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Modernizing the AK Part 2: Sights

This is the second installment of my series on updating the AK. We started with muzzle devices and now we are working our way back to the iron sights.

There are a couple of complaints that most users have with the standard AK sights. The rear sight notch is too narrow and the sight radius (the distance between the sights) is too short. The sight notch is easy to fix but the sight radius issues are a little more difficult.

XS Sights Tritium Front Sight

 

Front Sights

Many shooters like to use a tritium front sight so that they can see it in low light. I have used the front sight from XS Sights and it is definitely easy to see but, like most AK tritium front sights, it is very thick which makes it more difficult to use at longer distances.

When you are sighting in your AK, you adjust the elevation by turning the front sight. You can orient the standard AK front sight with any of the four sides facing the shooter. Tritium front sights can only be oriented in one direction. This means that you loose quite a bit of precision in your elevation adjustment. This will likely be a non-issue in actual use considering the AK is not an extremely precise weapon to begin with.

Tritium front sights have a clear upside – their ability to be seen in low light. However, they are not without downsides – decreased precision at longer distances and decreased precision in elevation adjustment.

Standard rear sight that has been widened with a small round file

Rear Sights

The cheapest and easiest way to vastly improve the rear sight is to use a small file to open up the notch. Some people open it up as far as 3/16” but I find that about 1/8” is fine for me.

You might also consider purchasing a peep style rear sight. Krebs Custom makes an excellent rear sight that has a peep aperture instead of the typical notch. It retains the ability to use the BDC feature of the standard rear sight. MOJO also makes excellent peep style rear sights. The MicroClick rear sights from MOJO are even adjustable for bullet drop at various ranges.

There are two ways that I know of to increase the sight radius of your AK. The first is to use a quality rail that mounts over the receiver cover like those from Krebs Custom with an integral rear sight or Texas Weapon Systems with the accessory rear sight. These will allow you to use rail mounted rear sight. You can also use the rear sight from Tech Sights. It mounts at the rear of the receiver cover which increases sight radius and places the rear sight very close to your eye.

Krebs Custom rear peep sight

Conclusion

If you plan to use the iron sights on your AK as you primary sighting system, I highly recommend that you do something to improve them. Opening up the standard rear sight with a file is very effective and very inexpensive. Even if you plan on mounting an optic, I suggest that the rear sight notch be opened up so you have an effective back up to your optic.

Modernizing the AK: Muzzle Devices

Arsenal SGL-21

The AK family of rifles have proven themselves to be reliable and durable weapons. They have also enjoyed tremendous aftermarket support in the last several years. Much of what is out there on the aftermarket is unnecessary junk, but a small percentage of it will truly improve the functionality of the AK. I am going to spend some time over the next few days discussing ways to make your AK more functional and efficient. I’ll start at the muzzle and work my way back to the buttstock.

AK users will have the choice of 3 basic types of muzzle devices – compensators, flash suppressors, and combination devices that do a little of both. It is important to understand the role, benefits, and drawbacks of each type before choosing one.

Manticore Arm Nightshroud MKII (installed) shown in comparison with an AK-74 brake

Compensators and Brakes

A compensator or muzzle brake redirects the gasses that escape the barrel as the bullet passes out of the muzzle to counteract muzzle rise. Many AKs will come standard with some form of a compensator like the relatively ineffective slant brake or the very effective AK-74 style brake.

A good compensator can aid someone who already has good technique in keeping the muzzle as level as possible. This leads to faster follow-up shots by minimizing muzzle rise which speeds sight acquisition. This can be a very good thing. However, this performance comes at a price.

By redirecting the combustion gasses, you are also redirecting the concussive blast and sound. Compensators are usually louder to the shooter and those around the shooter. When a compensator is used in confined spaces like a hallway, car or indoor range, the sound can quickly overwhelm your hearing protection and be quite painful and disruptive. Image what it can do if you are not wearing hearing protection.

The concussive blast can really wreak havoc. I have seen rifles with compensators, shot from a position that places the muzzle near the ground, spray a shower of gravel into the air around the shooter. I have seen them tear large gashes into heavy nylon bags that were being used as improvised rests. Shooting next to someone who is running a compensator can range from a mild annoyance to a very disorienting experience.

Compensators effects on flash can vary greatly. Some compensators can tame flash slightly, while others seem to increase it. This can be an issue with poor quality ammo (which can probably be said of most of what is on the market) that tends to create a significant fireball and a lot of spark.

