Passing storms made for rough skies, yet I managed to steal a few precious hours of shut-eye on my flight to Las Vegas, though the sudden shaking of the aircraft destroyed any hope of appreciation for it.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. We’re experiencing some turbulence.”
“No kidding,” I thought to myself in far cruder terms. Prying my laptop from under the child’s car seat in front of me that passed for coach accommodations, I began reviewing information on the Sharps Brothers’ new AK receiver I was en route to evaluate.
On paper it seemed a lot like any other tacticool’d AK on the market. Some manufacturer had decided they knew better than Mikhail Kalashnikov and tried to shoehorn the AK into an M4-looking contraption. But the addition of a threaded peg for an AR-15 lower receiver extension (buffer tube) and the receiver’s Galil/Sako RK 95 appearance piqued my interest.
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THE FULLER AK MAN
Unlike most modernized Kalashnikovs, this one had the backing of and co-development with industry legend Jim Fuller. Fuller had founded Rifle Dynamics, a small custom AK builder with a reputation for unparalleled build quality and uncompromising eye for detail. If Jim put his name and reputation behind this new rifle, there must be something to it.
I took an overpriced taxi through the depths of the neon-drenched city to my hotel. After scribbling a few notes, I headed to bed. Sleep lasted a few seconds at best. Somehow midnight became sunrise in an instant, the surrounding desert’s heat dominating the Strip an hour or two later.
After an indulgent breakfast, Sharps Brothers owner, John Sharps, and I headed over to Rifle Dynamics to see the first production rifle and meet with Jim Fuller. John’s friend and prolific photographer Jason Swarr was with us and positively glowing at the prospect of meeting Jim in person. Truthfully, so was I.
The outside of Fuller’s shop is surprisingly plain. I don’t know what I was expecting, but a matte beige building devoid of writing was not it. Externally unimpressive, the inside is awe-inspiring. The shop is lined with dozens of one-off projects and rare Kalashnikov components. If Santa’s elves built AK rifles, this would be their workshop.
But the on-site elves were actually highly skilled AK builders, and their master not an obese old man in a poorly fitted red suit, but Jim Fuller. A man whose face shows the lines of smiling too much—and who can blame him? Doing what he loves while making a living and capturing the adulation of other enthusiasts tends to have that effect on people.
His perpetual smile contrasts with the severe unkempt grey-black hair, appearing as storm clouds surrounding the whirlwind of brilliance exploding from the man’s head. I took a second to regain my composure before introducing myself to this intense-looking man. He responded with a big smile and the sort of warm welcome normally reserved for old friends.
Touring the small workshop for a few minutes, I was struck by how quiet and organized the chaos inside was. Larger factories look like soulless mass-production assembly lines, devoid of character or attention to detail. This shop was more akin to an artist’s studio, craftsmen laser-focused on building each project perfectly. The whole scene was incredibly, wonderfully distracting, but I came here for a reason: the MB47, the result of more than two years of R&D from Sharps Brothers and many late-night phone calls between Sharps and Fuller. Dubbed the RD700 DMR, the rifle handed to me was the culmination of these two very talented individuals’ efforts to build a better milled AK receiver.
John had years of experience and commercial success building his line of high-end AR-15 receivers featuring milled skulls and tiger teeth. These receivers don’t just look great, their fit and finish are outstanding. The only thing higher than their quality is the demand for them. Try to find one locally and many shops will laugh. Most places can’t keep them in stock for more than a few days—sometimes hours. John hoped to bring this level of precision to a platform many people erroneously believed to be crudely made and unrefined. Like any good leader or business owner, John knows what he knows and, more importantly, what he doesn’t. So he reached out to Rifle Dynamics to ensure he wouldn’t make any costly mistakes along the way, but rather spend more time innovating and improving and less time troubleshooting.
The result is a rifle that truly shatters my expectations and redefines what’s possible with AK rifles and carbines. The first example shown was built off a Yugoslavian barrel/gas system, and as such features an adjustable gas valve.
On milspec versions of the Yugo/Serb PAP rifles, this valve is designed to facilitate the launching of rifle grenades. Since these grenades are launched with expanding gas and not a projectile, blank rounds are used as a propellant. To maximize the amount of gas directed toward the muzzle, a gas cutoff valve was installed on Yugo-pattern infantry rifles.
