Category Archives: Gunsmithing

Posts that touch on gunsmithing topics such as improving function, finishes, changing parts, and anything else that alters a weapon

Upgrading the Big Rock’s Sights With Help From Scott Igert of Modern Antique Firearms

The Rock Island Armory Model 52000 Pro Match Ultra 6″ – 10mm pistol is affectionately known as the “Big Rock” to folks who own one.  When I got mine, one of the few things I wanted to improve were the sights. The front fiber optic segment was a dim red and the back white dots were just paint.  When I’d sight down the pistol, the sights didn’t really “jump” out and catch my eye the way I would like.


Scott Igert, owns Modern Antique Firearms, in Benton Harbor, MI, and is a good friend of mine. I told him about the sights because I knew he could upgrade them to be more visible. So, one day I ook the pistol to his shop and and snapped some photos while he worked his magic.  Now Scott does this all the time so he has all the supplies on hand and knows exactly what to do, which was real obvious as I watched and he explained what he was doing.

First up was to replace the front fiber segment. He showed me how the fiber is held in place by flared ends that were created by heating the fiber.  He simply snipped the fiber in the middle being careful not to hurt the rest of the sight that held it in place and then just pulled it out.

Next, we talked about the color of fiber I wanted and it was bright orange. He had these big lengths of fiber in different colors and diameters that he picked through to get the one that would fit the Big Rock, cut it longer than needed and scraped it until the outside diameter was such that it could slide into the old sight base’s holders for the fiber.

Scott gave the fiber segment a quick spritz of weapons oil to get it to slide into the holder. He then trimmed the fiber so there was still enough protruding to melt into the bulged shape needed to secure the fiber in place. With that, the front was done.

For the rear, he selected a very eye catching yellow paint to fill the two round depressions that were painted white. He used a small rod to apply the paint and a business card to wipe away the excess and let it dry.

Wow – what a difference now. The combination is eye catching and a huge improvement.  I’ll need to get an after picture that does the new sight justice.  If you are disappointed with your pistol sights, definitely contact Scott.

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How to get what you want from epoxy – for me it is long life, shock resistance and strength


Folks, I work a lot with epoxy and reply on it as a structural adhesive to both fill gaps and bond parts together.  I’ve done everything from fixing car parts, wood furniture, tools, rifle bedding, scope mount bedding, custom knife handles and much more with epoxy.  It is incredibly versatile but you need to do some planning to really get what you want out of it predictably.

In case you didn’t know it, “epoxy” is a general term for a wide range of cured polyepoxide resins glues with different physical characteristics such as how long they cure, strength, temperature resistance and so forth (click here if you want to learn more about the chemistry).   There are a ton of options out there as quality manufacturers experiment with different resin and hardener formulations.  In short, not all epoxies are the same and for people concerned with the quality of what they are building, they need to think things through.  For quite some time I’ve wanted to write down a series of tips for folks to get strong reliable results so here they are:

Buy a quality brand epoxy to begin with

What I have found over the years is that not all epoxies are created equal so spend the money and buy quality epoxy.  There can be a huge difference in how well the epoxy will last over time and/or how strong it really is.  Do not buy the bargain basement junk.  In general, if the maker lists all the physical properties then it is a well thought out and executed formula.  I have three epoxies that I use the most in order are Brownell’s AcraGlas liquid (not the gel), Locite E-120HP, JB KwikWeld and ITW Devcon Plastic Steel.  Once in a while if I need a fast cure epoxy, I will get a retail blister pack of some five minute epoxy and I’ll explain more in a moment.

