Having ran a variety of chest rigs, plate carriers, and vests over the years I am always trying to find that perfect setup. Not long ago I stumbled upon Velocity Systems Mayflower APC (Assault Plate Carrier) and it was love first time I threw it on. The mayflower APC is hands down one of the best vests on the market in terms of value, quality, durability, maneuverability, and options. It is one the lightest PC’s I’ve ever used and also allows me full mobility without any restriction of movement. The Mayflower APC can be had in a variety of camo patterns to include: Black, Ranger Green, Desert Digital Marpat, Multicam, Coyote, as well as the kryptek patterns. If you can’t find an APC in a color you want then you are just too picky. The MSRP on APC’s are $255 but most of the time you can find them from several vendors like SKD tactical, and U.S. Elite Gear for around $220. Let me tell you that even at MSRP you are getting a deal. For the price of the APC and the level of quality you can’t go wrong. The APC is incredibly rugged and very lightweight. Once you put one on, you are sure to fall in love.
As I’ve said before I have tried many different load carrying systems and combinations for the past 9 years and have come to find for me the best thing is a plate carrier/chest rig combo. I like using a combo for several reasons. Firstly, if I ever am going on a long range movement, I am able to drop my plate carrier and just throw on my chest rig so I am lighter and can cover more ground quicker. Should I need to be armored up for a good range session or maybe military guys going into a direct action (DA) mission you are able to add the extra protection.
HSP D3 chest rig in action
Basically this combination gives you options where as if you’re a guy, like I used to be, who runs his gear directly of his plate carrier/ballistic vest, then you are stuck with that setup. For my chest rig I elected to try the Haley Strategic D3 chest rig. I had heard good things about it and it is setup to be a minimalist rig which is exactly what I wanted. The D3 chest rig can be had for $175 and is available in black, coyote, multicam, and the four Kryptek patterns. I elected go with a multicam rig as I wanted it to match my Mayflower APC also in multicam. The cool thing about this APC/D3 combo is the fact that you don’t have to wear your chest rig over your plate carrier but rather you can drop the straps on your chest rig and clip it directly onto your APC! This is great for the fact that you don’t have straps that can catch on something or ride up on your neck and choke you. The chest rig integrates to the plate carrier via velocity systems swift clips. These clips attach directly to your plate carrier and make integration with a variety of chest rigs seamless and quick.
Velocity Systems Swift Clips
Now that I have my chest rig integrated to my plate carrier it’s time to take a look at the Haley D3 chest rig. Keep in mind that this rig is designed as a minimalist rig. The D3 chest rig comes with 4 rifle magazine pouches that can hold either 5.56 M4 mags, 5.45×39 AK mags, or 7.62×39 AK mags. The magazines are retained via bungee tabs which allow for good retention as well as the fact they’re easy to move out of the way for quick access to your ammo. Keep an eye on these bungee retention tabs because they do have a tendency to come undone. Moving on from the rifle pouches you’ll notice that there are two general purpose pouches flanking the rig on each side. These are perfect for storing your miscellaneous mission essential gear like GPS’s, batteries, weapons lube, first aid items… etc. etc… I will say that I would of liked to have seen the GP pouches a little bit bigger but overall they will fit most everything I need. The GP pouches are also spec’d to fit a G-Code incog holster which is great for people like me that like to keep things off my waist if possible. Next up is the stuff-it pouch. The stuff it pouch was designed to expand or contract to fit things like grenades, SSE kits or a variety of other things. I have found that the stuff it pouch will fit a Surefire 60 magazine very nicely as well as two 30 round M4 mags. If you don’t want to use the stuff it pouch then you can cinch it tight and get it out of the way. Lastly the front of the rig has two multi mission pouches. These look like pistol pouches and also feature the same bungee tabs located on the rifle pouches. These MMPS pouches can be used to store either double stacked or single stacked pistol magazines or will mold to fit things like multi-tools or flashlights. Something of interest to note is the fact that the pouches have a magnetic strip at the bottom so if you’re running, say a 1911 magazine, the strip will magnetize to the metal and give you rock solid retention. The back of the chest rig has a Velcro strip which mates nicely to the mayflower assault plate carrier and will give you enough retention of your system if you need to suit up quickly and don’t have time to clip in right away.
