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    The Fighting Carbine, AK Edition

    Building a Fighting AK!

    This write-up is AK specific. The prequels to this include (which means, read them first!) in order:
    -The Basics of the Fighting Carbine
    -The Kalashnikov Magazine Primer

    This article should be considered an expansion of The Basics of the Fighting Carbine but AK-specific. Much of the information may appear to be regurgitated from either article but this is only for clarification’s sake.

    Understand that some of this is can be somewhat vague. Due to the multitude of products and AK variants currently available, this article is not nor cannot be all exhausting without covering dozens and dozens of pages. I have named and highlighted proven products but many may feel scandalized that their pet products weren’t mentioned. Don’t fret, if it proves to be both durable and applicable, it most certainly can and will be added to later additions of this article.

    The standard AK/AKM has been a monument in almost every major and minor war since it was conceived. It has been carried by men, women, and children. It has been carried by professional military men, conscripted fighters, and forced child soldiers alike. It is arguably the most ubiquitous rifle in the entire modern world with no clear second (largely due to Russian and Chinese third-world proliferation no doubt, but that isn’t the subject of this particular article).

    To boil it down: In every continent, in every conflict, invariably it can (and will) be found in one fashion or form. There are many variations and build standards currently commercially available with their own individual nuances (some of which is properly addressed, most of which is disregarded as superfluous in this particular discussion).

    In The Basics of the Fighting Carbine I gave the broad-stokes in regards to positive updates and advantages required. They were:
    Quality Carbine
    Reliable Magazines
    Decent Sights
    Sling Setup
    White Light
    Red Dot Sight (RDS)

    This article will proceed along the same lines but be AK-specific with some additional aspects added.

    Quality Carbine
    This is a contentious issue with any firearm. I will say that the best AK’s I’ve seen come from Arsenal (both their complete builds and Saiga conversions), quality Saiga conversions, and well done Bulgarian builds. Yes, good AK’s may come from other locations and circumstances but what I’ve listed are among the very best. The minimum requirements are properly head-spaced rifles with straight sights and rightly riveted trunnions (in the case of the more common AKM). To go into this topic further would be entirely too contentious; in short, ‘Google it’. If your manufacturer has too many bad reports it’s always safer to bring it to someone who knows better or just dump it for something with a known quantity.

    Reliable Magazines
    This topic is covered extensively in the prequel article. The Kalashnikov Magazine Primer

    Decent Sights
    The AK/AKM comes standard with, ‘Okay’ fighting rifle sights. However, they leave much in longing. Yes, there are aftermarket sights available (such as Tech Sights) but I do not recommend them; shooting from a bench, sights like these are certainly more accurate. However, peep sights with such a short sight radius (with the rear sight especially far from the eye) take far too long of a time to acquire during actual fights. The AK/AKM has long been criticized of having sights that are both as slow as they are inaccurate. Now, I contend that both statements within that statement are humongous hyperbole but there is a mince of merit within; standard irons on the AK/AKM are neither fast nor accurate in most hands.

    So what do I do? Well, a couple of things. The easiest (and most inexpensive) option is to open up the rear sight with a triangle file. This doesn’t negatively affect accuracy too terribly much but vastly improves real-time target acquisition.

    (at some point, will update with my own rear sight)

    Making your front sight, ‘highly visible’ is another option one may try in conjunction to the previous. There are many threads on many forums on how to exact this (they range from white-out on the front sight to glow-in-the-dark paint to red paint over the entire rear sight and many in-between) but it is worth looking in to. It is noteworthy that I have had the best results (in regards to speed and accuracy) with simply opening up the rear sights with no adjustments or modifications to the front sight.

    Yes, there are indeed night sights and other types of commercially available sights for the AK/AKM. These fall along the range of, ‘OK, I guess….’ to, ‘wow, that front sight is so big I bet no one can hit shit beyond 50m’.

    Overall, I’d take a quality white light and standard sights over some fancy-dance front sight sans a white light.

