by Rob Kay
It’s no secret that the vast majority of people who purchase sporterized VEPRs do so with the intention of converting them to a rifle with a more traditional AK “aesthetic”. If you’re lucky enough to acquire a VEPR (given the current climate it will take a bit of luck to do so) you’ll need to find the right components with which to transform your rifle.
The fact is, there aren’t a lot of manufacturers who make parts solely for the VEPR.
Enter SGM Tactical, based out of Knoxville, TN. They make parts for a variety of platforms, including the AR 15, the Glock and the AK. SGM is also one of the few companies that manufactures parts specifically for VEPRs. (Although some AK parts will fit on a VEPR, magazines, rails, stocks and muzzle brakes definitely aren’t interchangeable).
SGM Tactical not only sells gear to consumers, their products are used to customize some very cool VEPRs builds. SGM’s sister company, Mach 1 Arsenal, imports VEPRs or at least until recently imported VEPRs. Unfortunately all the inventory is currently sold out. (That there was a run on VEPRs should not shock anyone.)
The good news is that SGM still has US-made parts for VEPRs and On Target Hawaii was very fortunate to look at their quad rail, a stock unit (with a trunion designed to fit on a VEPR receiver) and, a muzzle brake.
The nice thing about converting a VEPR is that (unlike conventional AK varients) you don’t have to move the trigger group. It’s pretty much a matter of removing the old stuff with garden variety gunsmithing screwdrivers and bolting on the new “stuff”.
It’s that simple.
Mounting the Tactical Stock Set
The first step in our SGM makeover was to remove the Monte Carlo style walnut stock from the “sporterized” VEPR.
This is a beautiful piece of furniture but tactical it ain’t. The SGM “Shepards Hook” style stock set combines a buttstock (with recoil pad), the tube a slant style trunion, and a detachable chin rest.
It’s a very robust item that locks tight with no wiggle. It’s made entirely from heavy duty polymer that looks like it can be used to hammer railroad spikes.
It’s infinitely adjustable (11 positions) and extends up to 14.5 inches from the end of the receiver to the recoil pad. It’s designed pretty much to be “plug and play”. Price is $85.
To add the unit, first remove the walnut stock. Take off the dust cover and the recoil spring assembly so that you have access to the tang. Then take out the two screws on the tang. There’s one more bolt or grip screw under the keyhole grip that needs to be removed. After that’s gone, the stock is easily detached.
Then slide the SGM unit into the slant end of the receiver. You’ll note it fits like a glove. Note that that you can’t change out the stock (and remove) it from the tube. The whole unit comes as a one unit.
The issue is then how to attach the new stock. SGM did not send us screws nor an instruction sheet. (There is an instruction sheet available. The product is so new it hasn’t even been sold to consumers). A quick inquiry to the support number landed at the desk of Kerry Kreiman, a former Marine, who provided us with the answer and was extremely helpful throughout the review process.
There are two (un-threaded holes) that line up with the holes in the tang. Simply tap the orifice with a drill bit to get started and use the original, stock screws.
Essentially you make your own threads, much like using a wood screw. It worked fine but you wouldn’t want to take this stock on an off too many times for fear of destroying the threads.
Attaching the Quad Rail
The Quad Rail was another very sturdy polymer item. It weighed about .8 lb vs. the stock walnut handguard which was only about .3 lb. To install it you’ll need to remove the lone screw that retains the sling loop on the bottom of the handguard. Once detached, the whole handguard will pop out. (You may have to also remove the gas tube so that you have a little more room to maneuver). We had to tap the handguard slightly with a rubber mallet but it didn’t take too much effort.
The SGM Quad Rail needed a bit of filing to get it to fit inside the forward end of the receiver but it didn’t take too much removal of plastic. Once the tolerances were in synch, it fit like a glove.
We also had to slightly enlarge the bolt hole on the handguard because it didn’t line up exactly. No big deal. We used the stock screw cum sling loop to re-attach the new unit and this worked perfectly. We were also very pleased that we could recycle the sling loop!
We then added the upper part of the rail which covers the gas tube and is attached with four small, tapered screws.
Although some may wince at the thought of a “plastic” Quad Rail, there is nothing cheap about the unit. The fit is both extremely solid and well designed. The rail is also aesthetically pleasing especially considering the price–$85.
Adding an ERGO Grip
SGM does not make a pistol grip but fortunately we had samples of a new AK grip from ERGO Grips.
We acquired two grips—which look identical. However, there is a big difference: One has a sort of gummy texture whereas the other has a hard polymer feel.
The grips are much larger than the skinny, stock AK unit and are quite comfortable. My hands are not that big and I felt immediately at ease with the ergonomics of the grips and, how they worked as an integral part of the rifle.
I preferred the one with the rubbery feel. It had the perfect amount of “tackiness” without feeling waxy and it’s sculpted with small finger grooves. Both the texture and the “grooves” allowed for excellent control when shooting the rifle.
The grips were also aesthetically pleasing. They lent themselves perfectly to the SGM conversion.
The grip was easy to install.
They provide you with a 6 mm screw that fits into a little nut inside the receiver. The Ergo has a removable cap at the bottom of the grip which provides a little storage—maybe a couple of rounds or some batteries.
The consensus with our staff was that this was a keeper.
At $21.12 on Amazon, they are a good deal. You can also buy them at www.armorerssupply.com.
We did not have a chance to test out the muzzle brake for this story. It’s an impressive looking piece, threaded to 14×1 left hand twist. The issue was that our VEPRs did not have a threaded barrel.
We got ours from a distributer that does not provided VEPRs with threaded barrels whereas Mach 1 Arsenal does as a matter of course. We do plan to test it in the future when we can get the barrel tapped. Price is $85.
Shooting the SGM Conversion
As soon as we brought the rifle the range, a small crowd gathered and asked about the gun. Clearly the aesthetics were pleasing to the gang at the Koko Head Range complex. However, because the VEPR is a direct descendant of the RPK machine gun, it’s undoubtedly the heaviest AK variant around. We needed all the help we could get to stabilize this rifle.
For the purposes of the test, we used a Blackhawk sling and a Tapco fore grip–both of which helped immensely.
Adding the SGM components made it heavier than the stock “sporterized rifle” which is already a pound heavier than a standard AK. Polymer is as heavy aluminum so bear in mind, you’re not going to shave off any weight with these products.
That said, we liked the ergonomics of the SGM stock and handrail.
We removed the chin rest which wasn’t needed to use the iron sights. The chin rest however, does come in handy when mounting a red dot on the top rail. Keep in mind you’ll need to use a low profile red dot such as the Fastfire III from Burris which worked well with the chin rest.
We tried a couple of other models from Trijicon and EOtech but they were way too high on the rail to work with this set up. The Fastfire was low enough to allow us to shoot comfortably—that is without placing an awkward cheek weld.
Both the quad rail and the stock are solid and very competitively priced. You’ll have to pay double or triple the price for a decent rail system from Krebs or some of the other high end vendors.
SGM is a good deal, without sacrificing quality.
If you’re on a budget and want decent components, I’d say you won’t go wrong with the SGM gear.
Photos courtesy of On Target Staff.
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