Jeff Kirkham of Readyman reviews the Handl Defense Mk.17-AK

kirkham shoots the AK scar

Since its inception Army Special Forces has been considered the pre-eminent unconventional warfare force in the world. Army Special Forces are commonly known as the “Green Berets”. These detachments of men are small teams whose tactical actions have strategic implications. In the 1950’s SF teams known as ODA’s, have always had a mission to operate far behind Communist lines. Many of these men had done the same mission in the OSS fighting the Nazi’s in the low countries and France.

The ability to fight in the enemies back yard. To get him turn inward when he should be looking outward. To cause your enemy to spend critical time and resources to protect his supply lines. To strike fear in him by killing him where he rests. To live among the enemy, to sap his strength, his will to fight, and kill him is the ultimate reason for the Green Berets.

Sun Tzu says one of the enemies’ supplies is worth three of yours. In order to fight in land controlled by the enemy, resupply is the most critical concern. To feed, fuel, and arm your force from your enemy is a critical capability. The ability to use the ammunition found locally is one of, if not the most limiting constraints for US SOF operating in a denied area.

In Handl Defense’s quest to provide the small arms solutions for today’s special operator it is critical to understand how these weapons will be used. I fully understand the aspects of planning and executing Unconventional Warfare. But it would be foolish to not reach out to the Special Operations community. The breadth and depth of experience of the current generation of Special Operations Warfighters might be unparalleled in American history.

When it comes to the AK47 and its use for Special Operations, there are none more experienced and knowledgeable that Jeff Kirkham. Jeff Kirkham and I attended the Veterans Business Alliance conference in Salt Lake City. This was the perfect opportunity for him to get some trigger time on the Handl Defense Mk.17-AK.

Jeff Kirkham is a 28 year special forces vet. He was part of a DoD CT unit that facilitated US interests in GWOT. He was an SF Weapon Sargent and Team Sargent. He is also the president of Readyman which is an online and live training company, that specializes in emergency preparedness. He also is the owner and inventor of the RATS tourniquet. He has patents across multiple disciplines that include medicine, ballistics, and explosives. He wrote the Stackpole 14th edition combat field leaders guide and small unit leaders planning guide.

This is why I sought him out. Jeff Kirkham and I have served in some of the same special operations units in the past. I have always known him to have a vast amount of knowledge on many subjects. There are some who will read this article and know who Jeff is and what he has done. He is a leading advocate of the AK platform. This is why I could think of no better person to have the first evaluation of the Mk.17-AK from Handl Defense.

Frank Plumb: What did you think of the Handl Defense Mk.17-AK when you first saw it?
JK: it is a lighter and less bulky version of the FN SCAR® which is what got me initially really interested. I am always looking to shed weight from equipment. From the moment I touched it, I knew Handl Defense had obviously spent a lot of time making the system lighter.

Frank Plumb: How did the weapon feel when you first fired it?
JK: A truly surprising lack of recoil, by comparison to SCAR® recoil, non-existent. It felt very much in line with the XCR. It shoots as soft as a long barrel AR-15. It shoots without any muzzle rise and a very slight right deflection. It was surprisingly very flat with minimal muzzle flip. Overall the recoil is less or inline with a standard AK.

Frank Plumb: How does the weapon feel by comparison to a standard FN SCAR 17®?
JK: Less front and back thrashing during the cycle of fire with much better balance. It is not even close in feel, balance, and shot to shot stability. It is simply much better.

Frank Plumb: How does the weapon feel when compared to an AK 47?
JK: The FN SCAR stock I found to be the main difference between the two. The AK styles of stocks allow for a better cheek well.

Frank Plumb: What features stand out to you about this weapon?
JK: It was very easy to reload because of the sloping magazine well. It really does help feed the magazine. It was a very well thought out feature that makes feeding fresh magazines much easier.

Frank Plumb: Did you notice the Handl Defense incorporated features to help dissipate heat. Did you notice their effects?
JK: Yes, I noticed the gun runs much more cool than a standard SCAR and even much more than the AK. At over 200 rounds I could easily grasp the front of the gun with bare hands.