If you decide to go with a compensator or brake after weighing all of these factors, you have several good choices. The previously mentioned AK-74 style brake can be an excellent and relatively inexpensive choice. They may even come standard on several rifles like the excellent Arsenal SGL-21 series. The J-Tac47 from PWS also works very well. I have found that this compensator is relatively quiet to the shooter which is a positive.

Flash Suppressors

Flash suppressors are designed to reduce muzzle flash (the burning gasses that exit the muzzle after the bullet). This serves two purposes. It reduces the chances that the shooter will loose their dark adjusted vision as a result of the muzzle flash, and it can conceal the position of a shooter in the dark.

Flash suppressors tend to be relatively quiet compared to a compensator. A flash suppressor also does not suffer from the same concussive blast issues. However, they offer no additional measure of control (beyond your technique) to the muzzle.

Flash suppressors are excellent all-around muzzle devices. They lack the significant downsides of a compensator (they lack the upside, too). Most shooters would likely be better served with a flash suppressor than a compensator.

Many AK accessory dealers sell inexpensive A1 and A2 style flash suppressors that work fairly well. YHM sells a couple AK flash suppressors in the Phantom series that work very well. The Smith Enterprise Vortex for the AK is extremely effective at suppressing flash. If the muzzle of your AK has 24mm threads, you will find that your choices are extremely limited. The best flash suppressor that I have found for 24mm thread is the excellent Manticore Arms Nightshroud.

PWS FSC47

Combination Devices

This category really only consists of one muzzle device that I know of. The PWS FSC47 is a very effective compensator and a fairly effective flash suppressor.

It does an excellent job of keeping the muzzle level when combined with strong technique. While the FSC47 does have many of the same downsides of a compensator, it seems to have them to a lesser extent. The concussive blast is not as harsh and it is not very loud at the shooter’s position. It suppresses flash as well as most AK flash suppressors. The FSC47 really does have an impressive combination of features.

It still is not pleasant to stand next to the FSC47, and there is definitely still a more concussive blast than a flash suppressor would generate. Many of the same cautions about compensators apply to the FSC47.

Conclusion

Compensators and flash suppressors both have strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you understand both before you lay down your hard earned cash.

Impact Weapons Components New Site and Giveaway

Impact Weapons Components (IWC) has a brand new website. It is a huge improvement over the old site and offers some really cool functionality. Most importantly, the new site is much easier to navigate than the old site.

The coolest feature is the ability to shop by hand guard/rail. You can choose your hand guard from the list on the left side of the screen and the site links you directly to all of the MOUNT-N-SLOTs that will work your hand guard. No more guess work! You can also compare features and prices of IWC’s MOUNT-N-SLOTs to products from other manufacturers. This new site should really empower you to make an informed decision about your gear.

IWC has provided me with a couple of 2 to 1 Point Triglides to giveaway in celebration of the opening the new site. I have a 1″ and a 1.25″ version to giveaway. Long time readers will remember my review of “The Triglide” a few months ago. These things are hot and they are showing up at several sling manufacturers as OEM gear. Now is your chance to win one free of charge from IWC and Jerking the Trigger.

To Enter:

All that you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post that contains something that you like about the new site and something specific that you think can be improved about the new site. Please be specific and thorough. IWC will be using this input to make the new site even better. 

Rules:

The giveaway will be open until 8PM (EST) Saturday, May 28th. There will be 2 winners chosen randomly. Your comment number is your entry number and numbers will be chosen using a random number generator. Please follow the instructions carefully. Incomplete entries will be discarded. Please use a valid email address when you leave a comment so I can notify you if you win.

Good luck!

Remember to use the coupon code “triggerjerk” at checkout to receive 5% discount at IWC.

Review: Retro-Tactical Rimfire Pouches

Tony at Retro-Tactical has made it his mission to provide tactical gear for the weapons that the majority of the tactical gear makers have forgotten, ignored, or never even heard of. I first came across his work when I was looking for a MOLLE mountable 10/22 magazine pouch. He makes some really interesting items for everything from 1911s, to PSLs, to revolvers… that’s right, tactical gear for revolvers. When Tony offered to send me some pouches to review, I jumped at the chance.

Loose Ammo (top) and 10/22 Magazine Pouch (bottom)

10/22 Universal Gunsaddle

Overall Quality

The quality of these pouches is immediately apparent. The stitching is straight and clean. Many of the edges and seams are taped (though not all of them). The materials that Tony uses are top notch. The pouches are constructed from double layered 1000 denier nylon. It should take you a lifetime to wear a hole all the way through one of these pouches.

