September 04, 2012
There's a lot to like about Kalashnikov's design. It is robust, its reliability is legendary, and it's bowling ball simple. However, the sights are not so hot. Actually the protected post front sight is good to go. It's the rear sight that shooters complain about.
The older my eyes get, the harder I find that tiny forward-mounted U notch is to see. Low light? Forget it; it just seems to disappear. Luckily, iron sights are so 1990s, and today there is a host of excellent red-dot sights and low-magnification tactical scopes to choose from. These vastly improve the hit probability of the rifle, especially in low-light conditions. As these modern optical sights are well-proven, it seems rather backward not to take advantage of them.
Mounting modern optical sights onto a flattop AR-15 is one thing; mounting them onto a member of the Kalashnikov family can be a bit more difficult. The traditional method for mounting optics onto an AK is a side-rail mount. While this method appears straightforward enough, it has its drawbacks — namely that not all rifles are equipped with the required rail. Further, most side mounts aren't well-made and have a lot of flex in them, and they place the optic too high.
What would be ideal would be if the rifle's top cover had a rail along the top, like a flattop AR. This would greatly simplify mounting optics and allow the use of standard rings and mounts. Well, if such a concept appeals to you, I highly suggest taking a look at Texas Weapon Systems' Gen 2 Dog Leg scope rail.
This mounting solution replaces the factory rear sight and top cover. It installs easily with little fuss and provides a MIL STD 1913 rail along the top of the aluminum replacement cover. The front of the mount locks into place where the rear sight normally attaches. This piece is adjustable, via two set screws, to ensure the top cover fits properly on a wide range of AKs.
At the rear of the replacement cover is a "spring panel." This is incorporated into the design to provide a consistent and repeatable fit at the rear of the receiver. The standard spring guide is also replaced with a unit designed to draw the cover tightly against the receiver. A very tight fit is the result of all this design work.
Need to clean your rifle or want access to its inner workings? Simply push in on the spring guide, which also retains the back of the top cover. Next rotate the top cover up and out of the way. When you're done you simply snap it back down into place. Price on this system is $140.
As this mount installs in place of the standard rear sight, the sight is removed. So Texas Weapon Systems designed a replacement — a good-looking, non-adjustable aperture rear sight that can be mounted at the rear of the cover. It's machined from 6061 T-6 aluminum and provides a vastly improved sight picture. Price is $40.
I'd heard many positive things regarding Texas Weapon Systems' Gen 2 Dog Leg mount, so I was excited to have a chance to test it. To make things a bit harder on the system, I decided to mount it onto a Saiga 7.62x51 rather than a lighter-recoiling 7.62x39 or 5.45x39.
The hardest part of the installation process was removing the factory rear sight, which I accomplished with a rubber mallet, a large screwdriver and one good whack. The rest of the install was caveman simple, and the mount fit the Russian-built Saiga receiver very well.
I then mounted a variety of magnified optics and red-dot sights onto the Gen 2 Dog Leg and ran each of them through a variety of drills. The red-dot sights were used up close on an Action Target Dueling Tree, firing mounds of inexpensive Wolf steel case ball. As to be expected, the red dot proved to be a nice step up from the standard iron sights.
Using a Trijicon ACOG I engaged steel silhouettes offhand at 200 yards and from the prone position at 400, 480 and 530 yards. Because the ACOG's base is designed for an AR-15 flattop, I found it to sit higher than I'd like. However, simply snapping on a Magpul cheek riser for the MOE stock I'm using would solve that issue.
I came away very pleased with Texas Weapon Systems' mount. Repeatedly opening and closing it had no effect on zero, and it seems well-designed for the commercial market. I don't know how well it would hold up under military use on a fully automatic rifle. It is interesting to note that the design has caught the attention of some specialized Russian units and has been tested by them.
I also liked the rear sight. A simple fixed aperture, it's intended to be zeroed at 200 meters and left alone. It provides an excellent sight picture yet is small and unobtrusive. Definitely recommended.
This rear sight and the Gen 2 Dog Leg mount ends the traditional need to degrade the Kalashnikov's sighting system. If you have an AK and wish to step up to an optical sight then I highly recommend considering this mounting solution.