cover, the "button" is only used for mounting of the rod leading the dummy bolt carrier to the gearbox. It is invisible from the outside.
The characteristic pistol grip is ergonomically shaped and fits both in the right and left hand. In the original, there is a compartment inside for a toolbox and to open it the round buttons on both sides are used. As the replica has a motor in the grip, the side buttons are, of course, dummies.
The stock, similar in appearance to an AR15 telescopic stock, is folded to the left side, similar to the previous AK versions. The construction of the hinge itself has been slightly changed, with a built-in lock that keeps the stock folded to the side.
In the AKS-74/AKS-74U/AK-74M replicas, the stock folded to the side was kept in this position by a latch in the front part of the receiver. In the AK-12, the latch is gone and an additional cam with a spring is built into the hinge. Now, to unfold the stock from the transport position, its enough to pull it. It is seemingly simpler, but the latch held the folded stock more securely.
The profile of the stock guide closely resembles the AR15 system buffer tube. It differs slightly in the height of the lower rail, in which there are sockets for adjusting the stock's length. The one in the AK-12 is a bit lower, but it allows to mount an accessory stock meant for M16/M4 replicas. Interestingly, the Artcurus' stock is pre-prepared for mounting on a standard M4 guide. The only thing to do is to remove the factory cutout stopper (red arrow). These stocks are already available on the market under the D-Day brand. It is the brand of Arcturus accessories.
The stock itself is made of very hard nylon. In the front part there is a steel-reinforced double-sided QD socket for attaching a carrying sling. The rubber foot can be pulled off while pulling back the lock located on the sloped edge. Then it allows access to the inside of the guide, which can be used as a compartment for a spare battery. If you put the stock to the middle position (then there are two more left), you can put a LiPo 11.1V stick type battery pack, which seems to be the best choice for powering this replica.
The handguard and the gas tube cover are made of the same hard material that is also used to make the stock. In the AK-12, the handguard and the cover are completely different than in previous AKs. First of all, they are connected to each other. The cover is attached to the handguard by putting over the handguard in the middle of its length and sliding it over.
Secondly, the handguard and the cover are not connected to the barrel at any point. The only mounting point is the receiver, into which the complete assembly is inserted and locked with a pin. And this is a point that I would give some attention if I were the owner of an Arcturus AK-12. For many players, the factory fitting of these parts will be fine, but I would try to stabilize them a bit more.
The lower part of the handguard is shaped like a 9-slot rail for mounting additional grips or other accessories. The entire top part of the cover forms another rail. In addition, there are two 3-slot side rails with screws. And here's a note: it is much easier to screw them to a disassembled cover than when its attached to the replica.
Some of the parts mounted on the barrel are made of the same alloy from which the dummy bolt carrier was cast. I am talking about a gas block and a bayonet mount. Both parts are mounted with spring pins, without any kind of setting screws.
A muzzle device resembles the one known from the AK-74 and is made of an aluminum alloy. The mounting was solved in an interesting way... After pressing the securing pin, it must be turned in any direction by 180 degrees and than removed from the barrel. There is no thread here, so there is no way to mount any kind of silencer, unless the Arcturus decides to release a silencer dedicated for the AK-12.
A replica of the gas system is worth discussing. First of all, because the AK-12 has a fixed (not removable in field conditions) gas tube, and its end, resembling a gas regulator, is in fact a plug used for cleaning and maintenance of the weapon. And this is another thing that Arcturus replicated very carefully.
To remove the plug, one has to press and hold the locking pin and turn the plug towards the pin. The assembly is similar - press and hold the pin and turn the cap. Especially during assembly, it is worth using a flat tool to press in the pin, e.g. a tip of a knife.
The second reason the gas system is so interesting is the additional function of the plug. After taking it out, it serves as a key for disassembling the main spring guide in the gearbox and thus to replace the spring itself. We will talk about how to do this in the next section.
The last part placed on the barrel is a rotating carrying sling loop. Like the outer barrel itself, it is made of an iron-free material. Do not be confused by tests performed with strong magnets as they are attracted by to the barrel only because the inner barrel is made of steel. If you repeat the test after removing the inner barrel, everything will become clear.
From the mechanical point of view, the AK-12 is not surprising. We have a very decent configuration typical for Arcturus. The frame is a V3 with quick spring change system and a cutout for an EBB system, which was not installed. Steel (sintered) gears are mounted on 8-mm bearings, but only on the bevel gear has ball bearings. The other two are mounted on slide bearings. A delayer is mounted on the sector gear. The piston has all teeth made of steel. The flat polymer piston head has a bearing, as does the spring guide. The 19.8 mm long polymer nozzle has an O-ring. The electrical installation is made of low-resistance wires in colorless and hard insulation and is controlled by the micro switch mentioned at the beginning.
The additional frame of the movable contactor cooperating with the trigger is secured from the outside of the gearbox with an additional guiding plate made of plastic. This prevents bending of the part of the contactor containing the micro switch, which would lead to problems with the current flow and operation of the replica.
