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