Though Magpul’s parts and accessories for the AR platform have been around for years and are the standards against which practically all other products are judged, the company only formally entered the AK market very recently. Over the past few years, Magpul has slowly released a trickle of Kalashnikov accessories and other goodies, including a pistol grip, 7.62x39mm magazines, and the MOE AK and Zhukov furniture lines. At last week’s SHOT Show, they announced that they’ll soon be offering 5.45x39mm magazines and lower-capacity 7.62x39mm mags.
While I was happy when I first learned that Magpul would be throwing their hat into the AK ring, I was also skeptical. First, some otherwise-reputable companies’ Kalashnikov products have come up short compared to their AR offerings. Second, there are also many AK shooters (myself included) who find standard polymer and wooden Combloc-pattern furniture to be more than adequate. Finally, a number of names in the Kalash world already offer proven accessories, such as Krebs Custom’s KeyMod handguard. With these thoughts in mind, I eagerly looked forward to playing with the Zhukov handguard, Zhukov-S folding stock, and MOE AK pistol grip Magpul sent to me for evaluation.
First and foremost, here are some specs on the parts.
- Weight: 15 ounces
- Adjustments: Five-position, collapsible
- Length of pull (LOP) when fully collapsed: 12.2 inches
- LOP when fully extended: 14.8 inches
- LOP adjustment increments: 0.65 inches per position
- MSRP: $99.95
- Weight with top cover: 15.1 ounces
- Length: 11.7 inches
- Width: 1.8 inches
- Aluminum heat shield
- Five M-LOK attachment points at the 6 o’clock position, two on each side near the muzzle end at approximately the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, one on each side under the rear sight base at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions
- MSRP: $99.95
MOE AK grip
- Weight: 2.9 ounces
- Height: 4.1 inches
- MSRP: $20.95
In October 2015, I built my own 7.62x39mm AKM-pattern rifle with Definitive Arms. I decided that my build gun would be the perfect opportunity to try out the new furniture on, as I have several other AKs equipped with a variety of Combloc and aftermarket parts.
The Zhukov-S stock is compatible with stamped-receiver AKs with non-folding-stock rear trunnions (a version specifically made for “Yugo” rifles is also available). It attaches to the receiver by way of a two-piece polymer wedge block and two Allen-head bolts. With the stock folded, all one has to do is insert the block and insert and tighten the bolts. One bolt secures the pieces of the wedge and the other attaches the stock to the trunnion itself. An additional Allen-head screw secures a forward QD sling mount via the forward rear trunnion hole. I’ve removed and reinstalled the stock several times just to make sure it’s idiot-proof, and it is.
The Zhukov handguard, which is compatible with standard stamped-receiver guns, requires a bit more work. The upper piece (which does not need to be installed for the lower piece to fit properly) slides on the gas tube like any other standard handguard, but the lower component requires permanent removal of the lower handguard retainer. Because my Zhukov handguard was installed mid-build, I didn’t have to go through with that step. However, anyone considering replacing their standard handguard with the Zhukov should be aware that they’re going to permanently alter their gun and prevent it from using most other handguards.
After removing the retainer, one has to slide the handguard’s beefy aluminum heat shield carrying the bottom halves of the two included barrel clamps into position against the front of the receiver. One must then install the the upper halves of the clamps and slightly tighten the included Allen-head screws (this is a somewhat similar process to how an UltiMAK gas tube rail is installed). With the shield in place, the polymer shell is slipped on the gun over the shield and fit up against the front of the receiver, so that the shell’s rear screw holes line up with those on the sides of the heat shield. Once it’s level and fitted properly, all that’s left to do is tighten the screws through the openings on the bottom of the lower handguard and secure the shell to the shield via the rear screws.
The MOE AK pistol grip installs like any other AK grip via a screw that threads into the pistol grip block.
Feel and function
I was first struck by how comfortable to hold and fast-pointing my DAKM was with the extended length of the Zhukov handguard. I thought I wouldn’t like it as much as standard handguards, but combined with an M-LOK handstop it’s quite nice. Combined with the heat shield, the gun felt slightly more front-heavy. However, being able to get your support hand in a stable position closer to the muzzle counteracts the change of balance. Nonetheless, anyone seeking to build an ultra-lightweight AK build for whatever reason might be miffed about the added mass of the Zhukov.
