TAPCO G2 TRIGGER GROUP
In the early 2000s, TAPCO bought the production rights to the G2 trigger group designed by the now-defunct Gordon Technologies of Brook, Indiana. The G2 is available in both double-hook and single-hook versions to fit most varieties of AK rifles. The G2 offers a two-stage military feel with a ~4lb. break, and both the trigger components and spring have a lifetime warranty. Wanting to replace the lousy Century Arms FCG that came in my SAR-2, I ordered the G2 kit from TAPCO and had it installed by the same machinist who'd done the RSA group in my Intrac. As with the RSA unit, some final fitting was required and was easily accomplished in a few minutes with a hand file. The resulting trigger pull, while not adjustable like the RSA, is worlds better than with either the Century Arms or the original Romanian fire-control groups. Installing the G2 also eliminated the "trigger slap" felt with the poorly machined Century Arms parts. For those wanting a quality US-made fire-control group for their AK, but not able to afford or not needing the adjustability of the RSA kit, the TAPCO G2 is an excellent alternative.
MOJO PEEP SIGHT
The Mojo peep sight marketed by Red Star Arms replaces the less-than-optimum AK rear notch with an aperture-type sight that is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. Coming from the AR-15 world, I was used to an aperture-style sight and was anxious to investigate anything that would make my AK's iron sights more usable. The Mojo sight is precision machined from cold-rolled steel, then deep blued to match the black finish found on AK rifles. The sight snap-fits in the same way as the standard rear sight which it replaces (HINT: removing the stock rear sight is best approached as a two-person job!). Windage and elevation adjustment are accomplished by using the supplied wrench to turn two tiny setscrews, one raising and lowering the "ramp" and the other moving the "hood" from side to side. Zeroing with the Mojo sight is easy; gross adjustments are made on the front sight as normal, but fine-tuning is done at the rear, eliminating the need to have the front blade excessively tall or drifted dramatically to one side. Once adjusted, the Mojo sights are a breeze to pick up, and make accurate shooting MUCH easier.
CHAMPION TRITIUM FRONT SIGHT
The growing popularity of the AK platform among defensive-minded shooters in recent years has given rise to a number of well thought-out tactical accessories. One of the final pieces to fall into place has been quality tritium sights, which I regard as a must-have on any gun intended for defensive use. Keng's Firearm Specialty offers a tritium front and fully adjustable rear sight for AK rifles under the Champion Gunsights brand, which are available direct or through Brownells and other retailers. I purchased the front sight post only and installed it into the bolt-on front sight housing on my #1 Saiga-12. The quality on the sight post is excellent; it screwed right into the OEM windage drum with the aid of a standard sight tool, and cleared the "ears" on the sight tower when installing. Tritium insert is a genuine Trijicon lamp (labeled and everything) and is nice and bright. The OEM rear sight on my Saiga has a rather wide notch, and the Champion front pin is fairly narrow (at least narrower than the fat OEM front bead). The OEM rear/Champion front setup is quicker than a normal AK sight picture, but more precise than the OEM Saiga irons. I got a replacement rear sight with a narrower notch along with my bolt-on front sight tower, but I have no plans to actually install it.
ULTIMAK SCOUT MOUNT
One of the shortcomings of the AK family is the lack of decent optic mounts. Most mounts are either integral to the scope (ie the PSO series), top-cover mounted (do not retain zero when the cover is removed), or only accommodate 1" tube-style optics (ie MTK). The few Weaver mounts available either block the iron sights completely or allow a "see under" option which may place the optics uncomfortably high. And until recently, there was nothing that allowed the iron sights and red dot to be used in conjunction or independently, in the manner currently in vogue for Western assault rifles such as the M4A1. The UltiMak Scout Mount is a three-piece affair consisting of a replacement gas tube/weaver rail and two U-clamps. The clamps go under the barrel and attach to the mount with allen head screws, thereby ensuring a true alignment of the mount with the barrel itself. Installation was easy using the supplied instructions. NOTE: The UltiMak will work with most any kind of AK lower handguard, but works BEST with either the Bulgarian polymer lower with heat shield or its US-made equivalent from K-VAR. When properly installed and paired with a suitable red-dot optic, the mount allows "co-witnessing" of the iron sights (see pic at right). This arrangement makes zeroing easy. Once the iron sights are set, simply look through the sight and adjust the red dot so it appears to sit atop the front sight post, and you'll be in the neighborhood. Then simply tweak windage and elevation until the gun shoots to point-of-aim at your desired distance. Though not a substitute for a magnifying optic, a red-dot sight can greatly speed and simplify sight acquisition and facilitate more accurate shooting. It is also the preferred type of optic to employ when ranges encountered are less than 100 yards. The UltiMak provides an effective way to mount a red-dot optic on an AK without sacrificing the use of the iron sights.
