Category Archives: AK & Related Rifles

Used to discuss AK-47, AK-74, and related rifles

PSA AK-E Part 2: Out Of The Box Observations and Photos

After researching and deciding to buy the AK-E, I ordered it and then waited about a week. The trick with any of PSA’s AKs these days is finding them in stock. Here’s my tip to you – the email notification is broadcasting the news to a ton of people and anyone may buy before you do. I’d recommend checking their site manually between 10am to 3pm Eastern. Just leave your browser open on the page and hit refresh when you can – say every half hour or hour. It took me a week or two but that’s how I was able to get both my AK-V and AK-E. This approach works for any of their hard-to-find because everyone is buying them AK-series weapons. Click on the below to go straight to the PSA page in a new tab:

For me, it’s really interesting how PSA has jumped with both feet onto the AK bandwagon and are offering different grades and styles to appeal to different levels of shooters.

Getting back to the AK-3, I only waited about a week and Scott Igert, my good friend who owns Michigan Gun Exchange, called me up when the AK-E arrived and I went and got it.

Opening The Box

For this post I took a bunch of pictures to share first impressions and will put them in the captions of each photo.

It’s a good looking rifle. The red furniture is brighter than I care for but I bought the rifle with the knowledge that I literally planned to replace everything so my strategy was to get the first AK-E that I could get and move ahead from there. Note, PSA packed it well. It comes in this foam lined box and note the little buffer on the end of the charging handle to keep it from poking through the packaging.
Yeah, it’s really red! Note the AK-74 style lightening cut on the stock. The wood is really light. I’m not sure what they used but when you pull the stock, it is surprisingly light.
You can see the little orange chamber flag they include. The front sight block (FSB) is a combination unit that includes the gas block. Because it is now set back, the brake is secured with a jam nut rather than the traditional detent pin that protrudes from the FSB. The rifle ships with one Magpul 30 round magazine. PSA has been teasing they are going to sell their own line of inexpensive AK magazines and I’m going to keep an eye out for that. Magpul is now on their third generation of AK magazine based on lessons learned for reliability and feedback/desires from the AK community.
You can see the handguards have a slight hand swell. An AKM-style optics rail is ready to go. The grip is basic but functional.
I could have done without the Palmetto logo on the side but at least it is relatively small. Note the good job they did on the rivets and the magazine stabilizer dimples. The bluing is nicely done. Fitment of the handguard is good as well.

The muzzle device has two ports on each side and is secured by a jam nut. PSA reports the thread is the standard 14mm x 1mm left hand thread that one would expect on an AK. That means you can use other muzzle devices if you want. I’m going to try and the supplied brake out first before I change anything.

Here’s a closer look of the combo front sight block (FSB). It’s pinned in place and looks good. Note there are no additional vent holes in the gas tube. Some AK variants have them and some don’t – it’s just an observation
Closer view of the side mount optics rail. You can also see the ALG AKT trigger and more of the nicely done rivets. By the way, the AK-E has the best out of the box trigger I have encountered. I’ve been an ALG fan for a few years now and am happy to see PSA use them.
Here’s a closer view of the trigger, selector stop, trigger guard and the magazine catch. Note the cracked pistol grip. I contacted customer service and they offered to either send me a replacement grip with the risk of the shade of red not matching or a $30 credit back to my card. I opted for the $30 credit as I did not plan on keeping it anyways.
Here’s the selector lever. You can also see the nickel-boron (Ni-B) coated bolt carrier. Folks, the rifle arrived unlubricated but it was one of the slickest actions I have felt out of the box. My Galil Ace was that smooth and my Vepr was after I lubricated it. Point being is the Ni-B coating definitely aided lubricity as one would expect.
Definitely a good looking AK.
The manufacturer info is forward of the mag well. You can see the Ni-B coated bolt carrier and part of the bolt itself. Also note that they dimpled the ejector to reinforce it.
The pistol grip is attached via a screw with a washer.

The rear sling mount. You can see the metal butt cap wrapping around the end.

Note the FSB does not have any provision for a cleaning rod. No big deal to me. I have never actually used the supplied cleaning rod on any of my AKs. I either use a Tipton cleaning rod or a bore snake. I honest prefer bore snakes at this point.

So those are my out of the box impressions. In my next post, I’ll begin tearing down and making much more detailed comments about the internals.

