Chinese Preban AK Imports Part 2 - GSAD
In 1984, approximately one year after the import of the Clayco AKS, the second of the Chinese "pre-ban" AK's began importation to the United States. The rifles were imported by Golden State Arms Distributors Inc. (G.S.A.D.) based out of Manhattan Beach CA. These rifles are commonly referred to as the GSAD.
Golden State Arms Distributors Inc. was established by Mr. Erik Berry in July of 1984 in the back of Beach Cities Armoury in Manhattan Beach CA. for the purpose of importation and distribution. Beach Cities Armoury was one of several successful retail stores owned and operated by Mr. Berry including; South Bay Armoury in Carson, CA., Fremont Discount Guns in Fremont, CA., and Cerritos Armoury in Artesia, CA. Golden State Arms Distributors Inc. was essentially an expansion of a successful existing business. Golden State Arms Distributors got its name from a prior Golden State Arms that had operated in the area in the 50's and 60's but had since dissolved. Contrary to some publications, the two entities were not the same and were never linked.
Golden State Arms Distributors Inc. began importing AKS rifles in the summer of 1984 with the earliest arrivals believed to be in August. According to the owner, Mr. Erik Berry, the first GSAD rifles were imported from the Jing'an factory in Beijing which primarily manufactured rifles for the Chinese Secret Police as opposed to the more commonly known military factories that were exported by Norinco. Golden State Arms Distributors imported the Jing'an rifles predominantly in quantities of 2000 with containers arriving monthly, and sometimes twice a month. The Jing'an AKS rifles were not the only AK's or products imported by Golden State Arms. Later import applications also show similar quantities of Norinco 56S AKS rifles. Golden State Arms paid $145.00 per rifle plus import tax and retailed them for $259.00 - $275.00. The rifles came with 3 magazines, a sling, and a bayonet.
The GSAD rifles were imported in fixed stock and folding stock models as well as two variations of bayonets; the detachable AKM style bayonet, and the folding spike bayonet commonly referred to today as the "Spiker".
The metal components had a blued finish typical of Chinese AK's. The bluing on the Jing'an rifles is a deeper bluing compared to most of their Chinese counterparts including the GSAD Norinco imports leading many enthusiasts over the years to consider these the highest quality finish of all AK imports, and some even going so far as to say these are the highest overall quality AK's ever imported.
Unlike the earlier Clayco Imports, the Jing'an GSAD's sported wood furniture giving them the more familiar AK look that prospective buyers desired at the time. The furniture ranged from a medium blonde to dark brown. The later Norinco GSAD imports varied a little more and even included red (polyamide) plastic.
"GSAD" was the abbreviation the ATF granted to allow the imported guns to be engraved with less lettering. Earlier imports are engraved with the full name spelled out, "Golden State Arms Dist., Inc. Manhattan Beach, CA." These markings have been found on the left side (more common), right side, and even the underside of the receiver forward of the mag well. Later imports were engraved with the approved abbreviated version, "GSAD MANH. BEA.. CA", typically above the grip on the left side of the receiver. The Norinco variants were commonly marked in this location as well following the Import markings with the words, "Norinco Export". The left side front is stamped, "AK47S 7.62x39 MADE IN CHINA".
There have been whispers over the years that large amounts of GSAD's were purchased by the movie industry. At the time of these imports, there was an increased popularity of Vietnam military movies creating a potential need for such a rifle. With the choice of furniture used on the GSAD rifles maintaining the rifle's iconic "AK" look, and the lack of bold and busy markings leaving the rifle with a clean appearance, it is reasonable to see its potential value as a prop gun. At the time, it was also the only rifle in the United States that looked the part other than the Steyr Maadi. According to Mr. Berry, Golden State Arms "did a lot of business with "The Hand Prop Room" and "Stembridge Gun Rentals" at that time". Mr. Berry cannot recall if either specifically purchased these imports, but stated that it's likely that both companies purchased large quantities.
The GSAD AK import was very successful. As previously mentioned, 2000 to 4000 rifles were imported a month for several years beginning in 1984, and ending sometime between 1990 and 1993. The rifles sold very well in their day, and have continuously increased in value since. Despite their large import quantities compared to some of their rarer counterparts, the GSAD AKS rifles are difficult to find. Their availability does not really equate to their import numbers as one would naturally think due in most part to owners placing a high value on them and not being typically eager to part ways. They may not be rare in the import sense, but they certainly are in the collector sense. The lack of availability coupled with their very high quality is consistently driving the value of the GSAD imports higher every day. The Jing'an models tend to fetch a little higher value than the Norincos, but in either case, collectors can expect to pay a premium for these when they pop up.
Despite the success of the Chinese AK imports, Golden State Arms Distributors Inc. was eventually dissolved in 1993. The following year, under the guise of public safety, the government of the United States imposed a set of import restrictions that greatly affected the Kalashnikov pattern rifles. These restrictions were based on their own made up definition of the words "sporting purposes", or as they say, "to reduce the destructive capability" of the rifles, though the changes only really affected the cosmetics. Nonetheless, the 1994 "ban" ultimately changed the course of the Chinese AK imports in the United States forever and further elevated the desire and collectability of the early Chinese imports like the GSAD's.
Special Thanks to Mr. Erik Berry for his generous contributions to this article.