Strongly consider what your application is

Epoxy comes in many formulations.  They can vary the chemistry of the resin, the hardener and the filler to behave differently.  Consider the following example characteristics:

  • Liquid, Gel/Paste or Putty/Bar — The liquid can seep into pores and fibers plus it can be spread but it can run into places you do not want.  Gels and pastes tend to stay put better but do not seep in as well.  The really thick puttys and bars are great for filling space or creating an impromptu clamp or to seal a hole but they definite don’t sink in much.
  • Temperature – you need to think both about the temperature when you are mixing and applying the epoxy as some will not set up at all if too cold.  You also need to think about the heat when in operation because many epoxies soften and lose their bond the hotter they get.   For example, you may apply epoxy to an exhaust manifold but it will blow off when it gets hot.
  • Pot life – this is how long you can still apply it before it starts to thicken.  Some folks will refer to this as working time.  You need to mix the two parts together, apply the epoxy, position and clamp the work before you run out of time.  Keep this in mind.
  • Cure time – this is how long until the epoxy reaches full strength
  • Color – you can get epoxies in different colors
  • Ratio / mixing – some are by volume or by weight.  The easy consumer stuff is usually 1:1 by volume but when you get into the more sophisticated epoxies the volumes vary or a digital scale is needed
  • Heat resistance – some epoxies resist heat better than others before they soften and “let go”
  • Shock resistance – some formulations hold up better than others before they start the break apart and “sugar”.  Sugaring refers to the powdery look epoxy gets as it breaks apart.  Brownell’s AcraGlas, Loctite E-120HP, JB KwikWeld and ITW Devcon Plastic Steel have all held up very well for me under shocks.  My go-to epoxy for most work is Acra-Glas liquid because it holds up so very well.
  • Others – there are other factors that may matter to you but the important thing is to think through your application

Go with as long of a curing time as you can for maximum strength

What many people do not know is that the faster an epoxy cures, the weaker it is.  Conversely, the longer the formulation takes to cure, the stronger it is.  All things being equal, a 24 hour curing epoxy will be stronger than 90-second, 5-minute, 30-minute and so forth epoxies.  Now there is a time and a place where speed is needed and also situations where strength is paramount.  When I make khukuri hands and other things where strength is critical, I always use a 24 hour epoxy.

Use the Proper Ratios

Be sure to carefully follow the mixing ratios.  For volume ratio work, I use 10cc or larger syringes without the needles on them to meter liquid resin and hardener.  For example, I like AcraGlas and it is 4 parts resin to 1 part hardener.  I keep two syringes separated that I re-use over and over.  With the syringe in the holding cup labeled “resin”, I use it to draw 4 cubic centimeters (CCs) of resin out and squirt it into a mixing cup.  With the hardener syringe, I meter out 1 CC of hardener into the cup.  Now you can vary that.  If you need a smaller about, meter out 2 CC of resin and 1/2CC of hardener.  The syringes really help.  If you are doing larger volumes then either use bigger syringes or disposable cups that have measurements printed on the side.  Also note how I pour from the bulk container into the smaller intermediary containers that are easy to work with plus I avoid contamination, dropping a big bottle, etc.

The Loctite E-120HP comes in a specialized dispenser tube that uses a gun and tip to do all the mixing.  It’s cool as can be for volume work where additional coloring or fillers are not needed.

For the Devcon Plastic Steel, I use my digital scale.

Here’s one thing not to do:  Some guys have heard that if they add more hardener it will cure faster.  This may be true but the resulting cured epoxy will be weaker.  Do not deviate from the manufacturer’s recommendations if you want the physical properties they report.

Mix thoroughly

Folks, I can’t stress this enough.   Mix the heck out of the two parts and combine them thoroughly.  If you are doing larger volumes, consider doing what is known as a double pour.  Pour the two parts into a first container, mix them thoroughly and then pour the combination into the middle of a second container and mix.  What a double pour does is avoid having unmixed materials that have stuck to the walls of the container come out when you are applying the epoxy.  Keep your pot life / working time in mind.

Most of the time I am using a generic 5oz plastic cup and plastic knife to do the mixing.  I buy them by the hundreds for Ronin’s Grips and they are cheap regardless.  Do not use styrofoam.

Prepare the surface

Whatever you want to bond epoxy to had better be clean and free of oils, greases, waxes, release agents and so forth.  Second, the more abraded the surface the better.  If you abrasive blast a surface not only can you double the surface area being bonded together but the irregular surface creates many opportunities for the epoxy to get “under” material to create a better grip.  If you can’t blast then at least sand the surface with 80-100 grit sand paper.

