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Modernizing the AK Part 6: Triggers

This is the 6th installment of our series on modernizing the AK. In this installment I will be discussing triggers.

I generally prefer to keep the fire control parts of any fighting rifle as original as possible. The parts that are original to these firearms have generally been engineered for durability and reliability at the expense of a light, crisp trigger pull. However, one thing that I do not permit is trigger slap (which AKs are somewhat notorious for). Trigger slap is what happens when a poorly constructed trigger resets – it literally slaps your trigger finger. After a long course of fire it can become somewhat painful, especially on a cold day.

The Tapco G2 trigger is standard on many AK builds.

There are two ways to address trigger slap: modify the existing fire control parts or purchase aftermarket parts. There are plenty of good tutorials online about modifying your existing parts to reduce or eliminate trigger slap. If you are unwilling or unable to modify these parts yourself, you are left with the aftermarket option.

I have experience with 3 different triggers that are readily available. The first is the Red Star Arms Adjustable AK Trigger System. Once it is adjusted, it offers a surprising clean, crisp, and light trigger pull. That excellent trigger pull comes with a price. It costs more than any of the following options and it has small set screws that are used to adjust it. I prefer trigger groups that don’t have screws that can back out at inopportune times, but this is a very well made option.

The second option is the Tapco G2 Trigger. Many US AK builders are including these on their builds now. In fact many people have them and don’t even know it. I have a Tapco G2 that came installed in a very nice Vector Arns Polish build. It has served well. The G2 triggers seem to have a fairly wide variance in trigger pull weight (which might have more to do with the variance in AK receivers). Some of them are extremely light which isn’t really what I prefer for a fighting rifle. They also lack any sort of trigger feel. You can’t feel the point at which the trigger will break or the reset. It is just a sort of light and long trigger pull that lacks any sort of tactile indication of when the shot will break. It can take some getting used to.

The two-stage trigger that comes standard with the Arsenal SGL-21 is very decent.

The third option is my favorite. K-Var has a 2 stage trigger that they sell that is competitively priced and offers a very decent trigger pull. It isn’t as light as the G2 or the Red Star Arms triggers but it very useable. It feels like a traditional military 2 stage trigger with a light take up in the first stage and then a fairly clean let off in the second stage. It isn’t a match trigger by any stretch of the imagination, but most AKs aren’t match rifles by any stretch of the imagination.

Conclusion

To sum up, I don’t modify the trigger in an AK as an accuracy aid (though it doesn’t hurt), but I do modify the trigger in order to make the rifle more shootable. I do not tolerate trigger slap and you shouldn’t either. Whether you modify your current trigger group or purchase an aftermarket trigger group is up to you. If your AK doesn’t exhibit any trigger slap, then spend the money and time on practice instead of a new trigger.

2011 Gunnie Awards from LuckyGunner.com

LuckyGunner.com is a great place to buy ammo and a great friend to this blog. They are hosting the voting for the 2011 Gunnie Awards to “recognize the best gun bloggers & websites for their contribution to firearm news, politics, and law over the past year.” The awards are based on voting by readers like you.

Jerking the Trigger has been nominated for a “Gunnie” under the category of Gear Reviews. The other blogs in the category are very deserving but I hope that you will consider voting for Jerking the Trigger.

You can vote by clicking HERE to visit LuckyGunner.com.

Modernizing the AK Part 5: Selectors

In this fifth installment of this series on updating the AK, I will be looking at selector switches. While these may seem insignificant at first, there is actually a significant ergonomic advantage to be gained here.

The SWIFT Lever from Blackjack Buffers is no longer manufactured but it is classic AK gear.

The standard AK selector is a thin lever that rides flat against the receiver. It is moved up for “safe” and down for “fire”. The biggest issue with it is that the user usually can not maintain a firing grip while operating it. One method of operation requires the user to keep their thumb hooked on the grip while their other four fingers sweep the selector downward. Another technique has the user carry the AK with their weapon hand (strong hand) on the magazine and their thumb resting on the selector, the thumb is used to sweep the selector down and then the hand is moved to the grip.

The two above techniques may work and they may be “traditional,” but they are not efficient. I prefer to use an enhanced selector switch that has a small extension on it for use with the index finger on my right hand. This allows me to maintain a firing grip while operating the selector.

It is good practice to run your finger straight against the receiver to avoid accidentally contacting the trigger. These upgraded selector levers allow me to do that and naturally sweep the selector to “fire” in the same motion as I would normally use to move to the trigger. When it is time to “safe” the AK, the same motion in reverse works to move the selector to the “safe” position and get my finger off the trigger.

The best upgraded selector that I have used is the SWIFT Lever by Blackjack Buffers but they are no longer manufactured. It used a relatively long tab with a 90 degree bend and works very well in both directions (up and down). You may be able to find them on the secondary market. Now I use the Kreb’s Custom Enhanced Selector Lever. It is nearly as good as the SWIFT Lever (and that is saying a lot).

The Krebs Enhanced Selector Lever is a worthy upgrade to any AK.

