Thursday, 16 July 2015

Airsoft - AK-105 upgrade project Pt. 1

Ironically, for saying that (in theory) I have 'given up airsofting' I find myself undertaking an AEG upgrade project!

Thing is, though, that I hate leaving things uncompleted and the fact there are AEG projects laying half-done in my attic is a constant source of irritation whether I am actually airsofting or not. But thinking more practically, as I have decided to keep two of my AEGs in working order (just in case I fancy the occasional outing with friends) I am now feel obligated to complete the upgrade plans I had for one of those AEGs...

The classic 'lean' Russian AK-105 format. As 'tactical' as anyone needs really?

The AEG I am going to be doing the work on is my Kalash AK-105. The 105 was perhaps - in my opinion - the most beautiful AK ever designed (although when talking about Kalashnikovs 'beauty' is, perhaps, a relative concept)! As such I was always a little reluctant to change any of the externals and was going to concentrate of upgrading the internal components...

To 'tacticool' or not to 'tacticool'...
When I was involved in airsoft I was something of a 'purist' as far as my AKs were concerned and I was an ardent followed of the 'Red Alliance' Eastern Block airsoft forum. The central philosophy of Red Alliance enthusiasts was the maintaining of AK gun replicas in their purest form and not 'corrupting' Mikhail Kalashnikov iconic design by adding Western 'tactical' accessories. That was seen as 'reactionary'!

Left: Mikhail Kalashnikov: "You can have any colour of AK, so long as it's black." Credit: www.kremlin.ru

However, a lot has happened over the past five or so years. The Russian Army itself has been the subject of very fervent modernisation and - it seems - the well known idiosyncrasies of the AK design - even in it's AK-74/AK-100 series 'modernised' format - has finally succumbed to some 'frivolous'  Western influences. This was manifest by the amount of photos coming to light of Russian Special Forces personnel who had surreptitiously sourced Western tactical firearm accessories - such as Picatinny rail systems and even optical equipment - of their own volition or by the unofficial procurements made by these special units...

Russian Special Forces firearms competition, circa 2011.

Today the official Russian attitude is one which embraces 'tactical' accessories as the 2010 AK-74 upgrades ('AK-200') with its 'bolted on rails' morphed into the 'new' AK12 with it's more elegantly incorporated rail systems...

Russian Army publicity photo showing their equivalent of the West's 'Future
Soldier' programmes. Star of the show is the new AK-12.

East meets West...
I think one of the main reasons - philosophy or dogma aside - that some people (myself included) do not like to see Western firearm accessories on a Kalashnikov design is the aesthetic incompatibility of the two design concepts. Sticking a US made crane stock onto a AK-47 is somewhat like transplanting a man's arm onto a gorilla! In theory it might be 'handy' (excuse the pun) but it's just not right!


The popular perception of a 'tactical AK'. All Western accessories.

Luckily this gulf in aesthetics has been bridged of late as Russian companies have themselves begun to manufacture AK accessories that are rather more empathetic in their design to the Kalashnikov's utilitarian and puritanical  'look'.

Zenitco (Russia) manufactured AK add-ons (except the Eo-Tech of course)!
Source: www.zenitco.ru/en
Oh yes...Now that is Russian 'tacticool'! Perhaps a bit 'bling' but hey...AKs are fun! ;)
Source: www.facebook.com/zenitco

And so, I now feel it is time I 'modernised' my AK-105 to reflect the sort of changes that are taking place in the Russian military at the moment. Although the AK-12 upgrade program is in a very embryonic stage (and will only affect mainly 'Special Forces' units, the remainder still using the 'old' AK-74) there seems to be a very lively ad-hoc adoption of products like Zenitco's - though whether this is a localised adoption by specific units or even the personal purchases of Russian infantryman I am unsure...

Source: Russian Military and Police Vademecum (via www.facebook.com/zenitco)

Airsoft replicas of Zenitco and other parts
So, having established a 'why' I need to determine the 'how' of my upgrade project. Where exactly can I source these new 'tactical' parts - indeed are they even available in airsoft 'clone' form at all?

Trust the Chinese to spot a good thing when they see it! No sooner had I started Googling than Ebairsoft (my favourite Chinese airsoft retailer) brought me the goods!

In fact, Ebairsoft far exceeded my expectations as they seemed to stock Taiwanese copies of almost all of Zenitco's AK accessory range. I was flabbergasted - especially when I saw that they were selling a couple of fully tricked AEGs with Zenitico products as standard...

