Krebs Custom pioneered work on the Izhmash Saiga rifles and shotguns. Now due to import availability, Krebs Custom has turned its attention to the Saiga’s Russian cousin, the MOLOT VEPR, in the form of the KV-13.
Though modified to meet import requirements via sporter stock with no pistol grip, at the heart of the Russian VEPR rifle is an AK operating system. The process to modify the VEPR back into the more familiar AK profile is a straightforward process involving moving the trigger guard forward to make room for a pistol grip, replacing the fire control group, and installing the AK stock of choice.
Krebs Custom takes this a step farther— a big step.
KREBS AK FITTING
A tremendous amount of fitting goes into all Krebs Custom AKs. All receive an internal reliability check with a light honing of the bolt carrier group and guide rails. All exterior surfaces that users touch are dehorned. Even without firing a live round, the superiority of a Krebs AK over a standard AK can be detected in the smoothness of the action, trigger pull, quality of refinish and overall weapon feel.
The current offering of VEPR rifles in the U.S. market has to be considered a great purchase for someone desiring a working example of a Soviet/Russian weapon. This is only enhanced once Krebs Custom turns their attention to making it better.
The VEPR utilizes the classic AK long-stroke gas piston. Anyone looking for a hard-hitting high-capacity semiautomatic rifle would do well not to overlook the VEPR. This stems from the VEPR’s well-earned reputation for ruggedness and reliability combined. The added bonus is you get a magazinefed semiautomatic rifle chambered for the potent 7.62x39mm cartridge with enough accuracy for hits on man-sized targets out to 400 yards.
While the Saiga AK from Izhmash is the more widely known Russian AK import, the VEPR has its own impressive heritage and distinguishing characteristics. The VEPR built at the MOLOT Factory is a direct descendant of the RPK light machine gun. This is reflected in its hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel and thicker steel receiver and trunnions due to the abuse typical of working as a light machine gun.
MOLOT has been building to Soviet/ Russian military specifications for over 50 years, with this experience reflected in the VEPR series. For example, the cold-hammer-forged barrel is rated for over 50,000 rounds.
The transition into the civilian market came about due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War limiting production needs. In 1994, MOLOT designers introduced a VEPR sporting hunting rifle first chambered for the 7.62x39mm cartridge. It was not long until a VEPR .308 Winchester was introduced in an effort to boost foreign sales and interest.
KREBS CUSTOM UPGRADES
Krebs Custom has lent its expertise to the KV-13 VEPR rifle in an effort to increase its performance levels. One obvious Krebs tweak is the extendedlength open sight configuration. Krebs Custom provides an integral M16A2 rear sight mounted on the rear of the dust cover, with both battle sight and windage adjustable long-range apertures. The Krebs AR-type open sight provides 60% greater sight radius than a standard AK. This is far superior to standard AK sights.
An example supporting the Krebs Custom sight’s advantage is a drill that began by engaging targets at nine and 35 yards with the KV-13. Targets were engaged five times each starting from standing, moving to another location, five more rounds from kneeling, and finally moving again and transitioning to the prone with five more rounds each. I asked a couple of training partners to handle the Krebs Custom KV-13 with this format. All came away complimentary of the KV-13’s combat accuracy, with the sights being a major reason. There were no problems losing zero after repeated removal of the dust cover for verification purposes.
Krebs Custom continued upgrading the KV-13 VEPR by installing a customized KeyMod interface railed forend. Designed by VLTOR Weapon Systems and now open-sourced to the industry, the KeyMod rail design is going to bring about a new generation of accessory mounts and furniture that connects directly to the handguard instead of needing a rail surface to clamp on to. All this keeps the overall rifle package lighter and more compact.
KREBS KV-13 VEPR SPECS
The Krebs VEPR AK measures 38 inches long with stock extended and 34 inches when fully collapsed from rear buttstock to the tip of the permanently attached Krebs Custom four-prong flash hider affixed to the chrome-lined 14-inch barrel. An ACE hinge connects the Magpul CTR to the rear trunnion and offers a user the option of folding it for compact transport. The KV-13 measures 26 inches with stock folded. It weighs slightly over eight pounds.
The Krebs KV-13 VEPR starts with one basic advantage due to the AK operating system—reliability. Critics of the VEPR AK point to the long stroke operating rod as imposing stress on the action, impacting accuracy. The VEPR AK defies this logic by performing better than expected due to a thicker receiver and heavier barrel. But attention to detail such as ammunition supply, better stock system, finding a way to mount a better optic, and action fine tuning being pioneered by Krebs Custom will bring out the full potential of the VEPR AK.
