Sunday, February 5, 2012

AK Grips Guide

The grips for the AK used to be a pretty bland world. Now though, there are a lot of options out there for users that want the either that classic look or more modern ergonomics. Often grips need to be 922r complaint as well for more U.S. made parts count.  Since the AK grip market has exploded recently there are grips for any type AK owner out there from old school transitional to new school tacticool.  Let's start out talking about traditional grips.

Century- Many are familiar with this grip because it is what comes with their AK if it was imported by Century Arms. It is normally marked with a "C" towards the top of the grip. It is one of the lowest quality plastic with poor texturing and thinnest widths grips out there. I think part of the reason AK grips get a bad reputation for being thin are these grips. They are noticablly thinner in my hand than any of the other classic grips, if I recall correctly this difference was only a few hundredths of an inch. Unfortunately, I've gotten rid of all my Century grips so I can't give you an exact measurement. Overall, I recommend this be one of the first things you change out even if you like the classic look, there are better options out there. Since it is OEM, you won't find a retail price out there on it, but I would not pay more than $5 for one.

K-Var- As much as I sometimes dislike K-Var for some of their policies and prices, this grip is the winner in the Traditional Grip market if you need 922r parts. It is avalilable in Plum, Black, Flat Dark Earth (FDE) and Olive Drab Green (OD). The bottom of the grip has a metal reinforcement bushing where your grip screw head rests. This alone in my book makes it a great option. The plastic is high quality with a very grippy texturing. It has a wider thickness than the Century grip at .94". Honestly, it is better than most of the surplus grips I have pulled off of AKs. You will also pay a premium of around $15 retail for this grip, but I believe it is worth it in this case.

Tapco- Middle of the road in price and quality option between the Century and K-Var grips. I only have limited experience with this as that I owned one just for a few days to put on a rifle I was selling in order to keep the modern grip I had on it. It does have nicer plastic and features than the Century, but not quite as good as the K-Var. They do have a new Bakelite orange color and is offered in Black, FDE and OD as well. It normally retails around $10.    EDIT: Just got my hands on a Tapco grip again. Good texture and measures the standard grip widith of .92"

Iron Wood Designs- If you must go classic, wood, and 922r compliant with just the grip, then this is almost your only option. However, the buzz on the internet is that Iron Wood Designs grips are high quality and they offer several different grip type options like milled AK, AKM, Yugo, and AMD. I don't have hands on experience, but I can say they have a solid reputation and wouldn't hesitate to order from them if I needed U.S. made wood stocks. These retail around $35-55.

TimberSmith by Tapco- This is the newer 922r compliant wood AK furniture on the block. Again, I have no experience with it (as you can tell I'm not that big into wood), but it seems to be of high quality from most reports. However, it looks to be that these are only available as sets and you can't buy just grips. They are offered in some gorgeous colors, brown and black laminate, Red stain, and American hard wood. The full set of stock, handguards, and grip retail for around $130.

Surplus Grips-  These run the gamut in pricing and quality.  There are collectors grips, typically Russian, that can fetch high prices.  Then there are some pretty low quality plastic and wood ones out there for cheap.  If you aren't a collector, I still recommend the K-Var if you are going plastic.  If you are going for wood and 922r parts count isn't an issue, then a surplus grip is going to be a cheaper option than the U.S. made ones, so that might be the niche for non-collectors with surplus grips.  However, top quality wood still would probably be the Iron Wood Designs grips.  Since we have been talking about thickness, for reference, most post-AKM surplus grips I've measured are around .92", pre-AKM grips are suppose to be thicker.

Note- Usually traditional grips do NOT include grip screws. If you have a traditional grip installed already, you will have a grip screw, but if you are changing out a modern to traditional grip, you may need to relocate your original screw or buy a new one.

In general the modern grips tend to fill the hand better, have better egronomic features, and offer storage compartments if it uses a non-standard grip screw.

