Tactical AK: Making the AK Modern Part 2

In Part 1 of our Tactical AK: Making the AK Modern, we went over modern products for the gun build. Today we are covering rail options and how to install them. Part 3 will cover optics, accessories, and options for Defensive AK classes.

Rail Systems for the Tactical AK

In today’s article, we will predominantly cover the types of modern railings for optics and accessories that are available for AK47 variants. It can get a little confusing as it isn’t as easy as the AR platform. Therefore the article is organized into railings for the front of the gun and railings for the rear of the gun, including side-mounted railings. We’ll move from the front to the back of the gun.

tactical ak build with rs regulate ak rail
This Rifle Dynamics gun comes already with an RS-Regulate Rail bottom rail and an Ultimak top rail. The RS Regulate bottom rail allows for M-LOK attachments such as the rail scales shown and a Quick Detach sling point. The Ultimak top rail allows for optics to be mounted on top of the front of the AK.

The Front Rail System/Handguard

A traditional AK does not allow for any accessories to be attached to your rail system due to the rail being—well, not really a system at all. Traditional AKs often have a two-piece wood or plastic furniture rail that is attached to the gas tube with no openings to attach things except a simple sling loop. Everything needed to make an AK tactical, such as a flashlight or foregrip, has zero points to attach onto. However, today there are options that can even be installed at home.

The first question that you need to ask yourself is what you really need as far as a railing goes. Do you need a rail in the front of the gun that has a top Picatinny shelf for mounting an optic? Or do you simply need a handguard that can attach a couple of accessories on the side and bottom? This will impact what you ultimately purchase.

Top Front Rail

There are some benefits to a top rail shelf on the front of the gun. If you want to, you can push your optic forward in a type of scout configuration. Also, if you want to keep your rear sight in place on the back of the gun, a rear Picatinny shelf can impact that.

Installation: Many of the front rail systems involve screws and Allen keys that allow the railing to clamp around the gas tube. A full strip of the front of the AK will be needed. This can get a little wild sometimes depending on your type of AK, so just be sure to google the product that you purchase. There are a lot of install videos out there for each type and most can be done without the need for a Gunsmith.

Options for Purchase

Note: Many of the top railings offered today usually come as a set with both top and bottom rail. Ensure that you pay attention to what you’re getting when purchasing.

  • Ultimak AK-47 Optics Mount (without side gas ports)
  • Midwest Industries Gen 2 AK-47/AK-74 Extended Hand Guard M-LOK Compatible Rail Top Cover 6061 Aluminum Matte Black
  • SLR Rifleworks AK Railed Gas Tube
  • Rifle Dynamics Quickhatch Handguard Kit
  • AimSports AK M-LOK HANDGUARD (Long)

Bottom Front Rail/Handguard

There are also modern options for only ordering a bottom handguard with slots for accessories. This is appreciated if you don’t need a top Picatinny shelf at the front of your gun.

Installation: To install these handguards the front of the gun will still need to be totally disassembled. A small hammer and some finesse will probably be needed but if you are careful, everything should be able to be completed with a Gunsmith. Be sure not to bend or break any of the lugs when disassembling your current furniture because they will still be needed for the new furniture.

Options for Purchase

Note: Make sure to note if your AK has a sling loop or not. This will impact which products you can/cannot purchase as some products are meant for handguard retainers without the sling loop.

  • Midwest Industries AK Drop In M-Lok Universal Handguard Aluminum Black
  • Magpul MOE AK Hand Guard – AK47/AK74
  • UltiMAK AK Multi Rail Forend Stamped Compact Model

Rear Rail System/Side Mounts

If you would like to mount an optic on the rear of your AK there are also some modern options and placements to do so. The dust cover can be replaced with a Picatinny railed dust cover. There are also some smaller rails that can be installed above the rear sight. The most common, though, is a side mount in which the railing wraps around the receiver. This is bulkier but the easiest to install.

Optic Rear Top Mount (Dust Cover)

Installation: Installing the new Picatinny dust cover is not as easy as just pulling off your current cover and replacing it with the new one. However, the replacement can still be done at home. To install most of these new covers you will need to install a new hinge pin with the cover. This will be under spring pressure so many like to use a C-Clamp type tool to keep pressure on the leaf spring under the hinge portion of the cover. Again, there are a ton of YouTube videos out there for most individual covers.

Options to Purchase

  • Palmetto State Armory AK-P Hinged Picatinny Dust Cover
  • FAB Defense AK/AKM Picatinny Scope-Mount Dust Cover
  • Texas Weapon Systems Dog Leg Rail, Gen-3 – AKM, AK-47 / 74
  • JL Billet AK Dust Cover
psa dust cover hinged
The Palmetto State Armory hinged dust cover changes out your traditional dust cover for one with a Picatinny rail. This allows the user to mount an optic on the rear of their AK. (Photo: PalmettoStateArmory.com)

Optic Side Mount

There are two things that you will need to use a side mount for an optic. The actual bracket that the mount will sit on, and the mount itself.

The Bracket/Side Rail

The bracket on the side of the AK receiver is often riveted on, meaning it is a permanent modification and likely came with the gun upon purchase. However, you are in luck if it didn’t come straight from the manufacturer with the bracket riveted in, as there are aftermarket brackets that can be installed without permanent modification.

Installation: This bracket is mounted by using the hammer and trigger pin axis holes. The proprietary mounting pins will go through those holes to mount the bracket on the side of the receiver. So, you will need to know how to strip the receiver or use slave pins to hold the guts in.

Options to Purchase

Due to the whole non permanent modification part there aren’t many products out there. Actually there is only one product that I know of currently on the market. (Unless I missed one, if so leave it in the comments). The cool thing about this product other than no permanent modifications thing is that you can flip it to either side of the AK.

  • AK Master Mount Side Rail Kit
ak master mount side rail mount screwed in to receiver
AK Master Mount gives us the only non-permanent modification needed side mount rail. It allows for a mount to be installed which can then allow for an optic to be placed on the rear of the AK. (Photo:AKMasterMount.com)

The Mount

The mount is the part that attaches to the bracket on the side rail. This mount essentially wraps around the AK receiver and acts as your top Picatinny rail. There are many options for these rails such as a rail for an ACOG, or a rail with a footprint an Aimpoint T1. Be sure to search for the rail that fits your optic if you want a direct mount for it and not just a Picatinny rail. There are even rail mounts out there that allow you to detach the top portion and switch that out for your type of optic. This means that you won’t have to buy an entirely new mount, just the top portion.

The placement of your optic can also be adjusted depending on the mount you purchase, such as front biased or sitting lower or higher on the gun.

Installation: To install these mounts, often it’s just a type of quick detach lever that attaches to the side rail on the receiver.

Options to Purchase

midwest industries optic mount
The Midwest Industries Gen 2 AK Mount clamps to the mount on the side of the receiver by a lever. This mount also comes with an interface chosen by the user dependent on what optic the user wants.

Come back tomorrow!

Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 3 of our Tactical AK series. We will cover optics, accessories, and options for Defensive AK classes.

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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