Firearms Talk banner

1 - 4 of 4 Posts

1,427 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
This starts out talking about ARs and AKs then gets AK heavy. Considering that I decided the General Semi-Auto sub forum was appropriate. The blow articles are not mine but I thought they were well worth reading.

Article #1

The Basics of the Fighting Carbine

by David Merrill, MilCopp Tactical

We’ve all seen them, so-called “fighting” guns that lack the basics but are full of cheap crap. Someone can spend three-thousand dollars on accessories and still end up with a rifle that does not meet the most basic of requirements.

Your fighting carbine does not need to be expensive but it does need a few critical parts. In this thread we will focus on military-style carbines and the basics of making a usable fighting gun.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money but you need to have a good base to start with. Even with the tips outlined in this thread, if you have a bad base (even when combined with the highest quality of accessories) you will end up with an assemblage of ****. A pile of random AR or AK parts combined with someone with the most rudimentary building knowledge is not a good place to start. Begin with a rifle built by a quality manufacturer to proper specifications and you can save yourself a headache from the start.

-Quality carbine
It helps to do a little (or a lot of) research first—your average gun shop employee is not exactly a fountain of knowledge regarding fighting guns. Keep this in mind.

-Reliable Magazines
Even the best rifle on the planet will malfunction (failure to load, failure to feed etc etc) with a ****ty magazine inserted.

For AR’s, consider the following:
-Genuine USGI aluminum magazines with issued green followers. Arête anti-tilt followers (such as Magpul brand) are a plus.
-Lancer L5 magazines
-Magpul P-mags (may not drop-free from all lowers)
This list is not all-encompassing by any means (as new magazines are developed regularly) but the above are all proven.

The magazine should drop-free when released from the magazine well and reliably feed and function.

For AK’s, consider the following:
-Black Bulgarian Waffle magazines (avoid US look-alikes as well as clear Bulgarian waffle magazines)
-Chinese smooth-back magazines
-Eastern European surplus magazines sans Yugoslavian.

Many Yugoslavian magazines feature a ‘bolt hold open’ function that is essentially useless when running a fighting Kalashnikov. If the followers are replaced with functional Eastern European followers, they are acceptable.
Avoid any current-production American-made AK magazines, as there is not one of them that meets any military (that runs AKM’s) specifications or standards. I could not in good conscience, ever recommend a magazine that does not have metal-lined (or metal!) feed lips and locking lugs. Due to this, Bulgarian “Bullet” magazines are also not acceptable.

Magazines should be kept reasonably clean and if they show any excess wear (large dents, mal-formed feed lips, or function problems) dispose of them on the double or mark them for “Range only” use. It is beneficial to have “working” magazines and “training” magazines. One way to rotate magazines out of the working pile is to number them so you can easily tell a problematic magazine from the rest. The marking does not have to be large (I like to use an etching pen) but something that distinguishes each magazine from one another is critical.

Again: Once a magazine wears out or develops problems, do not hesitate to throw it out immediately. Magazines should be considered a consumable item. Do not expect them to have the same lifespan as the rifle.

-Decent Sights

Sights are extremely important and completely on-par with magazines. It does not matter if you have an awesome rifle with phenomenal magazines if you cannot hit the target you are aiming at. Sights of merit are needed. Resist the urge to purchase budget sights made by companies known to make airsoft products—they cannot handle real rifles.

For AK’s, this is a no-brainer. The rudimentary standard factory sights work just fine. Some are keen on opening up the rear sight with a triangle file to allow faster target acquisition. This is okay, so long as accuracy is not impeded too much. There are many after-market sight options available for the Kalashnikov-series. A rear peep sight can be beneficial for a bench gun but for a fighting carbine it is less useful—you are not likely to have a bench handy in combat.

For AR-15’s, there are far more options for BUIS (Back-Up-Iron-Sights). If you are planning to run magnified optics in the future, you can leave the standard A-frame front sight post, as it will not be an issue beyond 2x magnification. Many want to run flip-up front and rear sights and that is okay, so long as you realize they should be deployed (in the ‘up’ position) when running a 1x red dot sight in case of optic failure (I did say this was, “Fighting Carbine” and not “Range Carbine”). Detachable carry handle irons are also available but if you ever plan on running an optic I recommend against them.