So here are two rules to bear in mind when it comes to the surface:

  1. Clean, clean, clean and wear gloves to not contaminate the surface with oil from your skin
  2. Shiny is bad.  A polished smooth surface will not give you anywhere near the bonding strength that a blasted or abraded surface will.  I blast everything that I can – metals, micarta, plastic and even wood.  It makes a world of difference – seriously.

The following is a bakelite handle from an electric griddle of my parents’.  The unit works great and has sentimental value so I cleaned it, blasted it, cut a quick cross hatch pattern to give even more grip and then cleaned it again.  It set up like a rock and we used it all Memorial Day morning to cook hundreds and hundreds of pancakes with no problem.\

Heating Epoxy

Heat can help you two ways.  First, by warming epoxy it tends to flow better.  If you need to to soak into wood or other surfaces, consider using a heat gun to blow/chase the epoxy into the wood.  Do not burn the epoxy – just warm it up.  Second, in general, warming epoxy up tends to make it cure faster.  Now there are limits and you need to either experiment or talk to the vendor before doing anything too radical.  I will often use a halogen light or other heat source to warm the surface up to 80-100F.  In chemistry, there is a formula known as the Arrhenius Equation that notes that for each additional 10 degrees Celsius added, a reaction rate doubles (click here for more info on the equation).  My experience is that you want the heat to penetrate and warm all of the epoxy and not just the surface and you also do not want to burn the epoxy.  In general, I do not exceed 100F but that is just me.  I found something that works good enough and have just stayed there.

Also pay attention to the minimum temperature requirements for curing.  Some epoxies will not do anything at all at freezing.  Some take forever to cure at 50F.  It just depends.  When in doubt, use a lamp or something to gently heat the part.

Coloring Epoxy

What many folks do not know is that you can actually color epoxy.  I have found two approaches that work.  First, use powdered tempera paint.  You can stir in a bit of black powder to get black epoxy.  Now I did this starting out and have since moved to using epoxy dyes so I am added less powder to the mix because I want to save the volume for glass fillers which we will talk about next.


You can modify the physical strength of epoxy by adding a substrate or fillers.  For example, fiberglass is matted glass fiber that bonded together with epoxy made for that purpose.  Folks working with carbon fibers are using epoxy for bonding that together.  I add 1/32″ milled glass fibers to my epoxies to get more strength.  If I want more of a paste, I add more glass fiber and if I want it to be more of a liquid, I use less.  The exact volume of glass fiber depends on what you are trying to do.  Some vendors will give you recommendations and others will not.

Clamping / Work holding

In general, you want to apply the epoxy and then clamp everything together really well and then let it sit.   You may choose to use traditional clamps, vacuum, etc.  Bear in mind two things:

1.  Be careful that you secure the material and that it can’t shift while curing.  I can’t tell you how many times I have checked stuff and found out it moved and had to change my approach.  Figure this out before you apply the glue in case you need to make something, change your approach, etc.  Check it regularly to make sure it hasn’t shifted regardless.  Every time I think something can’t move – it does.

2.  The epoxy will run out of what you are working on.  Decide how you are going to deal with it.  Wax paper can protect your tools and table.  You can scrape the epoxy off after it has partially cured.  You can wipe things down with acetone when partially cured.  Just think it through otherwise you are going to glue stuff together really well that you do not want bonded – trust me.  It is a real headache so plan for seepage/dripping and how you will deal with it.


This is something I have gotten better at over the years – wait the recommended amount of time.  If they say 24 hours then wait 24 hours.  If you have questions about using the part sooner then ask the manufacturer.  For example, you might be able to assemble something after 10 hours but not actually put it under strain for 24 hours.  Factor in the temperature.  The colder it is then the longer it will take.  Remember what I said about the heat from lamps above.


