Last year I reported that Izhmash would launch a new line of AK-style rifles this year. While this new line has not yet materialized, a prototype has been unveiled. It modernizes the AK-74M / AK-100 series by adding rails for optics and other accessories, as well as a few other minor improvements.
The following photos show one of the new prototype AK rifles.
In the above photo you can see the new thumb safety. It simply prevents the trigger from being pulled back when it is engaged, very much resembling the SKS safety. One of the problems with the AK rifles is that it is slow to disengage the safety. This safety allows the operator to disengage the standard safety and put the rifle on semi or full auto mode, but reduces the chance of an accidental discharge.
The pistol grip has been updated and made more ergonomic.
The dust cover now features a rail for optics. To prevent a loss of zero when opened, the dust cover features a lever to lock it in place. The cover does detach from the gun but instead it hinges just in front of the rear sight.
The butt stock now stores the cleaning rod.
It appears to have a slot cut in it for a sling, as well as the standard sling swivel. UPDATE: The slot exists so that a recoil pad can be attached. (Thanks Johnny for the correction).
The rear sight is now adjusted differently. The dust cover hinge can be clearly seen.
The forward rail sits above the gas tube.
I can’t decide if that is a side rail or not.
Bottom rail and a side rail.
While many of these modification are not pretty, they all seem like good ideas. In Iraq and Afghanistan all the allied forces are issuing optics (expect, of course, the cash-poor indigenous troops). I am sure the Russian Army does not want to fall behind everyone else and Izhmash does not want to lose sales to because their current stable of rifles lacks a decent rail system for optics and accessories.
Many thanks to Max Popenker for his help and insight.