Whether you chose sights of a flip-up variety or fixed, the following companies are considered consistent and reputable:
-LMT (Lewis Machine and Tool)
-Midwest Industries (MI)
-LaRue Tactical
-Daniel Defense

Once again, this list is not all-encompassing by any means (as new BUIS are developed regularly) but the above are all proven.


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 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.

-White Light
When using a modern fighting carbine, one has to consider a white light for the following reasons:
-Target identification
You need to properly identify a target before you fire. Whether you’re fighting house-to-house in Iraq or your own living room, target identification is essential. You don’t want to shoot your grandson or another teammate in the face.
-Identification of barricades/furniture/whatever in the room
You need to move without fumbling, a white light helps greatly with this. A white light can be efficiently used to maneuver around a room without bumping into many objects that could be otherwise avoided.

As far as when and how to employ white-lights, I will leave that to your rifle instructors (or for another thread).

There are many factors at play when selecting a white light,

You need to select a white-light that is compatible with your mission and weapons system. You do not want to choose a light that will fail under extreme use or recoil, Due to this, manufacturers are limited. Surefire, Streamlight and Fenix are all considered to be manufacturers of quality lights. Avoid off-brand ‘Ebay’ lights manufactured in a questionable locale. The “SWAT” light you ordered off of the internet is not likely of the same quality as those listed and will likely fail sooner.

You have two basic mechanisms for a light: Switch and pressure tape. I always recommend using a switch-activated light over a pressure tape activated light because the wires on a pressure tape can fail more readily. Even Surefire brand flashlights confirm this to be true.

Many lights are designed to be mounted to a quad rail. A quad rail itself is not essential to the fighting carbine but can be a good later addition. Regular hand guards can be fitted with short lengths of weaver rail quickly and easily. Since the rails will only hold a white light and not an optic, long-term stability is not as essential. Be aware of how you will activate the light and adjust your setup as necessary.

At this point in time, you can do everything you need to do with a fighting carbine. Once you have a quality base, magazines, BUIS, sling, and white light, everything else is gravy. One additional recommendation of equipment I have is a 1x red dot sight.

-Red Dot Sights

A red dot sight is a force multiplier. You can acquire targets, take shots from the weak shoulder and take shots from awkward positions faster and better with your carbine if you have a good red dot sight. Stick to a 1x optic and avoid the impulse to use an optic with a larger magnification on your fighting carbine.

What makes a good red dot sight? Well, it should be durable, long-lasting, parallax-free, and consistent. You have many options to choose from but I must say, most of them are not for the budget-minded:


All of these optics have several varieties and I will not touch on them individually. Each one has their own individual advantages in speed, durability, and lifespan. Every single one listed gives the shooter (you) vast advantages over a traditional iron-sight setup. Once again, do your research and try out as many as you can. Just like with everything else, your Ebay optic is probably not up to snuff when compared to these.

Mounting red dot sights on AR-type rifles is fairly straight forward. There are many options available. Do some research as to what manufacturer you want to use for a mounting system for each.

With AK’s, unfortunately, it is more difficult. Many Kalashnikovs come equipped with a side-rail mount. These are good options provided that you use a sound side-rail mount. In general, avoid any mount that uses screws to hold it in place—they will not hold a zero. The Belarus BP-02 (low-profile) and BP-01 (high-profile) are both very good options for a side-rail mount. For AK’s not equipped with a side-rail or for those that prefer a further forward mounted optic, the Ultimak gas-tube replacement rail has no equal. Be advised that not all red dot sights can withstand the heat that emanates from a gas tube mount.

As a rule, avoid all dust-cover optic mounts for AK’s. These are unreliable at best. Recently, there have been many developments in “Beryl” style rails for AK’s but none have been around long enough to be proven stable and repeatable.

With all of the above, you should be able to make an effective fighting carbine without spending an inordinate amount of money. Yes, there are countless more options out there such as quad rails, vertical grips, magnifiers etc etc but most offer no additional benefit unless the basics are followed here.

