Taking the Minimalist Approach when customizing an AK

An excerpt from "How to Buy an AK-47" --published recently on Amazon.

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Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from How to Buy an AK-47How to purchase, maintain and customize an AK rifle, published recently on Amazon. The book’s content can be searched free of charge by visiting www.howtobuyanak47.com.

When it comes to adding handguards and other accessories, less can be more. Like many first-time AK buyers, when I got my rifle I started adding third-party parts and went overboard on the “tacticool.” This included items such as a full-length hand guard, optics, fore grips, scope mounts and the like. Before I knew it, I was drowning in paraphernalia.

This handguard system from Arsenal is super light. The lower section is only (4.1 oz.) and has a stainless steel heat shield.

The lesson was that adding some of these components may make sense in some circumstances, such as home defense, but you need to be wary of “mission creep”. Loading up your rifle with gewgaws has its practical limits. For example if you’re going to be proficient at shooting offhand, shouldering a 10-pound rifle gets old very quickly.

(My epiphany is hardly original. One of Larry Vickers’ maxims is “seriously resist the urge to over-accessorize the gun”.)

Given my own experience, I’ve become a proponent of minimalism.

Custom builders such as Rifle Dynamics, Krebs Custom, Definitive Arms and others strive to keep the weight down by using a combination of polymer furniture (often from Arsenal) and in some instances, even chopping the barrel two inches.

The Bolton Block, designed by Venom Tactical, combines a gas block with a front sight. Additional weight savings on this rifle come from a shortened barrel and an UltiMAK M1-B optics mount. (Courtesy Rifle Dynamics)

Jim Fuller of Rifle Dynamics takes the weight reduction process a step further by employing the Bolton Gas Block, a proprietary product manufactured by Venom Tactical.

This cleverly designed product is the latest incarnation of a technology used by the Israeli Galil, the Finnish Valmet RK62 and other rifles, combines both the front sight and gas block into a single weight-saving assembly.

By placing the front sight atop the gas block, the barrel length can be shortened. With the proprietary gas block and a shortened barrel, he can take off as much as a pound from the front end. It doesn’t sound like a lot but in practice it’s very significant.

If you’re going to use an optic on your minimalist rifle, there are other ways to keep the weight down. The $98 UltiMAK M1-B optic mount integrates both the hand guard and the gas tube in its design which ends up adding less than an ounce to the rifle.

You can get also a wide variety of lightweight polymer hand guard sets from K-Var.

The AK-UFM KeyMod lower hand guard from Krebs Custom is only 6.6 oz., including the add-on Picatinny rail. (Robert Kay)

KeyMod hand guards, such as the AK-UFM model for AKM rifles manufactured by Krebs Custom, are made from aircraft aluminum and they are really light. At 6.6 ounces (including the Picatinny rail) it definitely falls into the “minimalist” camp.

Another weight saving measure is to change out your buttstock if you’re using a collapsible, AR 15-style system. There are a number of lightweight units available including the Rogers Super-Stoc, the Mission First Tactical “Minimalist” model and the CTR from Magpul.

The lesson is to think twice before you buying add-ons, such as a full-blown tactical hand guard/rail system. If you can eschew adding stuff that you don’t really need, or replace your existing gear with something lighter, by all means do so.

With AKs less is usually more.

Photos by Rob Kay






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