Kalashnikov Acquired: How Does One Modernize an AK-47?

Kalashnikov Acquired: How Does One Modernize an AK-47?

“Modernize” a rifle. Utter these words and purists recoil in fear. Many Mosin Nagants, jungle carbines, lever guns, and countless other guns fall victim to being “modernized” every year. Mossberg, you are guilty.  It’s ok to modernize a rifle if you do it right, but as of right now the phrase is actually more akin to “how do I turn rifle X into a AR15 analog?” Running a AK these days seems to involve bolting on lots of expensive accessories that were designed for the AR15… and skipping over the low cost Russian gear that made the AK attractive.  We have tons of AR15 stock adapters, quad rails, keymod and M-Lok rails, ACOG mounts, fancy grips, all made for the AR but bolted on to the AK. With the assault weapon ban over 12 years in the past, the boom of rifle development has given us some great gear for both the AR and AK… but my question is, why do I want to accessories the AK when I could have gotten a lighter, more accurate, more thoroughly developed AR15 instead?

By simply buying an AR in the first place, I would benefit from:

  • Lighter weight
  • Better aftermarket support
  • Alternative caliber choices
  • More accurate platform
  • More rail space

I am sure you can think of more reasons to choose a AR15 in the first place, but this blog is not about downplaying a perfectly capable weapon system, instead I seek to realize the potential of a rifle and help shooters make the most out of it. No doubt, I prefer the AR15 to the AK. My first experience with a black rifle was an AK and I thought it was the bomb until I obtained an AR15. AK-47 type rifles are simply outclassed by the modularity and 12 year boom of AR15 research and development… but some people just don’t like AR15’s, or they want something different. I gotcha. So here we are.


Hold up! Let’s keep this AK looking good and upgrade it with smart upgrades that don’t make it look like a plastic disaster!

I have an old AK. I want to shoot it to the utmost of its capability despite its reputation as an “inaccurate” rifle.

So how do we best configure an AK-47 type rifle for a rifleman? Do we spend $1000 + dollars on upgrades, ACOGS, RAILS, and FANCY STUFF? No. I will not be doing that. I believe if you have an AK, one of the benefits over the AR15 would be overall cost of the system, optics, and bullets. While prices for the AK have climbed, 7.62×39 has remained fairly cheap, and Russian accessories are also quite low cost compared to our equivalent American gear. I am not going to turn this handsome rifle into a wanna-be AR15 when I have several AR15’s already. Having shot this rifle extensively in the past, i am going to move fairly quickly on the upgrade path by choosing gear that actually makes a difference in weapon accuracy and effectiveness.


This ban era WASR-10 is good to go.

Here is a plan breakdown:

I will keep the internals stock except for a ALG trigger. I will use Russian glass such as the PSO series or a Russian prismatic to attach directly to the side rail. A quality trigger and good optics enhance a shooters accuracy, and are without a doubt one of the best upgrades a rifleman can make… hence, they will be added to the AK as well. Low magnification glass is a boon to intermediate range shooting and the low cost to quality ratio of Russian glass will keep costs from climbing too high.


The AK optics rail will be utilized with a Russian PSO type optic since these optics are priced well and have valuable features… and are authentic to the AK platform.

Furniture will be left mostly stock for now. Perhaps I will add a fixed MOE Magpul stock since it appears it will cut down a bit of weight over the fixed wood stock. AK magazines from MAGPUL will be my primary mag since they will cut down the weight a bit over steel magazines. Of course, ammunition plays a key role into accuracy potential of the AK, so aside from the standard issue blaster stuff from wolf, I will be using some quality factory ammo for testing purposes to wring out the best the AK has to offer.


Modern Magpuls vs Old School steel. The rusted AK magazine is a Vietnam bring back from my late father in law. He mentioned it years ago before he passed, and upon clearing his stuff we did indeed find his magazine.

Wrapping Up:

The AK is an exciting platform and this is going to be a fun project. I hope to take the AK to a High Power match for fun so long as the moons align. In examinig the AK we will look at ballistics, look over the weapon with an attention to detail, and properly evaluate the AK as a rifleman’s weapon. I won’t stop writing about the AR15 so don’t worry… but keep your eyes peeled for some AK action.




Written by lothaen


  1. honeycomb · September 11, 2016

    Well .. good to hear .. re: articles on the AK.

    My AK’S found good homes (with my brothers) .. I kept the SKS’s and Mosin Nagants though. Always a fan the Russian rifles as a plain rifle (i.e. no add-ons).

