Like the prolific AK
itself, there are almost as many ways to mount optics
as there are different kinds of AK variants out there.
Due to the wide variety of possible combinations it
isn't possible to give an in depth review of them all
but in this section I'll try to cover what I have
first hand experience with and add thoughts on
products or systems that are on the market.
Also please note I have no affiliation with any company that I've linked to and generally make no recommendations on quality or effectiveness. I try to stick with what I have personal experience with, however I think it's a good idea to at least reference what is out there. Google will help you determine what is a quality product and what isn't.
Generally speaking the main ways to mount optics are:
1: Mounting an optic on the side rail optic plate
2: Installing a rail over the top cover or replacing the top cover itself with a rail
3: Replacing the gas tube with a rail or using a gas tube with a rail on top
Other options include replacing the rear sight leaf with a dedicated optic or with a small rail that allows an Aimpoint micro style optic to be mounted. In the case of the AKSU there is also an option to attach a rail to the top cover itself by drilling and mounting just ahead of the rear sight.
Sometimes AK's get a bad reputation for optics because of a poor aftermarket mounting system, or one that was intended for civilian sales and not designed to be 'milspec'. When you add in the number of countries and the variations in optic plate design, the changes that other countries have done over the past 50 years and different levels of quality control between AK builders here in the US and overseas you can imagine that isn't always as simple as sounds to slap an optic on a rifle.
Based on my own experience, in my opinion the most
effective way to run an optic on an AK is by using a
factory built mount with a properly installed side
rail, for example something like the 1P78 Kashtan and
a modern AK74M/AK100 series side rail, or by using
something like the NPZ universal AK mount. The main
point about Russian designs is that the factory has
done extensive testing and proven it to work, the
components are built to spec and the design has been
proven to return to zero.
My preferred order of mounts (based on personal experience, I do not have all possible options and so cannot perform an observation directly on some)
RSRegulate (The AKOG mount is the best way to get an ACOG on an AK however)
Personally I don't have much use for BP02 (though it does work) and have not owned a UTG mount and probably won't in the future. They seem to get reasonable reviews for the gen 5 models however. I don't endorse them FWIW.
As far as railed topcovers go the only one that I like is the ZenitCo B33. I have personally used both TWS and the AKARS and FWIW neither impressed me with the AKARS being a much less effective design IMO than the TWS
Some examples of side rails
BP02 low mount (with modified shorter rail)
NPZ Universal AK/SVD mount
RS Regulate Older 25mm Aimpoint style side rail
Ultimak Gas Tube:
The Ultimak replaces the standard AK gas tube with an aluminum rail that is secured to the barrel by 4 screws and two clamps. The mount is very solid but it is probably wise to use loc-tite or similar compound on the screws. Optics mounted on the Ultimak should retain zero if removed but removing the entire Ultimak will require the optic to be re-sighted.
Shown here with a modified LHV47 lower hand guard.
(Texas Weapon Systems)
I have not reviewed this rail system however a quick google search will turn up plenty of positive information on it's quality and effectiveness.
(AK Adaptive Rail System - Parabellum Armament)
I have not tested this yet but I did have the opportunity to take a few pictures
The rear sight leaf is built into the hinge and is
a notch style like the original AK sight, however it
is much wider than the standard AK leaf.
Stormwerkz rail for the AKSU
This is an excellent way to mount a small red dot optic like an Aimpoint but it does require drilling three holes in the top cover of the rifle.
With Sampson Type 3 for Bulgarian lower rail, G2
LED and VLTOR offset scout mount on SLR107UR