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!)


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