Overall guys I am very happy with this setup and have ran this system hard for about 6 months now. The mayflower APC is perfect in my opinion and the D3 chest rig is an awesome minimalist rig that is perfect for my range needs. It is indeed low profile and will not disrupt your shooting position when you are in the prone.
Loose bungee retention tabs
The only hits I have against the D3 rig are that the bungee retention tabs can come loose from time to time if you pull too hard. The GP pouches, in my opinion, could have been made a little bigger but not a huge deal. The rifle pouches are awesome as are the pistol pouches. The D3 rig overall is an excellent rig that is an outstanding rig for me and my need whether it be for range use, a shooting course, zombies or whatever. Look forward to a video review on this setup as well as follow up videos.
Gents, one of the best things I ever did in regards to the AK is when I sent mine in to get custom work done. I have always been fascinated with AK’s. The way they look, operate, fire, the controls, the odd Russian calibers. Everything about it fascinated me. However, I always wanted to do to tweak it here and there and set it up to my needs. Well a few years ago I noticed Travis Haley’s AK that he used in his Adaptive Kalashnikov dvd,(excellent video from Panteo Productions) and I noticed that something was peculiar looking about his gas block. I really liked his whole setup and was extremely intrigued by the gas block and the fact that he had a surefire muzzle brake on the end of his AK74. I immediately did my research and discovered that Rifle Dynamics in Las Vegas
Image courtesy of Rifle Dynamics
was producing extremely impressive AK’s under the helm of Jim Fuller. After researching more about the custom mods that could be done to AK’s I decided I was going to do it and build my own spec’d exactly how I wanted my AK setup…in short it would be my dream AK. After assembling my dream list of parts and mods that would surely make even Mikhail Kalashnikov bow to my awesome rifle I started looking for people to do the work. Initially, I wanted to go with Rifle Dynamics because their production RD500 and 700 series rifles pretty much was exactly what I was looking for anyways but was not enthused about the estimated year turnaround time. With me not being patient enough to wait that long I gave up on my dream AK and decided it was not meant to be and went back to my AR-15s. Fast forward to a about 6 months ago and I was having work done on my knights armament SR-15 and out of curiosity asked my friend if he could do some work on AK’s. He asked what and I told him what I wanted and he said he couldn’t but he would put me in touch with Chase Sisgold of Definitive Arms and see what he could do for me. I talked to Chase and I told him what I wanted and he said everything was doable. I was kind of shocked and wasn’t sure if I wanted to send my rifle to these guys because I hadn’t heard much if anything about Definitive Arms but after much conversations between us I decided to take a leap of faith and told him it would take me a while to assemble everything but once I did I would send in my gun to get the definitive arms treatment. With my dream AK a possibility again I became as giddy as a teenage school girl at a Justin Bieber concert and started buying up everything to make this happen.
Image courtesy of Definitive Arms
The first thing I decided I need to pick up was the actual gun. Always a good place to start and I picked up an SGL31 off of gunbroker. I had owned a Arsenal SGL31 a few years before and was extremely impressed by the rifle and to boot it came straight from the Izmash factory in Russia. Ecstatic over the fact of owning an authentic Russian AK I scooped it up at a reasonable price and decided to go with the 5.45 caliber over the 7.62 for several reasons. Firstly and most importantly is cost. The fact that ammo prices have soared following Sandy Hook really set back my shooting time as Im sure most of you did as well. The comm bloc 5.45×39 ammo can still be had for under $200 in spam cans of 1,080 rounds and is perfect for guys who are high volume shooters and don’t want to go broke from shooting. My next deciding factor was the fact that 5.45 is ballistically similar to 5.56 and as such allows me to utilize 5.56 muzzle brakes which I will talk about later. I am fairly confident with 5.45 and the fact that it is a very flat shooting round helped influence my caliber decision whereas 7.62×39 has some serious drop after 300 meters. Now that I had rifle in hand and caliber decided I figured I need to set about getting my accessories for my gun.
