Best Gifts to Give in 2012: AK(-47) for the Holidays
Matt Korovesis 12.07.12
Since AK collecting and shooting has become more mainstream within the past several years, a wider variety of firearms and accessories has become available to enthusiasts. The Kalashnikov is one of my favorite types of gun to study, collect, and customize, and being the editor of OutdoorHub, I get deals, press releases, forum discussions, and product reviews coming across my monitor on a regular basis. It’s a bit of a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I get to see all the cool new (and sometimes old) AK stuff coming to market and a curse because I know I’ll never be able to get my hands on everything I want to try out.
However, there’s a handful of said cool AK stuff that I actually get to put through the paces of a recreational shooter and collector. If you’ve got an AK owner in your life that you’d like to surprise with some well-selected swag this holiday season, read through my guide below for some of my personally vetted recommendations.
Hogue handguards and pistol grips (handguards: ~$50, pistol grips: ~$20-25)
I really enjoy customizing my AK with attractive, ergonomic, and utilitarian furniture. I’ve particularly come to appreciate the handguards and pistol grips made by Hogue. Both the handguards and the grips well exceed expectations for their intended roles—they’re grippy as hell. In addition to being effective furniture they’re very aesthetically pleasing, striking a middle ground between the Eastern Bloc-simplicity we’re all used to and the extreme rail robot of many other aftermarket options. The lower handguards are modular, too—you can add or remove the individual Picatinny rails from the sides and bottom of the guard at a whim. All of the handguard sets come with a non-railed upper handguard if you have no use for the railed one. The handguards usually go for around $50 for a new set on Hogue’s site and Amazon, the pistol grips usually run anywhere from $20-25.
Mags, mags, and more mags (anywhere from $10 to $100+)
Magazines (a.k.a. “clips”) are always a great choice, whether they’re serving as a stocking stuffer or the beginnings of a stockpile, and a true AK owner can never have enough mags. Just make sure that you get the right caliber mag for your AKer’s gun—obviously a 7.62x39mm mag won’t work in a gun that shoots 5.45x39mm.
If you’re looking for a few stocking stuffers, I’d recommend checking out AIM Surplus. They usually have great deals on surplus foreign-made 7.62 mags and a nice selection of US-made items as well. Unique-but-still-affordable are the Hungarian “tanker” 20-round mags that you can find on places like AK-Builder.com.
Cheaper-but-high-quality 5.45 magazines are getting harder to find these days, with $35+ seeming to be the standard, with good deals here and there. K-Var and RRC Firearms are both great places to follow for new production and surplus 5.45 mags.
If you’re looking for something special in the mag department, RRC’s got some uncommon 45-round Molot-made 5.45 magazines for $130 as of this writing. If your AK shooter is a heathen and his or her gun is chambered in 5.56x45mm (just kidding, I love 5.56 just as much as the next plinker), RobertRTG has good prices on surplus and new Polish-made 5.56 AK mags for $24 and $38, respectively. They should work in most 5.56 AKs without a hitch.
Side note: For goodness sake, make sure you buy magazines that are legal to own and use in your state.
Something trendy—a shirt or two from 1791apparel ($18 a shirt)
We gun owners sometimes want to flaunt our interests and sports in a trendy way. For those of us who want to rep our rights in such a manner beyond wearing a tank top that says “I LIKE GUNS” (which admittedly would be cool too, if a little dangerous in the wrong setting) in bold font, there’s 1791apparel. They produce a variety of appealing designs that’ll please shooters and collectors from all corners of the hobby. As an AK/red guns guy, I’m pretty partial to the AK bolt, AK safety, and Izhevsk logo designs, but even you sixgun and AR folk can find something that you’ll like there.
Something tactical—Beez Combat Systems AK Chest Rig ($70+)
I’ve just recently gotten into gear like chest rigs, MOLLE pouches, and other tactical items. After doing some Googling to gauge general opinions and reviews on some of the best AK-specific gear, I decided on purchasing an AK74/5.45 chest rig from Beez Combat Systems (BCS). They’re custom made to order and a variety of options are available to buyers—X- or H-style harness, type of lat straps, color, number of internal mag pouches, and so on. All BCS rigs are very high quality and fit the mags and user well; many come with ample MOLLE webbing for further customization. They’re also one of the few companies that makes a rig specifically for the magazines Saiga shotguns use.
If you get a rig from BCS, I’d also highly recommend one of the padded harnesses. They’re just as high quality as the rigs and make for a more comfortable fit. Ensure you buy the right harness for your webbing size, though—I made the mistake of purchasing a 2″ webbing size harness when I needed a 1.5″ webbing size for my 74 rig. After explaining my stupidity to BCS, they happily accepted the wrongly ordered harness back and sent me the properly-sized harness. More plus points for great customer service.
Whether you’re looking for an easier way to carry your gear around at the range, preparing for a rainy day, or any other rugged purpose, I can’t plug BCS’ gear enough. It’s good stuff.
Something big—FIME Group SGL12 Shotgun ($800+)
If you want to spoil your AK gift-getter this year, go all out and get ’em an AK shotgun—specifically, an SGL12 from FIME Group. The SGL12 series are magazine-fed semi-automatic 12 gauge shotguns based on the Kalashnikov action. Just like their cousins, the SGL21, 31, and 41 series rifles and shotguns, the receiver and other “important parts” like the barrel are authentic Russian-made items. The one I’ve been playing with for the past several months, an SGL12-61, comes equipped with an RPK-style handguard, adjustable gas tube, bolt hold open, side-mounted scope rail, and pistol grip. There’s several other variations of the shotgun, some that come with Picatinny rails, different handguards and pistol grips, and so on.
After running 500 shells through my SGL12, I’ve got nothing but praise for the gun. It’s a hoot to shoot, whether you’re unloading on clays or just having fun at the range. Look for an in-depth review on the gun from me later this month.
That brings us to the end of my guide. I hope you’ve found something that you’ll be able to give to your beloved Kalash shooter this year. Good luck and happy holidays!