    Sling Setup

    Holy hell, if you thought any of the above was controversial, this is the next level. How a sling should be setup is a popular problem, especially with the AK/AKM series. Instead of extolling you with my pet sling setup allow me to explain different setups via copypasta from the, ‘Basics’ article:
    You need a sling. Depending on the style, they can be used for carrying, weapons retention, transitions (from rifle to pistol), and shooting aids. As far as sling mounting, there are a myriad of ways to do so and largely depend from sling-type to sling-type.
    There are four basic types available:
    -Carrying Strap
    This is your standard military sling. They are effective at carrying the rifle from one point to another and somewhat as a shooting aid but they fall short for transitions.
    -Single point
    These are good for carrying in the front, retention, and transitions. These slings are by far more beneficial for switching from the strong shoulder to the weak shoulder but fall short when it comes to climbing and other activities you may be involved in.

    -Advanced two-point
    Slings like the VCAS and VTAC and ARES fall into this category. They are good for carrying, transitions, and shooting aids. They excel when used for climbing and movement but are not ideal for strong to weak shoulder transitions
    These slings were very popular among some groups in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Overall, they tend to be overly complex and hard to use effectively.

    You need to look at your likely situation and assess your needs from this point. The two slings that are currently most popular are the advanced two-point and single-point sling.

    I prefer the adjustable/modern 2-point to all others. There. I said it. Why? Because with a general-purpose rifle it is the most versatile. If I were on a dedicated entry team or if I were building a rifle solely for home-defense, I would go with a single-point. One thing that many people invariably fail to comprehend is that when one is carrying a rifle 24x7, 99.99% of the time there is no shooting or fighting going on. One needs to use their hands for things like drinking or securing it for negotiating obstacles or while reading a map (or using a GPS or cellphone or or or….). An Advanced 2-point excels at all of the above and, quite frankly, the slight speed advantage of a shoulder transition with a single-point sling is negated by most of the negatives.

    Like I said, if one is on a dedicated entry team: Single-point all the way. For GP use: The Advanced 2-point currently has no equal.

    I find the sling positions tend to be among the most contentious of all topics. This goes for AR’s/AK’s/M1A’s and across the board. What I am postulating could be better called a, ‘sling philosophy’ more than anything else. Not very many people have been properly educated in effective sling usage (to quote one of my friends, an Army sniper, ‘I wasn’t taught proper sling usage until I was in Scout Sniper school!’). Not the case for most Marines but it’d be improper for me to terribly digress at this point.

    Keeping this in mind, if utilizing an Advanced 2-point sling, the sling points should be the farthest apart as possible to both provide the greatest stability and adjustability. With the AK/AKM series, this can sometimes mean some modifications to the rifle.

    The location of the front and rear sling points can vary largely from model to model but speaking in general terms, they are usually located in the following points:

    Chinese stamped rifles (which are more like AK’s in a stamped receiver form than a true-AKM (I’d go further but it’d be too nerdy and specific)) have the front sling swivel located at 9 o’clock at the gas black. Euro-pattern AKM’s tend to have their front sling swivels located not at the gas block but further rearward on the lower handguard retainer (also located at the 9 o’clock position).

    Underfolder and right-hand (RH) (Such as Romanian, Hungarian, and E. German) folders tend to have their sling swivels at the left-rear of the receiver. Left-hand (LH) folders (Such as Russian and Bulgarian modern folders) have the rear sling points on the right side of the wrist of the stock. Standard stocked AK/AKM’s have the rear most sling point right at 6 o’clock on the bottom or slightly above and on the left-side.

    For a right handed shooter, the standard front sling swivels are largely good to go (indeed variations and deviations exist, mostly due to changes of furniture but more on that later on). However, the rear points can leave much to be desired. There are a couple reasons for this:

    -Stock assembly mandates position (in the case of the RH folders and underfolders); there simply isn’t a viable point further away from the receiver. Same goes even for the Bulgarian and Russian LH folders. The sling swivels on these, for whatever reason, were designed for carry while the stock was folded—not for fighting when the stock is extended. The only time a stock should be folded is during transportation (the first underfolders were designed with tankers in mind, for example). One could indeed successfully argue airborne operations but that really doesn’t have the bulk of us in mind.