I hope you found this post interesting.

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PSA AK-E Part 1: Research

In 2019, I bought a PSA AK-V and really liked it. The little pistol caliber carbine was reliable, accurate and fun. I did an initial four blog posts about the purchase and then one on converting it.

Because I liked the AK-V so much, I started paying close attention to reports about the improved quality of the PSA AK line in general. I read the posts in the Facebook AK-47 group regularly and guys were reporting how happy they were with the GF3 series and the new AK-E that would be the PSA premium rifle with forged trunnions, nickel boron coated carrier and bolt plus a premium cold hammer forged barrel from FN. It definite caught my attention so I decided to monitor the situation.

Out Comes Rob Ski’s Videos

Rob is the creator and host of AK Operator’s Union’s video series. He was born in Poland and served in the Polish Land Forces as an infantryman. Then, when his family immigrated to the United States, he joined the US Army and was a paratrooper. In short folks, he’s the real deal when it comes to his opinions and experiences. If you’d like to read more, click here to read a 2014 interview.

Some people like Rob and some don’t – I like Rob. I think he’s a character and like his videos. I also respect his opinions. At any rate, he did a series of videos on the AK-E and the first one caught my eye because of the title “I hate new Palmetto State Armory AKE” – here it is:

He then posted an update after 2,000 rounds:

One at 3,000 rounds

After even more rounds and after pouring in a bunch of sand while it was running, accurate and Rob was impressed.

Well, between the Facebook group and Rob, I ordered my AK-E and will post about taking it out of the box next.

Please note that all images were extracted from the video and are the property of their respective owner.

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Great Deals On Pistol Braces and Pistols With Braces At PSA

When the ATF reversed the ruling about braces and enabled folks to use them however they saw fit, the demand and supply of pistol braces went into orbit. I have carpal tunnel and a hereditary tremor so for me, using a brace is the only way I can wield a heavy pistol – such as one based on an AR, AK or MP5 type of action.

Examples of Braced Pistols

SB Tactical’s PDW brace is great on AR pistols
IWI Galil Ace in 7.62×51 with a SB Tactical SBA4 adjustable brace
PTR PDWR .308 pistol with a SB Tactical folding mechanism and SB Tactical SOB brace

Palmetto State Armory (PSA)

PSA has come a long way. I’ve used them as my go-to AR parts supplier for years and now they have great deals on parts, kits, receivers, and firearms. They also offer some great deals on braces – by themselves as parts, as part of a kit offering or even on firearms.

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Brownells Has All Kinds of Metal Finishes And Surface Preparation Supplies

Folks, if you are looking for supplies to finish your firearm, Brownells is a great source. I’ve done business with them for years and they have provided me great technical support as well as customer service. If you are considering a spray on finish like Alumahyde (their own product), Cerakote, Duracoat, or Gunkote plus other finishes like cold bluing, hot bluing, color case hardening or parkerizingBrownells has a ton of options for you.

Both of these rifles were finished using Duracoat’s spray on finish. You really needed to blast the surface, make sure it was very clean and then allow the finish to cure for a week for it to be durable.
Baking on Molyresin over manganese park. That’s a M92 with a long barrel in the front and a M72B1 in the rear from back in the days when I had free time 🙂

These days, I do a base surface preparation of manganese parkerization and then Norell’s Molyresin on top. The park creates an ideal surface for any sprayed on finish like Alumahyde, GunKote or Molyresin to stick.

The following are some great examples of products they carry:

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Video: Commercial Zastava M91 Range Time Video

In the previous video, Ian at Forgotten Weapons does his bench top review. In this one, we get to see the rifle perform at the range. Ian was at 100 yards and he’s firing PPU match 182 gr 7.62x54r ammo and the group opened up as the barrel warmed up.

Group one – relatively cool barrel
Group 2 opened up a lot – Ian did not the barrel was hot
Group 3 – disappointing. Ian wonders if the scope had problems.

The Range Video

My Conclusion

It really does come across as a Serb copy of the PSL and not worth the fortune it is selling for unless you are a true collector. Whether it was the rifle or the scope, the results are not impressive. Personally, I thought about buying one and decided to pass. when they first came out and this cements it.

Please note that all images were extracted from the video and are the property of their respective owner.