T NO13 ( Taiwan ) ZNTC Style LCT AK105 AEG (Er, it's actually an AK-104!)
Cost? $732.25 minus shipping....Yikes! Source: Ebairsoft

To be honest, while it's tempting to think that I am discovering something new that nobody else knows about (which is always a cool feeling for an airsoft 'geardo') the fact is that I am a little behind the curve as this video from AirsoftObsessed1 illustrates....



And now, the bad news...
OK, every silver lining has a great fluffy dark cloud around it and my Zenitco replica find is no excepton. In fact - technically - there are two issues, one 'minor' and one major...

Let's have the major bad news first...The price!

The T NO13 GBL Tactical AK Folding Stock for AEG / GBB (clone of Zenitco telescopic PT-1 "Classical" butt-stock) is a whopping $155 (plus shipping) from Ebairsoft or £177 plus shipping if you get it from Red Wolf UK.

....Pause...Breath...

So you can imagine how things begin to tot-up once you add the rest of the Zenitco clone parts (which include; the cool butt-stock of course, DTK-2 Steel Muzzle Brake, A-1 Rail Sling Mount, B-12 Upper Rail, B-13 AK Slide Mount Rail,  B-10M Lower Rail, RK-6 AK Fore Grip, RP1 Charing Handle AD-P-012, RK-3 AK Pistol Grip, etc, etc...).

A real fully tricked-out  Zenitco AK...There's a lot of non-standard parts on that AK! Airsoft clone
companies have faithfully reproduced this selection of accessories.
Source: www.zenitco.ru

The lesser issue cane be found on the Zenitco official Facebook page, and goes like this: "Attention everyone. FAKE PRODUCTS. They exist. We will not mention any companies as we don't deem them worthy of this, but please watch out. Zenit has not given permission to, endorsed, or supported any of the companies currently producing these copies..."

Opps! I kinda know already what most airsofter's attitude to this would be - but felt obliged to pass on the announcement. A lot of Western firearm accessory manufacturers are already aware of the thriving counterfeit or 'clone' trade (mostly conducted in China) and it is a serious issue...BUT...

I personally find it slightly amusing that a Russian company is complaining about others stealing their designs. Historically this is a little like the kettle calling the pot black! But I jest.

What is perhaps more amusing is that after the USA having at least a 30 year head-start in the area of tactical weapon accessories they have not been able to come up with a decent folding stock solution for the AK-74/AK-100 series firearms...And yet Zenitco have done it right on their very first attempt!

The rather nice Magpul 'Zhukov-S' folding stock of AK47/74 platforms. It's
probably the most pleasing Western design but does - as the photo shows - have
one glaring design flaw...It folds on the right, over the AK's control lever!
Source:  'Zhukov-S' is a trademark of the Magpul Company USA

The majority of folding/telescopic stock solutions for AKs have been based on the AR-15/M-4 crane-stock design which, as we all know, is not aesthetically compatible with the Kalashnikov - I don't care what anyone says. The best designs to come from the 'West' - if you count Israel as being part of the West - are the FAB Defence UAS folding stock and the new Magpul (USA) Zhukov-S stock.

However, neither of these are as good looking as the Zenitco "Classical" PT-1 folding stock, and they aren't - as I keep emphasising - completely in touch with the classic, 'no frills' AK philosophy...In short, they look Western.

LCT's T NO13 ( Taiwan ) ZNTC Style AK74U AEG ($672.55) illustrates the
seamless way that the PT-1 stock 'borgs' itself into the AK. This model is the
AKS74U modification using replica Russian parts (again, the 7.62mm banana
magazine is wrong as the AKS74U was a 5.45mm calibre weapon).

(If I sound like I am labouring the point about the stock there is a reason for that. As much as I admire the AK generally and the design of the AK-104/5 in particular I have always detested the flimsy polymer 'solid' stock that was added to the 'M' ('modernised') AK-74 in 1991. It is hideous in the way that only a Russian firearms designer would find acceptable...I.E. it works. Hence me taking this opportunity to get rid of it!)

Anyway, to conclude...
I have started collecting the (external) parts for my project but I am also putting a lot of thought to the internals and the current Kalash body. Though to be honest, the AK-105 bodywork was some of the best AEG replica work that Kalash (D-Boy) had ever done.* It's markedly superior to their earlier AK-74MN - which I also own - and feels absolutely rock solid (as it is full metal).

* The Kalash AK-105 is itself a clone of LCT's AK105 replica. 

So the work starts now as the first parts arrived this week...(Yes, I know, I told you the price and now you are shaking you head. It's lucky that I didn't mention that the real steal - Russian made - DTK 'Coyote' flash hider by Tactika Tula cost me £60 then...Opps!)


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Never say never (airsoft redux)

Me in my Russian Tiger BDUs
When I said, earlier this year, that I was finally giving up the idea of participating in airsoft it did cause one unexpected quandary...Just what do I do with all that airsoft kit that I had accumulated?