Starting with the butt stock I elected to go with an authentic Russian side folding triangular paratrooper stock. Mostly for the stock I just wanted to be able to fold it and thats it. In hindsight if I could do it again I probably would elect to go with an AR stock adapter so I could run a Magpul CTR stock with a riser but that’s another story. With the stock out of the way I wanted to improve the safety. Stock AK safeties for me are bothersome to manipulate and I don’t like the fact that I had to roll my hand slightly off fire control to manipulate it on and off and just wanted to be able to manipulate it with my trigger finger. Luckily for me Mark Krebs at Krebs Custom Guns makes just such a safety so that was a no brainer and is by far one of the best enhancements you can add to your AK to increase your speed and handling. Moving on to the pistol grip I elected to go with a US Palm AK battle grip.
AK Battle Grip from US Palm
The factory pistol grip on AK’s is to small for my meaty hands and leaves a lot to be desired so the addition of the US palm grip is a game changer and is much more comfortable option and also puts your trigger finger in a better, more inline position with the trigger. Not wanting to leave anything untouched on my quest for the ultimate AK, I decided to go with a Tapco G2 trigger. While to some this trigger may be to light and for duty use I would say they are right but for me this trigger really helps me get awesome accuracy out of the gun as well as allows me to shoot faster when needed. Moving on from the trigger I decided I would just run my AK with an Ultimak rail. This rail is essentially machined into a gas tube and is a one for one replacement with the gas tube that comes on the rifle. I love the Ultimak rail for its simplicity and durability; you can usually pick up these rails for around $100. The only down side to Ultimaks is that the optic sitting on that rail absorbs a lot of heat off the rifle and there is the potential to fry your optic depending on how hard your running your gun so just be aware. For the hand guards I decided to leave alone to save on weight and it really wasn’t necessary for me to replace as my optic and light could be ran off the Ultimak rail anyway, however with that being said I would definitely go with some type of rail replacement for the hand guard because after extended strings of fire the hand guard becomes too hot to touch even with gloves sometimes so just be aware. For the gas block I picked up a venom tactical gas block which allows the barrel to be shortened on most AKs. This gas block from Venom Tactical is really a game changer and just plain sexy when compared to a factory gas block. Rounding out the gun after much thought I had a battlecomp 1.0 installed. The battlecomp 1.0 is one of the best compensators for AR platform rifles and with the venom tactical gas block installed and the fact that I was having my barrel chopped from 16.25″ to 14.7″ the battlecomp was the way to go for me. The battlecomp 1.0 makes the gun extremely smooth shooting a very light recoiling. I can’t stress enough about how awesome the battlecomp 1.0 made my rifle shoot but I will get to that. With all these parts finally assembled I packed everything up and sent them to Chase at Definitive Arms and then I began the hardest part of the whole project… I had to wait.
Battlecomp muzzle brake
Not two weeks later after I had sent my AK off it was back on my doorstep courtesy of the UPS man. I grabbed the box and opened it eager with anticipation. When I pulled my rifle out I was blown away. Chase had nailed it. Everything was perfect. Chase not only did one of the best pins and weld jobs on a gun I have ever seen but he also polished up my trigger without even being asked. Everything was perfectly installed and had done it for an extremely reasonable price. In fact a lot of things he did he didn’t even charge me for such as installing the rails, stock, and polishing the trigger to name a few. The work was so good in fact that I felt guilty about what he had charged me and felt like I should send him more because the rifle was perfect! With my AK in hand I quickly grabbed a can of 5.45 and 6 Bulgarian made AK74 mags, slapped on my Aimpoint micro and headed to the range to see how it would shoot. Now, I will admit I was a bit worried about having my barrel chopped. Well… I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve ever had done to my AK. I know it doesn’t seem like much going from 16″ to a 14.7″ barrel but let me tell you the handling of the AK increases so much more when it’s done. It also makes the gun much lighter and is much more maneuverable. Some of you may be wondering why I had him chop the barrel to 14.7″ and the answer is that any barrel under 16″ is considered a class 3 weapon and requires a special tax stamp and paperwork to own but if you have the barrel shorter than that with a permanently attached muzzle device and the overall length is 16″ you are ok. So I was extremely pleased with how the AK felt but I wondered how would it cycle? Would the accuracy be affected? I nervously rocked in a 30 round mag, chambered a round, and dialed up my Aimpoint so the dot was just visible so I could zero my rifle at 50 yards. Assuming a good field prone position I easily manipulated my Krebs safety to fire and started pulling back on my polished G2 trigger. Bang! the rifle discharged and the recoil was so soft with the battlecomp I couldn’t believe I was firing an AK. Impressed with everything I set about printing a 3 round group so I could zero my rifle. After adjusting so I was in the black I delivered my final 5 round group to confirm zero and then walked up to inspect my group. When I got up to my target I was stunned to see my final 5 round group had turned into one ragged hole! The combination of my 2 MOA Aimpoint micro, great barrel and excellent G2 trigger had produced a group good enough to rival virtually any AR. With the worry about my gun not being accurate out of the way I set about running my rifle hard to see if it would cycle right and how it handled… Long story short and 2500 rounds later I still haven’t had a stoppage even tho I’ve never cleaned it. The rifle was perfect in every way and I couldn’t of been happier.