    The AR is my main platforn now.

  2. Mark G · September 11, 2016

    I want a WASR… Thats next on the list

  3. joel bearden · September 12, 2016

    As I do enjoy the blasting power of an ak. The issue with the rifle is in perfect settings your only looking at 200 yards of decent accuracy. The gun was designed to be a hi powered bullet hose that would eat any and all ammo you put through it. Durability and power is this weapons claim to fame. Also as you pointed out they are significantly cheaper than most ar15s. I am looking forward to seeing what you do on a budget and very interested on the results.

  4. joel bearden · September 12, 2016

    I would also recommend a good muzzle break. Not too pricey and help tremendously.

    • lothaen · September 15, 2016

      I will need to thread the barrel, but luckily I found a kit to do just that. I am ready to free this Kalashnikov from the chains of the AWB.

      • joel bearden · October 9, 2016

        Also I have cut down rpk barrels down to 18″ that seems to take them out to about 500 yards but that’s about all your going to get.

      • joel bearden · October 24, 2016

        Heck ya. How’s the build going. I am interested in what your final price has been on this build. If you went over 700 you were better off getting the c308. More punch and much better accuracy can’t lose.

  5. Sunshine_Shooter · September 12, 2016

    Obligatory “NYET! RIFLE IS FINE!” comment

    But really, it will be interesting to hear your take on the AK style of rifle.

    • lothaen · September 13, 2016

      My take is definitely one of keeping the rifle somewhat fair to the history of the AK and its soviet era accessories. The 7.62×39 is a poor ballistic performer, so learning how to best take advantage of it will be a challenge.

      The more it looks like a sleeper, the more fun it will be to take to a HP match. That will be incredibly fun. The looks I will get.

  6. Pete · September 25, 2016

    ALG Trigger
    Magpul Zhukov Stock & Hand Guard w/ a Magpul or Strike Grip (Or hit up something like ComBloc Customs for some nice laminate furniture if that’s your thing)
    A nice Tritium Front Sight Post
    Swap the rear sight for a small rail and put a quality red dot on there.
    Comrade’s Kalashnikov is modernsky. Enjoy!

  7. William Adams · September 25, 2016

    Slap an Ultimak rail on that thing with a Trijicon RMR on it,
    Magpul fore end, forward sling mount and vertical grip, Krebs custom safety and a Vickers sling. Echo Nine Three rear sling mount. Say what you want, but this set up works well.

  8. RSR · November 4, 2016

    Well, my recommendation for you and your shooting style would be to go w/ a VZ58…

    That you didn’t… Also think you’d be better served with an RPK or Yugo to start, but VEPRs or SAIGAs wouldn’t be bad either for a greater investment…
    -RS Regulate rear sight mount, OR a midwest industries railed forend or a railed gas tube
    -Primary Arms Magnified optic, OR a red dot on the railed forend/gas tube
    -Ultimak and/or RS regulate for a magnifier

    Magpul stuff is nice but excepting their stocks, I don’t prefer it on AKs… Stocks are light and adjustable length of pull. Handguards are Meh. Zhukov may enhance your shooting style if support arm extended and elbow locked. Short handguards, I greatly prefer an AFG and GoGun gas pedal configuration for support hand w/ a Midwest Industries type mount. YMMV.

    Grips — My favorite AK grip by far is the Hogue, but it’s storage unit is terribly designed. 922r, Ronin makes some nice stuff too. If you’re looking for a bigger grip, both the FAB Galil Ultra and Ergo grips are worth considering. For whatever reason, the Ergo AK grips seem huge in hand. Beavertail or whatever pushes grip further down too vs hogue…

    To the gun itself, polish internals.
    Trigger — I think ALG is too light considering pain of the safety activation for a carbine role. A polished texas AK or Tapco is preferred. Rifle/dmr role, ALG is fine…
    Take a look at a galil or other aftermarket mag release.
    Some of the magwell funnels look promising but haven’t tried.
    Krebs safety lever.
    There are various springs and takedown plate configurations that can help to optimize performance.
    Yes — get a good muzzlebrake. PWS FSC47 is a good all around performer, but there is something to be said for the standard slant that helps to compensate for the heavy and off-balanced bolt carriers recoil action… PWS is balanced and the gun is not… Take a look at the gas porting on the AK74 brake for instance.

    Good luck. Keep us posted on updates.

  9. joel bearden · January 6, 2017

    How goes the build. We need pics man!!!!

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