Tactical AK: Making the AK Modern Part 1

Let’s shift our way of thinking from “Tactical” to “Modern.” Firearms handlers are getting better by the day and this is due to modern practices/training and modern upgrades to their firearms. A lot of time and research has been spent figuring out what works. So what works in the AK world now?

When it comes to tactical/modernized anything there are a few key things that firearms handlers will need to upgrade to ensure that their firearm handles the best that it can. These things include making the firearm ergonomically friendly, the ability to acquire targets fast which means a red dot, and the ability to do things at night, ie a light on the gun.

Standard and traditional AK variants allow you to pretty much do none of that easily. However, it is 2023 and the modern AK world is in full force giving us updated gas tubes with rails, M-LOK handguards, adjustable stocks, and suppressor-ready muzzle devices. Not only are there products out there on the market but there are also Tactical AK Classes being provided by some well-known companies.

Put it all together with some time on the range and you now have a Modernized AK and the knowledge to handle it.

This is Part One of a three-part series. Part One is going over modernized products for the gun build, and Part Two will be on rail options and how to install them. Part Three will go over optics, accessories, and options for Defensive AK Classes.

Disclaimer: While it may seem easy to swap parts on the AR platform, AK’s not so much. Before you do any of these modifications, ensure that you’ve done the proper research specifically pertaining to what kinds of AKs the pieces will/will not fit (milled, Yugo, Chinese, side folder) and how to properly install it. 

Most of the recommendations below are non-permanent modifications to your AK, and therefore should be able to be installed by someone of competence.

Enhanced AK Safety Lever

Reaching the safety on the AK platform involves breaking your firing hand grip. Let’s assume you’re a righty, so you flip the safety with your whole palm or index finger. If you are going to shoot the most efficiently that you can, do you want to break your grip? No.

Thankfully there are updated safety levers that can fix this issue with an added lip that allows you to use your index finger or even thumb without breaking your grip.

There are also safety levers that include a bolt hold open notch. In the tactical world, this is great, It enables you to show safety status. Traditional AKs have no bolt hold open.

working the enhanced safety without breaking firing hand grip
An enhanced safety selector on an AK can do two things. One, you can switch the selector without breaking your firing hand grip and two, it can add a bolt hold open feature with an added notch in the selector.

Installation: Replacement of this is as easy as field stripping the AK and pulling out the safety.

Options to Purchase

Note: Ensure that the product can fit on your specific AK before purchasing.

  • PSA AK Extended Safety Lever w/ Bolt Hold Open
  • AK Master Mount Enhanced Safety Lever
  • Carolina Shooters Supply Bolt Hold Open Notch for Stamped AK47/AK74
  • Krebs Custom Mk VI Enhanced Safety for Stamped Rifles


A good trigger means a smooth trigger break, a pull weight that adheres to what you are doing, i.e., not too light and not too heavy, and doesn’t malfunction. Today there are a few options for aftermarket triggers if you aren’t happy with yours.

Installation: Swapping an AK trigger is a lot different than on the AR platform. If you don’t remove the heavy hammer springs properly, they can bit you or make the reinstall very difficult. This can be done at home, but you need to know what you are doing.

Pro Tip: The video below shows an easy way to install a TapCo AK trigger. Notice how he uses a rubber band to hold the hammer springs up against the hammer. This can also be done with an expended plastic shotgun shell by placing it over the entire hammer. Twist ties or lacing wire can also work. Just be sure to use something and not allow those springs to spring off of the hammer.

Options to Purchase

  • Kalashnikov USA AK 2.0 ELITE TRIGGER
  • Geissele AK Trigger Enhanced with Lightning Bow (AKT-EL)
  • TAPCO G2 Single Hook Trigger Group AK-47 Steel Matte
  • FIME Group Fire Control Group AK/RPK
  • HIPERFIRE Xtreme AK Mark 2 Single Stage Trigger Assembly – Flat Bow

M4 Stock and Stock Adapter

All rifles need the correct length of pull for the individual shooter. Traditional AKs often don’t allow for any adjustments. Today there are adapters to change your traditional AK stock to a modern M4-style tube and stock. This allows for your preference of M4 style stock such as Magpul or B5 and allows adjustability. AKs can also often be purchased with this M4 style stock in place already.

rifle dynamics ak m4 stock adapter
If you do own an AK that did not come with an M4 modern stock compatible trunnion and tube there are companies such as Rifle Dynamics that offer these adapters. This adapter specifically does come with instructions to install but be sure to look up how-to videos. As always, if you don’t know, bring it to someone who does. (Photo: Rifle Dynamics)

Installation: The hardest part about installing a lot of these adapters is the removal of your already installed traditional stock. Therefore, if you don’t find any good videos on how to properly remove your specific style of stock, you can reach out to a proper AK gunsmith. It may not take more than 20 minutes for them to remove the stock and install the adapter but they probably know the tricks to do it.

Options to Purchase

  • Rifle Dynamics AK to M4 Stock Adapter
  • Strike Industries AK to AR Stock Adapter
  • IMI Defense MAK1 AK to M4 Stock Adapter

Extended Charging Handle

While there are many methods to charging your AK (which is why you should take a class and learn the methods) the main method is to come under the gun with your non-firing hand (assuming that you’re a righty) and using your index finger to push the charging handle back. The lever on the handle is often a small curved lever and can be short. To make this more ergonomically friendly there are options for adding an extended charging handle to make the lever easier to reach.

using a traditional charging handle on an ak
This is a standard charging handle on an AK. Notice how thin it is and without any grip. Since you have to charge an AK on the underside of the gun, a larger charging lever with additional grip would not hurt, especially if you are using gloves.

Installation: A lot of the installs on various extended charging handles involve two set screws. However, different products are different sizes and need different amounts of torque and thread locker, so be sure that you follow the instructions given by the manufacturer. Below is a video demonstrating how to install the Kalashnikov USA AK Extended Charging Handle.

Options for Purchase

  • Kalashnikov USA AK Extended Charging Handle – KS12 – KR-103 – Komrad
  • Texas Shooters Supply Custom AK-47/AK-74/AKM Bolt-On Oversize Charging Handle Gen3 FDE
  • Carolina Shooters Supply AK47/AK74/AKM CHARGING HANDLE – CSS KNURLED BOLT ON – New Stainless Steel
  • Texas Weapon Systems Hob Knob

Pistol Grip

The grip on an AK comes down to personal preference just like on the AR platform. Many traditional AKs have a slippery, very skinny, nontextured grip. Switching this out for a more modern grip with texture and a thicker body can make handling easier. These days there are a lot of options out there for AK-compatible modernized grips.

magpul moe ak grip on an ak
Many shooters fall in love with a certain type of grip on the AR platform but aren’t aware that these same grips are available for the AK platform. This is the MOE AK Grip from Magpul. An already well-loved grip on the AR side of the house. (Photo: Magpul)

Installation: Removal of the traditional grip is often the removal of a screw and a lug nut, make sure not to lose either of them. Then simply install the new modernized grip which is usually a simple drop in just like the AR platform pistol grips.

Options for Purchase

Anne Smith is a Veteran of the full time MNARNG force as a Small Arms Repairer and worked to bolster their marksmanship team. Mainly a technical writer and gunsmith within the Federal world she comes with many armorer classes under her belt such as KAC, Glock, every FN weapon in the book, and Small Arms Weapons Expert (SAWE). So, sorry to bore you with the knowledge that actually make firearms shoot. Currently heavily into the long range world she competes in National Rifle League Hunter and various Gas Gun Precision Series.

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