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Video: Commercial Zastava M91 Review Video

Ian, over at Forgotten Weapons, did a review of the new Zastava M91. In the end, you do wind up with a over-sized 7.62x54r AK variant filling a designated marksman role (DMR). As always, Ian does a provides a great commentary as he looks at and then disassembles the M91.

Stamped receiver with a unique extension at the rear to accommodate the longer cartridge. Note the POSP 4×24 optic.
The M91’s unique handguard
Skeleton stock
A quick look down in the receiver – you can see the extension is riveted in place.

The Review Video


Well, it looks pretty cool, but how does it perform? In the next video, Ian will show how the rifle performs at the range so click here to open that next.

Please note that all images were extracted from the video and are the property of their respective owner.

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Paul’s Slick M72 Carbine

Paul sent me in a photo of his custom M72 carbine with our handguards. It sure turned out cool. Here’s the info he shared about it:

  • M72 Unissued mint kit
  • AK Builder 16″ barrel
  • POSP 4×24 scope on AKM rail
  • 4.5mm rear folder
  • JMac customs RRD 4C brake
  • Built by Mod Outfitters

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How to Make An Affordable and Effective Heated Tank For Acid Etching – Part 1

I like to acid etch blades that I build using apple cider and/or ferric chloride. I also manganese park firearms and tools. Assuming the part is prepped properly, there are two common needs in all of the above – the part must be submerged and the solution heated. So you have two options, buy a stainless tank and heat source or build one using PVC pipe. These next couple of posts are going to dive into how you can build an affordable and very effective heated tank to finish you parts plus have some fun doing it.


We can use rigid PVC pipe as the container to hold the etching solution. It’s cheap, easy to find and easy to work with. I need to explain a few things first about what we can and can’t do with it.

In plumbing, rigid PVC pipe has an operating temperature of 140F degrees. The reason for this is that PVC is a thermoplastic and begins to soften with heat and will burst due to the pressurized water. We don’t have much pressure to worry about other than atmospheric pressure but you don’t want to push plain PVC towards 200F – it really isn’t designed for it.

If you want to do parkerizing at 190F, then you need to use CPVC pipe. CPVC rigid pipe has extra chlorination that allows it to withstand 200F while delivering water under normal household pressures. Fun trivia, CPVC was invented by Genova Products in Michigan.

If you are trying to figure out what you are looking at, if the pipe is white, it is probably PVC. If it is cream colored, it is probably CPVC. It ought to be labeled/printed on the side of the pipe also but be on guard for people putting stuff in the wrong bins at a store or clerks not knowing what is what.

In this post, I am working with regular PVC purchased from my local Ace Hardware because the tank is for acid etching knives and will the liquid will be 90-110F on average. If I ever build one for parkerizing, it would be in CPVC. The reason it’s an “if” is that I already have a big stainless steel parkerizing tank but it’s a headache to drag out and set up whenI need it.

The Parts List

Basically, we are going to build a tube with a cemented permanent cap on the bottom and a threaded cap at the top. You can go with any size you want. For most blades I work with, 3″ is plenty and I wanted it to be portable.

Let me give you a piece of advice – it’s aways better to be a little bigger than you think you need than to find that out later. When in doubt, make it wider and taller — within reason of course. Note, I knew a 3″ diameter and about 16″ tall would meet most of my needs but not all and I was fine with that. I’ll pull out my four foot stainless tank when I need to do something huge like a cleaver.

In terms of parts, you need the following:

  • A length of pipe of the diameter that is needed
  • A coupling for that size
  • A threaded adapter for that size – you cement it onto the end of the pipe and it gives you a national pipe thread on the other end
  • A threaded plug that fits into the adapter
  • An end cap of one type or another. If you use 3″ or 4″ pipe, you can use a toilet flange adapter to actually both plug the end and allow you to connect it to the wood if you aren’t making it very tall. I would be worried about torque on a tank with an overall length of 24″ or more. In those cases I would cement on a normal end cap and build up a crade around the pipe to support it.
  • You may want a drain for a big tank – I didn’t need one for this little unit because I can easily lift it even when it is full of the acid etching solution.
  • PVC cleaner and cement (note, PVC and CPVC use different cement)
  • Wood to form a base to keep the pipe from tipping over so it needs to be both wide and heavy enough. Really it’s up to you as to how you secure it to be vertical. I like a mobile base but you could tie it to something, etc.
  • A heating source and controller – we’ll get into more detail in the next post.