    -Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP’s) have changed a lot even in the last half-decade, let alone the 60+ years since the AK was developed. During development, most all modern fighting rifles in the world utilized a bottom-rear sling point and the AK-series proceeded towing the same line.

    So what’s so bad about standard AK sling positions?
    If you’re just using the sling as a carrying strap, absolutely nothing is awry. However, for other sling setups, they are deficient. Much of the following will likely be repeated in an upcoming article about slings and sling positions but I’ll duplicate some of it here for exactness.

    In the cases of a single-point single, utilizing the left side rear for both points is satisfactory for both the RH and underfolder standard sling locales. Utilizing the buttstock bottom-rear point for a single point will result in less than adequate results. The rifle drops too low and bangs both balls and knees (this is a symptom of single-points all around but exacerbated by how far the rear point is). The rifle also twists during transition and attempts to turn perpendicular to the body because of the sling swivel location (something that does not happen when utilizing the LH rear sling position). If one has a standard, non-folding (wood or polymer) stock and wishes to run a single-point sling, I suggest creating a new sling point on the left side of the wrist of the stock.

    There are multiple ways to add a sling point here. They vary from relocating the original sling point to there to installing QD sockets. Both of these go beyond the privy of this article, however. I will say that I have done both so I know it can be done.

    Regarding advanced 2-point slings, as mentioned previously, one wants the sling points to be as far apart as possible to cultivate the most adjustability and stability as possible. Now, obviously there are limits—there is little point in having the front swivel much farther than your support hand nor the rear point far behind your buttstock (how would one even accomplish that feat is beyond me…). So, the standard setup, in front of the hand guards and at the bottom rear is awesome, right? No. Absolutely not. I’ve seen abundant men running these slings without changing the mounts and I can tell you the problems first-hand.

    Firstly, we run into the same problem of running a single on a rear mount; the rifle rotates perpendicular during transition. Not.Good. At. All. Have you ever tried to do a quick and fast shoulder transition with this setup? You should. You will choke yourself out quickly, be slow as molasses, or worse, both.

    So where should the rear sling swivel be established with an advanced 2-point sling? Two places allow for both stability, adjustment, and speed during transition. They are at 12 o’clock top-rear (There are some adapters, originally designed for M16A2’s, which allow for a top-rear sight to be installed as well.) and here:

    Once again, depending on the stock, the original swivel can be relocated or a new one can be installed. Yes, this is for right-handed shooters and yes, the rear sling swivel is also located on the right side. While at first this may seem weird, the reasoning is better explained with this video from Ares Armor (the first minute and a half or so explains it)

    Now, many of these issues can be mitigated simply by adding an aftermarket stock. There are several options currently available to add an AR stock or something else (such as an ACE folder) but some of these fall into ‘the law of unintended consequences’; IE: Not all AR stock adapters are alike and others require permanent modification to a rifle. If one is headed down the AR stock route, I recommend the Vltor AR-to-AK stock adapter. Avoid anything made of plastic (Tapco, CAA, and their ilk) as they don’t stand up to hard use.

    For a three-point, I advise taking the time machine back from 2002 and advancing yourself into the present. [snarky, but factual]

    Now, you may be thinking that it’s hard to fit a modern sling into the (by modern standards) relatively small front sling points. You have a couple of options here: I can personally attest that a VTAC 2-point sling can be rolled and squeezed through (with the help of pliers).

    Other options include making use of a Blue Force Gear UWL (Universal Wire Loop). The small one serves well for this purpose.
    Here’s a link. It is noteworthy that the UWL can also be used to barrel mount a sling.

    White Light

    Every offensive or defensive carbine categorically commands a comportment white light. If one needs to ask why, I suggest taking a night fighting course from someone reputable.

