Tag Archives: Izhmash

Comparing Original Russian Izhmash and Arsenal’s US-Made AK Handguards

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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PSA AK Webstore Links

Click on the following links for the associated webstore categories at Palmetto:

A Fascinating Video Showcasing The Adoption of Quality at the Kalashnikov Concern in Izhevsk, Russia

I always find turnaround stories interesting.  While we often focus on the older AK rifles, there is a fascinating story about how Kalashnikov Concern modernized and developed world class capabilities.  They produced the video that spurred me to write this post to share with you.

In the 1990s, Izhmash and Izhvesk were in tough shape.  They were only using 10% of their capacity and government orders were reduced.  By 2010, they were in a deep crisis.  In 2012, the two groups were consolidated into the Kalashnikov Concern as part of RosTec — I’ll just say “Kalashnikov” going forward.

Kalashnikov leadership embarked on a large scale improvement journey leverage lean quality management concepts, CNC automation,  and significant IT investments (ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning, MES – Manufacturing Execution System and WMS – warehouse management system are mentioned or briefly shown).

Kalashnikov wisely focused on their people — and I think this last part is key.  They addressed a poor work environment with medical facilities, a cafeteria and training in modern methods.  They even have a university that produces 300 graduates each year.  Getting people to learn and change are always the hardest things to  do yet also the most critical.

As a result, they improved productivity by 2.5 times, shrunk their time to market and removed a considerable amount of waste.

This video is a few years old but is a fascinating 8 minute journey starting with their origins through their turn around story.  There are a lot of photos of CNC systems, brightly lit and clean factory areas, the warehouse, class rooms and more.   It’s very impressive.

If you are interested in more information on the Kalashnikov Concern, click here.

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