The Kalash should require no introduction to literally anyone in most corners of the world, from the hands of rag-tag guerrilla bands to professional armies, they are in the hands of trigger pullers on every continent and in every warzone at any given time. Love em or loathe em, the Kalashnikov, and specifically the AKM, is the most common weapon in the world. That alone should be reason enough to have one on hand and train with it every so often. And like its contemporaries of the era, such as the AR and the M-14, its still a very worthy option for those going into harm’s way even as time progresses.

I’ve been a fan of the AK for a long time. Way back in the day, when cases of 7.62×39 could be had for $89, I picked up my first WASR-10, bayonet, oiler and sling, and canted sights, for the princely sum of $329 out the door. Ammo still ain’t bad, but the rifles are a lot more today. The only quality AR options were from Colt, DPMS or Bushmaster back then, and they were a grand plus, so for a broke college kid at the time running an AK was practical. And it gave that satisfaction of feeling like a disheveled guerrilla fighting the good fight in parts unknown. Man, have times changed. The AR is everywhere, and often under $500 (or even less if you roll your own). The AK on the other hand went up, but unlike that ratty old Romanian surplus, the imports today are coming off current production stocks and the new WASRs I’ve had a chance to run from Cugir are in a different category in terms of quality. Seeing a lot of completely neglected AKs still run just fine overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, even being consistently combat accurate despite the tens of thousands of rounds fired from them, its a design to be respected even if not ‘speedy and ergonomic in competition’. Yeah…right. The design works, period.

Strela Flash Hider on one of my AKMs. Eliminates all flash and a significant amount of recoil as well.

There’s a few mods I suggest for running the AK. The biggest and easiest one is changing out the muzzle device. Most AKs out there come with a slant brake out of the box, and I consider it not much more than a thread protector. There’s a bunch of good options on the market depending on what you want to do, ranging from actual muzzle brakes to reduce recoil to flash hiders which tame the Kalashnikov’s huge fireball at night. Threads on AKs are either 14×1 Left Hand for most rifles or 24mm Right Hand on Arsenal models. As a matter of preference I normally run a Type 84 birdcage or a Smith Vortex flash hider, which are both effective at night. The best of the bunch, although heavy, is a single baffle design made by Strela that I reviewed a while back.

Taliban go-to-war kit, recovered by my Team somewhere in Afghanistan. Makarov, Radio, and a Kalash.

The next mod is replacing the Trigger Pin Retainer, also known as the ‘Shepherd’s Hook’ with an actual Retention Plate. If there’s one part on the AK that will give you trouble, its that one. Sweeney Engineering makes a good one and its a really simple install. Once its in place, you won’t have to worry about the trigger pins possibly walking out while firing.

With just those two mods your Kalash is gonna be good to go, but there’s a few other mods I do to make it a little more civilized. The first one is taking rubber shrink tubing and melting it onto the magazine latch.

A little piece of shrink tubing covered by electrical tape makes the mag latch more comfortable.

This makes it a lot more comfortable to run during mag changes. The second thing is slightly opening the rear sight with a jeweler’s file and painting the back of the front sight white. This is an old school mod allowing my eyes to pick up the sights a lot faster. And while you can change furniture to suit any other needs you might have, I suggest keeping your training weapons slick (no major mods) to avoid training scars aside from maybe adding a larger grip if you’ve got big hands. The stock AK grips seems to really only fit third world child soldiers anyway, and it makes it more comfortable at least to me.

So with those few simple mods, you can turn the AK from that disheveled peasant gun to a potent and practical weapon. With a pile of decent mags from Magpul or X-Tech and cheap ammo, the Kalash can be a heck of a lot of fun and owning at least one makes sense. It’s not like there’s a huge factory kicking out 50,000 of them down in Venezuela arming our adversaries.

And on that note, got training?