The world is a very interesting place, and it was totally by chance that I discovered I lived less than twenty miles from Scot Hoskisson. Hoskisson is the brain behind RS Products, whose modular AK scope mounts are considered by many informed people to be the best AK scope mounts in existence. So, given the opportunity I sat down with him to find out just how strange of a trip it had been for him.
Tarr: First off, clear up something for me, is it RS Products or RS Regulate? Because Brownells sells your mounts as RS Products, and AIM Surplus sells them as RS Regulate.
Hoskisson: The Company is RS Products, LLC doing business under the trade name RS Regulate. But they’re the same mounts.
Tarr: Okay, and this is the part I love, RS stands for Royally Screwed. How’d you come up with that?
Hoskisson: A friend of mine, Carl Connelly and I used to commute and to entertain ourselves we thought of fun company names. I thought Royally Screwed sounded funny. The thought came to me of European soccer teams like Réal (Royal) Madrid. For those logos they put a crown on top, so that’s where the logo came from, a crown and a screw.
Tarr: So why AKs?
Hoskisson: I’m interested in AKs because I’m a child of the Cold War. The bad guys had AKs. I was born in Switzerland, my father was teaching there, and I grew up between the U.S. and Europe, travelling back and forth. I remember watching news footage of East Germans and Russians. It was the Evil Empire. Naturally you get fascinated with the stuff you don’t get to play with.
In 2008 or so I bought my first AK, an AK105 clone, because to me they are one of the sexiest AKs. It was actually a Bulgarian kit gun put together by someone who didn’t know what they were doing. I had a lot of fun with it, and learned a lot about how not to build an AK by how badly that one was put together. Eventually I got it repaired, and rebuilt the whole front end of the gun. And then I realized that I wanted to put an optic on it, because all the cool guys had optics.
I saw a mini-ACOG for sale on SWFA for $500. It was brand new, but SWFA had just moved warehouses and two of these cases had fallen behind the racking and were so old the people at SWFA didn’t think the tritium worked any more. It was one of the old special ring mount ones they made for HK MP5s and guns like that. I bought it and then realized AKs and ACOGs don’t work together. Nobody made an AK mount for a special ring mount ACOG. You can get Picatinny rail mounts, but that would have put the scope another inch higher in the air after you put the mount on the side rail. Well, I figured, I’m an engineer, I’m smart enough, I’ll figure it out.
Tarr: Had you ever designed gun parts or optics mounts before?
Hoskisson: At the time I was a sprinkler development engineer for residential, irrigation and cooling sprinkler systems. I have a manufacturing engineering degree, but I always worked as a mechanical engineer. I have multiple patents in sprinklers and related products, and designed parts that would be built, so I thought designing an AK scope mount would be no big deal. The first thing I learned was that the side rails back then didn’t center the optic over the bore.
Tarr: So some of the Russian-style scope mounts do not place the optic over the bore, they put it off to the left. How much are they offset to the left?
Hoskisson: That’s a great question. It depends. As many variants of AKs there are, there are just about as many variants of side rails. If you have enough basic adjustability though, you can get the same clamp to work with all the different rail styles. The vast majority of Combloc-type side rails are 60-degree dovetail mounts. They are generally the same size, some are a little fatter, some are a little thinner, but they’re all similar in sectional height. Not all of them use those rails, however. Yugoslavs and the Iraqis use a different one.
Let’s take the Picatinny rail for an example. The Picatinny rail locates something left and right, front and back and up and down. AK side rails locate something up and down…and kinda left and right. They don’t locate front and back, because every type of rail has a different recoil stop location. Some of them are at the front, some are at the back and some are in the middle.
Tarr: Why is that?
Hoskisson: Remember, the Russians were really quick to give you guns, but they weren’t quick to give you a license to produce your own. If you wanted tooling they charged you a lot more. Some countries did buy tooling, like Bulgaria. Bulgaria had Russian tooling, Russian blueprints, everything. Early Bulgarian guns are almost clones of Russian guns. Yugoslavian guns, not at all. So, some of these countries design their scope rails very similar to the Russian ones, some very differently.