    In regards to which particular light to choose, well, I won’t be too terribly specific. I tend to view everything from a so-called, ‘military yardstick’. This means that if it isn’t issued and used by current active military fighting men that I won’t bother to consider it on one of my personal carbines. Does this mean that everything non-issued sucks? Certainly not, but I will say that the vast majority of non-issued stuff sucks. Absolutely. Instead of wanting to be the test subject myself, long ago I decided the DoD, and not myself, should foot the bill on massive T&E.

    In short: If a light is good enough for mass-issue among the DoD, it’s likely good enough for you or me.

    My favorite light choices should be obvious: Surefire (with Streamlight as a close second).

    The second item we need to consider after what light, is where it’s going to be placed. In theory, they can be placed anywhere (with the use of pressure switches) but in practice this falls short. Pressure switches (sans some of the very modern Surefire ones, and even then with some exceptions) are largely unreliable and likely are the leading cause of both white light negligent discharges (ND’s) and failures. I prefer push-button style tail-caps over all others.

    Bearing this in mind, the light should be located in a place where the tail cap is easily engaged with the support hand but also harder to inadvertently activate. This usually means at the 9 o’clock position, slightly forward of the handguard or 10-11 o’clock in the same place.

    Only after considering what light and where, does the mount itself come into scrutiny. At this point one should examine what handguard setup they make use of. Speaking frankly, there aren’t a whole lot of amazing places to mount a light on standard AK handguards. Yes, one can add a small piece of rail. Yes, barrel mounted rails exist. I contend that these are both, at best, half-assed and half-solutions. Current railed barrel mounts are of dubious quality (I don’t care what the guy at the gun show or shop told you…) and zinc mounts and easily stripped screws are prevalent. On the same point, adding rails to existing handguards places the light (and more importantly, the tail-cap switch) in a precarious position.

    If one has an Ultimak top-rail mount (more on this gem later) a Vltor off-set mount works incredibly well. The Thorntail offset mount always works great with the Ultimak. Mounts such as the synthetic VTAC offset mount don’t work so will in conjunction with the Ultimak because they take up much of the sight picture (and can go smokey-melty if the rifle is fired too much within a short period of time) . However, a VTAC offset light mount works well on a 9 o’clock rail (with the light facing, ‘up’) if utilizing a quad rail.

    Even when running a system like Ultimak + Vltor offset mount, a kill-cover on the flashlight can prevent unintended light emission. Some call this, ‘suspenders and belt’ but I don’t think it’s quite that ridiculous.

    More on rail systems later in the article.

    Red Dot Sights

    What are the advantages of a red dot sight (RDS)? Many. They excel at target acquisition, especially while moving (either you or the target) and during low-light situations. An RDS is also faster, even on a square range. Why? Because there are only two planes of sight to line up--the red dot on your target. With iron sights there are three planes to line up—the rear sight, the front sight, and your target. RDS’s also prove to be a force multiplier when using unconventional positions where cheek-weld is inconsistent or non-existent at best. In short: If you haven’t tried out a quality RDS, try one out soon and you’ll see the difference.

    One needs to first select a quality RDS which will allow for at least a lower 1/3 co-witness when used with a proper mount. The RDS should be suitably rugged and durable. Instead of covering every RDS on the market I’ll just be brief and say that the current best is an Aimpoint Micro with the Aimpoint Comp series coming in second. Your Chinese RDS will not hold up when compared to the above.

    What mount you choose depends on two separate factors: The features of your rifle and your preference of RDS position. If you don’t have a side-rail mount on your AK (many do not, though the current most commonly imported AK’s in the US do) you have two options. There are the Ultimak rail or a dust-cover mounted system. Ultimaks are proven to be flinty and hold zero. At the time of writing, no dust cover rail (yes, even the much-touted TWS) has been proven to be as resilient; let alone shitty Chinese dust cover rails which are depressing at best. Ultimak’s allow for a 100% co-witness with AP micro’s (something which many other systems don’t allow).

    If one has a side-rail mount, the RS Regulate mounts work very well with the Aimpoint Comp series. Mid-west industries also has a low side-rail mount with a QD which initially appears to be very promising. Time will tell.