The extensive amount of M-LOK attachment points on the Zhukov handguard definitely make the AK it’s attached to more adaptable. While the 3 and 9 o’clock slots are perfect for lights and lasers, being able to mount such accessories far forward on a Kalashnikov isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking (for example, RS Regulate makes an excellent forward barrel mount). However, the 3 and 9 o’clock slots allowed me to attach a Vltor ModPod to my AK, something I was only able to previously accomplish with an expensive, extended-length Krebs KeyMod handguard on a Vepr.
Having the ability to deploy the ModPod from prone and other positions made taking accurate shots out to 150 yards and beyond incredibly easy. In addition, with the ModPod’s legs folded, the handstop was perfect for stable shooting offhand or from barriers. Given that this was first time toying with an M-LOK-pattern handguard, I was satisfied with how all of the directly-attached accessories and rails held up to abuse. I also appreciated how slim and minimalist the handguard was thanks to the M-LOK system. The M-LOK slots also offer the user a wealth of sling attachment points, something standard Kalashnikovs lack.
The Zhukov handguard’s substantial heat shield certainly did its job. After extended periods of high-volume fire, the handguard was much cooler to the touch than it would be with conventional polymer or wooden furniture.
The Zhukov-S stock is very impressive. It locks up securely in the folded and open positions with absolutely no wobble. Since it folds to the right, it allows an operator to use their rifle’s side rail (if it has one) and still secure the stock in the folded position. Since I exclusively use RS Regulate mounts on my guns with rails, that was a huge benefit.
With the stock folded, it is still possible to shoot the gun reliably—I never encountered ejection issues when shooting the rifle with the Zhukov-S folded. Operating the safety with the stock folded is somewhat difficult, but doable.
Magpul sells cheek risers that can be attached to the Zhukov-S, but I found the standard comb height to be perfect for use with irons and low-profile optic mounts.
I prefer shorter Warsaw Pact-length AK buttstocks (with a LOP of approximately 12.6 inches) to longer NATO versions, so the Zhukov-S feels most comfortable in the fully collapsed position. Nevertheless, having the ability to extend a “real” folding AK stock without adding an AR buffer tube is quite handy. Further, in addition to its three QD sling mounts, the Zhukov-S sports a sling loop just front of of the rubber buttpad. These options set it firmly above standard stocks, which often only have a single sling loop on the right or left side.
Taking into account its features, fit to the rifle, and the overall comfort it provides, I believe the Zhukov-S sets a new standard for side-folding AK stocks. It has a solid leg up on the Combloc polymer stocks I’m used to in a number of ways and it provides a better cheekweld than other aftermarket (I compared it side-by-side with an ACE folder) and AR-pattern stocks.
The MOE AK pistol grip is a significant improvement over standard Combloc grips. It gives my go-to choice, a Hogue overmolded grip, a run for its money. The battery storage compartment is a nice touch that keeps it in-line with the features of other aftermarket grips.
The handguard had several strengths. It allows a user to get their support hand out further on their gun, making it fast and easily steadied. The heat shield does its job and the abundance of M-LOK slots makes it very customizable. The only real drawback to it is that it requires removal of the handguard retainer, but the Zhukov’s benefits far outweigh that.
The Zhukov-S stock is an excellent piece of furniture. I plan on replacing the stocks on all of my standard, non-folding AKs with Zhukov-S models as my budget allows. There’s simply no reason not to.
The MOE AK grip is another solid piece of gear, but wasn’t a total game-changer. It’s still a level above standard grips, though.
All of the accessories I reviewed are priced competitively, coming in right around $100 retail each for the stock and handguard and $20 for the grip. In comparison, an ACE side folder runs about $140 and a Krebs extended KeyMod handguard (what I feel is most closely in competition with the Zhukov) will set you back $260.
All in all, the Zhukov handguard, Zhukov-S stock, and MOE AK grip are excellent options for discerning Kalashnikov owners.
Images by Matt Korovesis