Arex AKB-15: A Lost AK Modernization Project

The AKB-15 was a project developed by Arex Defense in Slovenia in 2015. The company received a request from a small country (they decline to reveal exactly who) to modernize a stock of AKM rifles with adjustable stocks, pica tinny optics mounting, and new barrels among other features. Arex developed a monolithic aluminum upper assembly (the production model would have been made from an extrusion) and put together 100 examples for military consideration.

At the same time, they planned to release a semiauto version of the same thing on the civilian market for collectors and sport shooters. The civilian model would have been built on the tooling financed by the military contract. So when the potential client country decided not to adopt the rifle, the civilian version was left in the lurch, and will almost certainly never see production. Only 15 semiauto examples were made, and they have all since been sold off within Slovenia.

Thanks to Arex for giving me access to this example (the former factory owner’s personal one!) to show to you.


  1. A sound attempt to modernize AK. But, realistically, how many AK type rifles are there already? Too many to count. Some of the best in existence are from Arsenal of Bulgaria and Zastava of Serbia. In the US it may be Palmetto Armory in SC. Look at them and compare.

    In series production those button head screws would have to be replaced with spot welds. The screws would be lost after couple hundred of rounds.

    Also, the gas port is left without regulator which is a major point of weakness of AK design. That is where the effort should have gone.

  2. I had the opportunity to see the AKB-15 with my fingers, in both rifle and carbine length versions, at the 2016 MSPO exhibition in Kielce, Poland. The design rather impressed me, and I was actually wondering what happened to it, so thanks for clearing that up (although, sadly, the chance of seeing a civilian version is, as you say, pretty much as close to 0% as it’s possible to get).

  3. Looks like a sound solution to the AK dust cover/optics issue, but a bit disappointing they ended up not free-floating the bbl.

    Inability to source AK receivers sounds a bit sus. Americans fold AK flats in our garages, just sounds like they didn’t want to take the financial risk of a modernized AK that wasn’t military issue but had proprietary parts, which is understandable.

    The disembodied Slovenian head popping in & out of the video was hilarious.

  4. It seems like a sound solution for the fundamental lack of modularity of the AK, even if at the cost of replacing MANY parts (in the end, little remains of the original platform), the use of the AR not-foldable stock is a minus, and the result seems a little bulky.
    I suspect that the estimated costs were one of the reasons it had not been adopted in the end.

  5. Do you want to see “modular” AK rifle? Look at AKV-521. The letter “V” is for Valentin Vlasenko, the designer. He split the AK original design into the core lower nd created a new integral upper, which is adoptable to several calibers. It is made by Koncern Kalashnikov in Izhevsk.

    The rifle was introduced to international market in 2021 (hence -521) but due to sanctions is not available in the West.

    • If only Valmet had addressed the optics issues as effectively as they did everything else…

      End of the day, the basic design of the AK does not lend itself to our current ideas of modularity and sighting/lighting systems. In that regard, Kalashnikov failed to anticipate a lot of things that Stoner either foresaw or “fell into” when he did the AR-10/15 platforms. As such, the AK is basically a dead-end design, one that will not be used much going forward, other than in terms of basic operating principles like the various flavors of “Western AK” designs like the FN FNC, the StG90, or the Beretta AR70.

      It’s really too bad, but because of the design choices made back in the 1940s, which made the AK king of the hill for a long time, it’s also crippled in terms of going forward unless you make heroic efforts like Arex did. And, because of the need for those efforts…? Yeah; put a fork in the basic AK. It’s done, in terms of effective design life. If you’re arming a peasant uprising, the AK might still see some use. A modern military, one that’s taking on state-of-the-art peer competitors? Nope; done. Mikhail had a hell of a run, but it’s over as far as a basic individual infantry weapon.

      • “If only Valmet had addressed the optics issues as effectively as they did everything else…”
        What about Valmet Hunter which is considered to be derivative of AKM and could be use with optics?

  6. I wonder how much it costs to refurbish an AKM with new barrel, aluminium upper, new furniture etc …Vs selling the guns and buying new state of the art assault rifles?

    • To be honest, I don’t think that sort of in-depth refurbishment makes sense, for the AKM or for any other military rifle. In my optics, it starts to go beyond just “refurbishment” and becomes essentially a rebuild. That might(!), on paper, be slightly cheaper than just buying new rifles, but instead of getting a rifle that is actually new, you end up with a Frankenstein of something old, something new, something borrowed, etc.

      • Agreed. It is not just a rebuild, it is OVER-build.

        Perhaps the AKV-521 justifies the effort because it provides for multi-caliber arrangement. This is not the case with AKB-15.

      • Such moves can make sense if there are bureaucratic or political obstacles for buying new rifles. This way they are “just upgrades” “little improvements”, while still getting essentially new rifles actually. Or a country is limited by what is allowed to manufacture by other countries or is blocked from importing new weapons by sanctions.

        • I don’t think there are enough nations in this situation to really make it worthwhile, and if there are? They’ll just roll their own, the way South Africa did when they went to replace their FALs. Although, I’ll grant you that glomming onto the basic Valmet design via IMI’s Galil was a bit of a “cheat code”…

        • “(…)blocked from importing new weapons by sanctions(…)”
          Considering that small-arms are… well… small, then I would suspect just get it via smuggling, OPERATION BALAK-style.

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