At the moment it's all taking up a large amount of space and gathering dust in my 'man cave' - space I would rather use for other hobbies. I have been putting off the inevitable 'clear out' of this largely redundant collection owing to a serious case of denial that that phase of my hobby-life is now over.

Left: The glory days at South Yorkshire Airsoft with my, then, newly purchased CYMA AKM. This was pre-UKARA and I bought this on the site stall...Those were the days!

That said I had always said I would keep two AEGs and one loadout 'just in case' - as I have had several friends who have kindly said I would be welome to join them if I ever felt the urge to have an outing for old time sake.

But beside this I have always felt I have some unfinished business. I had several gun-based projects that I put a lot of time and effort into that were still far from completion and that just niggled me (a mild case of OCD maybe)! And chief among these was my AK-105 upgrade plans.

The two AEGs that I decided to hang on to are my VFC AKS74U and my Kalash AK-105. Not because they were the best airsoft guns I have ever had (top honours must go to my JG H&K G3A1 and my first CYMA AK-74)  but because they are the most fun. These are the sort of AEGs that put a smile on your face in the field.

Awww, my first AK - which I guess is what made it special. It was a CYMA AK-74,
a fixed stock ABS AEG which was reliable and accurate. Being basically plastic it
was wonderfully light, and yet was strong (I fell on it once but didn't snap it)!

So, while organising my airsoft kit clear-out I am at the same time going to be spending some time customising my AK-105 to get it the way I want it.

One of the plus points about not being into airsoft to the degree I was a few years ago is that I am now not so precious about having my AKs 'stock' (i.e. unmodified). My days of being an avid fan of the 'Red Alliance' forum - with all the annul self-righteousness about not using 'Western' accessories on my Eastern Block replica guns - are over and I am not so disinclined to a bit of 'tacticool' now.

To that ends I will be sparking off a series of blog entries about customising my AK-105 and as a teaser I give you this snap of some of this month's purchases...

Modern Russian 'tactical' components - a replica Zenitco folding stock for the
AK-100/AK-74 series and a real steel DTK 'Coyote' flash hider by Tactika Tula.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Getting started in World of Warships

One of the things that use to frustrate my game-playing friends about the way I approached World of Tanks was that I 'didn't take it seriously'. I didn't learn how to use the tanks 'properly', I didn't use some of the third-party 'mods' that indicated tanks weak spots and I never really made the best use of 'armour angling'.

Well, I have started playing Wargaming.net's new naval warfare arcade-sim called - predictably - World of Warships and this time I thought I'd look into the theory of how to play the game rather than just 'winging it' (as I did in WoT)!

This time I'm making a conscious effort not to do so many 'stupid things'. And I have began as I mean to go on by actually watching some of the very good quality game tutorials that are available online. YouTube game-bloggers like iChaseGaming, BaronVonGamezeNtaKPhlyDaily and many more upload oodles of 'how to' videos regarding World of Warships...



As much as anything some of these guides are very interesting and do give something of a historical background to some of the issues that WW2 naval commanders had to consider when going into battle. Techniques and tactics like fleet cooperation, gun laying, mutual support and armour angling (yes this can be as important with a ship as it is with a tank) are not only going to help you last longer but also help your team performance improve as well.

There is a danger that you can approach WoWS as if you are playing pirates, sailing directly at an opponent and trying to slug it out with broadsides...This is mistake number one!

YAR! ...Er, NOT how you should play World of Warships!
More so than World of Tanks it's your primary assets - aircraft carriers and battleships - that will dictate the result of the game and every other class is simply a supporting role. While in World of Tanks everyone seemed to think that their tank - no matter what class - could have a major impact on the direction of the game (however misguided that was) with World of Warships nearly every game I have played has been dictated by how well the battleships have been supported and used.

So, the short story is - if you want to be a part of a winning team in WoWS learn your role!


(I know World of Tank enthusiasts will point our that that is how WoT should be approached as well, but it was my experience that because the majority of players 'played for themselves' in public games the game outcomes in Tanks were a lot more random. Clan Battles were a different thing.)

Moreover, the difference in power between a destroyer and a battleship is so much more apparent than the difference between a light tank and a heavy tank. This is particularly evident because on the high seas there is no where to hide!


You won't be playing World of Warships long before you start hearing players talking about
the 'citadel'. It's the WoWS holy grail of 'good hits' and yet you are very much left to find
out just what it's all about yourself - here's a video that will demystify this WoWS jargon.

I will let you know how my new found gaming ethos will pan out. At the very least if I take things a bit more seriously I shouldn't annoy my team-mates as much! (In theory.) ;)