Just before the 2016 election amid what the media decried as the impending collapse of the Republican Party, I did what we have warned so many of you not to do. I became a panic buyer (sort of). My panic buying lead me to purchase this Atlantic Firearms Polish Tantal. Thus beings my Polish Tantal AK74 Review.
I told myself that I might not have an opportunity to buy such a rifle to add to my collection. It would hold it’s value. I’d want it even if The Donald claimed the Presidency. And so, with my hat in my hands, I claimed the title “PANIC BUYER” as if it were a trophy and I placed my order. By Thanksgiving, I was the owner of my first AK variant rifle.
Polish Tantal AK74 Review:
Officially designated the WZ88 by the Polish Military, the Tantal is a copy of the soviet AK74, the rifle that is currently issued to Russian infantrymen. As with the AK74, the Tantal is chambered in 5.45x39mm – a round quite different from that of it’s more popular cousin, the AK47.
POLISH TANTAL OUT OF THE BOX
The Atlantic Firearms Tantal is very impressive out of the box. The fit and finish of the exterior is top quality and the assembly rivets are installed correctly. In short, the rifle was quite certainly built by a professional builder.
As shown in the photo above, the Tantal arrived with a folding metal stock and “fake wood” (bakelite) handguards. A Polish 30 rd Metal Tantal magazine, bi-pod and rifle cleaning kit were also included.
While for many the original format is THE BEST, this rifle is destined to be used in a number of firearms training classes and was in serious need of some “upgrades” to allow for optics and accessories, such as a flashlight, to be mounted. Before we get into the upgrades that this rifle was SUBJECTED TO (it certainly was tortured if you are an internet AK purist) let’s talk about the “AK Building” process that saw this rifle transformed from a fully automatic machine gun into a civilian legal semi-automatic rifle.
SHORT LIST: Polish Tantal parts kit, USA Nitrided Barrel, Morrissey AK74 receiver w/side optic rail
What is an AK Builder?
For those of you who may not know, current US Import Laws prevent machine guns from being imported from overseas. Unfortunately for my new Tantal, this means that the original receiver and barrel were cut with a plasma cutter (often with less than optimum attention to detail) in Poland before it could be imported.
While a few companies such as Century Arms and Palmetto State Armory are producing 100% USA Made rifles, the vast majority of AK variants in the USA currently have been imported via this “parts kit” process. That is where Atlantic Firearms and builders like them come in.
AK Builders purchase these rifle “parts kits” and then go about purchasing new barrels and receivers to fit the rifle. Once they have all of the parts, the rifles are then assembled (built) and are considered entirely new rifles.
Polish Tantal – forgotten?
Before purchasing the Atlantic Firearms Tantal, I did my due diligence and researched the rifle. A quick Google Search turned up a website called ForgottenWeapons.com – a very intriguing website title and one, as I would soon learn, was a very fitting domain name to house and article about the Tantal, which has been all but forgotten by history.
The American experience with the 5.56 mm assault rifle use during the Vietnam War, despite all the setbacks of the early M16 and M193 Ball, did aroused (sic) a great deal of curiosity and then desire to introduce similar weapon on the other side of the Iron Curtain. In the mid-1970s the Soviets have finally introduced another generation of the Kalashnikov rifle and LMG called the AK-74/RPK-74.
Shortly after that, Poland along with all other Warsaw Pact countries started to prepare for the introduction of the new standard – a small-caliber individual weapon system. When Polish authorities inquired about the possibility to obtain the license rights for manufacturing of the AK-74, the price tag and export limitations were found outrageous enough to warrant building their own rifle. In order to achieve that goal, Polish designers undertook an ambitious task: to build a rifle at the same time identical to AK-74 – and thus the Tantal was born. [FOR MORE HISTORY ON THE TANTAL CLICK HERE]
UPGRADING THE POLISH TANTAL
Now that you know a bit more about the history of the Polish Tantal and AK74 rifles, let’s get into the upgrades that were added to this rifle.