CAA RAILED HANDGUARD
Command Arms Accessories, the Israeli company that also includes the Fobus, First Samco and TDI brands, offers a simple, rugged and relatively inexpensive solution for adding accessory "rail estate" to an AK rifle. The LHV-47 is a polymer lower handguard that incorporates an integral full-length rail at the 6:00 position and two removable single-slot rails at 3:00 and 9:00. The LHV-47 lacks the metal heat shield found in Bulgarian and Russian "century series" handguards, but is constructed of a thicker polymer and features cooling holes in the lower rail a la AR-15 handguards. The LHV attaches in the same manner as the standard lower handguard, but is an extremely tight fit and may require "coercion" with a rubber mallet or even minor dremeling to fit some rifles. Some modification of the LHV-47 is also required to use it in conjunction with the Ultimak mount. The lower rail is ideal for a vertical grip or white light, but is not long enough to accommodate both comfortably. Mounting a SureFire light to the 9:00 rail, while not my preferred position, is a workable solution that allows me to activate the pushbutton tailcap with the thumb of my off-hand while still grasping the vertical grip (see pic). While I have heard of people melting CAA handguards under extreme use (full-auto, mag dumps, etc), I have not experienced this or any shifting in the course of normal, active shooting.
TAPCO SAW GRIP
Numerous ergonomic replacement grips are available for the AK. One of the most comfortable and economical is the SAW grip from TAPCO, cloned from the grip found on the FN M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon (which was itself developed from the grip of the FN FAL rifle). Compared to the standard AK grip, the TAPCO grip features a wider profile to more correctly position the trigger finger, a radical sweep angle for comfort, and deep horizontal grooves for improved gripping. There is also an internal storage compartment with a semi-flexible trapdoor secured by a wire clip. The only issues I have with the SAW grip are the relatively flimsy trapdoor and securing mechanism, and the fact that the grip will not work properly on receivers with a pistol grip reinforcing plate (mostly underfolders and some sidefolders) without modification.
VLTOR AK STOCK ADAPTER Photo courtesy of VLTOR
The RE-47 from VLTOR Weapon Systems is a direct replacement for the fixed stock on most stamped-receiver AKs. The stock tube accommodates mil-spec buttstocks such as the VLTOR, Colt or LMT/Crane, and features 5 adjustment positions, a watertight interior storage compartment and fittings for a QD sling swivel. Each adjustment stop is laser-marked on top of the tube, making it easy to run the stock out to your favorite setting. The assembly attaches using the existing screw holes in the rear tang, and features a kydex dustcover to seal the resulting opening in the back end of the receiver (round tube into square hole leaves some open space). The VLTOR stock adapter is veryrobust; once installed, it is as solid as a fixed stock and is a marked improvement over most of the other AR stock adapters on the market. Putting an AR-style collapsible stock on an AK is seen as "blasphemy" by some purists, but it is in fact the pinnacle of practicality. The VLTOR RE-47, in combination with a quality buttstock, offers integral storage for batteries and small parts, a superior cheekweld, an adjustable length of pull, and durability that's second to none. No standard or aftermarket AK stock offers all of these features. I am currently using the RE-47 + VLTOR carbine stock on one of my Saiga-12 shotguns and am quite pleased with it; I prefer it to the ACE adapter + standard M4 stock installed on my other Saiga-12. The only negatives to the RE-47 are its relatively high price ($80+ minus the actual buttstock) and that it doesn't fold, which is only of benefit (and a minor one at that) when it comes to storing and transporting the weapon.
BLACKJACK SWIFT SAFETY LEVER
One of the AK's biggest ergonomic shortcomings is the location of the safety/selector lever. Manipulating it requires removing the strong hand from the pistol grip, or rolling the gun and bringing the support hand across. A field expedient solution is to attach a loop of 550 cord to the safety lever, allowing it to be activated with the trigger finger. While functional, this solution is less than optimal since the loop can shift or collapse, and the 550 cord will eventually wear through and need replacing. The SWIFT safety lever from Blackjack is a simple, elegant and permanent fix for this issue, and many devotees of the "practical Kalashnikov" consider it a "must-have" upgrade. The SWIFT, which stands for "Safety With Integral Finger Tab," is exactly as its name describes - a standard AK safety lever that has an extension or shelf welded onto its lower edge. This shelf allows the shooter to easily manipulate the lever with his trigger finger without needing to remove either hand from the weapon. The SWIFT is also available with a notch in the top edge that captures the charging handle when raised, holding the bolt open for inspection or cleaning. Lowering the safety to the "fire" position automatically releases the bolt. The SWIFT lever comes with instructions for installation and adjusting (which will likely be required since tolerances vary widely among AK type rifles). There is also a version available for the Saiga shotguns. I have SWIFT levers in all my AKs and both Saiga-12s; they were nearly a drop-in fit for the rifles, but required quite a bit of bending and grinding down the "hump" on the back to work properly in the Saiga-12s. The trick when setting them up is to find the "sweet spot" where the lever is easily manipulated with one finger, but still has enough tension to prevent it from kicking up inadvertently under recoil. On the notched version, you may also need to round off the point at the mouth of the notch to more securely retain the charging handle without digging into it.
MORE GEAR REVIEWS TO COME... STAY TUNED!