Attention to detail - The loose ammo pouch has a smaller drainage grommet to prevent .22LR cartridges from dropping out.

The attention to detail is very good. Tony uses two layers of nylon in the construction of the pouch and sews them so that the stitching from the hook and loop closure won’t show through to the front of the pouch. This gives a very clean look. This is the kind of detail that most users will never notice, but Tony took the time to think about.

The hook and loop closure on these pouches is very well designed. The hook side is oriented vertically on the underside of the lid and the loop side is horizontal on the front of the pouch. This allows the lid to be fastened as tight or loose as the user wants. The design and execution of these pouches is very thoughtful.

This hook and loop orientation allows the user to keep the lid as tight or loose as they want.

Loose Ammo Pouch

The first pouch that I tried was the MOLLE version of the Loose Ammo Pouch (there is a belt version as well). This is one clever pouch. It is designed to hold loose ammo in a way that is secure and easy to access. As you can imagine, designing a pouch that holds loose rounds as small as .22LR without spilling the while the user is moving takes some time at the drawing board. Tony designed this pouch with a flap of lightweight ripstop nylon that is secured at the front of the pouch (the side away from the wearer). The other side is secured with a piece of elastic. The flap completely covers the mouth of the pouch but is easily pushed to the side as you access the ammo. It is ingenious.

The interior flap helps keep the loose ammo inside the pouch, even when the flap is open.

The flap is easily stretched out of the way to access the ammo.

I tested this pouch several ways. I loaded it with 50 rounds of .22LR ammo, turned it upside down and shook it. It did drop some rounds but that was to be expected. Next, I conducted the same test but with the pouch right side up. The pouch retained all 50 rounds. This is more accurate test of what it will be like when worn. I also did the same tests but with the flap secured tightly. Nothing escaped. Finally, I secured the pouch to an out of the way spot on my MOLLE belt rig and ran through carbine drills on the range. I didn’t access the pouch for the drills. I just wanted to see how it would perform while the user was running, dropping into prone, and doing other shooting related activities. At the end of the day, all 50 rounds were still in the pouch.

The pouches can be closed very tightly to prevent any ammo from being lost.

This pouch is perfect for those who have tube fed rifles chambered in .22LR. It could be attached to the MOLLE belt pad of a pack (like those from Mystery Ranch or Kifaru) or a belt to keep your ammo right at your finger tips when you are small game hunting or hiking. It can even hold boxed .22LR ammo. I found that it would fit 2 boxes of .22LR with room to spare.

I’ll say it again: This is one clever pouch.

Ruger 10/22 Dual Magazine Pouch

The next pouch that I tried was what Tony calls the Ruger 10/22 Dual Magazine Pouch. I had the MOLLE version to test (there is also a belt version). It is essentially a revolver speed-loader pouch which I have found to work very well for the 10/22 10 round rotary magazines. I have been using a belt mounted speed-loader pouch for years to carry my 10/22 magazines so I was very pleased to find that Tony offered a MOLLE mount version.

The webbing straps help retain the magazines when the lid is open and keep them from noisily banging into each other.

Magazines oriented this way make for quick and easy reloads.

The interior of the pouch has webbing straps (just like a speed-loader pouch) that help retain and stabilize the magazines. They work well to stabilize the magazines but they can be a bit of a pain when you are trying to insert a magazine into the pouch. They tend to smash down under the magazine instead of wrapping around it. However, once the mags are in place, the straps do a fine job of retaining them. I also found that it become easier over time to insert the magazines. I am not sure whether that was because the straps loosened a bit with use or because I got better at inserting them.

It might also be nice if this had a split lid so that one magazine could be removed without fear of accidentally dumping the other magazine. That didn’t happen to me in testing but I could see how it might.

This pouch is great for mounting on the MOLLE belt of my favorite packs – the Kifaru MOLLE Express and the ZXR. It allows me to easily carry a couple of spare magazines for my 10/22 when small game hunting or hiking. The pouch allows very smooth reloads. The user clears the flap and presses up on the bottom of the pouch under the magazine that they wish to remove. The magazine slides up into the hand is ready to be inserted into the 10/22. It is quick and smooth. I envisioned this pouch on the waist belt of a pack all along and I am very pleased with how it worked out.

The rear of the pouch shows the 2x2 MOLLE webbing configuration.

Attaching the MOLLE Pouches

I should say a few words about attaching these pouches to MOLLE webbing. MOLLE pouches are threaded onto the MOLLE platform and typically this requires at least 3 rows of webbing vertically on the back of the pouch to do effectively. The above pouches are so compact that there is only room for 2 rows vertically.

