Want to see the author in action with Meridian Defense Project Alpha AK-74? Head over to BallisticMag.com.
It is a rare day that we see a member of the U.S. special operations community with a stock weapon. These operators are well known for customizing their guns and improving their functioning. This phenomenon is not limited to the U.S., however.
From Russia With Love
The pipe hitters in mother Russia have their own preferences when it comes to the AK platform as well.
For instance, well-known firearms trainer Larry Vickers recently paid a visit to Russia, and video footage showed that the Russians were indeed following Western influence and adapting the venerable AK to the 21st century. Now, it is important to understand that the gentlemen at the center of the visit and subsequent custom gun builds are not just young soldiers with online shopping skills. The visit was with Spetsgruppa “A,” also known as Alpha Group. They’re officially Directorate “A” of the FSB Special Purpose Center. In short, this is an elite standalone sub-unit of Russia’s special operations community.
Much like our own Delta Force, they are cloaked in secrecy. The KGB created Alpha Group in 1974 in response to the Black September attacks at the Munich Olympics two years earlier. Alpha Group also survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and currently operates under the auspices of the FSB, the successor to the KGB. It is important to understand this because of the skill and experience of the group’s operators. The choices they make on their guns are serious. During the video with Larry Vickers, we see U.S. optics and stocks, Bulgarian muzzle brakes and a variety of other handpicked items on these rifles. This started a storm of people trying to replicate those guns. The parts were almost impossible to come by over here, however.
Enter Meridian Defense Corp. (MDC) and its Project Alpha AK-74. This gun represents the closest thing to a special operations AK-74 available outside of Russia.
The project jumped to life when the engineers at MDC had the opportunity to get the very special sourced parts for the project. They acted immediately. The rifle is 922r compliant, and all of the Russian parts were sourced from U.S. dealers.
As you can see, the Alpha is the product of hard work and a ton of research. The build was methodical and time consuming to say the least. The parts that MDC secured aren’t exactly “off the shelf” and required a ton of time to source and secure.
The Project Alpha AK-74 Build
Chambered in 5.45x39mm, the rifle has a chrome-lined, 12.4-inch barrel made by MDC. Then you have three components from Zenitco: the B-30 handguard, the B-31 gas tube cover and the B-33 receiver cover. The B-33 caught my eye because it is a fantastic choice for this build. It’s a hinged design that gives easy access to the internals without needing to remove the optic. It is also well known for keeping optics zeroed, which has been a challenge with other railed top covers.
The video posted by Larry Vickers showed the guns using a variety of the multi-piece, Krink-style Bulgarian flash suppressors. For the Alpha, MDC has gone with the compact Strela flash suppressor, and it worked well on my test sample. The design is intended to drive sound and muzzle flash downrange, away from the shooter and those nearby. It does that quite well. The extended charging handle is another Strela component, and it was easy to grab and manipulate during testing.
The rifle also came with a tuned AK Trigger (AKT) from ALG Defense. It had a very nice, clean break and was far superior to a standard AK trigger. Finally, the test gun sported an Armacon AK folding stock adapter and a Magpul CTR buttstock.
Project Alpha AK-74 Range Performance
I have been fortunate to have shot some pretty sexy AKs over the years. Most were classics, including the unicorn of AKs, a Type One. The Alpha isn’t a classic gun, however, so I was interested in seeing how some modernization would affect this Eastern Bloc staple. And I know that any modernization of the AK platform is seen as blasphemy in some circles. My response to that: “Lighten up, Francis.” The rifle is due for some improvements, and a trip to the range would let me see just how far MDC had taken the series.
At the range, I quickly discovered that the Alpha performed as well as it looked. While it is difficult to put into words, the gun has a dead seriousness about it. This is not a range plinker or safe queen. This is a full-on gunfighter’s weapon. The gun was tight and lacked the well-known rattle common to most AKs.
For the range session, I installed a Trijicon MRO, which fit the gun well. Its 2-MOA dot proved to be a good fit for a gun that I expected big things from. Right off the bat, the Alpha was exceptionally smooth shooting. The 5.45x39mm round offers very little recoil, and the Alpha soaked up the rest like the sponge. This translated to speed—lots of speed. With the gun moving so little, I was able to crush steel at pace.
Through Its Paces
As expected, the gun cycled well, and I had no malfunctions of any kind. Off-hand, I was able to easily print a 2-inch group at 100 yards with slow, deliberate fire. This wasn’t my focus, however, because the gun is designed to shoot “minute of man” at speed. To that end, I ran the rifle on steel from 25 yards out to 300 yards effortlessly. Once I had a good aiming solution, I quickly jumped back and forth between near and far targets.
The one downside I experienced with the Alpha was heat. The barrel, understandably, got very hot. The by-product of that was a very toasty handguard. We were pretty certain we could roast marshmallows on it by the time we were done.
Like Father, Like Son
My range partner (who also happens to be my son) took a few minutes with the gun and went completely Spetsnaz with it. He manipulated and fired the gun like an old-school comrade, which is a testament to the rifle’s easy handling.
He also took time to remind me that he had a birthday coming up as he pointed at the Alpha AK-74. It was one of the more enjoyable range sessions I had experienced in some time, and the only thing that ended it was a lack of ammo.
Doing It Right
A build of this nature by a major company is pretty rare. I had the luxury of visiting with Anthony Arria of MDC about the project and hit him with the biggest question: Why? His response was direct, “This project was inspired by Larry Vickers’ trip, where he documented and trained with the Russian Alpha team. Larry Vickers opened the eyes of the large hardcore internet AK crowd who didn’t like the idea of modernizing the platform. He showed them that the top-level Russian teams are adapting our Western influence of firearms and accessories.
“At the time, the parts were an unattainable unicorn. But when we had the opportunity to get the sourced parts for this project, we couldn’t pass it up. A lot of people like to clone vintage firearms, as do we, but we really like the modern Russian industrial style of this platform. That’s why we decided to do this project. We built this rifle from the ground up. It wasn’t a premade rifle that was just customized. We did it right.”
In the end, Meridian Defense has indeed done it right. The company has produced a very smooth-shooting AK that feels more like a modern fighting rifle than the AKs of old. The Alpha was a treat to run and has definitely made my “want” list!
For more information, visit mdcmfg.com.
MDC Project Alpha AK-74 Specs
- Caliber: 5.45x39mm
- Barrel: 12.4 inches
- OA Length: 24-32 inches
- Weight: 6 pounds (empty)
- Stock: Magpul CTR
- Sights: Front post, adjustable rear
- Action: Piston-operated semi-auto
- Finish: Matte black
- Capacity: 30+1
- MSRP: N/A