Modernizing and Accessorizing the AK-47

It seems inevitable: if it’s got a Picatinny rail on it, there is an innate desire to hang any number of accessories from it. AR-15s have long been a popular platform for customizing, upgrading and accessorizing, although AK-47 style rifles have recently become increasingly popular as a platform for rail systems and their neverending lineup of accessories. Now more than ever we are seeing numerous manufacturers producing mounts, grips, stocks and rails for the AK platform.

six position stock
Command Arms 6-position adjustable stock for stamped AK receivers

We’ve all seen the monstrosities that result from going too far… rifles with multiple optics, flashlights, vertical forward grips, lasers, bipods, sling attachments, and even iPhones and cup holders hung off of the ubiquitous MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail.

How much is too much?

Where is the line between useful accessories and way too much junk?

Many fans of Mikhail Kalashnikov’s famous rifle argue that you shouldn’t tamper with perfection.

I’m sure there are those who might argue that we should still be tooling around in Henry Ford’s ethanol-powered Model A and that “640K [of computer memory] ought to be enough for anybody,” and indeed there is a time and place for improvement and modernization. That being said, the general form and function of the rifle should not change. Modifications to the bolt, safety and general handling of the rifle can cause confusion and/or malfunctions when under the stress of combat or timed competition.

Other changes and upgrades such as optics, rail systems and adjustable stocks do nothing but enhance an already well performing rifle.

  • The first and most obvious upgrade is the installation of an after market stock. Not everyone has arms of the same length and adjustable stocks are the obvious solution. While many people have dismissed the AR-style adjustable stock as a useful accessory for the AK rifle, we find it is an obvious solution to this ergonomic conundrum.
  • Adjustable stocks let you quickly adjust the length of pull to fit your individual arm length. One of the best collapsible stocks for the AK is the TAPCO 6-position stock. It is solid and well built, and lets you adjust the length of pull from 8.5 to 12.5inches. Well known AR accessory manufacturer Vltor also makes a 5-position Mil-Spec buffer tube for the AK that allows the use of any Mil-Spec AR stock.
  • After adding on an adjustable stock, the next natural step is to replace the thin standard AK pistol grip with something a little bigger and more ergonomic. For some people, the stock AK pistol grip works just fine. Myself, I have big hands and like something a little bigger to wrap my mitts around. The Tapco AK pistol grip patterned after the M249 SAW fits the bill just fine.
Black UTG Quad Rail for Romanian WASR AK Rifles on a white background
UTG Quad Rail for Romanian WASR AK Rifles
  • Rail systems allow you to mount quick-detach optics, along with other accessories, on the rifle.There are a number of systems currently on the market that replace the stock wooden AK handguards with a quad rail setup. Quad rail systems that replace the forearm have the added benefit of aiding in getting rid of heat. One of our most popular rail systems is the Leapers UTG quad rail system which includes rubber rail covers.

    But rail systems are a gateway accessory, leading to the attachment of more and more items of dubious usefulness. It’s important to be aware of the weight of each item you attach to your rail. Accessories stuck far out on a rail near the muzzle make a rifle heavier and more difficult to wield, leading to a loss in accuracy when shooting off-hand. The rail system you select should be lightweight and shouldn’t extend too far towards the muzzle.

  • Forward vertical grips are also a natural add-on when adding a quad rail. The AK platform, however, means that forward vertical grips are positioned well forward of the magazine so they do not interfere when performing magazine swaps.For this reason, it is important to choose a lightweight grip that won’t weigh down the end of the rifle too much. Our Leapers UTG vertical foregrip is easy to slide on and off of your rail, and tightens into place easily using a knob at the base of the grip. Its simple design makes it very lightweight, and it includes side panels designed to mount a pressure switch should you decide to add on a flashlight or laser.

Now that you’ve got a rail system selected and installed, it’s time to carefully choose what accessories you mount on it. Generally, optics should be limited to a red dot scope or MRDS, although a low power adjustable scope may come in handy as well. Due to the inherent accuracy (or lack thereof) of the AK, we feel that magnification beyond 4x is simply not useful for the AK platform. The AK rifle is most effective at ranges less than 400 yards, so anything more than 4x magnification is overkill.

Indeed, in a tactical application (including 3-gun matches) most engagements are at 25-100 yards, making a red dot system ideal for rapid target acquisition and “both eyes open” shooting. As far as optics go, you truly do get what you pay for. EOTech holographic sights are generally considered the top of the line for red dot systems, although there are certainly less expensive, high quality alternatives available.

There is a time and a place for adding on other accessories, such as lasers and flashlights, although as with the AR platform, those are specialized accessories for specialized roles.

The beauty of the Picatinny rail system is that accessories can be easily added and removed as needed. Trying to hang every accessory on your rifle for every conceivable need does not just give you an ugly rifle, it also gives you a heavy and unwieldy shooting platform.

What are your favorite accessories for your Picatinny rail? Do you think there is such a thing as too many accessories? Share your opinion in the comments section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. I modernized my AK a few months ago for only about $200. I added the UTG fore grip picatinny rail system (from none other than Cheaper than dirt), US Palm AK Battle grip that I got from the Scottsdale, AZ gun club (and this is a must-own for any AK owner that does not have female-sized hands), a Bushnell 1x red dot (the most expensive piece), and a Tapco stubby vertical grip, so I could have a vertical grip as far back toward the magazine well as possible and still not interfere with my reloads. I noticed my additions added a bit of weight to the rifle, so I decided to pick up a Tapco polymer magazine as well to keep a few ounces of weight off when compared to the old boxy metal mag. I zero’d my red dot to get 2-inch groups at 50 yards, as I live in an urban area, and if I were to use it, I wouldn’t be using it at maximum range.

    The AK is an excellent rifle by itself, and as stated in the article, modern additions only enhance an already fantastic rifle.

  2. I added the TAPCO hand guards, SAW style grip, and vertical fore grip and 6 position stock to my WASR 10. I also have a UTG fore end, Angled Fore Grip, Saw style grip and 6 pos stock on my SA-93. I find my SA-93 with the AFG is more accurate then before however my WASR 10 being a carbine is more suitable for a truck gun. I’m not too worried about the look if you asked me it looked neater with the original stock just didn’t lend itself to optics or something of the sort.

  3. I recently bought my first AK, a WASR 10/63, and love the upgraded look I gave to it. The Tapco Intrafuse system is very cool looking and practical. I was surprised by the high quality of the products with the relatively low price for aftermarket furniture. I use the rails for a low end holographic sight, vertical hand grip, and Surefire Scout tac light. Simple set up, but a set up I’d feel comfortable taking with me back to Afghanistan if they’d let me.

  4. I have over the past year taken on the task of modernizing my Romanian Ak-47. Its been one of the most fun projects I have taken on yet. Ive found that sticking with the Tapco and K-var accessories Ive done well. Ive also managed to keep it under control as well, I have the UTG front grip with the quad rail mount. I have an Afg from magpul, my trijicon sight, and a simple streamlight polytac on there. Keep it simple, buy good stuff, and have fun!

  5. I have a UTG rail for an AMD-65. It’s basically ‘wedged’ in between the receiver and front handle lever, and then bolted to the top half, squeezing the barrel and (supported) gas tube in between the halves. I may be doing something wrong, but I’ve never had it feel solid on the weapon, and ended up with the Ultimak M7B mount, which replaces the gas tube and is bolted directly to the barrel. On the downside, the Ultimak requires some Dremel work on the front grip, and only provides one rail.

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