As I moved forward with my pursuit of replicating function and features of Russia's new AK-12 rifle and with the stock and hand guards already in place, I embarked on perhaps the most interesting and intriguing feature the top cover rail.
For years Russians were mounting their optics on the AK rifles using the unique side dove-tail mounting rail. In fact, the first accessory mounting rails appeared on AKs back in 1950s. Since the first introduction of a mounting system every model of AK-based weapons had it installed, for use mainly with night optics. Thus, designating those models as "N."
More modern and current issue battle AK-74M rifles and RPK-74M light machine guns all had a side rail installed as standard equipment. Though well-designed and solid, the side rail mounting system has limited shooters to use of ComBloc designed optics or separate side rail mounts with a 1913 rail. In both cases, it puts an optic or collimator sight rather high, preventing an ideal cheek weld as well as offering limited space for any of tandem configured options.
The solution came in the way of AK-12's top cover rail. It is hinged at the rear sight block and offers an approximately 8 inches of rail space that, when matched with upper handguard rail, provides more than adequate space for any sighting implement configuration.
Luckily, I had not one but several options at my disposal. There are several hinged type rail systems available on the market. The one I chosen was the Parabellum Armament Group's AKARS (AK Adaptive Rail System). It is simply the closest to the one on AK-12, has a built-in "U"-slot rear sight and I also have considerable experience with it.
The new AKARS came with all the hardware I needed to install it. The tools I needed I readily had or came with the kit. First, using a large flat heat screwdriver I popped the original rear sight out. Then, without removing the leaf spring, I placed the AKARS upper rail's three-pronged hinge into the rear sight block and aligned the pin holes. I used a 4-inch screw clamp to hold the rail in place and tapped the hinge pin in with a rubber mallet.
Last, I tightened the set screw at the hinge joint and the rail was on. Next I had to attach the top cover to the rail itself. The AKARS system comes with an original AK non-ribbed top cover that is modified with a slot where the rear mounting block slides to account for different dimensions of various AK receivers.
I loosened the two bolts that attach the block to the top cover so that the block would freely move in the slot and inserted two pins into the hinged rail. I snapped the top cover onto the receiver, made sure there were no gaps and tightened the block's bolts.
And just like that I was done. It must have taken me total of five minutes. I checked the hinge action and rigidity of the whole rail. It worked well and locked solid every time.
Next I checked whether my new rail was aligning with the upper handguard rail and found it was slightly lower. Not to worry. Using regular and low rings I was able to achieve perfect tandem alignment for optics. On the other positive side the AKARS rail was low enough to provide perfect co-witnessing and eliminate the need for the cheekpiece.
I was happy with the final result. My plain Jane AK-74 was starting to look like the modern rifle.
Russia's new AK-12
Russia's new AK-12 features probably the most interesting upgrade the AK's seen in recent years: the hinged top cover with 1913 rail. Luckily it wouldn't be very difficult to replicate.
Parabellum Armament Group's AKARS system
The installation of the new Parabellum Armament Group's AKARS system wasn't complicated. Most of the tools needed were provided with the kit.
The AKARS system
The AKARS system uses the original AK non-ribbed top cover that has a mounting block that could be adjusted to accommodate variety of the AK receiver types.
After a check for proper installation and functionality Vorobiev was satisfied with the result. His rifle started to look like its newly introduced descendant.
Although the AKARS rail did not match the upper handguard rail, Vorobiev was able to place optics in tandem perfectly aligned using normal height and low rings.
With the ability to mount my optics low, Vorobiev felt no need for an additional cheekpiece.