Yeah, I had to add this.  Follow all guidance from the vendors.  The resins aren’t too bad but some of the hardeners are nasty.  Wear rubber gloves, use eye protection, work in a well ventilated area and wear a real good dust mask when sanding.  I use N99 masks now for everything.

I hope you found this general epoxy guidance helpful!

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Here are links to some of the stuff I use:

AcraGlas at Brownells.  As a reminder, I prefer and recommend the liquid, not the gel:–prod1033.aspx

Loctite E-120HP [note that most sellers on Amazon charge a fortune for this so dig around at industrial supply houses such as McMaster, Zoro, MSC, etc.  Also, remember that you need the tube of glue, gun and disposable tips.  When the glue hardens in the tip, it protects the cartridge and you then replace the tip for your next work session but it does mean you need multiple tips.  I use this glue mostly for big projects like bonding together larger pieces of wood, etc.]

ITW Devcon Plastic Steel

JB KwikWeld – note that this is a thicker grey liquid.  I use it if I am in a rush and need an epoxy.  I’ve used it to bed rifles and repair stuff mainly.  I have not used it on knife handles.  Also, due to its grey color, you can go darker towards black but not lighter.

Now I have used a ton of their sticks to create clamps, fill voids, etc.  I typically have 2-4 sticks sitting in my supplies because when I need them, I need them.

Epoxy Dyes – there are a bunch on Amazon but I don’t know them.  In general, I use So-Strong dyes from SmoothOn when I need small amounts.  My black dye is bought by the pound in bulk containers.

10cc Syringes

Digital Scale – it will get filthy so buy something cheap but with good reviews.

Clamps – there are so many ways to clamp stuff together.  I use everything from woodworking vises to spring clips to C-clamps to the big heavy duty Irwin clamps that can do up to 600 pounds of pressure with one hand.

Wax paper

Plastic Cups – I’d recommend checking around.  You need to balance cost and quality.  Some cups are absurdly thin and you can’t use them for mixing.  I get mine from GFS and you can tell they have made them cheaper and cheaper over the years.  5oz is still good but 9 and 16oz cups aren’t so red hot any longer.

Plastic Knives – again, check around.  I get mine from GFS in a big box and they work just fine.

Heat gun – I have burned out a ton of them.  This DeWalt D26950 is the first one to last longer than a year.  I’d guess I’ve been using it for almost three now.

Dust Mask – I used Moldex 2310 N99 face masks now exclusively.  They hold up fairly well and aren’t hard to breath with.

Nitrile Gloves – the best deal I have found is from Harbor Freight for their 5mil gloves.  When they go on sale or you get a coupon for $5.99/box of 100 gloves, go get them.  They are thin and don’t hold up to tough use but to keep your hands clean and balancing off strength and cost, they are a pretty good deal.  Even at $7.99/box without shipping they are a pretty good deal.


ATF letter stating you can build an AR pistol from a receiver transferred as such and never assembled as a rifle

Okay, I posted a couple of ATF letters and a guy sent me a message asking if I had the letter specifying that an AR pistol can be built from an AR receiver that was transferred as a receiver and never assembled as a rifle.  It just so happens I did save that one back when I built a couple of AR pistols a few years back.  I like to have the letters of anything someone may ask about and keep them in my case with the weapon when I take it shooting.  At any rate, here is the ATF letter in case anyone else needs it:

Please note that I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice.

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The actual March 2017 ATF letter approving stabilizing braces has a section about customization you need to know about

Yes, I am late to the game on actually reading the March 2017 ATF letter clarifying the use of stabilizing braces.   It’s been on my to-do list for some time and I finally did.   I do think this is very helpful – notably:

With respect to stabilizing braces, ATF has concluded that attaching the brace to a handgun as a forearm brace does not “make” a short-barreled rifle because in the configuration as submitted to and approved by FATD, it is not intended to be and cannot comfortably be fired from the shoulder.