Weight Considerations and a Drain

Bear in mind that this tank can get pretty heavy if you plan on using really big piple (6″ or bigger). Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. You will find that other liquids can weigh more. Apple cider vinegar may be around 8.6 pounds and ferric chloride might weigh 10-12 pounds per gallon depending on the concentration.

I bring the weight up because if you are thinking of building a big tank, the weight is going to add up and you may want to install a drain near the base. There are two big reasons you need to think about this – you may want to move the unit around plus you will need to change the solution as it ages and breaks down from use.

This is my 3″ tank I just built. The toilet flange us availab;e for 3″ and 4″ pipe and is handy for smaller tanks. I’d build a cradle/surrounding frame to support a bigger tank.

The pictured tank is about 16″ tall with 3″ pipe and has about a gallon of 70% ferric chloride and 30% apple cider vinegar in it. I can move it around very easily and portability was one of my design goals.

Assembling The Pipe

PVC is really easy to work with. You cut the pipe to the length you want or have the store do it for you. I use a big miter saw for stuff like this to get nice square ends and use an airline to blow all the loose plastic out (wear safety glasses).

To “glue” the pipe together, you first prime the surfaces and then apply the cement. Note, PVC and CPVC use the same primer but different cement. In this case,I use Oatey’s purple primer and clear cement. Read the directions on their box just to make sure. Bear in mind the solvent is really thin and is going to run everywhere – especially in cold weather.

I’m a creature of habit. I’ve had very good luck with Oatey products so I stick with them. There are other brands out there such as Ace’s own private labled stuff, but I stick with Oatey to avoid surprises. When following their directions and using their products, I’ve not had a joint fail/leak yet,

The Base

To make the tank stable, you need a big enough base both in terms of area and weight. I had some old 1×12 stock that I chopped into squares and stacked if four deep for weight. You can do whatever you want and your goal is stability, however you get it.

I centered the flange on the first board and screwed it in. I’m not sure I would trust the flange to handle the potential torque of a long pipe. For me, once I get around 24″ overall, I am going to build a cradle and not subject that flange to a ton of stress.
I then applied epoxy and clamped the layers together. I was kind of experimenting as I went. Just one piece of wood wasn’t heavy enough so I then added the additional layers after. I could have glued the base and then used longer screws to secure the flange had I known more up front. I wound up with four layers of wood in the end.

I have another tank that is full of a boiled linseed oil an turpentine mix that I use for hydrating wood handles in khukuris and cleavers that I restore. It has a rounded end bap on the bottom and the base is more like a heavy cradle made up fo 2×4 lumber that gives it weight and then goes up the sides to provide support.

This is a 4″ pipe with a wood scaffold base. It’s very stable. This is a tankI use for moisturizing and treating long wood hanndles.


That’s it for now. In the next post we are going to talk about heating the tank. This is where I did the most experimenting and can share some ideas with you.

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How to Make An Affordable and Effective Heated Tank For Acid Etching – Part 2

In the last post, I covered the basic construction of the tank. In this post I want to talk about heating the tank. Thanks to mass production of digital temperature switches, you can build a digitally controlled heated tank for a very reasonable price.

Why Does Heat Matter?

In case you are wondering, heating the solution does matter. Years ago, in 1889, a chemist by the name of Svante Arrhenius proposed an equation that would later bear his name. Basically, a chemical reaction increases as the level of activation energy increases. The reason temperature enters in as that you are raising the energy in the liquid, more energetic particles are bouncing around and increasing the volume of reactions which means that more successful reactions will occur as well. We can use a rule of thumb that for each 10C increase in temperature, the reaction rate will double and for each 10C drop, it will be cut in half. To sum it up, cold=bad for chemical reactions. As a side note, this is also why marginal batteries fail when cold weather hits.

So what this means to acid etching is that in my cold unheated shop in the Winter, reactions are going to be real, real slow. Thus, I must have a way to heat the chemical and the submerged part to improve the reaction.

The Heating Element For The Tank

The first thing I wanted to do was to keep the cost down and the second was that I didn’t want something that would get so hot that it would melt the PVC. I had a 30 foot length of roof heating tape from when we cleaned out my dad’s garage that I had been thinking about for a while. It always makes me feel good when I use something that was my dad’s.

