Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Building an AK – Ghetto Style (Part 1)

I just started building my AK about a week ago.  The days of $70 parts kits are long gone.  I had to order the major parts individually over the course of the year in order to save money and now I've finally got everything I need and then some.  I'll save you the trouble of searching and show you what you'll need right now in order to build an AK-47 semiautomatic in 7.62X39.

Favorite Online Vendors:
  1. Apex Gun Parts - - The ultimate place for parts.  Barrels, trunnions, gas valves, and other major parts.
  2. Centerfire Systems - - Have some decent parts, like internal springs, triggers, compliance parts, and grips.  Mostly nicknacks.
  3. AA-OK - - Have some barrels and other major parts.  DO NOT ORDER TRUNNIONS FROM HERE UNLESS YOU'RE DESPERATE!  I ordered some out of curiosity and they have a cut along the top of the trunnion, as advertised (don't know if this is a problem, as I am unsure if the trunnion helps contain the force of the  chamber pressure).  If you really need one, make sure NOT to buy the milled one, as no one sells a barrel for them (they're the screw-in type).
  4. DPH Arms - - They sell some unique stuff here. But go here MOSTLY for the reciever flats.
  5. - - A little suspicious of these guys.  They have trunnions, bolts, and barrels in stock but haven't returned my emails nor sent any confirmation of my order, 21 days later.  They have, however, no problem taking my money. I'll post an update as soon as I get some sign of life. Update: Thirty days later, these guys update their website but don't respond to emails.  Currently contacting my credit card company for a refund.
  6. Gun Broker - - You can buy complete kits here.

Parts I have so far:
  1. Receiver ($15) - DPHarms - The thingy that holds all the things together.  You can pound out a reciever from a flat sheet of steel by beating the living hell out of it with a mallet.  Tapco makes good flats (earlier ones had bad trunnion hole placement but the newer ones work now).  It comes with screws and bolt rails (at least they used to.  Tapco is now a distributer and no longers sells directly to customers.  The last batch I ordered from a third party did not have screws).
  2. Front Trunnion ($60 - $75) -  APEX, AKParts - Connects reciever to barrel assembly.  Make sure it comes from a stamped receiver.  Make sure it's NOT a screw-in.  Make sure the hole is standard diameter.  Most Romanian and Yugoslav trunnions are compatible and follow the standard specifications.  Israeli Galils, AK-74s, and WZ-88 Tantals do NOT and are weirdos.  Try to get one that has been dismantled already to save you a headache of doing it yourself (note: removing the rivets is not as hard as it looks and you do NOT need a hydrolic press)
  3. Barrel ($15-$100) - centerfiresystems, APEX - The thingy that shoots bullets.  Again, stick with Romanian or Yugoslav just for consistancy.  Romanian barrels have slightly tighter fit, but are becoming more scare and thus more expensive.  I've been told Yugo M72 RPKs will fit, so if you're looking for a heavy barrel, get 'em at APEX (NOTE: Not verified yet.)
  4. Fire Control Springs ($7) - DPHarms - You'll need a hammer spring and a disconnector spring.  Buy 2 of each just to be sure one isn't weak.
  5. Axis Pins, Pin Sleeve ($10) - centerfiresystems - Buy them here for cheap.  The package CFS sells comes with a grip, a full-auto trigger group (WARNING, see below),  and a piston.  I suppose if you were going real ghetto you could just use some hardware store machine screws and bolts.  But this kit is only ten bucks and even comes with some extra stuff, so stop being a cheap-ass!
  6. Semi-Auto Fire Control Group ($30) - APEX, DPHarms, centerfiresystems - Use this so you don't have an illegal machinegun.
  7. Gas block, Gas tube, rear sight block ($60 - $110?) - APEX - Depending where you get your stuff at, you could end up spending a large sum of moneyhats.  If you were truely ghetto, you could skip all this and plug the gas port of your barrel by tapping it and driving a screw in to seal it off.  Of course, this would mean you would have to cycle the action manually and have no sights (future ghettosmith project)
  8. Bolt, Bolt Carrier, Piston, Carrier Spring ($70 - $95?) - APEX - No idea what to get or where.  Probably would need to go Romanian. I am using a Romanian set from my already commercially-built WASR-10, so I can't say where I would find this stuff online.  I'll buy an AMD-65 carrier group later and tell you.

TOTAL: ~$270-ish - Wow, that was more than I expected. That's if you buy the cheapest parts AND that is with the bare-minimum essential parts.  That means I didn't factor in magazines, sights, or unneeded cosmetic features like handguards, stocks, or dust covers.  AND I was guestimating the prices.  Now factor in shipping it probably would have been better to buy a kit.

Tools I've used so far:
  1. Rubber Mallet  - Used for pounding the barrel into the trunnion and mashing the reciever into shape.  Just don't use a steel hammer or you can actually flatten the muzzle of your barrel.
  2. Steel Punches - You need this to hammer out old rivets out when you get your parts kits.  Using a nail or random piece of metal rod will not work, I tried :(
  3. Vise Grips - Used for holding the steel punches so you don't smash your hands.
  4. Drill Press - The steel punches need a solid grip to dig in before you can start pounding otherwise they'll slip when you hammer them in.  I used a cheap HaborFrieght drill press to make a small hole into the rivet before pounding it out.  The drill press was on sale and I used a 5 dollah coupon and paid only 30 bucks.  I'm such a cheap bastard.  You could also probably substitute this with a drill and some really good drill bits.
  5. Bench Vise - Make sure it's a big and study one and attached to a sturdy work bench.  Get the one that attaches from the top, not the bottom (I have used the latter, but it's starting to seperate from the bench).  Alternatively, you could just use C-Clamps and clamp the trunnions between the bench and two pieces of wood to stabilize it while removing the rivets.
  6. Mapp Gas Torch - You need this to heat treat the fire control group holes of the receiver and the ejector rails.  Some people will tell you you need to heat treat the top receiver rails and front trunnion holes, but that is not necessary.

Legalities (guidelines to follow so you don't end up in prison):
  1. Be sure its legal to own an AK in your state.
  2. Make sure an AK with a stock has a minimum barrel length of 16"
  3. If it does not have a stock, make sure the receiver is marked "pistol."  Not necessary, but I would recommend it just so no one thinks you have an illegal short barrel rifle.  Also if you're making a pistol build, use a special receiver block or cut off the rear trunnion tang (not needed, but just to play it safe).
  4. Do NOT use the full auto trigger control group that comes with your parts kit!  Various American manufacturers make semi-automatic fire control parts.  I recommend Tapco's since they're cheap.
  5. You need a certain amount of American made parts in your rifle so that it is not considered an imported weapon.  I forget how many, better look it up to be safe.  I really doubt anyone's been in trouble for this, though.

I will continue this project whenever I have freetime.  Until then, go to for some really nice tutorials on how to get started using minimal amounts of tooling possible (being ghetto).

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