Rifle Dynamics takes this cutoff and modifies it into an adjustable gas system. It does this to make the platform easier to suppress. Another indication the rifle is designed for this is the thread pitch on the end of the rifle. The RD700 features a 5/8×24 threaded muzzle, and the example at the shop was topped with a Silencerco Saker Trifecta muzzle brake. It also greatly expands the amount of available muzzle devices, as this is the same pitch used by AR-10 rifles.
On the other end of the RD700 is the most obvious departure from the original AK design—the M4 stock interface. Where most milled AK rifles use a pair of tangs to screw into a wooden or polymer stock, the MB47 receiver made by Sharps Brothers features a circular cut threaded for a milspec M4 lower receiver extension.
As an AK traditionalist, I’ll admit I wasn’t initially excited at the thought of the carbine, but after seeing it in person, I was won over by its appearance.
Most AK carbines that feature some sort of adapter for M4 or AR-15 stocks look very tacked on, as if the entire concept was an afterthought. But the Sharps Brothers MB47 receiver looks destined for modern AR-style furniture.
When John received the first production example from Rifle Dynamics, his face lit up like a father being handed his son in the delivery room. Understandably so, as the whole ensemble looks gorgeous. The Sharps Brothers persona shines through, working in tandem with the high build quality Rifle Dynamics is known for.
Dressed to kill, the RD700 DMR was impressive to behold. But could it perform as well as it looked?
We packed up two examples of the rifle and headed to the desert to find out. With crosswinds in excess of 25 mph, distance shooting was going to be tricky, so initially I limited my evaluation to firing on steel silhouettes at distances between 50 and 200 yards. The first MB47 rifle we fired was the carbine version, sporting a 16-inch barrel. It wore an SLR Rifleworks railed handguard and Magpul UBR stock.
Using the unforgiving post and notch iron sights on the rifle, making hits on anything inside 200 yards was very easy. Past 200 yards, the crosswinds required so much Kentucky-windage that hitting targets regularly became challenging. Not because the rifle wasn’t capable, but because obtaining regular, repeatable holdover while the wind threatened to topple me introduced too many variables.
To extend this range, the 18-inch barreled designated-marksman rifleinspired RD700 was brought to bear against our steel enemies. To extend its reach and assist my aging eyes, an RS Regulate AKOG optics rail and three times magnification ACOG were added to the already impressively accurate rifle.
In this configuration, steel targets at 300 yards and beyond were engaged with almost boring regularity. Clear optics, great ammo, and a well-made barrel go a long way toward achieving this. The inclusion of an ALG trigger also made obtaining this precision much easier than with milspec or industrystandard Tapco G2 triggers.
During these firing sessions, I also had a chance to try out a few different magazines in the RD700 and get a good sense of how well the host receiver was made. Magazines of every material type and capacity locked up without any issues. Wobble was non-existent. The magazine release latch was buttery in operation, making it possible to actuate with one finger.
Chambering a round was damn near euphoric, the milled receiver’s ultrasmooth action living up to its reputation. After performing a few dozen rapid reloads with magazines far too rare for most mortals to afford, I felt confident in the rifle’s construction, fit, and finish. And after easily reaching out to distant targets in challenging shooting conditions, I was thoroughly satisfied with the RD700 DMR’s practical accuracy.
But that wasn’t enough—I wanted to test the gun’s accuracy in a more controlled environment.
Thankfully, Jim Fuller had access to a private 100-yard indoor range only a few miles from the desert shooting range. Here I mounted a Harris bipod to the SLR handguard of the RD700 and slowly took my time to fire a few rounds for grouping.
After warming up on the first two groups and getting a feel for the rifle, I squeezed out a sub-minute of angle group at 100 yards using the 3X scope. My group hovered around .8 inch for three rounds. John got behind the rifle and also shot sub-MOA. The gun is likely even more capable with better optics or a more practiced hand.
Jim Fuller took a swing and cleared the stands. The experienced rifle maker doesn’t just know how to build AKs but also how to shoot them. Using Corbon ammunition, Jim achieved a threeround grouping of .72 inch from the prone position. Sub-MOA groupings from an AK are one thing, but that close to half MOA is incredible!
This level of precision is so unheard of from the platform that it totally changes the game. Shooters no longer have to choose between dependability and precision.
It may not be for the collector or AK purist, but shooters looking to squeeze every ounce of performance from an AK rifle need look no further than the new Rifle Dynamics RD700 DMR built off the Sharps Brothers MB47 receiver.