U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- I own several examples of Russia’s most infamous export, but even as a loyal devotee of Kalashnikov’s Magnum Opus, I have to concede there are some must-have AK Upgrades for shooters more accustomed to modern weapons.
“Nyet, rifle is fine!”
You often hear people repeat that meme ad nausea, but the truth of the matter is that the AK could definitely use a few upgrades. Even Russia thinks so, just look at the AK-12!
But since there is no factory-built AK-12 for shooters stateside, and having one built is prohibitively expensive, let’s look at the top five must-have AK upgrades.
If you ignore every other suggestion in this article, at least invest in an RS Regulate optic mount as your next AK upgrade.
Yes, they are expensive.
Yes, most are proprietary to whatever optic a shooter is running.
And yes, they are the best optic mount available for the AK today.
Rock Solid construction, adaptive modularity, and the rare ability to align them with the rifle’s bore axis perfectly.
The first part is self-explanatory, but the modularity isn’t readily apparent when you first handle one. See, the RS Regulate mounts actually consist of two components – an upper and lower half. The lower portion determines both the type of rifle it can mount to, as well as the upper mount’s position along the Z-axis – AKA how far from the end of the muzzle the optic mounts.
The upper half determines which optics the mount can interface with. Shooters can opt for the straightforward Picatinny rail segment for maximum compatibility or something specialized like the AKOG mount, which allows mounting a Trijicon ACOG low enough that a shooter doesn’t need to use the dread “chin-weld” to obtain a proper sight picture.
As for the third and final advantage of the system, the two mount halves can be adjusted perpendicular to the muzzle, allowing shooters to fine-tune the optic to align flawlessly with the barrel itself. Meaning that a particular zero isn’t limited in efficacy to a specific distance. Brilliant!
I know what you’re thinking, “a Korean pistol optic on an AK!?”
Yes. And it works extremely well in this capacity.
For the uninitiated, the Holosun HS507C-X2 is a reflex sight that features a miniature ACSS reticle and is powered by both integrated solar panels and a CR1632 battery that provides 50k hours of operating time. Yes, you read that right – 50,000 hours. But even that’s not totally accurate because the HS507C-X2, like many Holosun optics, utilizes their shake-awake technology. Meaning, the optic will turn itself off if the internal accelerometer detects no movement for around an hour. To turn the optic back on, simply move it in any direction slightly.
But the reason I chose the Holosun as my next AK upgrade, in particular, is because it utilizes a reticle that isn’t totally dissimilar to the one featured on my favorite close-quarters optic – the EoTech EXPS sight. Unlike the EoTech, the Holosun is a fraction of its size, allowing it to be mounted incredibly low when used in conjunction with an RS Regulate RMR upper mount. (The Holosun uses a standard RMR footprint.) In the case of the HS507C-X2, the reticle consists of a 2 MOA center dot surrounded by a 32 MOA circle. This combination allows for both precise aiming and lightning-fast target engagement at close range.
But what about using your AK at longer distances?
Yes, the Trijicon is an expensive optic to mount on an AK. But the days of $400 AKs are long gone. Plus, the AK is no less of a serious-use weapon than an AR-15. Sure, the average AK isn’t nearly as accurate as a mid-level AR-15 carbine, but it’s still very capable of engaging targets beyond 400 yards. But for the sake of this article, I chose an optic that worked well within the realistically effective range on your average AK rifle.
That’s why I chose the 3.5 power variant of the ACOG as my next AK upgrade. But why utilize an LED version of one that uses Tridium?
Three reasons. First, unlike Tridium, I can replace the battery of the ACOG if the reticle ever burns out. If I’m terribly concerned about battery life, it’s easy enough to shove an extra battery in a pocket.
Second, sometimes the Tridium-illuminated reticle is either too bright, or not bright enough. With the LED version of the ACOG, I can adjust the brightness on the fly by rotating the brightness dial.
Third, I don’t just use the ACOG on my AK. And sometimes, I like to run my guns with NVGs, and the LED ACOG has a few brightness settings designed specifically for use with NODs.