Contact: [email protected], © 2010 MilCopp Tactical LLC
phone: (614) 316-5509, Address: MilCopp Tactical, 829 Bethel Rd #101, Columbus, OH 43214

1,427 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Article #2

The Kalashnikov Magazine Primer

by David Merrill, MilCopp Tactical

Let me preface this by saying that this primer is specific to 7.62x39 magazines only. Although most of these guidelines apply to other calibers (such as 5.45 and 5.56) not everything is consistent across the board.
There are many options for AK magazines these days. Every company that makes them makes big promises about producing never-failing, ever-lasting magazines for your AK. Guess what? Most of those companies are full of ****.

Whenever you shop for an AK magazine, you should look for three things first:
-Metal-lined (or metal!) feed lips
-Metal-lined (or metal!) locking lugs
-Metal-lined (or metal!) magazine bodies

(Anyone else see a trend here?)

Part 1: Feed Lips

Let’s not *****-foot around this: If you are properly training, you are putting your gear (which includes your rig, weapon, and magazines) through hell. Yes, magazines are consumable (liable to be used up or depleted) but that doesn’t mean you should pick a loser from the start (unless you have a reason, more on this later).

AK magazines without metal-lined feed lips can develop cracks (or breaks!) on the feed lips themselves when doing nothing but just sitting around loaded! The pressure from the spring (and an AK spring is very large), provides sufficient pressure to crack and break feed-lips that are not metal-lined.

If the feed-lips do not break outright, they can do something less visible and just as catastrophic: They can bend. The pressure from the spring on non-metal lined feed-lips can be enough to spread the feed-lips outward (please, refrain from any sexual innuendo on this part) and bestow feeding malfunctions. Yes, even the venerable AK can malfunction if you put a ****ty magazine into the system (the very best mag-fed weapon in the world is just a paper-weight if you use garbage magazines).

Part 2: Locking Lugs

Magazines with plastic locking lugs have been known to break from simple, rapid insertion, let alone withstanding any falls. Sure, sure, I can hear it now, “I’ll never fall on my magazine”. In ideal circumstances, like shooting from a bench at a range on a sunny day, this probably won’t happen—that said, this isn’t the situation we’re talking about nor preparing for.

Here’s the question: If you fall down, be it from an inner-ear problem or from slipping on ice, and land on your magazine, will it hold up? The magazine is the part you’re likely to fall on, as it protrudes farther down to the rear than your buttstock or pistol grip. Ignore the, ‘pushup’ test videos—a pushup is nothing compared to a falling body transferring all of the weight onto a magazine during a fall. It’s not just falling either. When you drop quickly into a prone position, your magazine can hit the ground. Do not construe that I am advocating using your magazine to break your fall—I’m not. I am just saying that when you drop into prone dynamically, odds are that your magazine is going to hit the ground in the process.

Magazines with completely polymer locking lugs usually fail when introduced to this test. The two most common outcomes with these magazines is: Breaking off the front or rear locking lug or breaking the magazine body in half (to be covered in the next section).

Additionally, polymer locking lugs are more prone to breakage after doing multiple aggressive magazine changes. Just one more reason to rotate these magazines out of your fighting rig and into your training rig.

Part 3: Magazine Bodies

Many types of modern polymers are more elastic than steel. They have a much higher elastic limit and therefore can accept more stress. No AK magazine completely made of polymer that currently exists in the market can rightfully make that claim.

In test after test, metal-lined polymer magazines can take more stress on the body from multiple directions than straight polymer magazines. Sure sure, some you have seen the ‘test’ where a truck rides over a polymer AK magazine and it still functions perfectly (no no, not the magpul PMag test—that was for ARs, remember?) but when it comes to an actually fall a user is likely to experience (like a slip), they, ‘fall’ short (har har).

Now that the nuts and bolts are finished, what magazines actually fulfill these requirements?

If you want a synthetic magazine (and there are many reasons to want one, weight and durability being at the top of the list), look no further than genuine black Bulgarian waffle magazines.. This is arguably the toughest and most durable of all AK-series magazines. They will hold up when an all-metal magazine will crush or dent (impeding proper function) and they weigh less to boot.