    At this point I feel the need to move on into the realm of AK-specific upgrades.

    AK-Specific Upgrades

    Ugh, trying to sort through AK-specific items and separating the good (rare) with the bad (more common) with the simply mediocre (most) is like sloughing through hip-deep shit on a dirty street in a third-world country. Knowing this to be the case, I think I’ll start with some actually viable upgrades to the system.

    Enhanced Safety Selectors
    An AK enhanced safety selector allows for faster adjustment of the Kalashnikov safety system (in short: faster and easier to select from safe to fire and the other way around). Most of these are just standard safety selectors with an extended tab attached. Many companies produce enhanced safety selectors (such as Krebs Custom) but for someone with access to even a spot welder it’s rather easy to accomplish. See the photo below

    Some of these selectors even have notches for administratively holding the bolt to the rear (do not confuse this with an automatic bolt-hold-open (BHO)) which are useful at [terrible, shitty] ranges that require bolts be locked to the rear during cease-fire.

    Some schools of thought revolve around the idea of not changing –anything—on a rifle so if one finds a, ‘battlefield pickup’ they can operate it easily. I say hogwash (or, within the common vernacular. ‘Total ****ing bullshit’.) You either want a rifle which is the most effective that it can be or you don’t. Now, that isn’t to say that extended levers are needed for everybody but to say that a rifle which runs better, with zero downsides in the real world isn’t a bad thing. If you’re a CIA operative then maybe this doesn’t apply (and why would you read this article to begin with? For that matter, if you are on that level I’d think you have enough experience to easily differentiate what rifle you had in your hands). There are some things which can make sense at a beginner level which don’t compute when considering the intermediate or advanced level.

    But anyway, there are methods to quickly and easily engage and disengage the standard safety selector but they largely depend on two things: How large your hands are and how you hold your rifle.

    One of the methods is to engage and disengage the selector using the first two fingers of your firing hand, like this:

    That is all fine and good, assuming that you have abnormally long phalanges. I myself (admittedly with less than average hand and finger size) cannot achieve this feat without breaking the master grip of my strong hand on the rifle. Others may not be so unfortunate but not everyone has fingers like Les Claypool.

    But no fear, there is indeed another method that can be used. Using the strong-side thumb to disengage the safety from, ‘safe’ to, ‘fire. Yes, using the thumb. The first thing that should be understood about this method is that the rifle is carried at a rough port arms while moving with the thumb on the selector .

    If the rifle needs to be brought to action and bear, the thumb is swept down, taking the rifle off of, ‘safe’ and quickly put into position. Now, anyone that’s read my previous articles or closely read this article should understand my issues with this methodology. Firstly, it requires a particular carry position which isn’t always viable (as explained in the sling section of this article). Secondly, it can involve a larger lag time between identifying a threat and bringing the rifle the bear.

    Overall I find an extended safety selector to be a positive upgrade to the AK series of rifles and I still don’t understand why it took the American consumer market to achieve this simple yet effective solution. Blame Communism.

    Rail Systems

    The first thing that one should do when considering a rail system should be, ‘Why the **** do I need one?’ Seriously. The reason why rail systems became popular is because that professional fighting men had a ton of shit to add on their guns with little place to put it (the same rationale involves vert grips but wait for that later), hence, rail systems were invented. If you have a PEQ-2 laser sight, a light, and a bunch of other shit you need someplace to put them. Now, aside from a light, what else do you have? For most of you, the answer is either, ‘a RDS’ or, ‘nothing else’. Alternatively, you might also be weird like me and need to run cameras and shit on the rail system. Either way, know why you want/need something (‘looking cool’ does not apply to fighting rifles unless you’re an airshitter or videogame nerd).

    I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen a rail system (of whatever make) installed on an AK/AKM with the sole purpose of holding a VFG. The. Sole. Purpose.
    But I digress, if all you need a rail system for is a RDS and a white light, the Ultimak provides both of those functions on a single rail and still allows for a 100% co-witness.

