There are millions of Kalashnikov pattern rifles floating around planet earth, and the vast majority of them feature wood laminate furniture. In the past few years with the rise of the affordable AK’s in the United States we have seen many manufacturers try to come up with a way to add rails systems like a quad rail or M-Lok pattern rail to the old warhorse, much to the dismay of most AK traditionalists. Trusted companies like Midwest Industries, SLR Rifleworks and Troy Industries have been proactive about adapting their designs to fit the more than half a dozen different patterns of AK-47/74 rifles on the market. Some people have gone as far as to find no banned Russian rail systems like Zenitco or TDI to add to their rifles, a rare and pricey option. I consider myself fairly knowledgable about firearms and accessories, so it came as a great shock to me when I found what might be the unicorn of AK47/74 rails, a gem from Switzerland made by Brugger & Thomet, better known as B&T USA.
Brugger & Thomet is best known for their extensive line of accessories primarily supporting expensive European rifles, but recently has gained a great deal of notoriety for their submachine guns like the MP9, APC9 & their personal defense weapon the model USW. Having visited with the company at SHOT Show 2017, and already owning their side folding MP5 stock, I know the company made top quality products, but at a costs slightly above its competitors. When I saw the rail set up I uttered my old mantra of “Buy Once, Cry Once” and took a leap of faith and ordered it up.
Manufacturer: Brugger & Thomet
Country of Manufacture: Switzerland
Model Tested: BT-21428 (Quad Rail Set)
Other Models Available:
- BT-211541 (Tri Rail/Bottom Only)
- BT-212090 (Tri Rail with Aimpoint Dogleg)
Colors: Black Only
Weight: 14.7 Oz
- WASR 10/63
- Most Domestic AK’s
Price: MSRP $399.00
There are several things about the B&T rail that are great and there are a few things that are frustrating but can be overcome fairly easily. The good things about this rail far out weight the few negative aspects it has, but I will start with the good things first and work my way towards the negative. The B&T rail is by many accounts a universal rail system that will work with rifles like our Russian Saiga test rifle that lacks a front hand guard retainer plate. The secret to this universal compatibility is the two piece clamp that fits around the rifles barrel. This design is also used by other manufacturers, but in working with the clamps it can be an exercise in frustration to get them lined up correctly, or tightened evenly. There are a few things that surprised me while I was installing the rail.
The B&T system that I was fortunate enough to get my hands one comes with a specific gas tube that has dimensions to allow it to fit cleanly under the top rail. I have no idea why the company didn’t make the tube to fit a stock gas tube, but once I am sure that this system will operate with zero problems, like the clamps loosening, I intend to try it using a spare Russian gas tube I happen to have lying around. I indexed the B&T rail onto the Saiga receiver quickly, the company has small fingers milled into the bottom of the hand guard in order to properly index the rail to the receiver. Once that was accomplished I finished sorting out the barrel clamps was a bit annoying but I figured it out easily.
After I ensured the hand guard was in its proper place and everything looked correct I finished tightening the cap screws down and marked them with a paint marker so I have a reference point so in the future I can tell if the cap screws are loosening. My only concern on things that clamp around the barrel is the possibility of them loosening up as the barrel heats and cools during shooting sessions. Time will tell how these hold up but as of the writing of this article I am cautiously optimistic on the end results, trying to find any upgrade over the stock Saiga hand guard was the overall goal of this portion of our experimental Saiga build.
The top portion of the B&T hand guard set up features a few things that are different but remind me a lot of method used on the Heckler & Koch MP5 hand guard attachment. When installing the top rail onto the bottom section it’s obvious after a quick inspection that the rails are indexed so that they only go together one way. The tabs on the top section drop easily into the six notches located on the lower section of the rail. The only steps left to complete installation is to slide the top towards the rear of the rifle and insert the spring-loaded retaining pin. This pin looks very similar to the ones used to hold on both the Heckler & Koch MP5’s fore end and stock. One interesting thing on this set up is that there is a half oval notch in the top rail that allows the pin to slide in completely only when both halves are properly aligned. It’s a simple design that works well.
The End Result
The end result so far is a rail system that will attach to most any Kalashnikov pattern rifle on the market and still allow the user to use their front sight without any sign of hinderance. While it’s not cheap at all, it appears to be well-built and it’s not exactly easy to find. The installation could try your patience if you are terrible and lining up two small pieces that move around a bit. While the quad rail design is aging and in many people’s minds in danger of being replaced by something new like MagPul’s M-Lok system, it is still the NATO standard accessory system and will be around for years to come.
If you are in the market for a rail system for your Kalashnikov pattern rifle, the B&T might be for you, but not if you are shopping on a budget. If you are under budgetary constraints on your build I would suggest looking at the Generation II Rail Systems from Midwest Industries. Given the current unavailability of other European rail systems it would be an excellent domestic choice. We want to hear from the loyal fan base of AK47/74 enthusiasts, we want to know what you are using for furniture on your rifles. Are you upgrading or staying with timber on your guns ? Drop us some pictures or comments in the section below. Stay tuned as we put our Saiga Project to a series of range tests starting sometime shortly after September 1st 2017.
This article is courtesy of The Loadout Room.