 

Conclusion

I consider one of these selector levers a must for any AK. The ergonomic and efficiency gains cannot be ignored.

Modernizing the AK Part 4: Optics

The vast majority of modern combat rifles make use of optics. Improvements in technology have made it possible to have optics that are extremely reliable and durable. In this fourth installment of our discussion about modernizing the AK, we will be taking a look at optics and mounts.

There was a time when mounting an optic on your AK would draw ridicule from hordes of AK traditionalists. Now, savvy shooters have realized that optics, like red dot sights (RDS), actually make their weapon more efficient and effective. Many are surprised to find just how accurate a quality AK can be after they shoot with an optic the first time.

 

Even an Aimpoint CompM2 can be co-witnessed on an Ultimak M1-B.

Mounts

This is a bit of a golden age for AK accessories. There are several high quality options on the market that allow shooters to mount a tremendous number of quality optics. The mount you choose will likely be dependent on the optic that you choose and the type of rifle that you own.

RS Products is a new manufacturer of AK optic mounts. Their new AKM mount allows AK shooters to mount an Aimpoint (or similar red dot sight) directly over the action. The mount sits low enough that the iron sights can be used through the Aimpoint and it is adjustable from side to side so that it can be centered over the AK. This is a really excellent option. You can also look for other optic mounts from RS Products in the future.

The Dog Leg Scope Rail from Texas Weapon Systems is a very clever optic mounting system. It replaces the standard top cover with a railed top cover that locks into the rear sight and a special cam lock release button. It is a very solid system that sits low enough to provide a proper cheek weld and still allows normal field stripping. It also allows the mounting of a small back up iron sight that really extends the sight radius of the AK. The Dog Leg Scope Rail would be a great choice for mounting a compact variable magnification optic.

The Ultimak M1-B is a tried and true option that has been on the market for several years now. It is my optic mount of choice because it sits low enough to co-witness an Aimpoint and is also a great place to mount a white light. Some users have also used the Ultimak M1-B to mount “scout” style scopes. It is a very durable and relatively light weight mount.

An Ultimak M1-B can serve as an optic mounting platform as well as a place to mount a white light.

Optics

In spite of the AK traditionalists who repeat the same “Keep that crap off my AK!” dogma over and over without critical thought, many shooters are finding that there is a place for optics on an AK. Shooting iron sights requires the shooter to align the target, the front sight, and the rear sight. The shooter must focus on the front sight. An optic like an RDS allows the shooter to align only the target and the optic’s reticle. The shooter can focus on the target. Modern optics promote situational awareness, accuracy, speed, and are durable enough to be relied upon.

I use Aimpoints on my AKs and I highly recommend them. The newest micro Aimpoints add barely any weight to the rifle and greatly enhance the function of the rifle. Quality RDS, like Aimpoints, are extremely durable, reliable, and offer battery life that is measured in years, not hours. Aimpoints and other RDS really shine from 0-200 yards which is an excellent match to the capabilities of the AK. 300 yards hits are also very possible with an AK/Aimpoint combination.

Mounts that place the optic over the receiver like the Dog Leg Scope Rail open up the possibility of using a low power variable magnification optic like the Trijicon TR21 Accupoint or similar. The lowest power setting on this style of optic lets users engage close targets effectively, while the higher magnification settings give the shooter more confidence at extended ranges.

The Ultimak M1-B has plenty of space for an Aimpoint micro and white light.

Conclusion

There is no reason to ignore combat optics unless you are an AK collector. If you are an AK shooter, especially one who trains to use their AK to defend their life, you can gain a tremendous amount of functionality and efficiency by mounting a quality optic. Choose the optic that you want, find a mounting method that is suited to that optic, and then train hard.

Modernizing the AK Part 3: Hand Guards

Hand guards are like a steering wheel for your gun. They are the interface between your hand and the gun. In this third installment of this series on updating the AK, we will be taking a look at hand guards.

The AK has two hand guards: an upper hand guard that contains the gas tube and a lower hand guard that protects the user from a hot barrel. There are many upper hand guard optic mounts but we will concentrate on those in a later post. For the purposes of this post, we will be discussing hand guards as a weapon control and accessory mounting platform only.

Stippling can greatly increase the functionality of standard polymer hand guards.

Lower Hand Guard

The lower hand guard is much larger than the upper hand guard and represents the majority of your gripping surface. Thankfully, AK users have more choices than ever when choosing a hand guard, but, as with any other firearm accessory, you should be cautious of what you spend your hard earned money on.

If the AK is your primary rifle you may want to consider adding a lower hand guard rail. A railed hand guard will give you more flexibility to mount vital accessories like a white light and sling. You can also consider adding a vertical or hand stop if you are so inclined, but care should be taken that the vertical grip does not interfere with rocking a magazine into the magazine well. Midwest Industries makes a very nice and very reasonably priced rail system for the AK. Ultimak makes an excellent extended rail system that helps shooters who like to run their hand out further than the standard hand guards allow (it also alleviates the issues with running a vertical grip on the AK platform by allowing you to run it out closer to the muzzle).

