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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