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SSG-97 in 7.62x51 Review

SSG-97 in 7.62NATO

Worland Posted - 07/05/2004 : 6:42:37 PM on

I received the SSG-97C in 7.62x51 from InterOrdnance two weeks after making the order. Inside of the cardboard box the rifle was still in the factory plastic bag covered in medium-weight protective oil. Accessories included were one 10 round thermo-plastic magazine, one 8x42 Belarus PSOP scope, cleaning kit with oil bottle and cleaning rod, one green web sling, one test target and a color manual (English) for the SSG-97 series of rifles.


The SSG-97 Rifle:
The right hand side of the sheet metal receiver is marked “ROMARM/CUGIR ROMANIA”. Left side has the model and serial number “SSG-97C-000X-03”, caliber “Cal. 7.62x51mm” and importer “INTERORDNANCE OF AMERICA L.P. MONROE, NC”. As expected, the rifle has a thin black phosphate finish so common on Romanian arms with bare and rub spots on the sharp edges and some flat surfaces. In other words, a fairly mediocre military finish.

SSG-97 chamberSSG-97 sight

The metal to metal fit was better than expected and all rivets were securely in place and well executed. Numerous deep machining marks were noted on non-critical surfaces of the bolt carrier and bolt, but attention was paid to the areas that required it. The scope rail was securely attached, though numerous rough milling marks were still present. The unusual muzzle brake is welded to the barrel under the front sight and the bayonet lug has been removed. The chrome-lined barrel has 4 groove right hand rifling with a 1:10 twist. The sights are typical Simonov / Kalashnikov with the rear sight having “P” battle setting and graduated from 100 to 300 meters. The bolt carrier has the gas piston attached a la AK with the familiar rotating bolt.

The attractive laminate butt stock is well constructed and covered with an even coat of lacquer. It has a poorly fitted and roughly cut grip cap. The butt plate is ribbed metal. Wood to metal fit is poor with numerous large gaps and overly long relief cuts. The butt stock is held securely in place with two screws on top and one nut the under the tang. The upper hand guard was well executed but had numerous runs in the lacquer.

>As typical with ROMAK’s, the lower hand guard was cut by a blind man. The front end of the lower hand guard was uneven and was covered in four layers of lacquer with numerous runs. This was easily fixed with a file and sandpaper, but seems to be a fairly common defect found on the ROMAK/SSG series.

The Magazine:
The rifle is supplied with one clear thermo-plastic magazine which holds 10 rounds of ammunition. It has a black plastic follower supported by a spring pushing up the rear 2/3rds of it. The black plastic base is marked “CUGIR” over “7.62x51” and is permanently attached to the magazine body with epoxy. The magazine body is ribbed for added support. Loading the magazine was effortless. It is stiff and well built, but it does have some flaws that raised their ugly head during shooting.

SSG-97 mag base

The PSOP 8x42 scope came in a canvas bag with rubber eye piece and Russian manual. It is labeled “INTER ORDNANCE 8x42 MADE IN BELARUS SERIAL NUMBER 040011X”. All controls are in Russian as is the manual. Luckily, you can download an english manual on Kalinka’s web site. It comes with a red lamp installed but no batteries (D357 or very common LR44/A76). At first, the reticle seemed somewhat out-of-focus, but after firing the rifle a few times, something magically worked back into place and I was rewarded with a very clear sight picture. On par with Bushnell Trophy® series clarity, the glass proved clear enough to identify targets past 800 meters. The chevrons are very fine and provide an exceptionally good aiming point. The reticle lights up with a flip of a rubberized toggle switch located on the mount. There was no red blur or haze around the sighting chevrons or range finder. The 8x42 is far superior to the standard 4x scope and allows the user to truly test the limits of the rifle.

SSG-97 magazine

Atthe Range:
The SSG-97 was supplied test fired and the iron sights zeroed. The rifle was provided with a test target shot with open sights at 100 meters. The four shot group measured 2.5 inches. I fired five rounds of LC 66 ball with the iron sights at 100 yards and was rewarded with a very nice 3 inch cluster. I switched over to reloaded ball ammo and found they would not fully chamber. These reloads were full-length sized on RCBS equipment after being fired in my M1A Super Match! The SSG has a surprisingly tight chamber on the very lower end of minimum tolerances. One may encounter problems with some surplus and reloaded ammunition.

I switched back to LC ball, and then the magazine græmlin raised its ugly head. The second to the last round in the magazine would jam every time. Upon inspection of the magazine, I found that the bolt would hit the magazine follower when stripping the second to last round. When this happened, the front of the follower would take a nose dive and the last round in the magazine literally imbedded itself into the front of the plastic magazine body. I later determined that the follower is a tad short. Affixing a creditcard-thick shim to the front of the magazine follower eliminated all feeding problems.

SSG-97 magazine top

With the 8x42 scope installed, I was able to post some very nice 2.5 inch groups with Indep FNM 86 ball. Handloaded 165 grain Sierra BTHP’s came in at 1.25 MOA and 150 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips delivered 0.8 MOA. Fired cases were briskly ejected 15 feet to my right. The thin barrel heated up quickly, and with 94° weather with matching humidity, it wasn’t cooling down. I cut the range session short before trying any factory Match Grade ammo, but I had enough evidence of the rifle’s potential. The two stage trigger was gritty at first but smoothed out after just a few magazines. Trigger pull measured at 6 lbs, but felt more like 4.

In Summary:
While typically crude as all Com-Bloc martial arms are, the SSG-97 proved more than capable as a designated marksman rifle. The flawed magazine can be overcome with minor adjustments, but I would prefer one made of steel. At $69 per factory magazine from IO, I wish a VEPR or Saiga magazine would work. At the current price of $694 from InterOrdnance, the SSG-97 is a winner that makes for a nice conversation piece at the range.