It’s been a couple of years since I last had time to build an AK and definitely felt the need to catch up. Contrary to what some may think, the majority of guys who like building guns aren’t trying to bypass laws – they genuinely enjoy it. Think of it as being similar to building a model but this one can go “bang” 🙂
I think I got bit by the AK builder bug in 2006 after reading an article in Shotgun News by Steven Matthews about building AKs. The rest, as they say, is history. At the time, you could buy a kit for $50 if you shopped around then after the barrel ban went into effect, the prices just went up and up. Now, with the advent of US and foreign barrels plus businesses that are selling kits with headspaced barrel assemblies, prices are relatively affordable. They are still far higher than years ago, but you can build your own entry level AK for about $500 and then the prices just go up and up.
At this point I have to answer the question “Why do it when you can buy a complete AK rifle for the same amount or less?” In short, you get to control as much of the quality as you want is the answer. Like anything, someone can always figure out how to make an AK cheaper but that doesn’t mean better. Frankly, some of the US-made AKs are total pieces of shit if you will pardon my French and complete honesty. The internet abounds with stories of busted US made parts and hack assembly jobs. Really, the only AKs I would recommend are going to come from custom or semi-custom shops like Two Rivers Arms, Jim Fuller’s Rifle Dynamics, Jim Roberts, Krebs and so forth.
Certainly there are good foreign made AKs but even they can have quality control moments. Zastava can make excellent AKs if they choose to is one example. Russian Molots are my all time favorite but they are banned from further import though there seems to be a ton of them still for sale and prices haven’t gone up much. Bulgarian AKs can be good and that is one reason K-Var can charge what they do. One country with a long AK history that not all American’s know about is Poland. It would be cool if they start selling more models into the US- market but at least Arms of America is bringing in a wide variety of kits right now.
So that brings me full circle. Why do I want to build vs. buy? Because I like building them and I can make an AK do just about anything I want it to at this point. I’ve done rivet, screw and weld builds. I’ve built Romanian, Hungarian, Polish and Yugoslavian AKs and RPKs. I’ve done traditional looking builds and over-the-top “tacticool mall ninja this thing is way too heavy” builds. Seriously, I kind of went nuts with a Hungarian AMD-65 about 10 years ago and put on a quad rail with a red dot, laser, light vertical fore grip and bipod. The thing was so heavy that it literally taught me that just because you can add something on does not mean you should – it takes time and energy to bring something that heavy up into position and also to stop it once on target.
I’m not saying I know everything. I’m just saying I know my way around the AK platform well enough to build what I want. The hardest thing for me is finding the time between my day job, family and Ronin’s Grips. So, an interesting opportunity presented itself because I had Polish Beryl furniture, Childers Guns sells Polish receivers and Arms of America (AoA) had a cool kit for sale. It was a WBP 7.62×39 kit with a Polish chrome-lined Cold Hammer Forged (CHF) barrel that is arguably, and it will start arguments, one of the best AKM-style barrels you can buy right now. The kit included a solid-steel Bery-style optics rail that goes over the dust cover and for about $670. This appealed to me because I already owned the Beryl handguards, was getting ready to release our version of the modern Beryl grip and, separately, AofA was selling a collapsing Beryl stock that is a unique looking beast for sure.
So, I got the wheels in motion and ordered the kit stock plus some translucent WBP mags from AoA, a RRD-4C brake from JMac customs, an ALG trigger and a Vortex Crossfire Red Dot. I ordered a completed 100% receiver from Childers Guns and had it sent to my FFL and good friend, Scott Igert, of Modern Antique Firearms.
Once it all arrived, it was time to start.
If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon. With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.