    If one decides to run a rail system, it should be one that allows for a co-witness of RDS’s on the top rail. It should also not be made in China. In regards to full rail systems the Ultimak allows this as do the US Palm optic-specific rail systems. Most of them do not allow for cowitness and will also not even allow for a semi-constant zero.

    Rail systems in general and for the AK in particular, can add a lot of weight to an admittedly already front-heavy firearm. Some rail systems allow one to extend their support hand further along the handguard since they are longer than standard handguards. The advantages of this are largely known but there are other ways to accomplish this. Factory Saiga handguards have been successfully adapted to ‘regular’ AK’s in the past and definitely accomplish the same without spending the extra cash (yes, Ultimak’s work with these too. Saiga handguards with a bottom integral rail also exist, and, when used in conjunction with an Ultimak or RS Mount produce much of the same functionality).

    As a side note: Many people have asked me if they need a vented or a non-vented Ultimak gas tube. The answer is, ‘well if depends—or maybe it doesn’t.’ If one has a vented gas block, theoretically they require an unvented gas tube. The reverse is apparently also sage wisdom.

    Speaking in conventional terms, AK’s have non-vented blocks and vented gas tubes and AKM’s have vented blocks and non-vented tubes. Well, Bulgaria, for one, kinda wrecked this concept that they switch things around as they see fit.

    The real answer is: It doesn’t matter. I’ve been running a vented gas block combined with a vented gas tube for years now—the AK is so overgassed that I’d bet that one could run an AK without a gas tube at all (with just some metal in place to guide the gas piston properly into place).

    Vertical Fore-end Grips (VFG’s)

    Before one adds a VFG to a rifle, they should please understand why they are doing it in the first place. Yes, there are indeed benefits aside from trying to look cool. Yet again, here’s an article outlining these advantages
    The Utility of VFG’s

    There are, however, some exact negatives to utilizing a VFG on some AK’s, most conspicuously, when using a standard-length handguard and a 7.62x39 rifle. Why? The angular throw of inserting and releasing the magazine is greater with a 7.62x39 rifle than a 5.45 rifle. This means that a VFG is far more likely to impede upon proper reloading. Hell, even the Romanian, ‘donkey dick’ wooden lower handguard can hinder this and it’s still an issued item. If one has a longer handguard, a shorter VFG, or a combination thereof, these difficulties are not so vast.

    One of my most likeable (and inexpensive) modifications when using a Rommy forend is simply cutting down the forend. I refer to this as the, ‘poor mans AFG’

    ’Enhanced’ Magazine releases

    I put the first word in that subtitle in quotations because in reality, some of them could be considered the opposite of the word. There are several of them on the market. All of them promise to allow for a faster magazine change but that simply isn’t the case. Designs vary from releases closer to the trigger finger to ambidextrous to a simply extended release.

    Much of it depends of how one releases the magazine. The main problem with many of these so-called, ‘enhanced’ releases is that not every one of them is usable with every method. Some of them may be faster only if one method is used but suck at another.

    There is no, ‘one-way’ to change an AK magazine. There isn’t. I don’t care if XYZ instructor vomited that line during ZYX class—it still doesn’t make it true. One wants a magazine release which allows for all forms of reload (I won’t get into particulars unless need be on this one) and the only one that does it all better than a Euro factory release is an extended Chicomm factory release (it’s a standard Euro release but slightly longer).

    Yes, some of the ones on the market will excel for one particular method but I’ve yet to see one better with all reload methods.

    Know why you want something. Don’t just buy something because you think it looks slicker.

    Extended/Angled Charging Handles

    Ah, charging handles. These exist in many forms for the AK. They go from Galil-style total replacements to simply pounding a used shell casing in place over the existing charging handle.

    At first glance, these don’t offer any disadvantages and only increase the ability to quickly charge the rifle. The reality, however, much like most other things discussed in this article, shows this to not be the case.

    Can modified charging handles make a gun easier to use? Certainly. However, these applications are specific. Galil-style charging handles only help when doing, ‘over the top’ methods of charging and then only when side-rail optics are not being used. Same goes for upward angled charging handles (like the Romanian AIMS-74 charging handle)

    They aren’t so great when charging from beneath. In fact, they can even handicap an, ‘under’ charging method.