Lastly, the ACOG offers unparalleled optical clarity, durability and light reception. It is truly a combat optic – one that will serve you well regardless of what hard use (within reason) you subject it to.
The only thing the LED version is lacking is a proper BDC for 7.62x39mm / 300blk. But hopefully Trijicon will have one of those available in the near future.
4. Circle 10 Waffle AK 47 Magazines
These are arguably the best polymer-bodied magazines on the market today but also the most genuinely expensive. I say genuinely because the Circle 10 Waffle Mag value isn’t artificially inflated by collectability (yet). These so-called waffle-pattern magazines are polymer-bodied Bulgarian military-issue 30 and 40-round mags. They’re just as durable as their steel counterparts, but at a nearly 30% savings in weight. They feature steel-reinforced feed lips, locking tabs, and bodies. Giving them all of the advantages of steel surplus mags without any of the inherent downsides.
Also, unlike steel-bodied magazines, these polymer waffles are next to impossible to crush to the point of failure. Not to say you could build a bridge with them, but unless a shooter is running them over with a tractor-trailer, they’ll keep running for the foreseeable future.
One downside that they do have is cost. Bulgarian circle ten mags are never found in a store for less than $45 apiece and normally run between $50 and $60. Thankfully, shooters who invest in them will never have to replace them, as I have a few that have seen well over 2,000 rounds fired through them, and they still look relatively new.
Whether you’re running a 100-series AK or your standard AKM, Spike’s Tactical’s DynaComp substantially reduces felt recoil.
By littering the entire muzzle device with blast ports that vent the hot expanding gasses to counteract the recoil impulse. Available in both 14x1LH and 24×1.5 RH thread pitch, the DynaComp is built from stainless steel and coated with an ultra-durable black nitride finish; the DynaComp is built like a tank. And unfortunately, it weighs about as much as one, too – at least in the case of the 24×1.5RH model. Despite this, the DynaComp is a great addition to most AKs, especially an AKM pattern gun, where the slant brake doesn’t really provide much in terms of felt recoil reduction.
The other downside to the DynaComp is how loud it is. By diverting more of the blast to reduce recoil, the shooter is subjected to more of it as well. That and how much carbon it spews out means that within a magazine or two, the air will be thick with smoke. Normally, this isn’t a big deal, but if you’re either shooting from the prone position or in a dusty or sandy environment, the DynaComp will kick up a storm before you know it. Still, if you’re looking to cut recoil as much as possible, the DynaComp AK is a solid upgrade.
6. Dead Air Silencers Wolverine
But what about the shooter who wants something a little quieter? AKs are terrible to suppress! Well, they aren’t great, that’s for sure, but with subsonic ammo and a quality suppressor built for the AK like the Dead Air Wolverine, they can be infinitely more pleasant to shoot.
Why the Dead Air Wolverine? Truth be told, if you only own one AK and you’re not a huge fan of the platform, you’re better off getting a more general-use rifle-caliber suppressor and having a gunsmith rethread your muzzle. That said, if you’re like me and you eat, sleep and dream about AKs – the Wolverine is perfect. Not just because it closely mimics the aesthetics of the Soviet-era PBS-1 suppressor but because it is designed from inception for the AK.
How? By utilizing oversized bores (Although you should always check your alignment with an alignment rod just to be safe.) and by including a mount specific to the AK (either 24×1.5RH or 14x1LH). Normally, suppressing an AK involves using adaptors which can cause an issue with tolerance stacking and alignment, but the Wolverine doesn’t need those. What’s really cool is that Dead Air also makes mounts for more common western thread pitches like 1/2×28 and 5/8×24, so you can put your pseudo-Soviet suppressor on your M4 as well.
Other great features include the ability to handle the pressure of the much larger 7.62x54r cartridge and is rated for full-auto fire. The only downsides to the Wolverine are weight – 19.8 to 24.4 ounces depending on the mount – and cost: $999.
About Jim Grant
Jim is one of the elite editors for AmmoLand.com, who in addition to his mastery of prose, can wield a camera with expert finesse. He loves anything and everything guns but holds firearms from the Cold War in a special place in his heart.
When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, their son, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country