Apart from the parts mentioned above, all other parts of the mechanism are standard. Even an anti-reversal latch that works with an external spring-release lever. The whole mechanism is assembled and adjusted very well.
The Hop-up chamber is a standard AK chamber with a slider adjustment. The bucking is typical. The inner barrel is made of steel and, according to the manufacturer's declaration, has an internal diameter of 6.01 mm. Target shooting tests have shown that the replica does indeed fire is a satisfactorily way.
Two magazines are delivered with the replica. The first one is a classic 500 BB hi-cap, winded up with a gear at the bottom.
The second is a mid-cap holding 130 BBs, the capacity of which can be reduced to 30 BBs. It can be done without any tools, even during an airsoft game. Its enough to press a latch at the bottom of the magazine and slide the floor plate off. Then remove the magazine insert from the outer shell to gain access to the switch limiting the magazine's capacity.
In the original, AK-12 magazines are fully interchangeable with magazines of older AK models that fire the same ammunition. It is the same in the world of airsoft replicas and AK-12 D-Day (Arcturus) magazines should fit other replicas.
The real AK-12 magazines have transparent inspection ports for controlling the amount of remaining ammunition. Both types of Arcturus magazines these ports, but you can't see BBs through them. There are no ports in LCT magazines.
We also conducted a magazine compatibility test of both currently available AK-12 replicas. The magazines of both manufacturers (Arcturus and LCT) are fully compatible and work interchangeably in both replicas. During the tests we did not find any problems with feeding of BBs.
One more feature of the AK-12 magazines is worth mentioning. As you can see in the photos, the bottom of the magazine is not flat. The rear part of the floor plate is angled at such an angle that it is parallel to the barrel's axis. Thanks to this, by resting the replica on the magazine, it can serve as a relatively stable support during shooting.
Connecting the battery
Opening the receiver cover in order to install a battery may be somewhat difficult as it is done completely differently than in other AK replicas. First, the safety lever has to be lifted upright and slid slightly out.
The milling in the axle of the lever will be in a place that will allow the cover to be moved back a few millimeters. In this position, the cover disengages from the latches located in the rear part of the receiver and it can be lifted by turning it around the securing lever.
There is an elastic safety device, factory-installed on the axle, that prevents the lever from being lost. However, it makes it much more difficult to open the cover. During our tests, we removed this safety feature, assuming that the lever was sufficiently secured in the cutout of the handguard. Thanks to this procedure, opening the cover has become much easier.
In our opinion, the best choice to power the AK-12 by Arcturus is a 11.1V LiPo stick type battery pack. Depending on the manufacturer, these packs have a nominal (declared) capacity in the range of 1050-1200 mAh. It is not especially much. If you want to participate in intense games, it is worth getting a spare one, which, as we wrote earlier, can be stored in the stock guide. The replica requires batteries with a mini Tamiya plug.
Main spring replacement
The spring can be replaced entirely from the outside, without removing the gearbox from the receiver. It is worth starting with releasing the tension from the main spring. Next it is enough to fold the stock to the side and lift the receiver cover.
Then, using the gas pipe plug, unscrew the bolt securing the spring guide and then, with the same tool, slightly press the guide itself and turn it by 90 degrees (in the photos below we show this done on a removed gearbox, but of course it is entirely possible to do it without disassembling the replica).
Target shooting test and muzzle velocity test
It is not worth writing about the convenience of using the AK-12. Despite its slightly more modern appearance, it is still just an AK with all its features. The possibility of adjusting the length of the stock and operating the safety/selector lever with one finger is a significant convenience. But all the other aspects are the same as in any other AK.
The mechanism of the tested unit worked very well. There was no need to adjust the motor alignment. The Hop-Up adjustment was flawless, the system worked properly and it did not change the setting by itself. As we mentioned earlier, both magazines fed without any problems. The mid-cap could be emptied completely and there were only 3-4 BBs remaining in the Hop-Up chamber channel left, which is completely normal.
Muzzle velocity test
G&G 0.2 g BBs, XCORTECH X3500 chronograph
Average: 414,1 fps, spread: 3,90 fps.
Measurement results comparable to those found on the certificate issued by Taiwangun.
Target shooting test
An enclosed shooting range, ambient temperature around 20°C, distance to the target was 25 m, G&G 0.25 g BBs were used.
The distance between 9 holes was less than 7 centimeters. The 10th shot was clearly jerked.
We have very good impressions after seeing, handling and shooting the AT-AK12 replica. In our opinion, after the HK416, Arcturus stood up to the task for the second time in a row and prepared a replica that can hardly be faulted. Purists will probably not like the main spring release button and the visible quick-change system, but for many it will be a huge advantage. Certainly, there will also be those who will complain about the lack of a steel barrel. Nevertheless, any possible critical remarks absolutely do not influence our assessment of the Arcturus' AK-12 as it is a very carefully designed and made replica. And by the way, it is also probably a proof that continental Chinese manufacturers will surprise us more than once by successfully trying do the impossible.
On the next page - technical details for those of you interested