    Much of the same story follows the simply extended handle (whether it’s a fancy bolt-on or a shell casing). Do they make it faster using some procedures? Sure. They also show their ugly faces during other situations. What situations? Several. The most salient examples include when firing from rollover prone and during transitions when firing left-handed.

    Anyone who has done enough shooting from unconventional positions using one of the above modifications will attest to this.

    Is there an overall advantage? I don’t think so but some do. Try it out and make determinations from there.

    So far all we’ve really talked about is gear. I’ll make a deviation here and talk a little about how to use the rifle itself with some common questions.

    At what range should I zero my AK?

    There are many schools of thought on this but if you’re rifle is 7.62x39 the answer is simple: Zero at 50m or 100m (either one is the same). If you want to see why, check out this thread:
    7.62x39 ballistics (or, 'Why your AK is not a sniper rifle')

    The 50/100m zero is very flexible when one considers the actual range a rifle is normally used from.

    What ammunition should I use if I have a choice?

    For training ammunition, this answer is simple: Whatever is the least expensive.

    For, ‘social use’ ammunition this answer is two fold: The best? Hornady 123gr SST ammo.

    Second best? Yugoslavian M67 brass-cased ammunition is hot ammo. It fragments very well in soft tissue. The down side is that it’s mildly corrosive so cleaning after firing is required. In third place is 154gr soft-point ammunition.

    Regarding, ‘hollow-point’ and ‘FMJ’ bulk ammo, there is virtually no difference as hollow-point x39 ammunition hasn’t been proven to reliably expand nor fragment in soft tissue.

    Chinese steel-core ammunition (relatively rare in the US at this point in time) does slightly better against armored targets but still isn’t all that fantastic ballistically. It is also is mildly corrosive (the easiest way to ID Chicomm ammo is the copper-washed casing).

    Should I have a specialized muzzle device?

    The standard slant brake is effectively useless. The 74’ brake, while an effective muzzle brake, is more aptly called a, ‘flash enhancer’.

    In regards to flash, barrel length and ammunition selection are just as pivotal as flash hider selection (for example, the above pic is of a short barrel (11.5”) using a proven regular extra-flashy ammunition (Federal XM193)). So yes, worst case scenario is shown. However, if one has to fire shots in anger, I’d rightly say that Mr. Murphy is already well in place.

    If one has the option, a flash hider should always be used over a muzzle compensating device. Some have mentioned that one of my go-to AK’s (a milled Arsenal) currently sports a muzzle brake over a flash hider; it does. Why? My rifle was a ban era import. In order to install a flash hider, it would require tons of work. Also, it’s a training beater, as my go-to rifle is an AR-15 and not one of the dozen+ AK’s that I own. If it were my primary—no question that a flash hider would be installed no matter what the cost. No question.

    What about Buffers?

    Unlike AR-15’s, there isn’t some crazed science experiment to figure out what buffer weight works for what setup. It’s an AK, stupid!

    To put it mildly, buffers are a solution to an un-asked question. Given my experience, a buffer is one of the active ways to make an otherwise reliable AK/AKM have stoppages (I once had to cut apart a buffer with a knife while an AK bolt was stuck to the rear in order to release the action). The only time a buffer may be necessary is when a receiver is built out-of-spec and only then to ensure the carrier doesn’t, ‘jump the rails’.

    Properly constructed AK’s do not need them.

    In short: Save your money.

    Should I get a milled or a stamped gun?

    This one is a subject constantly argued on the interwebs. It is said that a milled gun is, ‘tighter’ and, ‘more accurate’ but all of that can be thrown out the window. What a milled AK is, is more relatively rare (and therefore easier to dump on the market). There has been little research showing that milled rifles are better in most situations. In fact, with rifles that have seen high use, the scale is slanted towards the stamped side: Stamped receivers allow more stretch (stamped receivers which have seen high use have shown expansions well over 1mm beyond the initial factory specs) whereas most milled guns would crack (and no longer work) at that point.