To ensure that you have a genuine Bulgarian waffle magazine, simply look for the ‘circle-10’ marking on the left side of the magazine

I specify black Bulgarian magazines because some of the other colors (specifically the ‘smoke’ or ‘clear’ versions) do not have metal-lined locking lugs, feedlips, or magazine bodies for aesthetic purposes. If you have some of these, that’s okay but please take them out of your ‘go-to’ rig. Even some of the opaque colored magazines are not as strong (even though they are metal-lined) due to the process of making the polymer in a different color. Olive drab and plum magazines are probably usable but I will say this: just stick to the proven black magazine and simply paint them if you want another color.

There are some downsides to these magazines though: They have a larger OD than standard surplus magazines and as such, may not fit readily into all magazine wells (specifically Wasr-10’s which come in country with single stack magwells and are later opened up by Century Arms, with sometimes dubious and inconsistent results). If they don’t fit, fit your rifle to them and not the magazine itself. The second downside is cost. Currently, Bulgarian waffle mags go for over $30. Yes, that is a lot of money to pay for the upsides of this magazine. However, you can be confident that no other magazine in existence can hold a candle to the longevity and durability of it. If you want to pay less for surplus mags that’s fine and I’ll cover them further down in this article.

There is another magazine produced in Bulgaria that should only be for show or range purposes and that is the Bulgarian, ‘Bullet’ magazine

This magazine is very weak compared to the waffle magazine and cracks easily. Once again, if you want synthetic mags, just go with the black bulgarian waffles.

Yes, there is a US company that produces an aesthetically similar magazine (ProMag) but what the cheap US copy does not include is ----you guessed it--- any of the three features I mentioned from the very start.

I have heard time and time again, “but my ProMag magazines work great!”. This is often from the mouths of those that do not even shoot their weapons often and certainly do not train with them. If you think your ProMags are, “great” try putting them through the paces at a decent shooting school and see what happens. You will not like the results, that I will say.

Other common synthetic AK magazines on the market include:
-Master Molder (Thermold)

If you view the following videos (yes, the audio tracks suck) you will see why the black Bulgarian waffle magazine is the clear winner:

(No, I do not work for K-Var but I appreciate them doing the Russian military drop tests with competitor’s magazines so I don’t have to do the same myself)

Surplus Magazines

These are normally the cheapest bet for usable magazines. Whether they are from Romania, Russia, China, or any country in between, they are usually good magazines (with a few caveats).

These can be found for $15 or less apiece currently. When selecting surplus magazines there are a couple things you should look for right off the bat:

-Avoid any magazine with excessive cosmoline or other preservative.
When you purchase surplus magazines, the condition can sometimes be dubious. Excessive cosmoline can prevent you from noticing any physical problems (such as dents) that prevent the follower from fully constricting under load. Let’s be honest here, cosmoline can be (easily is the first word that comes to mind but is not always the case) cleaned out but a dent in the magazine can he harder to fix. If a magazine has been in storage for a long period of time, cosmoline can prevent the function of the magazine follower. One of the better ways I have found to clean cosmoline off is to heat the magazine in the oven at 150 degrees and use a solvent (such as diesel fuel) to remove the cosmoline. You might be surprised at the size of a dent that can impede proper follower function.

-Avoid ‘bolt hold open’ followers
These are very common with Yugoslavian surplus magazines. The bolt of the rifle hits an extended follower, stopping the forward motion of the bolt.

At the end of a magazine, the bolt will, ‘hold open’ and instead of getting the, ‘Kalashnikov click’, you get a squishy trigger. Since the follower physically holds the bolt to the rear, as soon as you remove the magazine the bolt will ride home. There is not tactical advantage (since a squishy trigger indicates a malfunction and not an empty magazine) nor a speed advantage (since the bolt releases as soon as the magazine releases) to bolt hold-open followers.

I have heard others argue that the pseudo bolt hold-open is an advantage. While I do not agree with this, if you think they have an advantage, ensure all of your magazines have bolt hold-open followers. You want everything to be exactly the same, all of the time, whenever possible.

