The heart of the Shashka is the Ballistic Advantage 14.5 inch barrel in Tactical Government profile. It’s slightly thicker than the standard government profile, which increases rigidity. The weight of the 14.5 inch barrel is identical to a 16 inch government profile; both coming in at 28 oz.

Like the other barrels in Ballistic Advantage’s 5.45 line, the 14.5 middy is made from 4150 CMV steel, a more robust choice than the commonly-used 4140 steel. The barrel is melonited (QPQ, ballistic nitride) both inside and out, resulting in a very durable, corrosion-resistant product. If you haven’t heard me rant on and on about the benefits of melonite, suffice it to say that I think it should be standard in almost any firearm construction.

The Shashka is made to fire the 5.45x39mm round, specifically the 7N6 Russian surplus imported into the United States by companies such as US Armory Corps. The 5.45 is a fine cartridge for a carbine used in close to medium range. In an upcoming article series, I’ll be comparing the 7N6 round to the 5.56x45mm M855 green tip in terms of accuracy, longer-range terminal performance and barrier penetration.


The Ballistic Advantage barrel is truly a joy to shoot. While it is no lighter than the 16-inch version, it feels more compact and easier to handle. I can’t give any reasonable explanation for this, since with the SFMB-556 muzzle brake permanently attached, the overall length is 16.5 inches, a scant half an inch shorter than my 16 inch barrel with an Rainier Arms RMC on the end. Reason aside, the Ballistics Advantage 14.5 inch middy just feels better.

Alex Craft helping evaluate the barrel’s accuracy at 100 yards.

While the 5.45x39mm surplus round isn’t the most accurate cartridge on the planet, it is capable of some impressive results with a Ballistics Advantage Medium Heavy Rigid barrel. With this barrel, it is capable of 2.5 MOA, and with a government profile mid-length barrel, I regularly get 3-4 MOA. The 14.5 is relatively similar at 3.5 MOA with 5-shot groupings and 4.5 MOA with 10-round groups.

That’s quite good accuracy, especially taking into account that the 7N6 round was designed for use with a 16.3 inch barrel. The Shaska is a duty carbine, designed primarily for use inside of 300 yards. The compactness of the barrel and the fact that less weight is out on the end of the muzzle mean that I can drive it from target to target faster, especially when using a thumb-over-bore grip.

The handling and pointability of the carbine are very natural. With the Trijicon SRS mounted, it is a superb little carbine. Recoil is negligible, and has been described to me by other shooters as “like a twenty two.” This is in large part due to the Surefire muzzle brake.

Gas System

Seekins Precision Low Profile Adjustable Gas Block

To make sure that I could reduce the recoil even more, I used a Seekins Precision adjustable low-profile mini gas block. Using this, I was able to tune the carbine to just the right amount of gas. Enough to operate reliably, but not over-gassed. The set screw is held in place by another brass set screw, and is very sturdy.

Not only does this gas block allow me to fine-tune the system for this carbine, but it will allow me to modify it in the future, when I acquire a suppressor. And the Seekins gas block is incredibly lightweight, which is something I appreciate a lot, as my builds tend to be a bit heavy.

One word of caution: the corrosive salts in the 5.45 will gum up the adjustment screw if you don’t clean it regularly. The Seekins gas block is melonite treated, giving it superior corrosion resistance. Special Ops Tactical was kind enough to provide me with a melonited mid-length gas tube, which will withstand incredible temperatures without melting.


As I stated before, I am working on a series of articles about the surplus 5.45x39mm cartridge. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but here is a preview of some of the penetrating power of that round out of the Shashka carbine.

Cost Advantage

The Shashka is meant to be a training upper, though it can absolutely be used as part of a dedicated carbine. The small loss in accuracy is more than compensated for by the savings you rack up with high round counts. If you shoot out your 5.56 barrel, you’re looking at 15,000 rounds, which will cost (at $0.35 a round) $4500.

If you’re shooting 5.45x39mm surplus through the Shashka, you can reach 15,000 rounds and it’ll only cost you $2346. That’s a savings of over two thousand dollars. Since the upper receiver component of the Shashka costs less than half of that, I would say it’s more than worth it, especially since the only caliber-specific parts are the barrel, the bolt and the magazines.

If you’re looking for a low-cost alternative to the 5.56mm and you want to have a high-speed 14.5″ mid-length carbine like the ones Costa and Haley have come out with, I urge you to consider a Ballistic Advantage barrel and a Seekins Precision adjustable gas block.



Special Thanks to Adam of Ballistic Advantage for supplying the 14.5 inch barrel in tactical government profile. Thanks to Seekins Precision for the adjustable gas block.

-By Allen Cosby


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53GR is an avid shooter, hiker and tinkerer. Introduced to guns at an early age, the hobby became a passion in his early twenties. After two years in Iraq as a contractor for a defense company, he developed an unhealthy addiction to military surplus gear. Though he's currently in treatment, the prognosis is that the condition is chronic.

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