Having used, repaired, and maintained AK rifles for many years, one of the often frustrating aspects about the platform is the lack of consistency in magazine design. Two different magazines’ locking tabs are seldom the same length. This can be due to wear or just the manufacturing process. While high-quality magazines are out there, they can be expensive. For some that is fine, but for many the cost-effectiveness of the AK is paramount. With millions of military surplus magazines available at lower costs, you want to use them if possible.
For the most mags, you just give them a try in your gun—if they fit you put them in one pile, if not, another. Those that fit you check for “wobble.” While having a bit of play seldom affects reliability, it can be annoying for some. There is just something about a nice, tight-fitting magazine.
An AK’s magazine catch or lever can also play an important role. Just like with mags proper, two guns’ levers are seldom exactly the same length. Further, receivers’ magwells can vary considerably—especially if they have been “opened up” to allow feeding from standard magazines. A magazine lever design that “adapts” to a mag and holds it in place would be a welcome addition to the AK world. It looks like M+M Inc. has come up with a pretty good one—their MRL (Magazine Release Lever) kit is supposed to eliminate wobble and help mags feed more reliably. I was sent a kit to install on one of my guns, and was eager to see whether it accomplishes what it claims to.
The rifle I tested the MRL kit on was an ARAK AK-74 I purchased some years ago. It has proven to be a reliable rifle, and just prior to receiving the MRL I had outfitted it with an ALG Defense AKT (AK Trigger)—another enhancement I was eager to get some trigger time with.
Most of my polymer magazines fit fine using the standard magazine catch, but several metal magazines wobble quite a bit. Built on a Waffen Werks receiver, it is a semi-custom build from ARAK Rifles in Tennessee (which is composed of former Waffen Werks employees). Purchased at the height of the most recent gun-buying panic, it’s been around awhile and has proven to be a solid performer. Each magazine was tested prior to installing the MRL kit, with one particularly loose steel magazine set aside.
M+M Inc. includes everything you need, short of a drill and punch to complete the installation, in each kit. This includes the lever, spring, pin, retaining clip, and a drill bit.
Using a battery-powered drill, the head of the rivet holding the factory catch in place was carefully removed. There’s no need to get carried away here, just go far enough to allow the pin to be removed. Start slow—the rivet makes for a very nice centering hole. Once complete, use a punch (if needed) to remove the pin, spring, and old magazine catch.
Take the new catch and check to see how it fits in your gun first—mine was a bit tight. Each gun can be different, so rather than struggle with one that is too loose or tight, take the time to match them up first and bend as needed. Install the spring as pictured in the instructions and slide in the supplied pilot pin. Set them in place, apply pressure, and insert the pin, making certain it goes easily through the spring. If you have to get out the five-pound sledge, there is something wrong. It should tap in place at most. Taking care not to send the retaining clip into the next county, carefully snap it into the small groove on the other end of the pin. Check it for movement, apply a small amount of grease to ensure smooth operation, and you are ready to go.
Prior to heading out to the range, my polymer magazines were checked for fit. Each snapped into place with zero movement. The difference was evident. It took a bit more pressure to lock them into place, but once in they were very solid. They came out with ease once the catch was depressed. These are my go-to magazines, so they needed to work, and they did.
The metal magazine showed the biggest difference, it locked solidly into place with no rattle. Using the stock latch it had moved quite a bit, so this too was a huge success. The M+M latch it uses a sort of “reverse V” that locks into the magazine’s tab. Rather than snapping on to the tab, it locks in that V shape created by the tab and the back of the magazine. Theoretically it should require less surface area to lock mags into place. If your magazine wears down, it should still work.
To fully test how well the M+M MRL might secure worn-down mags, I dug out my Dremel. I progressively ground more and more of the metal mag’s tab down using a fine grinding wheel and tried reinserting the mag with each “cut.” Each time it locked into place with no wobble. The mag only stopped locking into place when most of the tab was gone—something that would never happen with normal wear or differences in manufacturing.
Impressed, I headed to the range.
Starting with some simple reload drills, all of my polymer magazines functioned perfectly. It was just a bit stiffer getting them locked in place, but nothing noticeable when running the rifle. Locking tightly with no wobble, they functioned without issue. Standard reloads using my off-hand thumb to release were smooth. Even the ubiquitous “speed” reload using the replacement magazine to remove the empty worked fine. Performing some testing on some pistols for another feature, reloads during transitions were smooth and without a hitch. Moving to my metal magazines there was no difference. Each locked tightly with no wobble and zero malfunctions.
There isn’t a single feature of the M+M Inc. MRL kit that is not an improvement. For $29.95 retail, it is even a good buy considering how well it is made.
The MRL kit worked exactly as billed for me. Installation was simple, instructions were clear, and it did everything it claims to. Time will tell when it comes to longevity, but this kit will stay in place. This AK was pretty tight to begin with, this only made it tighter, and that is not a bad thing. Wobbling magazines never bothered me, it was just part of the AK, but it does not need to be. As AK rifles become more popular, better built, and assembled with greater attention to detail, this release lever will fit right in.
Images courtesy Dave Bahde