We’ve probably all read or seen online the meme saying “Nyet! Rifle is fine!” or Mikhail Kalashnikov himself proclaiming his disdain for any aftermarket gear- its funny, and there’s people out there who really think like this. I mean I love a healthy gun collection and respect historical significance probably more than the next guy, but firearms have moved into the 21st century. And with it, so has the AK. Modern enablers, such as a more efficient optics integration and a streamlined way to mount an IR laser and light, for example, are nearly a requirement for a serious combat weapon. We don’t fight in 1960 anymore, and I don’t like giving up advantages that I don’t have to when running the AK platform. With that said, Palmetto State Armory has built their take on the modern AK and suffice to say, I’m a fan.

Nobody in their right mind disputes the capabilities of the 7.62×39 within its intended parameters. It is, without a doubt, a 300m-and-in weapon. The round works well inside of that while being inexpensive to train with and keep several thousand rounds on hand. In my own experience it does well in woodland environments, even if giving up some in accuracy and range. As longtime followers of mine know however, I’ve been a fan of the round even longer than I have the AK ,for most of my life, and I think its an ideal weapon for supplying partisans or guerrillas with limited time and experience to train. But even for professional soldiers that find themselves working unsupported there’s very few complaints that I have, and the round remains in government service in some roles alongside its 5.45 sister. That, though, is another topic for another day.

Captured Spetsnaz AK in Syria. Notice the rails and thermal sight.

When most think of the AK they think a wood-stocked weapon. And while that’s the classic look, the platform had moved away from wood long ago, with the Soviets opting for Bakelite and later modern polymer for furniture by the time Afghanistan flared up. And the weapon has evolved since then. Photos of Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine point to the use of railed handguards and hinged top covers for optics mounting, making the weapon as different as comparing a Vietnam-era CAR-15 to today’s M4. Same basic weapon, all the modern enablers.

But dressing up the AK ain’t exactly new. Railed handguards have been around for well over a decade (in various levels of quality) as have newer ways to mount optics. Texas Weapon Systems makes their excellent railed top cover, replacing the standard stamped steel cover and hinging off the rear sight. RS Regulate utilizes their side mounts, which are great in my experience also. And Ultimak has always been a solid option. But for me, if I’m going to have one system, its a railed top cover to keep everything streamlined on the weapon. And while it took me a while to warm up to it, the adjustable M4 buffer works well in practice.

Palmetto State Armory sought to integrate every modern feature in one weapon, culminating in their AK-P. It has a railed top cover that hinges on the rear sight, an M4 buffer with an arm brace, and an incredibly well done MLOK handguard that not only is rock solid but keeps the weapon light and cool during drills. It’s short, handy and packs a punch. How has it done over time?

Since my first shots with it, around 500 rounds and two cleanings since, the top cover has experienced no shift in zero. That’s one of the biggest questions people have when it comes to the hinged top cover, and so far, so good. The Primary Arms red dot I have mounted is fast and efficient, having a lower-third cowitness with the iron sights. The unexpected best feature of this weapon is, without a doubt, the handguard. PSA’s in-house MLOK design really is one of the best I’ve used, and I was a big fan of Ultimak’s full length rail back in the day. It was solid as a rock. The problem was it was great a decade ago when most handguards were like cheesegraters and quality meant heavy. The MLOK design brings it forward a decade, allowing me to put rails where I need them while keeping the whole thing lightweight. For a compact pistol-carbine, its fast- faster than a full length AK.

In the accuracy department its no slouch either- admittedly, I haven’t benched it for groups because its a short barreled weapon with a red dot mounted, so I’m not expecting match-grade quality, but for an AK its perfectly fine. A good drill for the AK is to put a paper plate in the A-zone and try to keep them all in from 100m, firing one round a second. I was using an old target from the last carbine course, but the shots in the plate were from the AK-P. For a red dot on an AK, I’m fine with that.

This thing continues to perform- there’s zero malfunctions of any kind and its eaten all the brands of ammo I’ve fed it- Brown Bear, Tula, Wolf Military Classic, and Red Army Standard. Everytime I take it to the range I’m that much more impressed with it. If you’re on the fence about the AK, looking for something with more punch than the 5.56 in brush country, or just want something different, this is a heck of a good place to start. Its quickly becoming my truck gun of choice. It’s 2020- and this AK is brought up to the times.