Frank Plumb: The Handl Defense conversion kits allow the shooter to go from 5.56×45, to 300 BLK, to 7.62×39, to 7.62×51. How do you think this will affect Special Operations Forces?
JK: I think that we will be able to expand our capability but eventually figure out what works best for us as teams in certain environments. Guys will be able to tailor everything to their needs.

Frank Plumb: How do you think this will affect the commercial gun market?
JK: I think that this will have a serious following in the emergency preparedness crowd. It will allow more people to really access more capability. Once all the caliber conversions come out it will allow the user to access the majority of ammunition found in the world.

Frank Plumb: The Handl Defense Mk.17-AK features a Carbon Fiber hand guard, what are your thoughts on Carbon Fiber being used in modern firearms?
JK: As long as it is robust enough and light with less bulk its just fine by me

Frank Plumb: The Handl Defense Mk.17-AK allow the shooter to put the charging handle on either side. Is this an advantage? Which side do you prefer to put your charging handle on and why?
JK: Yes I run mine on the right as opposed to the left. Left side is faster but not everything is about speed. For example, I had an afghan commando puncture a lung with a charging handle while fast roping with his charging handle on the left. There is also concerns with IMT and CQB when a charging handle faces the shooter it can be knocked out of battery or injure the shooter. I think charging handles are meant to be on the right side of the gun.

Frank Plumb: What is your opinion of the SCAR® What is the opinion of the SCAR® from those in SOF that you have dealt with?
JK: In my opinion the SCAR H is way too bulky with bad ergonomics. I think a few elements should be revisited. Things like front of the gun, the chamber design and buttstock assembly could have been much better. I can’t help but think about the design by committee instead of the design by combatant approach. Basically guys in the units at the top levels don’t use it. It’s gradual fall from favor is not by accident.

Frank Plumb: Do you see Handl Defense’s efforts to enhance the SCAR® changing the mind of those who use it professionally.
JK: Absolutely, it is better balanced and runs cooler, why wouldn’t they?

Frank Plumb: How do you see the Handl Defense MK.17-AK being used by Special Operations Forces?
JK: SF and any unit doing advisor activities using during them during TSCP missions.

Frank Plumb: What are final thoughts on the Handl Defense Mk.17-AK
JK: I think it has great potential. It can show the 7.62×39 as viable round. I think HD has done some really cool things with this. The lack of heat in the system is astounding. I really think it is going to open some people eyes with what you are doing.

The Handl Defense Mk.17-AK conversion kit is intended to assist the Special Operator conducting Unconventional Warfare missions. By starting with the FN SCAR® as the foundation Handl defense has been able to extract more performance out of the 7.62×39 cartridge. Our initial testing for accuracy has our variant shooting in the 1.5 MOA range with hand loaded ammunition and our match barrel. We feel it is even possible to gain more accuracy from this system.

The Handl Defense Mk.17-AK also allows for the user to utilize standard issue lights, lasers, and other sighting systems that the AK system does not easily allow for. There will be minimal change over from current manual of arms TTP’s. No longer will US Special Operations Warfighters have to sacrifice our small arms technological advantages to use our enemies ammunition.

It is designed to be an enhancement to a current system already in place with USSOCOM. While this program is intended for military applications first, upon procurement into USSOCOM and other organizations, allows for the eventual release of this system to commercial buyers.

Readers should understand that much of the new technology associated with the Handl Defense Mk.17-AK and the other caliber variants Handl Defense offers are proprietary and Patent Pending. Handl Defense as a policy, does not discuss the particulars of our technologies and intellectual property.

But these technologies reduce recoil on the SCAR® platform up to 40% and nearly doubled the cook-off around counts. So we will not keep them from the commercial market. We are currently in discussions with strategic partners to help bring these technologies to other platforms. So it might not even be on the SCAR® where these technologies are first seen in the commercial market.

We are committed to bringing the Special Operations Warfighter solutions needed to maximize his effectiveness. Having been there and done that, we will leave no doubt that Handl Defense is dedicated to help our brotherhood. We think and act on a different level. We have brought a new level of refinement and capability to an already potent system. In the near future we expect to bring these enhancements to you.


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