Having owned and tested dozens of AR15 rifles (and their kissing cousins such as the Sig Sauer MCX and FN Scar-L) I wanted to make the Tantal as familiar as realistically could be achieved. To me, this meant three things, a collapsible stock, a railed handguard and an oversized pistol grip to fit my oversized hands.
The Strike Industries TRAX AK Rail
While searching for an adequate rail for the Tantal, I came across a bump in the road. Unlike the AK74 or AK47 the Polish Tantal has a free-floating gas tube and a proprietary-like upper-handguard. Many-a-internet forum warned that there were no compatible railed handguards for the Tantal.
While researching the subject, I came across Rob Ski of AK47-74 Operators Union’s review of the Tantal, during which he briefly mentioned that many rails do indeed fit the Tantal.
Still curious, I reached out to the folks at Strike Industries concerning their AK Trax rail system and wouldn’t you know, they weren’t sure if the Tantal was compatible with their rail either. Let it be known that I had not identified myself as a writer, and Strike offered to send me a rail to test on the rifle, so long as I paid for the shipping expenses. I was glad to be their guinea pig.
A PERFECT FIT!
As is often the case with internet group-think, one person makes one claim once, and it becomes anecdotal fact. The Trax rail fit almost-PERFECTLY on the Tantal. As you can see in the photo above, the one issue with the Tantal is the positioning of the stock upper handguard – the Strike Industries Trax Rail leaves a distinct 1.25″ gap on the gas tube between the rail and the rear sight block. This has exactly zero effect on the function of the rifle.
TRIAL AND ERROR IS THE NAME OF THE GAME.
Unlike many less popular AK variants, an advantage of the Tantal is that it has a traditional AK74 stock tang – this means that any aftermarket AK stock would fit. As I was looking for an inexpensive option to adapt an AR15 stock to fit the rifle, I sprung for the ATI Elite AK47 stock, having spoken with their representatives about it at the 2016 Shot Show.
ATI ELITE STOCK SHORT COMINGS AND CUSTOMER RELATIONS FAILURES
I couldn’t have been more disappointed with ATI or their stock. Out of the box, ATI’s stock was only useful for photographing the above “transformation picture”. In short, the stock was reinforced in all of the wrong places and featured ABS-like polymer support components and was secured by two small screws alone. The death-blow, after following the installation instructions the stock wobbled like granny after too many mojitos on Fat Tuesday.
This failing quality was a far-cry from my previous experience with ATI’s Mossberg 500 folding stock (a-la Spas 12). I immediately reached out to ATI with my concerns. After a few days, with my emails left unanswered, I requested a return label. The email chain had apparently been elevated to a senior member of ATIs team, given his job title in the email, who informed me that the return shipping was “the customers” responsibility. My final unasnwered email response is below.
TAPCO SAVES THE DAY!
The $75-$100 ATI stock was returned to them and promptly replaced with a Tapco warsaw-length AK47 black polymer fixed stock. It was much easier to install than the ATI, and for less than $20.00 from Jet.com this stock could fail 5 times before it was as problematic as the ATI was out of the box, while costing just as much.
FINAL ADDITIONS TO THE ATLANTIC FIREARMS TANTAL
To finish off the process of getting the Polish Tantal ready for a Tactical Rifle Course, four final additions were made.
- Tapco “SAW” Pistol grip (perfect for large hands)
- Primary Arms Micro Dot (POSITIVE review to come)
- Primary Arms Compact Weapon Light ( (POSITIVE review to come)
- Ten Tapco Ak74 magazines ($7.00 each!!)
SUMMARY OF THE TANTAL REVIEW
To finish off part one of my review of the Polish Tantal from Atlantic Firearms, I’d like to recap a few things.
- The Tantal is a great AK74 variant
- The oem stock IS very uncomfortable and will bruise your cheek EVEN WHEN USED PROPERLY
- Tapco AK stock, pistol grip, and magazines ARE GOOD TO GO
- NEW ATI elite ak47 stock should be avoided until they fix the design as explained in the message below.
THANKS for checking out part one of this review! The team here at Cold Dead Hands will soon follow up with a range review of the Tantal giving our first impressions after putting some rounds down range!