In our effort to update the AK47 the first aspect that needs to be addressed is the sighting system. The stock AK comes with plain notch and post sights. The rear sight is elevation adjustable. The front sight is used to change elevation and windage for zeroing. The sights are not quickly adjustable in the field. They are really designed to be zeroed and left alone. The notch and post are not very effective in low light and the short sight radius make them less than precise for long range shots.
There are a number of dust cover mounted rear sights available as well as high visibility front sights, however none of them are as fast on target as a good red dot sight.
In order to support a red dot sight we selected the Midwest Industries Extended AK47/74 Universal Handguard. MI has a wide range of AK handguards available. We decided on the Universal Extended because it was a perfect fit for our Stamped WASR 10. The extended length gives us the opportunity to later attach a grip in a forward position, but also helps to protect our hand from hot operating system components.
Installing the MI Extended Handguard was very simple. The most unnerving step for some, will be cutting off the sling look on the handguard retainer. This is easily accomplished with a dremel or die grinder, but can also be done with a hacksaw and file.
Once the loop is removed, it’s quick and easy to cover the bare metal with some Super Black touch up paint. The handguard will cover this area from view so this step is more for rust prevention than cosmetics.
When you have finished touching up your work, installing the hand guard is a bolt on affair. The MI Extended AK Handguard comes with the allen wrenches, thread locker and screws required for the installation.
The AK is not exactly what we would consider a precision machined assembly. Some parts vary considerably in their acceptable dimensions. For this reason we recommend dry fitting the hand guard. When you first install it snug the fasteners finger tight and do not use any thread locker. The purpose is just to check for any interference. Once you are confident that everything is going to line up, then you can use the threadlocker and tighten the screws down.
After the old wood handguard has been removed, the lower portion of the Midwest Industries Extended handguard can be set in place. Locate the barrel clamp and the four long screws. Set the barrel clamp in place and install the screws until they are hand tight.
Using a torpedo level or equivalent make sure that the receiver and the handguard are level. This will prevent any problems when zeroing the optic later.
Remove the upper wood handguard from the gas tube by rotating it 180 degrees and pulling it off. Also remove the metal spring clip. If this is difficult, you can use an adjustable wrench across the flat portion on the rear of the gas tube.
Install the gas tube on the rifle. Then set the upper half of the MI Extended Handguard in place. You will notice that the screw holes will only line up one way. If they do not line up, turn the piece around until they do.
Install the two small screws opposite of each other to ensure that the upper half fits properly.
Once you have checked the fit, remove the upper half of the MI Extended Handguard. Removing one screw at a time, apply thread locker to the screws securing the barrel clamp. After all screws have been addressed, tighten them in a criss-cross pattern to prevent the handguard from rotating.
Locate the two set screws included with the handguard. Apply threadlocker to them and insert them into the upper holes in the barrel clamp on either side of the gas tube. Only tighten the set screws until they are snug against the tube. Once the set screws are in place, confirm that you are still able to remove and reinstall the gas tube.
Place the upper half of the handguard back in place and install all four short screws using thread locker.
To avoid stripping out the screw holes, tighten the screws by holding the short end of the allen key. Once they are tight, turn the key around and add 1/8th of a turn holding the long end of the key. Do not overdo it.
Reassemble your rifle and confirm that it cycles freely without any binding.
Congratulations! You now have a solid way to attach a red dot sight, weapon light or forward grip.
In our next episode we will address the pistol grip ergonomics.