Last time, I said I would open this post with my precise optics choice. Here’s why I tried to put it off: my optic is an Aim Sports 4×32 ACOGalike. (ACOGalike is not the brand name; that’s just my description.) A quick note on Chinese-built optics: if it doesn’t have Primary Arms on it, you can’t trust it. If you roll a 12 or greater on a d20, it’s probably worth using; if you roll a 20 and 12 or greater on a second roll, then you might have a hidden gem. I hit about an 18 on mine: it doesn’t show the same issues as some other Chinese optics in my possession, but it’s inferior to parvusimperator’s proper ACOG in terms of optical clarity and low-light performance. So it goes. I can buy ten cheapo Chinese optics for the price of his one ACOG; at least one of mine is going to be usable.
Anyway, same optical characteristics as a Real ACOG, which means limited eye relief. Originally, Kat had a polymer stock in the same vein as the stock AK stock, except lengthened a bit for parvusimperator’s monkey arms1. You can see the issue if you look at a picture of an AK stock: it slopes somewhat downward, and my cheek weld, for a relatively high-mounted scope with short eye, ends up being a beard weld, since you find yourself in front of the actual comb. This is not ideal.
The solution? A stock with a higher comb. There are varied and sundry options here. After looking at several options, I chose the Magpul Zhukov-S. “A Magpul?” you ask. “Fishbreath, aren’t you a massive cheapskate?” Yes, yes I am, but at the same time, I recognize quality when I see it. Let’s count the ways the Zhukov-S is a good choice.
Number one: the comb is straight back from the receiver. This fixes my chin weld issue: the comb is high enough that I can properly place my cheek against it, while being low enough that it doesn’t interfere with over-the-ear hearing protection.
Number two: it’s a side-folder. This is not of critical importance, but there’s something about folding stocks on AKs that just feels right.
Number three: the build quality is superb. The folding mechanism feels durable and has positive locking in the folded position; in the extended position, there is zero rattle. It may as well be a fixed stock.
Number four: the attachment mechanism. Magpul has solved probably the largest open problem in AK customization. This one requires some further explanation.
An AK stock is secured to the receiver by two screws: one through the tang poking out the back of the receiver, and one through an internal tang in the receiver a little bit further forward. These are not for precision alignment: they’re there for retention only. The stocks are precision-fit2 to wedge into the receiver, which prevents them from wiggling. This requires a good bit of force, and a good bit of fitting on initial installation.
Magpul decided this was a terrible idea. They came up with two innovations to make the whole process almost painless. The first is their so-called ‘wedge block’. Looking at the stock from the side, the forward bit which slides into the receiver is cut diagonally, longer at the top and shorter at the bottom. The wedge block is cut the opposite way; putting the wedge block against the forward bit of the stock makes a square. A bolt holds them together, and when you tighten the bolt, the wedge block slides downward. This pushes the stock upward, and eventually, the wedge block and the stock have wedged themselves against the receiver, securing themselves against it without having to be made the same size as the receiver.
The second innovation is a keyed nut: oval-shaped instead of circular, it fits into a cut beneath the tang screw hole in the stock. Magpul provides a machine screw to fit the nut, so when you tighten the machine screw, it ends up centered over the nut, which is positioned at a defined point in the stock, yielding correct side-to-side orientation. So, unlike most AK stocks, the Zhukov-S goes on painlessly. All you have to do is tighten a few screws to hold things in place; no mallet required, and the end result is just as solid.
Is it perfect? No, not quite. I’d love some storage, especially since my optic’s illumination is powered by watch batteries, not radioactivity or natural light, and as far as I can tell, my options are limited to duct taping things to the outside of the stock. Nor does it have the classic looks I usually go for: it’s a tacticool accessory through and through. Although it has sling swivel points, it doesn’t come with any of the push-button sling swivels they accept, and for the money, I feel like a swivel would have been a nice extra. Finally, it is a little bit on the expensive side; at about $100, it’s the most I’ve ever spent on a firearms accessory which is not an optic.
Don’t let those critiques take away from the product, though: it’s certainly worth the money.
1. This isn’t entirely fair. The stock is NATO length. I just don’t like ’em that long.
2. In AK Land, this means they’re cut a little large, and you bang ’em into place.