With that said, folks need to bear in mind  the very next paragraph:

If, however, the shooter/possessor takes affirmative steps to configure the device for use as a shoulder-stock – for example, configuring the brace so as to permanently affix it to the end of a buffer tube (thereby creating a length that has no other purpose that to facilitate its use as a stock), removing the arm-strap, or otherwise undermining its ability to be used as a brace – and then in fact shoots the firearm from the shoulder using the accessory as a stock, that person has objectively “redesigned” the firearm for purposes of the NFA.

So what this means is if you put a brace on a pistol, use it as-is.  Do not remove the Velcro straps, stick foam in the brace to make it solid, and/or attach the brace in such a way that it is permanently so long that it could not connect to the forearm.

I always recommend that people read guidance directly for themselves.  Here is a link to a PDF copy of the letter so you can do so: Reversal of Stabilizing Braces – ATF-letter – March 2017 — please note I changed the file name when I saved it but the content is all original.

All in all, I think this is a much needed clarification overall.  Just bear the customization clause in mind when you are building, or modifying, your weapons.

Yes, for the record, I do not like the fact that short-barreled rifles or shotguns need special regulation per the NFA but the braces do provide an option for folks. Also, please note that I am not a lawyer and this should not be construed as legal advice.

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Post It Note Trick for Locating Front Trunnion Holes On An AK Receiver

Back before I had the AK-Builder trunnion drilling jig, I needed a quick and easy way to locate where to drill the holes for the front trunnion.  A fellow showed me the PostIt note method and boy was it simple and it worked.

The front trunnion is drilled for the rivets from the first kit so those holes need to be located and drilled on the receiver.

Simply take a standard PostIt Note, stick it to the side of the clean receiver and then rub a dirty finger or pencil lead over the PostIt to see the outlines of the holes appear.  By the way, if the trunnion and receiver are clean, your Post-It adhesive will hold the note in place, which is what you want.

So line the PostIt note up on the receiver’s top and right edges.

Center punch the holes.  I like using an automated punch so I have less to juggle.

You then have your holes to locate your drill.

Use a hole finder to be more accurate and/or start with a small bit and work your way up in case you need to move a little bit one way or the other.

That’s it.  Easy as pie and pretty fool proof.  Lessons learned for me was to clean the parts to protect the adhesive, make sure the edges are aligned and then that nothing moves when you punch each hole.  You do one Post-It note for each side and you can write the trunnion serial number on it and safe the Post-It for future reference.


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Gasp – not another weld build Romy G

Yeah, these things were like $79-99 in June 2006 so I did a lot of playing around including experimenting with weld builds.  I still have this one and it runs just fine.  The welds were done with a HF 120 Volt MIG welder running an ArC02 shielding gas.  Basically I did plug welds in place of rivets but did some extra welding on the back trunnion as I expected more stress there.  The lower rails were installed with a 120 Volt Harbor Freight Spot Welder with an AK-Builder tong installed.

My basic conclusion is that welding is fine for casual use rifles but rivets are the way to go with hard use.  The tricks are to take your time, do plug welds and watch your heat.  Your not trying to weld the heck out everything – just to get a decent plug weld to lock the parts into position in place of a rivet.  You’ll notice that for the critical front trunnion, I actually drilled the holes in the receiver and plug welded into the trunnion that had the rivets drilled out.

I use a flap sanding wheel on my angle die grinder to smooth everything down.

A drill bit with the right diameter to line the lower rails up with the front trunnion is used to position the lower rail for spot welding in place.

I went for overkill welding in the rear and put in a few extra beads to take up stress.

Welding in the center support and sanded it down too

This is the rifle ready for testing.

I did Duracoat on this build and two big recommendations I would make to folks who choose to use the air dry Duracoat are to at least abrasive blast the surface and absolutely wait the full amount of time indicated for curing, which is 1-2 weeks or something like that.  If you don’t do these two things, when you move the selector lever, it will scratch the finish off right to the bare metal.  I only use bake on finishes now.  I’ve had great luck with blasting, parking and then applying Molyresin on top but this last step could be whatever finish you want.  The parkerizing is a terrific surface for a finish to really grab a hold of.  A bake on finish is really the way to go with the top coat.