Krebs Custom Guns safety
In closing Chase Sisgold at Definitive Arms had nailed the project and not only did everything I asked him too perfectly but also did things on the side at no cost to make the weapon better. He is extremely knowledgeable and I can’t recommend sending your AK down to Definitive Arms enough if you want custom work done. These guys are extremely knowledgeable and know their trade inside and out. Combine all that with an excellent price and lighting fast turnaround time and you can’t go wrong with definitive arms. In closing guys my journey to build an AK exactly how I wanted too was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever embarked on and was well worth it. So if you’re on the sidelines about doing it I recommend going for it. You’ll end up with an AK setup exactly how you want and that’s what it’s all about.
– Sean John
Don’t forget to express your opinion in our Pool below.
There is no more controversial topic in AK Operators community than discussion about “Stamped versus Milled” receivers. Both sides tried to use hundreds of “proofs” and “reasons” to justify to other group, why their solution is superior to other. Let’s quickly try to sort out some main difference between both types. So called “milled” type is basically AK receiver made during machining process out of solid block of metal by use of different milling machines. On the other hand, so called “stamped” Ak receiver is made by use of stamping press, where receivers, literally are stamp out in sheet metal. This is as basic description of manufacturing processes as it gets. Supporters of “milled” version very often appeal to “purists” crowd by falsely stating that first AK was manufactured based on machined receiver. According to them, this is the only “acceptable” way how AK rifles should be built. This argument can’t be farther from the truth. In reality, AK 46 (yes, “46”), was produced as two prototypes: one with a milled receiver (AK-1) and one with a stamped receiver (AK-2). AK-2 was to be an end product while AK-1 was to be used during field testing by the Red Army. Because of these field trials and based on feedback from the testing units, other AK versions were produced. Finally, in 1949 (yes it was 1949), the prototype AK-47 number 2 and number 4 were accepted by the Red Army and their official designations became AK (with fixed stock) and AKS (with under-folding stock). As my friend Bart “Sergei” Norman wrote in one of his articles on this subject “Both the AK-47 number 2 and number 4 had a specific receiver that was deep stamped.
AK Type 1. Picture from Bart “Sergei” Norman
These were called AK type I”. So there you have it, AK type 1 was made on stamped receiver and not machined one, like “milled” supporters and “purists” would like you to believe. Originally AK was designed to be made on stamped receiver; however, at that time the Izhevsk factory that was awarded production of the AK rifles did not have the capacity for a mass production using deep stamping (deep drawing) method. So out of necessity, the AK type II was created based on machined receivers. Now, let’s have a look at some other arguments used in these “Stamped vs Milled” discussions. One of the points used to support “milled” way of thinking is claim that only machined receivers can give durability to survive decades of battlefield abuse. This is another “stretched” argument.
