As part of the “look” I had in mind for my GHK AK74 project, I specifically wanted to go for something more tacticool (well, in the Western sense of things). The urge to put a vertical grip on an AK was just too much to resist! I mean, if adding accessory rails to their AK’s is good enough for Russian troops nowadays, it can’t be that bad of an idea.
I did purchase the T1 specific top cover model of the MI AK handguard, as experience with a handful of AK mounts has taught me that I most definitely prefer the height of a lower 1/3 cowitness with the irons when looking through an optic. I’ve used a couple varieties of Ultimak AK Optics Mount (railed gas tube) in conjunction with clone T1’s to great success on every single one of my previous AK AEG’s – why change that recipe for a natural sighting system if it’s been working fine for me, right? But since I was shopping around for something “real steel,” the real Ultimak M1-B and pretty much any compatible lower railed forend system can easily become an expensive set and thus I was looking to turn away from that in favour of something different.
A big plus of the GHK AK platform that was a deciding factor for my purchase of the GHK AK74 GBBR as versus it’s GBB AK competitors – it is in fact compatible with real AK furniture. This means lots more options for cool parts.
The rail itself is not the most simple of designs, using multiple bolts to hold a barrel clamping system onto the barrel, then bolting the lower and upper halves of the handguard on there, respectively. It does however do it’s job quite well when everything is on there – providing a picatinny rail system (with optional optic specific mount) as a drop-in replacement. Threadlocker is supplied in the packaging – something that looks like it should definitely be applied to all the fasteners to prevent things from shaking loose.
There are lots of installation guides out there for the MI AK Handguard (formerly called the US Palm rail on occassion), so I won’t get into the specifics of the actual assembly (I used an instruction video from Military Arms Channel – by the way, that’s a cool channel about guns and gun stuff from the States). I did not actually use a level since I was infinitely way too lazy to do so – instead, I just eyeballed everything and hoped that it was somewhat correct. Assembled once to make sure I liked it and take a few quick photos, then reassembled everything with thread locker applied to all the fasteners the second time around.
Speaking of all the bolts though, I do find that the number of bolts required to hold everything together seems to be a bit excessive for this kind of system. I have read that the Midwest Industries Handguard is touted to fit many varieties of (real) AK’s out there, and I guess this mounting system is a way to allow the MI product to bolt onto the vast majority of platforms, rather than being something cut specifically for one gun or another. In this sense, there was no modification of the rail system or gun required outside of the normal installation instructions – a definite plus, considering how many different specs and dimensions there are on something as simple as a handguard.
Good news though – the MI AK47/74 Handguard does in fact fit the GHK AK74 GBB platform I’ve been working on. There are gaps here and there, which many users of the MI rail system have been reporting – though since the rail is more on the bulky side and easily fills my hand as is, I don’t really notice the visible gaps in front (near lower handguard retainer) and behind the handguard (near receiver) when holding it.
It does help that I’ve mounted a hand stop for the time being to prevent my hand from slipping too far to the rear of the rail and actually noticing the exposed, protruding corners of the receiver. The bulk of the railed portions of the MI rail are noticeably wider than the traditional handguards, meaning that the sling mount on the lower handguard retainer is almost completely covered and I do have to run a different sling mount bolted onto the rail.
This is where help from the internet came in handy – as it turns out, the ACM repro T1 dot sights that I’m so fond of do fit (with some modification) on the MI AK47/74 Handguard that I had previously been enviously eying on real AK’s.
After watching a video from YouTuber “H0bb3z” featuring a tricked out GHK AKS-74U being test fired, I found out that ACM T1 sights can be modified to fit on a Midwest Industries T1 Optic Specific Topcover – excellent news! Many thanks to “H0bb3z” for getting back to me on how to get a T1 on there… and so it was decided – my GHK AK74 westernization project would indeed be wearing a MI rail.
A Dremel helped to make quick work of this modification…
… well, maybe not that quick. At least the job was easy to do.
Using the electrical tape shim found in my usual T1 clones’ mounts, I took out and of the sideways wiggle present with this mount (fit wasn’t as perfect as I would imagine a real Aimpoint T1 would mount on there, but was definitely good enough for Airsoft usage and typical range).
Who said AK’s can be modified? Oh wait – that’s pretty much every M4-owning Airsofter out there. There, I hope this opens your eyes to some of the options out there.
An opportunity to purchase items like this from the States that are ordinarily much more restricted to an international consumer like myself was just too much to say no to. Once again, thanks to a friend of a friend for acquiring this one for me.