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Iraqi AK Upgrades and Accessories: “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”

Every country that has been at war long enough eventually creates its own “firearms industry”. In some countries, like Pakistan and Philipines, it leads to the creation of indigenous weapon production.

In other countries, for example in Iraq and Afghanistan, the newborn firearms industry has a smaller scale and is limited to weapon modifications and upgrades. Today I wanted to talk about some of the firearms products that I saw during my work in Iraq. Things I saw will be divided into three categories: the good, the bad and the ugly.

THE GOOD

Here is one handmade SBR I saw in a city close to Iraqi-Iranian border. It started its life as a German-made AK, MPi-KМS-72 to be exact. One day it came to Iraq and eventually ended up in the hands of someone who knew exactly what he was doing.

The quality of works is impressive. The unknown gunsmith cut the barrel, recrowned it, made a new thread, repopulated the barrel, drilled new gas port, made new handguard and ergonomic pistol grip, shortened gas piston, and modified recoil mechanism.

I think if this exact gun entered US Army’s Sub Compact Weapon Program, it would easily outperform most other designs (yes, I am joking, but the real joke is pistol caliber rifle when you can just use a rifle caliber instead).

To be honest, I would love to meet the guy who made it and shake his hand.

THE BAD

The phenomenon of “Bubba the Gunsmith” is international, and with Picatinny rails gaining popularity, there are a lot of opportunities for Bubbas to manifest their talent.

In this case, Picatinny rail is welded onto standard detachable AK receiver cover. There are two problems with that. First, standard AK receiver cover will never hold zero, not a chance. Second, this rail completely blocks the iron sights. So, it is not just a useless accessory, it actually makes weapon unusable – you can’t zero your red dot and you can’t use iron sights.

I would like to think that this ghastly receiver cover is just one single example and not a mass-produced item. But my hopes were dashed today when I saw some new pictures from Syria.

Pictures are courtesy of Alexander Harchenko, ANNA-news reporter: https://vk.com/id2027798

Pictures are courtesy of Alexander Harchenko, ANNA-news reporter: https://vk.com/id2027798

Why would you need to see the sights when you look cool, right?

There are also a lot of interesting ways to fix guns in Iraq. When M4 grip started to wobble on one of the rifles, the owner quickly found a makeshift solution.

Instead of taking a screwdriver and tightening the grip, he taped it to the lower receiver with some tape. It hardly helped with the wobble, but the guy decided that it is good enough and did not report the problem. The tape completely blocked the safety selector, but this guy probably watched “Black Hawk Down”, and knew that real Tier 1 operators do not use the safety anyway.

Also, when it comes to weapon maintenance, the local approach is often very unique. On a few occasions, I saw soldiers “protecting” their barrels with cotton patches, plugging them into the barrel.

Usually, those patches are stock deep into the barrel and you can’t even see them, let alone remove them in a timely manner. Needless to say, if you attempt to fire a weapon with a patch in the barrel, best case scenario would be a massive barrel bulge.

THE UGLY

If you will realistically look on what breaks on AKs in the war zone, number one failure would be folding stocks. That is why local gunsmiths are trying hard to replicate German/Romanian side-folding stocks and always pay top dollar for the originals. And apparently, the difference in price between originals and replicas created an unexpected problem.

I was visiting one of the armories in Northern Iraq and during the inspection, I realized that stock screws on all the Romanian AKs are glued.

I asked an Iraqi supervisor, a very smart and hard-working guy, why exactly did he do that, and he told me a story.

When he started issuing AKs to guards, they would bring weapons to the market the same day, unscrew original stocks, sell them for about 60$, bought locally made stocks for 30$ and installed them back on the weapons. In the evening they would come back and say “It was like that when I got in the morning!”

Some locally made stocks

Some locally made stocks

To end this new wave of entrepreneurship he simply glued all screws on the folding stocks. I have to say without any sarcasm – great solution.

But sometimes you fixed stock also breaks and you need replacement. In this case, unknown Iraqi gunsmiths can offer some options too.

Sure, this stock is not very pretty and probably won’t be able to make it to the cover of “RECOIL” magazine any time soon, but it serves the purpose and actually is quite comfortable.

In conclusion, we all can laugh about some of the crude and funny modifications we see in third world countries. But the reason they are crude and funny is usually the lack of knowledge, complete lack of equipment and draconian gun laws.

So next time you’re buying gauges, stocks, accessories and gunsmithing tools at Brownells just remember how lucky you are and enjoy it. A lot of those third world gunsmiths would give up everything for such an opportunity.

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