If I new they were going to go up so much in value, I would have done rivets.  Heck, I would have done all the rifles using rivets had I known.  I was just having a lot of fun and learning a ton.

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Heat Treating the Lower Rails of AK Flats Before Installation

I like to heat treat my entire lower rails before I install them. Some guys just heat treat the tip but I go for overkill.  When I would get flats and rails from AK-Builder for whatever I was doing, I’d do all the lower rails at once and store them oiled in a bag for later use.

The process is simple, I heat them up with a torch to dull to medium orange, which comes out to around 1500-1600F.  Some guys use magnets and stop the heathing when magnetism is lost, some use marker/applied heat indicators – there are many ways to do it.  I tend to use my sheet metal/jewelers oxy-acetelene torch. It is known as a Meco Midget and the thing is awesome for sheet metal work.  I’ve had mine for over 10 years and never had a problem.  I have a giant Journeyman II set but find it too big and cumbersome for stuff like this.

Tin Man Technologies (TM Tech), who I got mine from years ago,  actually sells the torch on Amazon now so here’s a link:

Next, quench the parts in room temperature used engine oil.  It works great for me.  I have an old navy fuse can with a lid glued to a piece of wood that I use for this purpose.

After that, I anneal them by putting them in a flat pan, pouring in some brake fluid with some paper towel exposed, lighting the towel and then letting it all burn it off, which is about 500.  It’s messy and you want to do it outdoors for sure – I let it all burn off and then air cool.  Some guys put them in a toaster oven at 500F for 5-10 minutes and let them slowly cool down by turning the oven off.  That works too.

Here the rails right after the brake fluid is finished burning off – you can see some of the soot that is generated:

When you weld the rails in with a spot welder, just be careful not to ruin the heat treat by letting a tong get up against the ejector tip and heating up.  I’ve done it twice over the years.  One time I didn’t notice and had to repair a peened over ejector and the other time I saw the discoloring of the tip and did a spot hardening of the ejector tip while it was in the receiver.

At any rate, I’d then oil everything and put them in a ziploc bag for future use.  I would sand the backs of the rails prior to installation to get good spot welds.

While I use OA for a lot of my work, MAPP works just fine too, and I have to following torch that works great:


Back in the stone age we had to mill our own top AK receiver rails!

Back when AK-Builder flats didn’t have the top rails cut to size, we had to do the work.  I’m talking circa 2006 and then late that year he came out with a simple layout tool that was so awesome.  You applied Blue Dychem do your flat, clamped the layout jig to the rail, used a scribe to mark the profile and then you came through with your mill (or Dremel) and cut out the shape.  It was faster than doing it all by hand and the one plus was that you could get the exact spacing between the upper rails that you wanted.

Setting an AK’s Internal Front Trunnion Rivets with the AK-Builder rivet jig

It’s pretty straight forward really.  You need to insure the rivet jig is sitting on good strong steel cross plates – don’t use wood.  I’ve seen guys try so don’t laugh too hard.  For the record – that one I never tried – I used 1/2″ steel plate from the get go.  Wood is not your friend under high pressures.

Be sure  to use the right rivets – AK-Builder sells the best rivets and tailors them to what you are building.  Lay them all out and identify what rivets are for the front, the swell neck rivets for the lower back of the front trunnion, etc.  A rivet should stick out 1.5x its diameter – that’s it.  Just for example and to keep the math easy for me, a 4mm rivet should only stick out 6mm.  If you go further, you are going to have problems.  As you get experienced, you can buy rivets in bulk and use rivet trimmers but you might want to save that for down the road.

Make sure the rivet and your receiver are all nice and square and that the little cup is under the rivet’s head to support it.  Make sure everything is nicely supported too.  If you don’t you will bend the receiver.  When I make cautions, it’s usually because I did it the wrong way already at some point 🙂

Only extend the rivet arm the minimum amount necessary.  The longer it sticks out, the easier it is to bend it.  I’ve done that and you may too.  If you do, just bend it straight again by pulling it out of the jig, supporting it by steel block and press it straight.

