It may or may not be the quickest or most ergonomic way to charge an autoloading rifle, but slapping down a Heckler & Koch side-charging handle makes you feel awesomely high-speed and low-drag. Foghorn and I independently fell in lust with the Parabellum Armament AK side-charger gas tube when we handled it at last year’s SHOT Show range day, and we’ve both been a little bummed that it got bogged down in development. If you’ve got the side-charging AK jones, the good news is that your fix will finally hit the shelves next month . . .
Here are my fifteen seconds of glory with Parabellum’s side-charger prototype last year. Note the triumphant “a-ha!” as I slap down the ratchet and go crazy on that steel silhouette. Charging an AK like an HK is pretty awesome, and so is the fact that this drop-in mod requires no gunsmithing. And did you notice that the side-charger also serves as a manual bolt hold-open? That’s pretty awesome too.
What might not be so awesome about all this? Opening up the AK’s time-tested and absolutely reliable gas tube to the possible infiltration of dirt and debris. Also potentially less than awesome? Burning your thumb on the 100% exposed gas tube, because you’ve got to ditch the upper handguard during installation.
Only testing (lots of it, performed by your humble editorial staff) will tell us if these hypothetical concerns are actual deal-breakers. Heat buildup might not be much of an issue after all: Ultimak gas tube rails are also fully exposed, and they don’t get scorching hot unless you’re firing so quickly that the whole gun is roasting.
We’ll definitely be hitting these guys up for a T&E kit next month. Wish us well!