Then you’ve got other variables: was Ivan drunk? Was the machine tool used to cut the rail dull? Is it one that was produced in ‘53, or ‘62 or ‘75? As they went through generations of AKs they changed the side rail as well in both design and location. The main types are the really early ones, ‘50s and ‘60s. When they went to the AKMs they changed it again. When they went from the AKMs to the AK74s they changed it again, and then when they moved to the AK100s or AK74Ms they changed it again.
Tarr: Is this all stuff that you discovered while trying to figure out your own scope mount?
Hoskisson: Yes. To go back to my original AK and mount, my AK105 clone was a 5.45x39mm Bulgarian kit gun. My good buddy Phil had a Romanian SAR-2, also in 5.45mm, so we could share mags. I designed my mount, it fit perfect. It positioned the mini-ACOG directly over the bore of my rifle. I took it off my gun, took it over to Phil’s house and slapped it on his gun. It was a quarter-inch off-center. And I was like, “Whaaaaaat?”
And that was my first indication that all AKs are not the same. I had no clue. There is no “technical data package” for an AK like there is for an AR. It just doesn’t exist, so I had no reference point to go back to. I thought I was going crazy. Legitimately thought I was losing my mind. I’ve got pictures of myself holding rulers next to things to prove to myself later on that I was not measuring stuff incorrectly.
I would make a part, put it on my gun, and it would be perfect. I’d put in on Phil’s gun, and it wouldn’t fit. Not even close. I thought I must be going crazy, because I knew the guns were the same, so the problem had to be me. Until I realized it wasn’t.
That was when I discovered that you need gross windage adjustment in a mount for it to fit any AK. You can’t center an optic over the bore on every AK with a single-piece mount. They’re so different. A quarter-inch adjustability covers every AK I’ve ever tested, but when it comes to mounting an optic, a quarter-inch is huge.
Tarr: So how did you get from that first mount to here?
Hoskisson: I made that original ACOG mount for me. And I started posting pictures of it on the forums, kind of a “Hey, check this out, I think this is sort of cool.” And eventually on M4carbine.net I had a guy reach out to me and say, “Hey, ACOGs are cool and all, but can you make one for a 30mm Aimpoint? I’m a contractor in Iraq, and live in Kuwait. When we get to the border we go to the CONEX we own. I pick up my AK, I get in the truck and we do our job. At the end of the day we dump our guns back in the CONEX and cross back over into Kuwait. I need to be able to take my optic with me. I run an Aimpoint. We all run Aimpoints. Please make me an Aimpoint mount.”
That’s when I realized people might want them. When I made mine I had no clue anyone else would want one. Most of the people I was talking to were not aware there was such a big difference between guns. And most of the people couldn’t believe how low over the bore I could get the optic. Nobody had done it before.
I was posting photos of the mount on Arfcom (AR15.com) and David Fortier, now the editor of this magazine, saw one of them and contacted me and said “Hey, that’s cool, do you have any I can try?”
At the time I was making resin prototypes to check fit. Resin is cheap, it’s easy, and with a file you can change fit. But I had three scope mounts made, my first three side rail mounts, and sent one to Fortier for the original article which appeared in the 2011 Book of the AK47. Those mounts weren’t modular like current ones, they were just my interpretation of what I saw on Russian guns, but over-bore adjustable.
After testing Fortier told me they were a really good idea, and I should make them. I said to him, “What, you think 50 people are going to buy them?” And he said, “No, 500 people would buy this.” And that blew my mind. That’s how it started.
Tarr: What happened after that? You’ve got three prototypes, and one writer interested in your product.
Hoskisson: Paul Levy from Brownells saw some of my posts and said my scope mounts were really cool, and if I made them Brownells might want to carry them. So Brownells was one of our very first customers. Bryan Flanagan at AIM Surplus is the same. Those guys would haunt the forums. So Bryan Flanagan from AIM Surplus and Paul Levy at Brownells were the guys who pushed me to make these things commercially available.
Chris Clifton, another guy at the M4 Carbine forums, saw the prototype and asked for one to play with and show to some friends. He got one of those original three and I learned that one of his friends was Larry Vickers. I remember to this day the call I got when I was in a cab in Austin, Texas heading to the airport. It was Larry Vickers. We talked for about ten minutes. He gave me a couple of quick suggestions and said he’d really like to help me get these off the ground, that they were a really good idea, and did I mind if he gave me some input? To this day he still helps. Heck, I emailed Larry yesterday.
