April 18, 2012
Marco Vorobiev was a member of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He's a U.S. citizen now and conducts training courses that draw on his special forces training. He'll have a new installment every Wednesday.
Having to install the stock I wanted on my I.O., Inc. AK-74 rifle that mimicked the main functionalities of the new AK-12 gun, I've moved on to the handguards.
The difficulty this time was in what handguard (HG) to choose. Obviously it had to have Picattiny rails atop and on the bottom and a small section on the right side. This configuration makes perfect sense. The bottom rail is for attaching a bipod or vertical grip with or without a flashlight or laser designator, top for laser designator or NV attachment (PVS-14 type) in tandem, the small side rail is for again a flashlight or again a laser designator.
The combination of the attachments would vary depending on the individual shooter. At no time does the entire complement of accessories need to be attached to your gun at the same time, eliminating a need for quad rail.
Since no battle essential components were to be mounted on the handguards, I decided to mimic the new AK-12's handguards and selected a much lighter plastic AK-L/U set, once again from the Mako Group. Anyone who has ever changed the AK furniture knows how easy it is to take off the handguards. It needed no tools for me to remove the original Russian plum furniture.
The lower part came out when I loosened the handguard retainer and the upper had to be twisted 180 degrees to be removed off the AK's gas tube.
Installing the new set wasn't as trivial as I'd hoped. To get the lower handguard to sit properly, I needed to tap it a few times with a rubber mallet as it hugged the receiver tightly. Then I had to tap the handguard retainer plate in place with the mallet again as its edges are embedded into the handguard itself.
One this was done, I had to install the upper handguard. But before I did that, I needed to attach a short 1913 rail section to the right side. The rail and hardware are provided with the kit.
In fact there are two sections of rail if there is a need to mount them on both sides. I am not a big fan of mounting many accessories on a rifle. So, I went with a rail on the right side only.
With the rail in place, I went to work on trying to twist the upper handguard in place on the gas tube. And work I did. The Mako's FAB Defense AK handguards are made slightly oversized to fit tightly within metal channels. I sweated a bit, but for a good cause as the upper handguard was locked in solid.
Next I installed the gas tube in its place as I would normally do, and to my surprise found out that four small tangs on the bottom of the upper handguard locked into four pockets in the lower handguard, adding additional solidity to the set. I was done.
My new handguard setup felt and looked good. I would have preferred the side rail section to be mounted on the lower part, but it wasn't a big deal at the moment. So, I moved on.
The AK-12's handguards had to incorporate a 1913 rail to accommodate modern accessories. Composite material make them sturdy enough and keep weight down.
Mako's AK-L/U lower handguard
A rubber mallet seated the Mako's AK-L/U lower handguard properly. The fit to the receiver was tight. An embedded retainer plate gave additional stability.
It took Vorobiev a while to install the Mako's upper guard on the 74's gas tube. The oversized part fit well and locked solid in place; well worth the effort.
Then he slid the gas tube in place. The upper handguard then locked into the lower using four protruding tangs, adding to the overall stability of the setup.
The finished product was light, clean and sturdy, with the mounting rails in all the right places. Not exactly the same, but pretty close to the new AK-12.