How does a company like Rifle Dynamics—a high-end custom AK builder in Las Vegas—make any money customizing a rifle that for all intents and purposes is praised for its lack of glamour?
Let the streets tell it, AKs are indestructible mechanical demigods. People gush over how easy they are to use and how affordable they are. They also say they’re ugly, less accurate than their AR counterparts and not very ergonomic—yet people love them all the same. (Unless you’ve spent the last six to eight months being shot at by AK-wielding jihadists, in which case you understandably might not be so fond of them.)
But for me, I’ve always found the AK’s rugged simplicity and ageless design questionably alluring. The AK was the first rifle I ever bought, and I remember hiding it underneath my bed for fear my mom would have an aneurysm if she ever found out there was what she would call “a big gangster gun” in her house.
At the time I could buy an AK for $500-$600, but I wanted what I thought was the best one money could buy. So I saved up, did my research and settled on the Arsenal SGL-21. But after seeing some of the work done by Rifle Dynamics, I sent mine in to make her even better. What I got back was a finely tuned beast.
The challenge with trying to improve on a perfectly imperfect design like the AK is that it’s a thankless job. Improve it too much, and it just becomes something it was never intended to be. Don’t improve it enough, and people start asking what the hell they just paid for.
My Arsenal was a damn good rifle and debatably was perfectly fine, but I can’t ignore that the rifle that it is today after being customized by Rifle Dynamics feels liberated. It’s like they took the raw talents of the Arsenal, honed those talents, gave it some discipline and turned an already good firearm into a fighting rifle masterpiece.
I mean, look at it: Sure, the aesthetic changes aren’t revolutionary, but it’s hard to deny that there’s something about how this rifle looks now compared to my Arsenal that seems sexier and cooler. The gun feels leaner and less bloated. Its balance feels more dialed in and makes the rifle rest more comfortably in my hands.
The SureFire SOCOM .308 muzzle brake honestly makes the recoil a non-issue. Stock AKs tend to have an annoying recoil signature—not overly stout, just annoyingly harder than necessary. It’s much like the way your female friend’s boyfriend shakes your hand when you meet him for the first time. “I’m not smashing your girl, bro; calm down.” In contrast, my AK shoots delightfully flatter and recoils just short of being on par with an AR-15. As a result, I can get away with having a less-than-favorable stance and still keep my rifle on target without looking like I’m being manhandled by my gun.
My AK’s new leaner physique also makes shooting and moving a slightly better experience. It just comes across as more nimble and in sync with my body mechanics, so running with the gun feels natural. Thing is, I don’t exactly know why my rifle feels less bloated. I want to say its the side-folding triangle stock, but I doubt that could make that much of a difference. I do love this stock, though, having asked for it specifically. It’s not the most comfortable one around, but I feel it fits the design language of the AK better than any other stock on the market.
I’m also a fan of the US PALM pistol grip. It feels my hands perfectly, instead of feeling like I’m clutching a popsicle stick as with my old stock grip. The enhanced safety lever was a welcome addition, because my old safety lever felt like trying to stop a car by using your index finger to push the brakes.
What’s strange is that my rifle now feels less aggressive, even a bit refined. I know that’s an odd thing to say about a rifle like the AK, but it’s just more cooperative and obedient. I’m almost tempted to start calling Rifle Dynamics the AK Whisperers.
This custom G-2 trigger is a perfect match for my AK. In an AR it would be horrible, but in my AK it just belongs. It’s smooth and crisp, but not in the typical sense. It’s still a little rough around the edges, but in a good way. There’s no definable wall or cute little short resets: It’s a trigger designed to send a lot of lead down range.
Being in the business of customizing an AK is a thankless job, but I can’t help but want to thank the good people at Rifle Dynamics for taking my talented underachiever and sending it back home a true fighting rifle.
I’m going to spend some more time with my AK and get an even better feel for the changes, and follow this review up with a more detailed account. In the meantime, I’ll continue loving my AK even more than I did when I first bought it.