I found 3 methods that worked very well for attaching them. The first was to use zip ties which actually worked really well. Tony has written about this on his blog.

The pouches can be tricky to mount. Annex Clips were used to mount the pouch on the left and MALICE clips on the right.

Annex Clips are the perfect solution for mounting these pouches.

The next method that I tried was the use of short MALICE clips. This worked but quite a bit of the clips were visible below the pouch. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it did render an extra row of MOLLE webbing useless.

Finally, I remembered that I had some ITW Annex Clips. These were the perfect solution for the short pouches. I attached them to the lower row of MOLLE to prevent the pouch from rocking up when I tried to lift the flap. They hold very securely while still allowing the pouch to be moved easily.

Universal Gunsaddle

The final pouch is easily my favorite of what Tony sent me (and that is saying a lot). Retro-Tactical makes the Universal Gunsaddle for several rifles, including the 10/22 version which Tony sent me. This pouch is just too cool. It is essentially the same pouch as the 10/22 Dual Magazine Pouch above except it is sewn to buttstock saddle. It allows you to carry 2 spare magazine for the 10/22, unobtrusively, right on the buttstock of the rifle.

The Universal Gunsaddle lets you keep 2 spare magazines on the 10/22 itself.

Like the 10/22 Dual Magazine Pouch above, I believe that the Universal Gunsaddle could also benefit from a split lid. However, in my testing, it worked fine as is.

Attaching it is simple. You just loosen the cord-lock, slide the whole Universal Gunsaddle onto your rifle, and then tighten the cord-lock (more detailed instructions can be found on the Retro-Tactical Blog). There are webbing loops on the saddle portion of the pouch that has para-cord routed through them. This creates the “Universal” part of the pouch because it can be readily adapted to fit a wide variety of stocks. I tested it on a factory birch stock, the old style factory polymer stock, the new style factory polymer stock, and a Hogue stock.

The saddle part of the pouch is only as thick as 2 layers of 1000 denier nylon so it doesn’t interfere with the cheek weld at all. In fact, it is an improvement over the Hogue stock which can feel a bit slimy on a hot day. It would be cool if Tony could offer these with closed cell foam padding in the saddle to act as a comb riser for those who need it. Since Tony does do custom work, I suspect that he could easily accommodate that.

This Gunsaddle is just so handy. You can carry all of the ammo you need for an afternoon of small game hunting right on the gun. If you keep a 10/22 as a truck gun or a survival rifle, this pouch would be perfect for storing the ammo in such a way that it was always with the gun.

Overall

I am very happy with these pouches. The materials are top notch and the construction is very good. The designs and attention to detail are excellent. They function well and fill a void in my gear. Tony has shown that he definitely knows how to fill a niche. I had an absolute blast reviewing these pouches.

You can check out Tony’s whole niche filling product line at Retro-Tactical.com.

Disclosure: I received these pouches free of charge for review from Retro-Tactical.

Midwest Industries #17 Drop In Handguard Gen. 2

When it comes to fighting carbines, less weight is better than more weight. When it comes to wallets, more full is better than less full. The new Midwest Industries Generation 2 #17 Drop In Handguard can help you make sure your carbine stays light and your wallet stays full.

The biggest draws with this handguard are that it is light in weight and low in price. That is a pretty good combination. It is available in carbine and midlength lengths and weighs in at only 7.5oz and 9.7oz respectively. That is less weight that the standard plastic handguards with heat shields! That is really impressive for a handguard that retails under $140.

On top of low price and light weight, these handguards also feature 4 anti-rotation push button QD sling swivel receptacles, 4 “T” marked rails, a “monolithic” top rail, hard anodized 6061 aluminum construction, and they are made in the USA. I had a Gen. 1 #17 Handguard and they exhibited excellent lock-up. I have heard that these lock up even better than the originals.

Installation is a snap. They simply install in the exact same manner as standard plastic handguards.

Check out the new Gen. 2 #17 Drop In Handguards on Midwest Industries’ website.

Remington 700 SPS Tactical AAC-SD

The Remington 700 SPS Tactical AAC-SD is an extremely attractive rifle package. Remington and AAC have teamed up to bring this suppressor ready, tactical precision rifle to market. This particular Model 700 brings some serious value to the table. The MSRP is only $780 (the street price is lower) and you get a ton of great features for that $780.

The rifle comes with a Hogue Overmolded Ghillie Green aluminum pillar bedded stock. It also comes with Remington’s X-Mark Pro adjustable trigger (preset at 3.5#). The heart of the AAC-SD package is the 5/8-24 threaded 20″ barrel. It is ready for you to drop your AAC suppressor on and hit the range.

