Tim Harmsen, aka Mac, is best known as the host of the Military Arms Channel, the MAC Facebook page and his newest venture FULL30 which features Sport Shooting, Self-Defense and Gun reviews from a variety of contributors. Tim is very much a fan of the AK and has reviewed plenty of AK-centric products. In addition to new media he’s written for Be Ready! Magazine (Outdoor Sportsman Group/Firearms News) and The Book of the AK47 (Guns & Ammo). As one of the industry’s top journalists he’s had the opportunity to review just about every third party part for the AK and has some strong opinions about what products will serve you well.
Here are his tips:
Q: What kinds of optics mounts do you prefer?
A: The best optics mount I’ve found, without a doubt, is the RS Regulate side mounts. Simple, reliable, good looking, just like the AK itself.
Q: What about handguards and rails?
A: I like rails because it allows you to use force multipliers like lights, lasers, and sights. The new Magpul front hand guards allow for MOE accessories. But a plain Jane wood stocked AK is also a beauty, so I have a few of those too.
Q: You’ve also covered the waterfront when it comes to third party parts for the AK. Are there any particular stocks that impress you?
A: There are a lot of good stocks, I think Bonesteel makes the best quality replacement stocks for AK’s. I prefer to have a real Russian side-folder, but if I need to replace a fixed stock, I’ll go with Bonesteel most every time. As for rails, Krebs Custom makes the absolute best rail system I’ve seen to date. The UFM is a KeyMod system that is sleek, light weight and looks incredibly sharp on the rifle. Midwest Industries makes some solid drop-in railed hand guards too. I’m also really taking a shine to the new Magpul stock offerings such as the Zhukov, including their pistol grips for the AK.
Q: How about Triggers?
Q: What about red dot optics?
A: There are a lot of good choices for RDS’s these days. I’m a huge fan of the Aimpoint T-2 Micro, it’s the best optic out there IMHO, although it’s very expensive. On the other end of the spectrum I’ve found Primary Arms, HiLux B-Dot and Vortex Sparc II optics to represent a great value with optics that rival the features of the Aimpoint. But when it comes to rugged reliability, I’m an Aimpoint kind of guy.
Q: Is there a quality fixed focus tactical style scope you could recommend that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?
A: Check out the Primary Arms ACSS 4x Compact sight. At $259 I don’t think you’ll find a better affordable alternative to the ACOG.
Q: I know that the “cognoscenti” recommends Russian guns but many are in short supply. Are there others of decent quality that you recommend for an entry level rifle?
A: WASR 10 if you can inspect it for common manufacturing flaws before buying such as canted sights, bolt carrier hanging up on the hammer, improperly cut mag wells, poor riveting, etc. Some companies pre-inspect WASR’s for these defects for an added fee to assure you get a decent rifle. We’ve also learned from recent testing that current production WASR barrels don’t hold up well to extended heavy shooting sessions. There are now domestic AK producers such as Rifle Dynamics and DDI that make guns from many US parts that rival the quality of Russian and Bulgarian guns. The Century C39V2 (latest version) is a solid alternative in my experience as well.
There are rumors of US made cold hammer forged barrels being a possibility in the near future for AK builders which will level the playing field as this is the biggest advantage Russian and Bulgarian guns have had over US built guns. Some companies, such as DDI, are offering guns with nitrite finishes on high wear parts like barrels and bolts which is a step above the Russian/former com-bloc guns.