These roof heating cables use AC voltage to warm up and melt ice are readily availble and are designed not to get so hot that they melt the shingles but also are designed to be spread out and not right next to each other so I was going to need to test the design. I planned to wrap the tape from the bottom of the tank until I ran out cable with each coil right against the previous. I was counting on convection of move warmer fluid up and cooler fluid down but I wasn’t really sure how it would sort out.

Another nice things about these heating cables, or heating tapes, is that they do not use a lot of electricity. The 30 foot model my dad had was spec’d to draw only 150 watts at 12 volts. That makes for a nice portable unit that you can run off just about any extension cord.

So, step one, I applied the tape to the empty tank and secured it just with 3M 3340 aluminum HVAC tape. This is the tape made for higher temperatures with an aluminum foil backing – it’s not dcut tape. I then watched the temperature with my Fluke 62 Max IR thermometer. You need an accurate thermometer and the Fluke has served me very well – it’s proved itself to be accurate, reliable and durable – it’s been bounched around a lot in my shop.

So, the temperature slowly climbed but made it all the way up to 170F before I shut it down. The PVC still felt pretty good but it was way hotter than what I wanted. Just plugging the tape in and calling it done was not the answer. Sure it would heat the liquid up fast but I couldn’t safey leave it unattended. I needed something to control the temperature but use the heat tape.

Please note that there are pipe heaters that are a different creature. Some of them need to be submerged in water or wrapped around a steel pipe. Do not use those types of heaters. There are a ton of different names buy you are looking for the cable or tape that is put on roofs to melt ice dams, etc.

Solution – Use A Digital Temperature Controller

I thought I knew the switch I was going to buy until I did some further research. Some controllers are very easy to set up and others seem a bit more confusing. I opted for the WILLHI WH1436A Temperature Controller 110V Digital Thermostat Switch. All you do set set the temperature for ON and the temperature for OFF. That’s it. If you want them, there are some more advanced settings that you can explore if you want but this seemed like just what I needed.

I undid the top few coils of the heat tape and rewound them with the temperature probe wrapped in them. I then used aluminum HVAC tape to secure the top. I set ON to 90F and Off at 95F and plugged the roofing tape into the controller.

I inserted the temperature probe a few coils down and secured the top with 3M Aluminum HVACtape. Note the small cable clamp screwed into the wood base securing the bottom of the heater tape and preventing it from unwinding.

I started watching with the Fluke meter and since the temperature based on the probe was 40.2F, the controller turned on power to the switch and the tape heated. It did cut power around 95F but the tape continued to warm up even so by about 10F so the peak temperature was between 103-105F according to the Fluke. This was actually within my acceptable range. I was just ballparking 90F but even 105F was fine by me.

The digital controller works well. I’m going to leave it loose some I can move it around depending on what I am working on and were.

There was one minor hitch I noticed during experiments – the controlled heat took over an hour to warm up the fluid. If I unplugged the tape from the controller and plugged the tape straight into AC power, the fluid heated way faster and the pipe never felt soft – probably because the tape was heating part of it and the acid was cooling it. This was the fastest way but risky because if you forget, it’s going to get quite hot. I let the fluid get up to 160F during one run and decided that I would only do this if I was in a big rush and going to be there working the whole time. If I wanted to play it safe, letting the controller keep things safe was a better bet. I could have also sped things up by setting the OFF temperature higher, say at 110F and that’s something I will experiment more with.

The temperature controlled tank worked out great on these high carbon steel damascus blades.

Operating Temperature Range

Do not heat ferric chloride past 131F. Remember that the heating element will still heat the chemical another 10 degrees or so past the upper limit you set as OFF.

The operating temperature range from MG Chemical is 95-131F. Based on my results, I don’t see a need to push the upper limit.

Click here both for their technical sheet and MSDS sheet,


I had about $30 in the PVC and fresh glue, nothing for the base, the controller was $29.99 and the roof heat tape was free but if you bought it, the price would be around $30. This definitely falls in the affordable category plus I turned out some really cool etched damasus blades using the controlled tank. If you want to know a bit more about the chemicals and my process, click here.

When I was done, I let the tank cool down, screwed on the lid, cleaned things up, coiled the cords up and stored the tank for the next use.

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