Tarr: So walk me through the design of your mounts. They’re very light and minimalistic.
Hoskisson: The basic design of the dovetail is you slide it on until you get to the recoil stop and then lock the lever. The first generation used a Russian clamp-style lever. Current ones, which I call the Gen 2, use a clamp lever of my own design. The lever is designed to adjust to each gun it’s clamped to. You can easily adjust the tension of the clamp.
I wanted to make it really low profile so it wouldn’t add a lot of width to the gun and I wanted the lockup to be very quick, on and off. But I wanted it shrouded so it wouldn’t snag on your vest, unlock and fall off. There is a ball detent which keeps the lever closed.
There’s roughly two different heights of siderails, I call them AK height and Dragunov height. But then there’s Russian style recoil location, Yugo style recoil location, the new Century Arms proprietary rail with a different recoil location…..
For some of the more popular styles of lowers, such as Russian, I have various styles of bases: a front, a rear and a full, depending on the size and type of optic you’d want to mount. As for the optic mount, there’s a quarter thousandth interference fit between the rail mount and the optic platform, so it is very snug to start with. It can be adjusted left or right about a quarter inch, and there are the screws to tighten it down in place.
I can get the optics down lower than most people can believe. My 30mm Aimpoint mount will lower 1/3 co-witness with the iron sights. Small red dots like T1s will lower 1/4 co-witness. You can see the iron sights through a Trijicon RMR. My mounts are very low, but if I was designing them for just one gun I could get them another sixteenth of an inch lower. If I want them to fit a number of guns, there has to be an air gap between the optic mount and the dust cover. When it comes to ordering, everything is a la carte, and simple. You pick the lower half for your gun, and the upper half for your optic.
Tarr: How much of a zero change do you see taking the optic mounts on and off?
Hoskisson: The mounts return to zero better than the gun does. And by that I mean the shift is within margin of error of the gun and whatever ammo you’re using. I have yet to find a gun that will outshoot the mount. When the Marine Corps unofficially tested my mounts they found no appreciable shift in zero even with very abusive handling. They broke the ACOG, but the mount held true.
Tarr: I know you started with AK optic mounts, but you’ve started to branch out recently. For example I just received one of your MLOK handguards for my Galil ACE pistol.
Hoskisson: The impetus for my designs is, when I grab a gun, what do I not like about it? And how can I fix that? Later on I wonder if there’s a market for that product. I don’t start out designing things for commercial success, I’m looking to fix a problem and only later whether I get it affordable enough people will buy it.
I’ve had a long close relationship with the folks at IWI. At the Big 3 East Media Event when the Galil ACE was introduced I talked to Mike Kassnar with IWI and asked if anybody was making accessories. His answer was no, and I’ve been working with them from day one. The rail project took way longer than I wanted, but they are now available and I’m very happy with them. My handguard is about half the width of the factory piece, and half the weight.
When I pick up a gun, if there’s something on it I don’t like I’ll design my own piece, and then bring it to market if possible, that’s how I do it. With the handguard I wanted a rail that was not fat, and not picatinny.
Tarr: So I have to ask…one of the first people who reached out to you was a contractor in Iraq. And then, US Special Operations veteran Larry Vickers contacted you. Are any of your products getting used in any sandy environs?
Hoskisson: Well, we just recently received State Department determination that our scope mounts are not ITAR-regulated items. However, we have not officially exported them. Do I know that they have been outside the U.S.? Yes. Through contacts I know of people who have somehow obtained them and feedback has filtered back to me from combat zones. I know the Russians have played with them a lot, and wanted a large quantity of them, which I couldn’t let happen for various reasons, especially after what took place in Ukraine.
But I know they’re out there. I do know Russian Alphas have used them, and I have an FSB badge from someone who passed it to me at a SHOT Show, saying “Thank you”.
I’ve always supported the notion that if there’s a good guy who can use one of my products to kill a bad guy, I don’t really care who he is. If there’s a bad guy who uses my stuff to kill a good guy, which is the inevitable especially when you’re producing AK parts, it will be intellectually very difficult for me. So I do everything I can to make sure only the right people get my mounts. I’ve had a lot of inquiries from places and people and organizations to whom I would not sell parts, and told them flat no, even though the contracts would have made me rich.