    So what’s the point of a milled gun? Re-sale and rarity, that’s it.

    Or, I suppose the pleasure of carrying a heavier rifle. You decide (for anyone who has carried a rifle for hundreds of miles on patrol, this one is a no-brainer). If you’re buying to ultimately re-sell, buy a milled gun. If you’re buying to actually use, buy a stamped gun.

    More to come.
    Dave Merrill
    Terrible Technical Writer. Awful Photographer. Lazy Instructor. Kind of a dick.
    Loves Tacos.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Border Rat that returned to Indian Territory.
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    A great write up and thanks for taking the time to do it. That's why M4C is a great forum, the indepth knowledge for shooters to learn from others.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Northern UT
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    69 (100%)
    Holy shit, I dont think I have ever learned so much in a single post. Thank you for spending the time to inform the masses.
    Last edited by VIP3R 237; 05-30-12 at 02:20.
    I paint spaceship parts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Failure2Stop View Post
    Stippled Glocks are like used underwear; previous owner makes all the difference in value.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Phoenix, AZ
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    Dave M, Thank you SO much for taking the time to write this well thought out post (Along with your AK Magazine Primer). After reading every ounce of AK related material here on M4C over the past two years you still provided tremendously valuable information which I view as critical if you chose to run an AK (Like me) as their primary rifle. Thank you again since I do not have the opportunity to put 1,000rds down range every weekend.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    Nice read overall, well written and most of all extremely informational post. AK has been my primary weapon since the 90's so your text sparked immediately few things in my mind. I hope you don't mind if I add to your post a bit.

    Consensus with standard AK sights seems to be that they are very difficult to use accurately at extended distances, but people do also find them rather fast compared to peep sights. Most of the AK's we use in Finland (Valmets) come with proper peep sights as standard.

    Weapon lights:
    It is possible to attach a light to an AK by using a simple shotgun magazine extension support that costs few dollars at most. It is possible to attach the light to the barrel or the gas block using this method. Gas block brings the light to which IMHO is very natural place for thumb operated tail switch lights.

    With irons 100m zero makes perfect sense and it keeps the utility of the adjustable rear sight. On other sight types I would use longer zero. FDF standard zero is 150m which I find is actually very good for 7.62x39. It gives a much longer point blank range than the 100m zero, as an example for 6 inch target the point blank range is about 200 yards. (For 5.45 I would use longer zero still due to flatter trajectory.)

    Selector lever:
    I prefer original not enhanced selector levers as I do not gain from using a modified one. I do break my grip around the pistol grip but keep my thumb behind it as na index point. According to the timer this does not slow me down at all as I have more than enough time to re-form the shooting grip whilst bringing the rifle up from low ready.

    One serious drawback in using a VFG with an AK is it's effect on POI. Especially so if it is used to support the weapon against a barricade etc. AK's generally come with relatively thin non-freefloat barrels that tend to vibrate a lot when fired. In my experience difference between pushing and pulling the VFG can mean a POI shift of 10 inches or more at 100m distance.

    Muzzle devices:
    I don't know what kind of a AK74 brake you had in your testing, but at least Ishmash 16inch barreled 100-series 7.62x39 AK produces quite mild flash with the brake on. Without it it's different story so the brake I tested works in suppressing the flash too. Maybe several different ones available?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    1 (100%)
    Great write-up, I definitely learned a lot from this. I also plan on implementing some of the suggestions you made, thanks for taking the time to make this thread.
    Last edited by Slopes; 06-17-12 at 21:38.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    Fantastic write up! Thanks for the insight

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    32 (97%)
    Thumbs up.
    I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. - John Adams

    The AK guys are all about the reach around. - Garand Thumb.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Love it, just became my new reference.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Philadelphia, PA
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    21 (100%)
    Where were you 2 months ago when I was doing all this research?! Thanks for putting the most valuable points all in one place.
    Quote Originally Posted by RichDC2 View Post
    That rifle has won trophies for its game face alone!

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