In 1991, the Russian Izmash factory started producing AK-74M rifles with a uniquely styled glass fiber reinforced polyamide stock and handguard that we see today on newer weapons.
The Bulgarians followed suit as they licensed the designs from the Russians. I’m not sure how closely the Bulgarians copied the design but now we can see there are some minor differences.
What started me down this path was the desire to convert my Palmetto State Armory AK-V to look more like a Russian Vityaz. The Vityaz uses the bulged handguard like you see on the AK-74M, AK-100 series and what not. So, I hopped on the www.kvar.com website to see what they had and they surprisingly had both the Arsenal US-made handguard set and a real Izhmash set. I jumped and bought one of each of both sets. Note, the AK-V uses the same handguards as either the AKM or AK-74M so you have a ton of options.
For me it was really interesting to set the two very similar handguard sets down side by side and note all the minor differences. So, I took a ton of photos and decided to create a photo gallery so you can see them for yourself.
The most noteworthy differences:
- The Izhmash set is slightly more grey and the Arsenal is a richer black
- The Izhmash’s surface finish is duller and the Arsenal is slightly more reflective.
- The bottom rear of the Izhmash lower is more angular and the Arsenal is more rounded
- The Izhmash set has more mold markings such as the “2-2” on the gas tube cover.
- The Arsenal lower has “US” marked on the outside rear
In case you are wondering what I used on my AK-V, it was the K-Var set. I had to trim a very tiny amount (0.015-.030″) off the metal nose of the lower to get it to fit and I didn’t want to modify a real Izhmash set that might have collector’s value some day.
Below are thumbnails and you can click on one and see a bigger photo and any comments/labels on each:
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