Been looking at the Atlantic Firearms site, and it appears that if I am willing to get away from the AK assault rifle look and go to a hunting rifle look, I still have a Kalishnakov designed weapon built in Russia with a chrome barrel for less money than a comparable AK, is ithis a valid assessment?
In short, the Saiga IZ series gives me the benefits of an AK without the AK third country quality build issues?
I don't know what Atlantic Firearms offers, but the Saiga as freshly imported from Russia is in 'sporter' configuration, and insofar as I can tell, it would make a fine hunting rifle as is.
However, there are caveats...primarily and foremost, you will be illegal if using greater than five round mags without meeting 922r requirements. If you can bring the USA made parts number to the line sufficiently, you can leave the OEM furniture (stock, forearm) on the gun, thus retaining the sporterized look and use. For that, you would likely want to replace the 'not exactly excellent' trigger group with a G2 or other somesuch, maybe the piston, whatever it takes (if available...truth to tell, I'd say better than 95 percent of imported Saigas end up being converted and thus are fitted with the AK47 assault rifle profile...I've converted every Saiga rifle and shotgun I've bought, although I'm very conservative with the assault rifle look, leaving the quad rails, scopes, bipods, slings, coffee machines, ad infinitum, to the zombie hunters or fashion models).
If you're just going to be leaving the rifle in the stock configuration and not converting it, you not need to worry about being 922r compliant. It is imported as a sporter rifle specifically to get around the 922r compliancy, and as such isn't subject to the assault weapon requirements that folks who convert the Saiga's are subject to. So, yes, you are correct in your thought process that you will get a Russian AK-platform rifle in sporting configuration and be able to use it for hunting, plinking and other purposes for under $400.
Another fine source you might consider is Centerfire Systems here in Kentucky. I have bought both firearms and ammo from them, as I live only 35 minutes or so from their facility. A friend of mine in WV ordered the Saiga .308 from Atlantic, and he was pleased with their service also. I have two Saigas: The IZ-340 and the IZ-137. I have not yet shot the 340. I have shot the 137. It is my opinion that Saiga has good quality control and builds fine rifles. Any drawbacks are the result of import restrictions imposed upon them by our government. I wish that the stocks were a bit shorter, but that's personal preference. MOST guys I know are wanting longer stocks rather than shorter. I'm a "small profile" guy, and I love short Dragonov style stocks.
One drawback is the proprietary magazines. With certain calibers you CAN use standard hi-cap mags, but you will most likely need to install a bullet guide. No biggie, but you might need to. They run around $20 with shipping, and you might need to get a gunsmith to install it unless you feel competent to do so.
But I believe your root question is whether or not you're getting a decent value for your money, and I believe that you ARE.
Another great value is the very charming little AMD-65 from Hungary. It's as plain Jane as an AK47 can get, but there's something charmingly rough & ready about it, and the price is nice.
If you want my opinion, NO stamped receiver AK47 is made better than the Yugos (or Serbians as they are now known) in terms of sheer quality. But they cost.
For the money, Saiga makes good stuff, and does so with consistency.
Saiga conversions are your best value. However, if you're looking at a milled AK you could also consider a VEPR. The slant cut receiver is a trade off for the wood thumbhole stock, thicker receivers, & heavier profile barrels.
Which is a better buy:
A Saiga from Ishmash, direct from Russia
AYugo from whomever is bringing in Yugos
An AK variant with US parts
Anyway, those are the main options I know of...I kinda like the Saiga IZ with chrome barrel for bang/ buck, but a milled US AK variant has appeal also.
If you can afford a Yugo, do it. If not, the rest of it is personal preference. Bargain AK's include the AMD-65 sidefold (which I love), the Romanian WASR-10, SAR-1 and ROMAK. And, of course, the Saiga. A little weird because of the trigger group placement, but well made. And there is the question of the magazines and the need for the bullet guide if you want to use standard AK mags. The choice is yours.
Unless your state restricts magazine size, DO NOT GET AN AK WITH A SINGLE STACK MAGAZINE ... YOU WANT DOUBLE STACK HI-CAP capability.
... If you can bring the USA made parts number to the line sufficiently, you can leave the OEM furniture (stock, forearm) on the gun, thus retaining the sporterized look and use. For that, you would likely want to replace the 'not exactly excellent' trigger group with a G2 or other somesuch, maybe the piston, whatever it takes (if available...truth to tell, I'd say better than 95 percent of imported Saigas end up being converted and thus are fitted with the AK47 assault rifle profile...I've converted every Saiga rifle and shotgun I've bought, although I'm very conservative with the assault rifle look, leaving the quad rails, scopes, bipods, slings, coffee machines, ad infinitum, to the zombie hunters or fashion models).
Unfortunately, what makes the Saiga trigger so 'bad' is the linkages necessary to move the trigger rearward (to achieve the 'sporter' configuration). So even replacing the parts of the fire control group that can be replaced (and still maintain the 'sporter' configuration) is unlikely to result in much improvement in the trigger pull.