Now go slow.  Speed will only help you mess up faster, especially if you are new to this.  Extend the little set screw enough to squish the rivet and clear the trunnion walls.

Do not go crazy with the pressure.  You want to squish the rivet, not start bending stuff.  The rivet swells inside the hole and and the end caps it – that is all you need to accomplish.  Too much pressure and tooling starts to bend.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something from one of the Amazon links, or use one of the links to go to Amazon and buy something completely different — as long as you use one our links to go and buy something from Amazon, it helps us out.  For each item you purchase, we get a small bit of ad revenue from Amazon to fund the blog.  The same is true for eBay as well.

First Romy G Build – October 2006!

So I have been taking photos of guns and tools for years and years and year.  I just recently decided to start dipping in and sharing.  I was pretty floored to find this collection of photos of my first build.  It was a 1981 Romanian G pattern AKM, affectionately known to many AK builders as a Romy G.  I’d invested in AK-Builder tools and used them and a big 20 ton hydraulic H-frame press to do the work.  You’ll notice the older AK-Builder flat bending jig is shown.  They worked great and the only drawback I ever noticed, and it was not a big one, was that the flats need to have a positioning hole for a roll pin at the end of each flat.  This definitely was not a big deal but he did evolve the design to not need that later on.

You can also see the old style AK-Builder flats.  They were great to bend but you really needed your act together to do the top rail.  I actually botched this first one and made the rails too narrow.  Because of this, the gap between the upper rails was too wide and the bolt carrier kept popping out.  So, I did a new one and was very careful to get the rails held in place nice and rigid plus I would mill a little and test, mill a little and test to dial the fit in.

I bought a HF mini mill so I could get better looking and more consistent upper rails.  Note the 3″ milling vise.  I bought that from Little Machine Shop and it works great.  I still have both the mini mill and the vise.  My one comment on the mini mill is that it is light duty.  On my bucket list is a full size mill at least with a digital read out (DRO) if not with CNC.  To this day I do a lot of “eye balling” of work and would like to be more precise.  Also, I eventually moved away from oak wood fillers to precise steel blocks at some later date.  The fun thing about writing this up later is that I recall lessons learned and stuff but remembering dates has never been a forte of mine.  As I used the mill more, I really learned to value work holding systems.  Old timers’ advise of “take the time set it up right so the work doesn’t move” proved to be a life lesson I draw on to this day.

Here’s the 1981 parts kit.  Notice how nice and smooth the barrel is machined.  Starting around 1983, the quality started going down hill and you’d see kits where the barrels literally had turning marks going down them that almost looked like threading.  By the way, the “G” series AKs were actually well made semi-auto rifles despite one some detractors would say.  They were made for the Patriotic Guard hence the “G” for Garda.


The wood was always so coated with goop, I would spray them down with Bix wood stripper several times until I got down to the wood and would then do finish sanding.  Now on this rifle I used satin polyurethane and over the years moved to boiled linseed oil as the latter was very easy to fix/maintain.  I used a number of reddish brown Minwax stains over the years.  I think that was red oak.


I had AK-Builder rivet jigs but I didn’t take photos of them while doing this build for some reason.

Here was the end result.  I would have used a US slant brake, Tapco G2 FCG and that might be a Tapco or generic brown US grip.  I used to get most of my parts from Copes, Centerfire and DPH Arms back in the day.  The finish was Duracoat but I stopped using it after a few years and moved to a combination of parkerizing and Molyresin that held up great.  The AK’s selector lever can wear a strip through a finish real fast.

I kept this around but shot it less and less then when the kits skyrocketed to about $300, I cut the receiver off and sold the kit.  The funds went to other projects but with 20/20 hindsight, I wish I had kept it for nostalgia.   My dad and other family members all had fun shooting this rifle.

I can’t even guess how many of these sanding sponges I have used over the years:

For rubbing between coats of poly or BLO, I’d use 0000 steel wool.