Here’s an easy way to identify a bolt hold-open follower:

The bolt hold-open follower is on the left, the standard follower on the right. The extra hump on the follower is what holds the bolt to the rear.

-Inspect for any dents or imperfections
Since we’re talking about surplus magazines, yes, they likely have been used and abused throughout their lives. Even a small dent can impede proper follower movement and any magazine with dents that can be seen with the naked eye should be avoided. You can test follower movement with a pencil or other straight tool. Simply push the follower down and ensure that it does not hang-up at any point in its travel downwards or upwards.

There are generally two types of surplus magazines: Chinese, and everything else.

Most Eastern European magazines have a spine that runs along the back, as shown here:

whereas most Chinese magazines are smooth backed, as shown here:

Although it doesn’t look like much, that spine can be the difference between blood and comfort. I do not joke when I say that I have seen hands bleed from practicing reloads too much in one day using Eastern European surplus magazines.

When you grab a magazine for a reload, the webbing of your hand rests against the spine in this fashion:

After many drills, this portion of your hand can become raw and actually bleed. If you use Chinese smooth-backed magazines, this can be prevented, at least bleeding from simple aggressive reloads. All is not lost if you run Eastern European surplus mags exclusively though, as wearing gloves greatly protects you from this.

In Summary:
My recommendations for AK magazines are the following (and in order)
-Black Bulgarian waffle magazines
-Chinese smooth-back magazines
-Eastern European surplus magazines

I do not currently advocate any US-made synthetic magazine for any purpose other than a malfunction/range magazine. Perhaps in the future someone will produce an American magazine worth a damn—today is not that day.

Further notes:
When talking about 922r compliance parts (google it) magazines invariably come up since US magazines consist of three compliance parts (Body, follower, and floorplate). My recommendation is to have legal compliance without the magazine even being considered.

Why? Well the last thing you want is for your rifle to be compliant with one magazine and not another. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to have proper 922r compliance on the rifle itself.

If you have a threaded barrel, you need six compliance parts and if the barrel is unthreaded, only five. The cheapest and easiest way is to ensure you have the following US parts:
-Fire Control Group (3 US parts- trigger, hammer, and disconnecter)
-Pistol grip (1 US part)
-Buttstock or forend (1 US part)
-Muzzle device (if that applies if you have a threaded barrel, 1 US part)

It should be known that CAI guns (such as the WASR-10/63 or the SAR-1) come standard with the following US parts:
-Fire control group (3 parts)
-Pistol Grip (1 part)
-Gas piston (1 US part)
-Muzzle device (1 US part—WASR-10/63 only. The SAR series was imported without a thread barrel)

Parts count on build rifles can be dubious and they generally depend on the builder. It is also a good idea to inquire and then inspect for the proper number of US parts on any AK-series rifle purchased.

Final comments
I initially did not include the Tango Down/US Palm magazine for two reasons: I had not used one yet and I haven’t seen a military drop-test. After using them (and subsequently easily breaking them), we cannot confirm nor endorse claims of durability nor reliability of said magazines.

Contact: [email protected], © 2010 MilCopp Tactical LLC
phone: (614) 316-5509, Address: MilCopp Tactical, 829 Bethel Rd #101, Columbus, OH 43214

1,427 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Article #3

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 **** beyond 50m’.

This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 864x415 and weights 77KB.

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:

This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 800x354 and weights 58KB.

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.
This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 800x319 and weights 23KB.

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.

1,427 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Article #3 con't

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 ****ty 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 **** 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, ****ty] 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 bull****’.) 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 **** 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 **** 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 **** on the rail system. Either way, know why you want/need something (‘looking cool’ does not apply to fighting rifles unless you’re an air****ter 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’

This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 800x535 and weights 103KB.

’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)

This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 646x221 and weights 36KB.

This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 750x492 and weights 78KB.

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 (aka,'DavePAL84' on other forums)
Instructor for MilCopp Tactical LLC.

Rifle first. Rifle last. Rifle always.
1 - 4 of 4 Posts