One Hell of a Rifle: The I.O. Inc. Hellhound Review

It's sad but true that the Golden Age of military surplus is over. The classic Mausers, Enfields, Carcanos, Berthiers and the like have dried up. When batches are uncovered, their condition after decades of service usually leaves something to be desired.

Today, surplus firearms and ammunition are not only much harder to find, but since the start of the Global War on Terrorism, shipping them through certain parts of the world is much more difficult or altogether impossible. Due to these hurdles, many companies specializing in military surplus have had to expand their horizons.

One company facing this issue was Inter Ordance or I.O. This North Carolina company's roots can be traced back to West Germany, the Cold War and a handful of UZI and STEN parts kits. While selling surplus is how this company got its start, times change. In response to the challenges facing them, they stepped up and became a manufacturer.

One rifle they had a great deal of experience with was the Kalashnikov. Following a great deal of hard work, I.O. Inc. now manufacturers a line of Kalashnikov rifles here in the USA.

Producing a rifle like the AK from scratch is no small task, so I was interested to see the company's take on it. Perhaps the most interesting model I.O. Inc. offers is the Hellhound Tactical, a contemporary AK mixed with a bit of East German flare.

It is built on what I.O. Inc. claims is a military-spec, pressed sheet-metal receiver using Polish factory blue prints. The action is traditional Kalashnikov with a standard European rivet pattern. Mounted to the left side of the receiver is the familiar Communist Bloc pattern universal side rail for mounting day and night optics.

Feed is from standard Com Bloc-pattern detachable box magazines. I.O. Inc. is building synthetic 30-round magazines; one is provided.

Once I managed to dislodge the very tight top cover, I noted a Tapco G2 trigger mechanism inside. Fitted to the front of the receiver is a 16.2-inch chrome moly barrel chambered in 7.62x39. I.O. Inc. says the barrels are match grade and capable of producing two-inch groups at 100 yards.

The combination front sight/gas block streamlines the rifle's profile. It is retained by two roll pins and features a protected-post front sight adjustable for elevation and windage. At the end of the 1:9.5 twist barrel is a Phantom flash suppressor. The traditional tangent rear sight is calibrated to 1,000 meters.

Furniture is a bit different from the norm. The pistol grip and buttstock is I.O. Inc.'s copy of the furniture used on the unique East German StG-940 Wieger variant of the Kalashnikov. While not the classic military pattern, this combination is actually quite comfortable. The butt lacks a trap for a cleaning kit but sports a sling swivel on the left side.

In place of a standard fore-end is an aluminum unit with 1913 rails at three, six and nine o'clock on the fore-end and at 12 o'clock on the upper handguard. Controls are pure Kalashnikov with zero changes or updates. The end result is an interesting-looking piece that appears to be nicely made and features a handsome satin black finish.

I began testing with a simple function check. Running a few 30-round magazines through the Hellhound I noted two issues. The first was the Phantom flash suppressor quickly loosened and began unthreading.

The second was the aluminum railed fore-end heated up at a surprising rate. After a quick 60 rounds it was uncomfortably hot — to the point that my helper, Josh Newey, requested a "chicken mitt" to hold onto it with. Function was 100 percent, though, with smooth feeding, reliable extraction and that famous "home-run" style Kalashnikov ejection.

I have tested more AKs than I care to remember using nothing but the iron sights. Here is one trick that works for me. I post a large dark colored backer such as a piece of brown cardboard at 100 yards. Next I simply staple a piece of standard white copy paper onto it.

I then use a six o'clock hold. By this I mean I aim at the center of the very bottom edge of the white copy paper. The white paper contrasts nicely with the black front sight, and the size is appropriate. It provides the all-important distinct aiming point required when using infantry sights and aging eyes. I've consistently shot very respectable groups using this simple target, so it's something to consider.

I zeroed the Hellhound and fired five five-shot groups with two loads at 100 yards. Accuracy proved very consistent and no doubt was aided by a light and clean-breaking trigger. Wolf Performance Ammunition's 124-grain FMJ Military Classic load averaged three inches at 2,336 fps. This economical steel-case load is very popular among American shooters and provides consistent performance.

Hornady's 123-grain Zombie-Max load, on the other hand, is a bit flashier with its green polymer tip. Marketed for use against the "undead," this load would be just the ticket to ride out the end of the world with. Accuracy was a bit better at 2.8 inches while velocity ran 2,359 fps.

Before continuing, I replaced the included fore-end with a similar unit from Midwest Industries. This unit features MIL-STD 1913 rails at three, six and nine o'clock and a base for an Aimpoint T-1/H-1 micro red dot sight at 12 o'clock. The base places the Aimpoint low enough to allow it to co-witness with the iron sights.

The addition of a red dot sight, white light and sling brings the Hellhound to the next level. I then proceeded to run it through a variety of drills from three to 400 yards. Firing prone off the magazine provided consistent hits on a man-size target at 300 yards and frequent hits at 400 yards.

I.O. Inc.'s reputation has been a bit shaky in the past, but this particular rifle performed well. It looked good, proved reliable, and I liked the Wieger-style furniture and Phantom flash suppressor. However I didn't care for the fore-end rail system and would prefer protective ears rather than a circular front sight shroud.

Overall, the Hellhound is an interesting American manufactured variant of the famous Russian design with a bit of an East German flare. Prices on I.O.'s AKs start at $550.

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