MD Arms Molot- This is a modern U.S. made grip with a bit of Russian authenticity.  It is modeled after the Molot grip with finger grooves added.  The Molot comes on Saiga shotguns at the Izhmash factory. The true Molot grips are rare because Saigas are imported into the U.S. with the sporter stock. This is another grip that I have no personal experience with, however, MD Arms has a good reputation.  It does use a standard grip screw, but due to that there is no storage compartment.  It retails around $12

Arsenal RPK Grip This is a newer style grip made in Bulgaria.  A more classic look, but modern feeling grip.  Arsenal always has good quality and some swear by this grip.  However, it isn't a 922r part.  It uses a standard grip screw.  I don't know why K-Var in the link describes it as for milled receivers only, most AK grips are interchangeable and other retailers that sell it do not have that stipulation on it. Retail $20

ATI Stikeforce and Scorpion - These grips are very similar in shape to the older version Command Arms grip.  While it feels good in the hand and is a 922r part, I wasn't very impressed with the plastic's quality on the Strikeforce so I quickly passed it on.  The Scorpion is an upgraded version with a shock absorbing backstrap and rubberized grip. The Strikeforce uses a standard grip screw.  The Scorpion includes its own grip screws but doesn't have a storage compartment.  In general, ATI doesn't have the best reputation on the internet but I do like their AK handguards if you use a heatshield with it.  The Strikeforce version retails for around $15 and the Scorpion for $25

Command Arms/CAA/EMA Tactical Original AG47, New AG47, and UPG47-   The original AG47 was very similar to the ATI Strikeforce, it is just more solid and with a storage compartment. In general these are always some of the thickest AK grips towards the bottom.  However, it doesn't look to be imported any more and has confusingly been replaced with a new style grip with the same model number.  Personally, I don't like the looks of the new one as much but in general my experience with CAA (TDI) stuff has been about on par with Tapco in quality.  The UPG47 is a customizable grip with interchangable front and back straps.  It looks to be a great option if you want to play around and find exactly what will fit you. While all three have storage compartments, they are all imported from Israel so they are not 922r parts.  The AG47s retail for around $25, the UPG47 $35

Mako Group- This is another Israeli imported grip.  It looks to have some good ergonomics, only one finger groove for the middle finger (for a lot of people the ring/pinky groove are the problem ones) There is some nice checking on the backstrap.  Mako Imports decent stuff, but often a little pricey. This one is about $30.

As you may have noticed, the last two are Israeli importers.  The lines there sometimes get a little blurry and at one point both were importing TDI brand stuff if I remember correctly.  Mako has branched out to another Israel supplier, FAB Defense.  Also to make things even more confusing, the next supplier specifically has TDI products listed on their site with no photos of the products while advertising made in the U.S.A.  I'm attempting to get in contact with them to find out if I can shed so light on the situation.

MFT Engage EPG47 and EPGI47 I just found MFT (Mission First Tactical) Engage while researching this guide.  They are U.S. made grips.  The MFT grips claim to fame is that they mimic the AR15 grip angle right out of the box, so it may be a good option if you are more comfortable it (AR grips can be used used on AKs with modification or a grip adapter).  The EPG47 is a basic model with finger grooves and stippling.  The EPGI47 is the upgraded version that offers removable front and back straps. They both have an unique storage compartment.  While it looks to be on the smaller side, it has foam block that can be cut to your tastes and reduce rattle.  The retail prices are approximately $22 for the EPG47 and $30 for the EPGI47.

Tapco SAW- This is my old stand by.  It is called a SAW grip since it is designed like the FN grip that is put on M249s.  I have used these long enough that I have two different versions of this grip. My oldest has a Galil style safety cut out but current ones do not.  Honestly, over the years, Tapco's grip screw has gotten worse.  They originally had a flathead screw, now they have a shorter metric hex bolt that is really annoying to find the right socket extension to fit all the way up the grip.  Overall quality is good, there are newer grips from other companies that have better.  It has a very spacious storage compartment and the bottom wire retainer latched door stays closed even though sometimes you wonder if it actually will.  I was able to carry an essential parts kit in mine with a FCG/bolt spring set, an extractor, a firing pin, a couple of axis pins, hammer, and optic batteries.  Ergonomically, it fills the hand well while swelling more toward the bottom, has okay texture, and a comfortable angle.  While I think there are now better grips out there, these gave me years of good service and I still have one on my Draco pistol. 922r compliant, it is available in Black, OD, and FDE, and the retail is around $18

Ergo Grips- Ergo used to offer a few AK grips but they are back to offering just their original, which is still a great option.  This grip has a "pencil eraser" feel rubber coating.  The finger grooves are a less aggressive which a lot of people like.  For a long time the Ergo was main other option from the Tapco SAW since it is U.S. made.  If you like a little spongy feel on your grip, this is the way to go.  It has a large grip compartment as well.  Retail prices should be around $25

