In a previous installment of The Arms Guide we gave you a brief look into SLR Rifleworks and showed you a few of the things they designed and manufacture. While doing research for that article I came to find their rail systems that fit virtually all models of the AK-47 & AK-74 family including the Saiga rifles. So I thought about it a while and then figured that since I have seen very little actual articles on the SLR Rifleworks AK rails that I would in the name of professional development order myself a set. A few clicks of the mouse, an entry of a credit card number and within 24 hours the company had my rails on its way from Winter Garden, Florida to Alaska, that’s ridiculously fast but we will get to that part of the review soon enough. There are a few things to know about the SLR Rifleworks AK rails before you think about ordering yourself a set. There are three major kinds of rails.
The first type of hand guard is the “A Version“, these are set up to be used with Kalashnikov pattern rifles that feature a sling loop molded into the hand guard. This is like most Polish, Romanian and other former communist bloc rifles that I have ever owned or shot. If I had to guess I would say this is the most popular style of set up for AK rifles.
The second type of hand guard that is offered by SLR Rifleworks is what they refer to as the “B Version”. These styles are for rifles that feature a sling loop built into the gas block like the image below. I don’t recall ever seeing this type of set up on an AK rifle. I am by no means an expert, but I consider myself decently well versed in firearms. I would guess this is not overly common, but if your AK has this type of set up, no worries SLR Rifleworks makes a railed hand guard for your needs also.
This finally brings us to the version that we have for our review, the “S Version” which is designed for rifles that lack a sling loop mounted to the rifle in either of those two configurations. The Saiga rifles are built this way and it’s one of the major complaints about the rifle from its owners. It seems that ever since people began converting the Saigas that the need for a quality furniture kit for the rifle was high on everyone’s wish list. That problem has been answered it would seem. Let dig into the exact model that we acquired, the 9.0″ Mid-Length “S-Version” featuring the M-Lok system. We did decide to splurge and also buy the replacement full length one piece railed gas tube. The gas tube is extra but as I always say, Buy Once, Cry Once.
Name: SLR Rifleworks Handguard “S-Version”
Weight: 9.9 Oz
Material: 6061 Aircraft Grade Aluminum
Color: Black Only
Price: $179.99 (This Model)
Accessory System: M-Lok (Others Available)
First impressions are very important to me especially when it comes to gear manufacturers, and SLR Rifleworks delivered in spectacular fashion right from the start. When I placed my order I assumed it would be at least five days to get a response since the company is located in Winter Garden, Florida you know the place that just got slammed with hurricanes. I was shocked when in less than 24 hours from placing my order I had a tracking number and an invoice in my email box. The box showed up a few days later and again I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it and the hand guards where both wrapped tightly in heavy thick bubble wrap. This is not always the case with some other bigger named manufacturers of rails and hand guards.
Once the box arrived it was time to actually get to the hand guard and see how it felt in my hand and fit my oddball Saiga rifle. When I first handled it I ran my hands over all the surfaces to check for snags, imperfections or voids in the surface or the coating. The more I looked the more I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me as a defect in craftsmanship, machining, coating or quality control. These were all very good signs, especially when you look at the cost associated with getting both hand guard pieces.
I had previously stripped the hardware off my Saiga knowing this kit was coming, which made prepping the rifle for the new rail system simple. In the videos that SLR Rifleworks had made for Youtube they showed the rail as being very simple to install, in fact it looked too simple. That was one of the reasons I looked over the way the hand guard was suppose to mount on my particular rifle so closely. As you can see from the above picture of what I refer to as the barrel saddle, the seating surface is wide and thick and features two holes drilled and tapped into it. These two threaded holes are where the screws from the top cover screw into it and clamp together the upper and lower hand guards around the barrel. This is similar to a few other systems I have seen but slightly different.
Assembling the hand guard only took a few minutes, in fact it took me longer to find the proper allen wrench than it took to install the hand guards. The company uses a system where the rear of the hand guard can be replaced to fit the particular AK rifle you have, with some limitations. This meant that when I was putting everything together the rail simple dropped into the receiver to the proper depth and all I had to do was snap on the top cover and tighten down on two bolts with my allen wrench and the rail was in its proper place. No messing around with gap distances or shims. The whole system, both top and bottom fit together like a glove, and tightened up firmly.
The whole system installs in minutes and in much lighter than other hand guards like the ZentiCo rails, which was a bi of a shock to me. This set up essentially mounts by clamping down two half circles around the barrel with two screws and a tang that extends into the lower part of the rifles receiver, just under the front trunnion. The only other way I could describe it is like a sort of free float barrel system, it reminds me of how my old Larue quad rail fit on my 10.5″ short barrel AR-15. With this particular model the folks at SLR Rifleworks has something for everyone all in one package. There is a lot going on with this hand guard, if you want a spot for a quick detach sling, it’s there. If you want to use some M-Lok accessories you can (KeyMod folks there is a version with that also). Finally if you have some accessories that use the old-fashioned picatinny rail, there is a little of that on there for you as well.
The short time I’ve had the hand guard on I’ve tried twisting, bumping, shaking and squeezing it to see if it would loosen up and it hasn’t even hinted at coming loose yet. By all accounts its rock solid, and according to the few people I’ve contacted who are running similar systems it holds up just fine to heavy abuse. In the near future I plan on mounting a simple red dot to the forward rail section and trying it out. I will have a digital temperature gauge and check the top gas tube to see how warm it gets during magazine dumps. I’m curious as to how much the aluminum will heat up and at what point it, if any it will become uncomfortable to hold or cause issues.
Thanks for taking the time to check out the SLR Rifleworks hand guards, if you have an AK pattern rifle of any make, model or barrel length and want a functional and good-looking rail I would check out the company’s web page. If you have any questions about what rail fits your gun, drop them a line. It’s been my experience with the company that they are quick to respond to any question and help make sure you get the right rail for your rifle.