Scout from Russian 45th Regiment (Spetsnaz group). Photo by Михаил Михин
Today you can find in Russian armories “stamped AK’s” made decades ago and they still are used in active service…many of these AK’s have seen intense action in combat zones across the world. When on that subject, majority of Russian AK operators, when asked about it, will tell you that they prefer stamped versions, simply because of the weight increase associated with milled AK’s (fact very often ignored in many of these discussions). But going back to the “durability” claim, theoretically it is true, that milled receiver will last for longer period of time, but nobody can accurately predict how much longer it will be, or how many more rounds milled receiver can withstand than stamped version. As I said above, millions of “stamped” AK rifles were made around the world through decades and they still continue to kick ass on daily basis. Honestly, how much more “durability” we need? Finally, very often people will throw against stamped receivers fact that AK’s manufactured through stamping process, are prone to flexing. Well, this is true, stamped receivers will flex, however, they forgetting to tell us that milled receivers will flex as well. As a matter of fact, flexing on milled receivers was a problem in early production stages and led to yet another changes in design and production process. Now, with all that said, I love both versions: milled and stamped. There is room for all of these in my heart. I don’t understand why so many people are being so easily divided by small differences. At the end of the day all it matters is that our AK rifles will probably outlast us all and they will continue to shoot long time after I will turn into the dust…;-)
Please don’t forget to voice your opinion in our “Stamped vs Milled” voting poll.
Once upon a time, some “internet warrior” declared that only correct way of using optics on Ak is, to have them installed in so called co-witness setup. Faithful crowd quickly followed his advise and very often, when reading many online forums, if operator has no co-witness option on his rifle, he is basically doomed by “co-witness police”. Now please don’t get me wrong, if you really like co-witness, there are options available for it. Go and knock yourself out. However if we will take a deeper look into this issue, we can quickly discover that co-witness isn’t that popular among the Special Forces operators at all. From my conversations with Russian, Polish or Serbian operators, I know for sure that many of them just don’t care about co-witness. Please have a look at this picture on the left – this “hardware” belongs to Spetsnaz operators from FSB. You can clearly see how high optics are mounted and there is no chance for co-witness. Even with Russian made optics which were design to utilize original Ak side rail, optics still are sitting very high – clearly Russians didn’t care for co-witness. Going even farther, I have discussed this topic with Travis Haley, when attending one of his classes. He said that many times, in close combat engagements, because of all the adrenaline, he couldn’t even see red dot when moving gun from target to target to eliminate them…now one has to ask, how realistic is acquiring targets with co-witness in situation like this? Would you really pay attention to your iron sights alignment and red dot? Based on what I know and what I heard from others, chances are you wouldn’t.
Ak with EOTech red dot, used by member of Russian Anti Narcotic Unit “Grom”. Photo by Михаил Михин
However, one of the big arguments from co-witness supporting crowd is believe that you need co-witness in case of red dot going down. When I have asked about it one of the Russian operators, he couldn’t compute at first what i was trying to tell him. This confusion came from the fact that he has been using his optic in many “combat zones” for years, and he never had a single problem with it. Worst case, he said, he would just remove the optic and switch to iron sights. Genius, right!? Another factor to remember is that optics made by reputable companies like Aimpoint or EOTech, have seen combat for years now and their quality really is outstanding. Chances of these going down in the fight are really slim and Special Forces units from both side of the ocean are relying heavily on using optics when conducting their operations, but somehow, most of casual Ak users are led to believe that only correct way to have red dots on their rifle is co-witness way…As i’m always saying, don’t let anyone to tell you how to setup your rifle. It is you, who is going to use it, when needed most. You must feel comfortable with equipment installed on it. This is your rifle and your tool! That being said, I will provide you with some very good co-witness mounting options in one of my next posts on this blog. Please don’t forget to vote in our pool below. Voice your opinion now!
You can still get your Ak Operators Union T-Shirts here! You can order these in sizes: M, L, XL (sold out), XXL, XXXL (sold out) and XXXXL. They are based on Hanes Beefy T-shirts 6.1 oz. 100% pre-shrunk ringspun cotton. T-Shirts are thick and nicely made! Cost is $15 per t-shirt (shipping via standard USPS). Accepting PayPal or Money orders.
If you want to buy T-shirt, please email me with your request. Please include size and clearly state how many T-shirts you would like to buy.
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