Left-Side Charging: With an AK, you must run the bolt every time you reload. There are several methods bandied about for right-handed shooters to run a standard AK’s bolt with a charging handle mounted on the right side. These methods typically require you to cant the rifle to the side or quickly run your support hand over the rifle or under it to reach the charging handle. But I prefer to streamline the process, which makes an ambidextrous or left-side charging handle mandatory. This allows me to run the bolt without turning the rifle or worrying about my support hand, and it’s even faster if you prefer to keep the rifle “in the pocket” while you remove the empty magazine and insert a fresh one. So, to this end, I trust the AK Lightning Bolt from Colorado Shooting Sports. After installing the left-side-cocking bolt carrier and top cover, you simply rack the bolt with your support hand while keeping the rifle in place against your shoulder. Also, the AK Lightning Bolt system simply drops into most AK-pattern rifles.
Ergonomic Safeties: Original-style AK safeties are just on/off switches. But unless you have fingers like Lurch from the Addams Family, you’ll have to shift your grip to actually use them. Moving to a modern design like those from Colorado Shooting Sports or Krebs Custom fixes this issue in minutes. With these new models, you can use your trigger finger to engage or disengage the safety without shifting your grip—no canting the rifle, coming off target or out of the pocket. Some also allow you to lock the bolt open, making range masters at training and local facilities much happier. Overall, a new safety lever will enhance your AK’s ease of operation and safety without costing too much.
New Sights: Standard AK sights are robust and rudimentary—and, for me, hard to use effectively. Thankfully, they’re also easy to replace. If you intend to use your iron sights in low or failing light, a tritium insert is a must. Several night sights exist, but I recommend Meprolight’s Tru-Dot tritium front and rear sights. Others are available, too, and they’re all improvements over the stock sights. If you couple one of these tritium front sights with a ghost ring rear like those available from Krebs Custom, you’re in business. You can acquire your target quickly and easily. Remember: You can’t hit accurately without aiming, so consider new sights. Red-dot sights are also helpful—they’re critical for me these days. You can mount one of these sights using a forend rail or dedicated handguards like those from Midwest Industries. My EOTech MRDS fits so well on one of Midwest Industries’ AK handguards that I can co-witness the optic with the iron sights. You can also use a side scope rail if your AK has one, but I prefer to mount miniature red dots in a forward position. This is a simple setup that doesn’t add much weight, holds its zero and encourages indexing with the iron sights.
Trigger Upgrades: Due to import restrictions, most AKs are equipped with the TAPCO G2 trigger, a huge improvement over factory trigger groups. If you want a flat trigger, you can have one made, and competent gunsmiths create excellent triggers with no slap, clean breaks and crisp resets. Nothing will enhance your AK’s accuracy and ease of operation like a solid trigger. If you want a drop-in unit, the ALG Defense AK Trigger (AKT) is an excellent option. Aside from custom tuning, this is my first choice. At $49, the AKT is an excellent upgrade. With less take-up and no overtravel, the AKT provides a crisp single-stage pull in the 5-pound range, closely resembling a nice AR trigger.
White Lights: Rifles destined for tactical operations or home defense need a powerful white light. Many handguards offer rails or KeyMod/M-LOK slots to mount accessories like lights. Some are heavy, and some are incredibly expensive and heavy. You can get steel handguards, but aluminum and polymer models work well for me when they’re done right. My preference remains a well-built aluminum handguard with rails. Longer rails make it easier, but you can mount a light with standard lengths.I add SureFire Scout lights to all my rifles because they work all the time, no matter what. Several rail adapters allow you to mount a light in the 11 or 1 o’clock position so it won’t get in the way of your sights or support hand. Just about any light can work, but it has to be durable.
Stocks: My full-length rifles use fixed polymer stocks because they are rugged, provide a solid cheekweld and never move. Folding stocks are nice, but they just don’t offer that many advantages on a full-length AR. However, folding stocks make it easy to get a shorter AK into a discreet bag and pack. Magpul’s Zhukov-S folding stock is an excellent option, and it sits on my Draco SBR conversion. It locks in place solidly, folds easily and can be extended if necessary. This stock is also easy to install and can be used with a standard rear trunnion.
Slings: I prefer to use two-point slings, but they can be problematic with left-side or ambidextrous charging handles. Using an Echo 93 grip mount and a Magpul sling mount makes it possible to use a convertible sling; leaving it as a single-point sling keeps your charging handle free during reloads, and you can transition it to two-point mode for long-term carry.
Magazines: Cheap magazines are plentiful in most any caliber, but you shouldn’t use them with a rifle destined for serious uses. Bulgarian Circle 10 (Arsenal) magazines remain the standard with improved followers, springs and steel reinforcements where needed. Steel magazines work well, too—just test them for fit and functioning beforehand.
I think of firearms as tools, and like my tools, I always end up altering and changing them to fit my preferences and needs. That’s why Russian soldiers currently field upgraded AKs, not wood-stocked, Vietnam-era rifles. If your rifle is a “safe queen,” fine, but I use my AKs for all manner of training courses and range trips. These are my go-to rifles when it comes time to fine-tune my shooting skills.
- RELATED STORY: Birth of the AK – A History of the Avtomat Kalashnikova
I’ve altered my AKs to make them better suited to the hard use common in today’s training courses. For most applications, they work as well as any rifle. Of course, they have their limitations—I generally use them within 300 meters—which is perfectly acceptable for an AK outside of a video game or movie. So, with all that in mind, let’s look at some common modifications you can make to turn your AK into a tactical workhorse.
I’ll start by saying that my needs revolve around practical accuracy, ease of use from either side and the ability to add a white light and red-dot sight. If I plan to use my AK for practical distances, I’ll chose a red-dot sight over a magnified optic any day of the week. But this is just the beginning of the upgrades. Scroll through the gallery above to see eight DIY upgrades to trick out your AK.
For more information on the companies mentioned in the gallery, please visit the following sites.
Colorado Shooting Sports
This article was originally published in ‘AK-47 & Soviet Weapons’ 2017. For information on how to subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.
Boeing has officially entered the competition to replace the Air Force's UH-1N "Huey" fleet.
by Tactical-Life / Mar 6, 2017