Travis Haley Interview (Part 3): Essential AK Rifle Upgrades

Vladimir Onokoy
by Vladimir Onokoy

In Part 1 of this interview which was recorded in 2018, Travis Haley talked about his first gun, a Chinese AK rifle, and why he bought it. In Part 2 he discussed the pros and cons of this AK weapon platform in general. In Part 3, we talk about the upgrades for the AK platform that make it more effective.


Vlad: What would you say are essential modifications for the fighting AK?


Travis: I would say - keep it simple at first. So for the simple modifications: a good light and optic would be a good choice.


Vlad: How do you mount an optic?


Travis: So that's the thing where I prefer the scout rail, this type of mounting solution is low profile, and I can still co-witness red dot with my iron sights.

AK 105 with a “scout rail” on the gas tube. The image belongs to Haley Strategic

Vlad: And you also never had a problem with the optic cooking off on the gas tube?


Travis: No, no, never.

One gun that I have, we built it 6 years ago. It has at least 160,000 rounds on it. The Aimpoint has been on it since the beginning, an old T1.

And then my RD-74 that you see me shoot a lot with the suppressor, that thing's probably got over 60,000 to 70, 000 rounds on it now. Just in the last couple of years. And I try to shoot that as much as I can. It is just a “go-to” gun.


Vlad: And so you obviously changed a few barrels? On both guns?


Travis: No, never.

I don't clean them. The groups are still tight. Now as soon as I clean it, it opens up.

I did one test on it where I stripped all the carbon and everything out of the barrel and it opened up to a 12-inch group at 100 meters. So I shot it back, and it took me about 100 rounds to get it back down to sub 1 inch.


Vlad: How do you mount a laser? Do you put it on the side of the handguard?

AK 74 with the laser mounted on the side of the handguard. The image belongs to Haley Strategic

Travis: That's still the hard part. You have to put it on the side for right now. We have seen a lot of heat issues with lasers. Because lasers are not as durable as Aimpoint red dot sights. So that's why you keep it away from the heat.


And of course, then you can still run it just fine on the side, but you're gonna have some issues out of distance and things. That's the only problem.


Vlad: Exactly. You just need to know how you exactly zero it. I argued with some of my colleagues that, they always wanna put the laser on top, and then they put a red dot on a very high mount, and then you feel like a little giraffe all the time.


Travis: Like I was saying earlier, with the AK, it starts to get bigger and wider.


And that's where I think we as designers need to figure out a better way to do that. But I think for simple adjustments or modifications: optics, a good light, and a good muzzle device.

An example of a basic AK upgrade: a light and red dot sight. The image belongs to Haley Strategic

Vlad: What's your preference? Flash hiders or compensators? Muzzle brakes?


Travis: Obviously, if I'm not going to use a suppressor, I'm going to use a good flash hider. Now if I use a suppressor, the rifle is probably suppressed most of the time.


So I'm a big SureFire fan, great suppressors. I love all suppressors, don't get me wrong. But certain people I think have better track records. Mike at Dead Air makes a great can. I love that one. I've got one down there on my Izzy 69.


And, but I think that's that's about it. And then maybe, tune in the trigger a little bit.

AK 74 and some kit designed by Haley Strategic. The image belongs to Haley Strategic

Vlad: And you just use the stock safety?


I modify it just slightly. But I tell people to be very careful. If you're gonna use Krebs or stuff like that, the only issue you can have sometimes if you're not well trained, and of course that's where it comes down to is training…


If you have an extended paddle, and a lot of these guys are getting ridiculous with the size of these paddles…


As soon as you go to reload, sometimes your finger will bump the safety back on. And then you can't charge the gun. So I just tell people in training: “Hey, be careful with that”. And they'll always hit that bump in the road until they figure it out.

Modified AK with extended safety. The image belongs to Haley Strategic

And then some people will say: “Hey, take the extended safety off”. Well, it's hand manipulation. So how are you working the neuromuscular connectivity between the hand and brain is what's going to make the safety come off faster.


In the next part of the interview, we will talk about weapon manipulation techniques popularised by some of the videos that featured Travis Haley.

Vladimir Onokoy
Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject matter expert and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 20 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant. His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report. He also contributed chapters to books from the "Vickers Guide: Kalashnikov" series. Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vladimir-Onokoy-articles-and-videos-about-guns-and-other-unpopular-stuff-107273143980300/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vladonokoy/ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/machaksilver

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  • Ron Martin Ron Martin on Jul 02, 2024

    "I did one test on it where I stripped all the carbon and everything out of the barrel and it opened up to a 12-inch group at 100 meters. So I shot it back, and it took me about 100 rounds to get it back down to sub 1 inch."


    COOL STORY BRO

  • Michael Zeleny Michael Zeleny on Jul 02, 2024

    “I did one test on it where I stripped all the carbon and everything out of the barrel and it opened up to a 12-inch group at 100 meters. So I shot it back, and it took me about 100 rounds to get it back down to sub 1 inch.”


    I’ll take things that never happened for $500, Alex.



    • Vlad Vlad on Jul 03, 2024

      That happened to 2 of my friends before I did an interview with Travis, so I was not surprised when he told me that.


      Both times it was a 5.45 AK-74.











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