This would be a great starter rifle for those who want to get into long distance shooting.

You can check out the Remington 700 SPS Tactical AAC-SD in more detail at the Remington website.

Bulgarian Krinkov Handguard from Midwest Industries

If you have a “Krink”, then you will be delighted to hear that there is a new railed handguard option available to you. The Bulgarian Krinkov Handguard from Midwest Industries (MI-AK-K) is very similar to their excellent MI-AK handguard for the AK47/74 but it is sized to fit the smaller Krink.

The MI-AK-K is made in the USA from 6061 aluminum and then finished with durable hard coat anodization. It features 4 “T” marked rails for adding accessories like a sling mount or weapon light. It only weighs 9.5 ounces which is impressively light and it installs easily using wrenches that MI includes with the handguard.

It will be interesting to see if MI comes out with a replacement top cover like they and US-Palm did with the MI-AK rail. The MI/US-Palm top cover allows for low mounting several different kinds of compact red dot optics. The mount is low enough that the iron sights can co-witness through the optic. The top cover that comes with the MI Krinkov Handguard is suitable for mounting an optic but it may not allow co-witnessing due to the height.

This looks like another solid, reasonably priced handguard rail option from MI.

Apex Tactical Specialties J-Frame Kit

I have to admit that I love J-Frame Smith & Wesson revolvers – especially the Airweights. They are just a great combination of ease of carry, conceal-ability, potency, and reliability. Some people have referred to them as the “expert’s gun” because their long, relatively heavy double action trigger and small sights with a short sight radius can make them challenging to shoot well.

Apex Tactical Specialties (ATS) is about to release a kit that should make the J-Frame trigger easier to manage. You may already know ATS for their S&W M&P trigger parts. They know how to make a good trigger great. Unlike some manufacturers, many of their trigger parts are geared toward tactical, duty, and self protection markets – not competition. These are rugged parts.

The new kit from ATS will yield a trigger pull of just over 9 pounds. My current S&W 442 measures out at a smooth but heavy 11 pounds. A 9 pound trigger that is still suitable for a gun that is relied on for self protection would be a welcome improvement.

The new kit is set to be released at the NRA show in Pittsburgh, PA on April 29th. I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing some more details and pricing.

Vicking Tactics Surefire Mini-L4

Viking Tactics has teamed up with Surefire to produce well thought out lights before. Now they have come up with the VTAC Surefire Mini-L4.

Many of the lights that Surefire makes these days offer multiple levels of output. This can be a great option for a light that is going to see general use since it allows the user to tailor the amount of light to the task at hand. However, it is not necessarily best for a weapon light. When you turn on your weapon light, you want lots and lots of light… right now.

The VTAC Mini-L4 is a compact, single CR123 battery powered light that has one output level (110 lumens) and a focused beam that allows it to provide usable light at extended distances. When you turn it on, you get bright white light. There is no chance of accidentally entering a lower output mode.

The VTAC Mini-L4 is available by itself or as part of a package with the excellent VTAC Light Mount. The combo makes a great alternative to the Surefire M300 Scout.

The VTAC Surefire Mini-L4 is available on the VTAC website.

New Ruger SR1911

Last week, photos of the new SR1911 were leaked. Ruger made the official announcement today. There is a new 1911 on the market.

The SR1911 seems to be pretty standard fare for a 1911 these days. It has many of the features that were once custom additions but now are fairly common (Novak 3-dot sights, skeletonized trigger, skeletonized hammer, extended thumb safety, beavertail grip safety, etc). It will be interesting to see the initial reviews on the SR1911 to how well these parts are fit to the handgun.

One of the more interesting features is that the plunger tube is integral to the frame which will alleviate the worry of it coming unstaked. This is a nice feature since many 1911 grips on the market are poorly fit for supporting the plunger tube. It should also be noted that this is a series 70 1911 which many shooters prefer. Ruger also chose to use a standard recoil spring plug and bushing which is, in my opinion, a better choice than the full length guide rods that are found on so many 1911s these days.

Ruger does have some previous experience with 1911s. Their investment casting company, Pine Tree Castings, has provided castings to Caspian Arms. We will have to wait an see how much, if at all, that experience translates to a reliable 1911.

These have an MSRP of $799. That could place the street price in the low $600 range. If Ruger can deliver a reliable 1911 for around $600 it will certainly make things interesting.

You can check out the SR1911 on Ruger’s website.

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