If the weight and cost of AK rail systems turn you off, there are other options. I choose to run the standard polymer hand guards on my AKs because I don’t want to spend the money for a rail on a weapon system that isn’t my primary. I start with quality plastic hand guards that have a metal heat shield and stipple them for increased grip. I use the increased grip to aggressively pull the AK into my shoulder much like I would with a vertical grip. I use the standard sling mount and mount my white light on the upper hand guard.

An Ultimak M1-B can serve as an optic mounting platform as well as a place to mount a white light.

Upper Hand Guard

The standard upper hand guard’s main role is to shield the user from the heat of the gas tube. Aftermarket railed upper hand guards have additional functionality, like allowing you to mount optics.

I prefer the Ultimak M1-B optic mount for my upper hand guard. It places a micro Aimpoint (or an M2/M3 with a low enough moutn) low enough that it cowitnesses with the iron sights. It is also long enough to offer plenty of space for mounting a light in an offset mount.

I should note that the offset light mount that you use should be made from metal and sit very low on the rail. I wouldn’t trust a plastic mount to handle the heat of the Ultimak, and if it is too thick it will obstruct the view through your Aimpoint. I have found the VLTOR offset scout mount to be excellent. This one from KZ works if you are on a budget, but it sticks out from the rail more than I prefer.

The Vltor Offset Scout Mount is a perfect combo with the Ultimak M1-B.

Conclusion

White lights and slings are a must on any defensive rifle. Choosing the right hand guard set up makes mounting them easy. If you choose your hand guard set up wisely you can improve the way your weapon handles, the speed at which you can drive the AK, the ease of mounting accessories, and it doesn’t have to cost a ton.

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.

MOLLE Visor Panel from Zulu Nylon Gear

When ever Zulu Nylon Gear (ZNG) turns out something new, I take note. Joel, the owner/operator of ZNG, always puts a really interesting spin on his designs. The new MOLLE Visor Panel is no exception. There have certainly been other MOLLE panels made to fit on sun visors but, as usual, the one from ZNG is loaded with features that make it unique and functional.

The ZNG MOLLE Visor Panel features a MOLLE panel on one side. This panel is 3 rows tall by 8 columns wide. This is tall enough and wide enough to fit most pouches on the market. Top and bottom row of MOLLE webbing is made from color matched elastic! This allows the user to easily store things like chem lights or pens. There is hook and loop material sewn between the MOLLE webbing rows that allows the user to affix hook and loop backed pouches or patches. That is three different ways to stow gear on the same the MOLLE panel.

If that doesn’t offer enough storage and organization potential for you, then you are in luck. The opposite side of the panel features slash pockets that would be perfect for storing maps, notebooks, a parking garage ticket, or anything else that you can fit. There is also another set of elastic loops that are suitable for storing a flashlight.

Both sides of the MOLLE Visor Panel are accessible because it actually wraps around the sun visor. I guess that if you like to check yourself out in the mirror often this may not be for you. If you aren’t worried about the mirror, this design is really efficient. It expands your storage and organization potential and allows you to store things that other panels might not accommodate.

It adjusts to a wide variety of visors via adjustable hook and loop straps. This would also make it fairly easy to take in and out of the vehicle if you are concerned with theft.

Zulu Nylon Gear continues to impress.

New Products from Mountain Ridge Gear

Mountain Ridge Gear (MRG) has rolled out a ton of cool stuff since I last wrote about them. I’ll highlight a few of them here.

TMP-W Extreme

TMP-W MOLLE

The most notable of the new crop are the 2 new versions of the Tactical Man Purse – Wide (TMP-W) which I previously reviewed. The TMP-W is one of the most impeccably made pieces of nylon gear that I have laid my hands on to date and I have no doubt that these new versions are going to be just as bomb-proof. Both new versions appear identical to the original TMP-W on the outside. It is the inside that sets them apart. The TMP-W Extreme has an interior that is completely covered with hook and loop material which offers the user nearly endless ways to quickly and easily organize the bag. The TMP-W MOLLE has an interior that is lined with MOLLE webbing which also allows a high degree of customization – especially if you already own a stash of MOLLE pouches like I am sure most of you do. The TMP-W has also seen some improvements in the form of available A-TACS camo and a new rubberized bottom panel.

Backpack Straps for the TMP

MRG also has a slick new set of backpack straps for the Tactical Man Purse. They attach to the carry handle of the TMP and allow the weight to be distributed between both shoulders instead of one like you would have with the standard shoulder strap. They also allow easy access to the TMP by simply taking one arm out of the strap and pulling the bag around to your side. These would be ideal to keep packed away inside the bag until you need them. They wouldn’t be my first choice for an overnight trip but they would sure beat having to carry a heavy bag on the single shoulder strap over long distances. This is a very clever idea.

Other new items include the extremely handy Quick Sac organizers in a variety of functional fabrics and the Hanging Pockets which will also work in your Kifaru bags.

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