AK Nomenclature and terms
Suffice it to say, it’s essential that you know your rifle from the inside out.
Part of your job as owner of the rifle is to field-strip (disassemble) it regularly for cleaning and lubrication. In doing so you’ll get to be on intimate terms with your dust cover, bolt carrier, gas tube and other features.
The good folks at UltiMAK have provided us with a breakdown of all the major parts of an AK-47 rifle. The only part they didn’t label was the muzzle brake: it’s just forward of the front sight block.
Don’t confuse AK furniture with love seats or rocking chairs. The term simply refers to the exterior parts (with the exception of the barrel and receiver) that come with the rifle. These include the buttstock, pistol grip and hand guards.
The traditional AKs have wood furniture whereas the modern rifles often utilize polymer. Some of the newer designs from companies such as Krebs Custom offer “KeyMod” handguard/rail systems made from aircraft aluminum. KeyMod allows for direct attachment of accessories such as flashlight mounts, laser modules, etc.
Even with aircraft aluminum handguard designs, AKs equipped with polymer furniture aren’t necessarily cheap or cheesy. There are also several advantages with polymer which usually weighs and costs less than aluminum.
There are, of course, different grades of polymer furniture. Arsenal, a well-respected Las Vegas manufacturer of AKs, uses polymer or “synthetic” furniture of high quality. “Plastic” furniture comes in a variety of colors or even in camo. Many people prefer polymer to wood for aesthetic and ergonomic reasons.
Fixed buttstocks are available in the old style “Combloc” (13 inch) length or in the longer NATO version that adds an additional 1.25 inches. If you’re considering the purchase of a fixed-stock rifle (either with wood or polymer furniture) and aren’t familiar with them it’s advisable to shoot one before you buy.
On all but the least expensive rifles you’ll find a mount on the left side of the receiver called a “side rail” or a side accessory rail.
The innovation came about in 1953 and was the first quick-detach (QD) optic mounting system.
Since 1991, the side rail has been standard for all rifles made in Russia, Bulgaria and Romania, according to Scot Hoskisson, founder of the optics mount company, RS Regulate.
The side rail allows shooters to add or remove optics such as red dot sights or other types of “glass” from the rifle. Companies such as UltiMAK, Krebs Custom and others also produce a variety of rail systems that can be installed over the top of dust cover but do not utilize the side rail.