Hogue- This is one of my current favorites.  Hogue calling these "OverMolded" made me expect that they would have a good amount of spongy feel to them, similar to their "Handall" grip sleeves.  Actually, they have only a slight amount of give in the thin rubber coating around the plastic core.  It still feels great as the texture and natural grip of the rubber makes your hand stay put.  The finger grooves, while on the larger size, fit my hands really well.  The overall grip size is just right for me, not too big not too small.  Like most other modern grips, it has a storage compartment.  It is a good size, although not as large as the Tapco SAW and just a touch smaller than the US Palm.  It can fit 3 CR123 batteries, or in my case 2 CR123s and a broken shell remover.  Hogue offers a grip without a plug though so be aware of that if you want to use the storage area.  The version that includes a plug also has a wire retainer and plastic divider designed to hold AA (2), CR123 (3), and CR2032 (4) batteries in a very organized way.  However, I didn't have much luck with the divider, maybe partly due to the fact I was trying to fit the shell remover place of one of the CR123s.  The plug can be used without the divider and is very secure.  But since the door is held in with just the pressure of the excess rubber at the bottom of the grip, it may come out more easily over time.  Removal of the plug is cleverly accomplished by placing a 7.62x39/.308 or .223 case in the indents on the door.  Hogue also partners with Samson to fit a Field Survivor tool/cleaning kit in the grip cavity.  While a very cool option, it is very expensive especially when compared to the cost of a normal AK buttstock tool kit and boresnake.  The install as easy on these due to a good sized and easy to work with grip screw.  These excellent grips are available in the standard Black, FDE, and OD, but also Hogue has a twist with their "Ghillie" version of these colors that have a little grain effect to them.  MidwayUSA lists that a "Zombie Green" will be offered soon as well. These grips can also be bought in a combo pack with their handguard that will be eventually reviewed here too. The grips without a compartment plug are around $18, with the compartment system are about $24, and with the Samson Field Survivor, $110.

US Palm AKBG- Last, but definitely not least, is the US Palm AKBG (AK Battle Grip).  If you read here regularly, you noticed I am somewhat of a US Palm Fanboy.  Products like this grip make me unashamed to say that. This is the most solid, high quality grip I've tried on the AK.  It has a look that still works well with a traditional aesthetic.  The texture is good, although a little less non-slip than the Hogue's rubber coating.  The storage compartment is only second to the Tapco SAW in size.  I had to remove the hammer from my essential parts kit and the firing pin needs to be positioned just right to fit.  The door is rubber, advertised as water proof, and has a nice pull tab.  While one of the most slim modern grips out there, its curved lines allow it to fill the hand just right.  I would bet this grip works with the widest range of hand sizes.  Another noticeable difference is that it allows your hand sit closer to the receiver than any other grip, giving better control to the rifle.  My only gripe about the US Palm is the grip screw length.  The screw itself is high quality and the washer is the best one I've seen on any grip, but if it was just another 1/4" longer it would be much easier for it to thread into the grip nut with the compression you need to for the washer.  Once you get it on and use it, you quickly forget about pesky screw.  Colors offered are Black, FDE, Brown, and the new Red Bakelite.  The typical retail price for the $30

Hopefully this has laid out most of the now many options you have to change out the grip on your AK.  A few years ago selection was pretty limited, especially if you needed a 922r part.  Today, the biggest problem might be trying to find the one you like best with all the options.  However, variety is still a good thing.  Now, I use several grip styles.  I keep traditional grips on my .22 and 5.45 guns so that I have an extra tactile feedback that the smaller grip equals smaller calibers.  My 7.62x39 guns get the modern, larger grips.  That might just be me over-thinking it, but I like that system.  Plus I get to enjoy some of this selection we have now.  Most days the US Palm is my favorite grip, although I'll pick up the Hogue gripped Draco Carbine and notice how nice it is too.  Sometimes I get nostalgic and remember the quality and looks the K-Var Plum grip adds to my AK74.  If you find that grip that works and you want to stick with it understand completely.  For years, that was the Tapco SAW for me.  But at least you don't have to be stuck just because there are only a few out there.


  1. Don't bet on all grips being interchangeable between milled and stamped receiver AKs. The milled receiver AKs need more relief for the protruding trigger guard/grip mount metal. I ended up modifying a new grip for clearance on my SLR-95.

  2. Some of the newer AR grips have a more straight up & down angle to them which is sposed to keep one's wrist straighter than more back angle "traditonal" grips. No one seems to make this type of grip for AKs and I dont really want to use an AR to AK grip adapter which lowers the hand maybe too much. Got a line to something like this for AKs? Thanks!