A good trigger is sometimes overlooked in the accuracy equation. Krebs tunes the VEPR trigger into a minimal creep, two-stage, five- to six-pound work of art. Why the high praise? AK triggers are not known for their creature comforts, but somehow Krebs pulled it off.
Tapco’s SAW-style pistol grip and Krebs Custom Mk IV safety lever are also installed on the VEPR AK, helping to better round out weapon manipulation and ergonomics.
The Krebs Mk IV safety lever allows for the safety selector to be manipulated by the trigger finger without changing the firing grip on the weapon. This nuance results in an immediate improvement on handling the VEPR. The ability to keep your hand in a firing position while working the safety allows for faster first shot reaction times.
The SAW-style grip better aligns the shooter’s hand and fingers when making a precise shot.
All these modifications are not merely smoke and mirrors, but rather a concerted effort to improve upon VEPR performance and accuracy while maintaining the AK qualities of ultra reliability, ruggedness and simplicity.
Multiple 7.62x39mm loads were tested with the Krebs Custom KV-13, including Hornady, Wolf, and a new addition to the 7.62×39 ammunition realm: Century International Arms Red Army Standard.
Red Army Standard 7.62x39mm ammunition will be offered in handy Range Packs (180 rounds) as well as 30-round boxes. This packaging allows the consumer to purchase multiple boxes of ammunition in a convenient, easy to carry and use format. Red Army Standard is manufactured by the same factories that produced billions of rounds of ammunition for the Soviet Red Army and Warsaw Pact nations. The Range Pack boxes indicated Romanian and Ukranian manufacturing.
The Krebs VEPR AK was evaluated at Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC). It showed its true promise by performing not only within the 100-yard bays firing from barricades and engaging multiple targets, but also back at the prepared firing position line, with targets placed beyond 300 yards.
I chose a Leupold FX-II Scout IER 2.5X28mm scope for initial range accuracy evaluation. The 2.5X optic is better suited to ascertain the KV-13’s accuracy potential compared to open or red dot sights. The Leupold optic added only a little over 8.5 ounces to the total rifle package.
The ability to mount the Leupold or other forward-mounted optics shows the flexibility offered by the Krebs Custom KV-13 modifications. The Krebs Custom KeyMod rail is perfect for adding any suitable optic due to its rocksteady nature, allowing for no shifting zero once a scope is sighted in.
The Leupold 2.5X28 IER scope was a pleasant surprise, as it offers the capability to engage multiple targets in rapid sequence more accurately compared to open sights and at greater distances. Shooters familiar with red dots will be pleasantly surprised by the utility of the Leupold 2.5X Scout scope. It gathers light in dim light, the crosshair is hard to beat for an aiming point, and the magnification aids in accuracy and finding lanes of fire when firing in dense areas. The Leupold is superior to any open sight.
The Bindon Aiming Concept of keeping both eyes open and having the reticle appear to float in front of the rifle works with the forward-mounted Scout scope. After accuracy testing was completed, a Weaver Optics Red/Green Dot sight was mounted on the KV-13 for a more traditional dot sight approach.
During the evaluation, over 500 rounds were fired with no issue. Anecdotally, the recoil impulse with the Krebs Custom KV-13 seemed smoother than other AKs tested to date. While the 7.62x39mm is not considered a heavy recoiling round by any stretch, the KV-13’s recoil was not as “snappy” as expected, even when firing multiple rounds in quick succession. The eightpound KV-13 balanced well, with kudos given to the Krebs KeyMod set-up, which keeps weight centered or even slightly rearward of the action versus front heavy like most quad rail forends.
CHEST RIG AND ARMOR
A U.S. PALM AK Attack Rack chest rig and Agile Combat System (ACS) armor were used in evaluating the KV-13. The AK Attack Rack is a low-profile secure platform for four AK magazines and four pistol magazines. The chest rig can be worn over hard or soft body armor and is built to military specifications out of 500d Cordura nylon for durability and minimal weight.
The ACS comes with a Level III soft armor insert with the capability of installing hard SAPI plates. Like the KV-13, the U.S. PALM ACS is imminently adaptable. A user can configure front and rear components based on perceived mission needs. The ACS is another addition to U.S. PALM’s stable of products available for security-conscious private citizens, military or law enforcement. The ACS mounts quickly and offers body armor protection along with the capability to carry AK and pistol magazines if so configured.
IT’S YOUR CHOICE
As with most weapon systems, the pros and cons of the Krebs Custom KV-13 VEPR can be debated forever. Individual users will make the decision based on what best suits their needs. AK aficionados should consider the KV-13 VEPR due to its power, accuracy, and multi-mission capability. Combined with quality optics mated to quality ammunition such as the Hornady 123-grain SST, the Krebs Custom KV- 13 is what many AK connoisseurs have been waiting for.