A Shooting Star T-33A Stands Guard at American Legion Post 295 in Breckenridge, MI

On September 20, 2020, we were driving up to visit my son and passed through Breckenridge, MI, when a cold war jet fighter on pedastals appeared on the left. It didn’t dawn on me until we went by it. We turned around and I got out and snapped some photos planning to write something later when I had time.

Well, three and a half years later, here’s the post. It’s funny how as you get older, time flies by. At any rate, I dug out the photos and decided to research the jet.

First off, it’s located at American Legion Post 295 in Breckenridge, MI. It’s on the North side of 46 between Spruce Street on the West and Wright Street on the East – the Jet is in front of the buildings and is hard to miss.

Next, the jet in question is a T-33A Shooting Star and the tail number is 51-4067. The “T” tells us this was a trainer version of the famous Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star – America’s first operational jet fighter.

A Bit of History

The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, developed during World War II, holds a significant place in aviation history as the United States’ first operational jet fighter. Designed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works team under the leadership of Clarence “Kelly” Johnson (who went on to lead the design teams for both the U2 and SR-71 – click here to read more about this amazing man), the P-80 was a groundbreaking aircraft that pushed the boundaries of speed and performance.

While not seeing combat in WWII, the Shooting Star proved its worth during the Korean War. It served in various roles, including fighter-bomber, interceptor, and reconnaissance aircraft. The P-80’s sleek design, powerful engine, and maneuverability made it a formidable adversary. However, it faced challenges against the Soviet MiG-15, which led to the development of the F-86 Sabre.

The P-80’s legacy extends beyond combat. The design served as the foundation for the T-33 Shooting Star, a widely used jet trainer that played a crucial role in preparing pilots for the jet age. The T-33, with its tandem seating and simplified controls, became a staple of air forces around the world, training countless pilots and contributing to the advancement of aviation technology.

The P-80 Shooting Star and its T-33 trainer variant stand as testament to American innovation and engineering prowess. They represent a pivotal moment in aviation history, marking the transition from propeller-driven aircraft to the jet age. While the P-80’s combat career was relatively short, its impact on aviation technology and pilot training was profound and enduring.

The Jet at Post 295

How exactly the jet arrived at Post 295, I don’t know. On one hand, it had seen its better days but on the other it is a clear monument to air power. I can’t help but wonder how many young people have looked at it and dreamed over the years.

Here are photos from that day:

We can see the Strategic Air Command (SAC) emblem near the top of the tail and it looks like someone spruced up the air inlet with a shark’s mouth. The elements are taking their toll on the plane. The machine gun openings have been filled in to the front – that is the slightly yellow area and darker patch just behind the nose.
The two middle pylons attach where the landing fear were originally located. It looks like at least one bird realized it was a safe spot to build a nest.
A view from another angle of the West side of the plane. The P-80 would have been armed with six .50 caliber machine guns plus a payload of 2,000 pounds of bombs or 8-10 rockets (I read different numbers and am not sure which is right). The ark just to the right of the nose on the lower section and the yellow patch above and behind it are where machine gun openings would have been.
Looking at her straight on and slightly up. The jet is pointed South.
One last photo.

Summary

If you are in the Breckenridge, MI, area and interested, drop by and see the Shooting Star. It’s an interesting piece of history.

Want to learn more and Shooting Stars? Check out:


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A Brief History of the Japanese Nata and Three Modern Examples

From 1988 to 1989, I went to school in Kobe, Japan. On weekends I would wander through shopping areas and always looked carefully at the hardware, tool and knife vendor stores. Even then, big chopping blades would catch my eye and I found out they were known as “natas”. They were used much like a Western Hatchet intended for use by one hand to remove small limbs and split wood.

Before I returned home to the states, I picked up a 180cm basic model from a hardware store and it rattled around in my shop for years and years … I guess at this point I am old enough to say decades. The nata itself was very cool but over the years the vinyl covering stretched over a wood core slowly fell apart. Eventually, I decided to refinish the nata and sell it with a Kydex sheath.

This is the actual 165mm nata I bought near Kobe. 165mm makes the blade about 6.5″ long. It was a very stout blade.
You’ll note the blade is only beveled on one side and this is common with the nata blades.
Note it is a rait-tail tang – meaning a short partial tang going into the wood. Westerners often look at a design like this and consider it weak. Asians look at it as allowing some flex and not transferring all of the shock into the hand of the user. Changing an exposed tang like this is no bog deal really.
This was it after refinishing and new Kydex sheath just before I sold it.
I wish I could say who made the nata for sure. The 165 refers to the length in mm and the kanji (the ideograms) translates laterially as “with steel”. A company named “Kanenori” makes natas and does the same kanji and millimeter size stamping,and the ferrule originally being colored blue. Take all of those and they make Kanenori is my best guess.

The funny thing about time is that you can learn a lot along the way. You also get reminiscent about things in the past – in my case, I missed the nata. I’d gone head first down collecting and refurbishing cleavers, khukuris and and other blades – some of which I kept but I no longer had a nata and decided to correct that. Before we get into the three I bought, let’s look at the history of the nata design.

The History of the Japanese Nata

While the exact origin remains unclear, evidence suggests the nata’s presence as early as 720 AD. The word itself (鉈) appears in historical texts, but physical examples or depictions from that era are scarce. This lack of concrete evidence points to a likely origin deeply rooted in rural communities, where functionality overshadowed the need for artistic documentation.

Throughout Japan’s feudal period (794-1853), travel between regions was often challenging. This isolation fostered the development of regional variations of the nata, each tailored to the specific needs of its locality. Village blacksmiths refined the tool based on local materials and methods that evolved over time.

The Edo period (1603-1867) saw a rise in traveling woodcutters. This new mobility led to the spread of efficient nata designs. The “tomari-nata,” developed in Asahi Town, exemplifies this trend. Its unique, bird-beak-shaped tip facilitated stripping bark and collecting firewood, making it a favorite among woodcutters. The tomari’s popularity exemplifies how regional ingenuity could gain national recognition through practical advantages.

Today, several distinct nata styles persist, each reflecting its historical roots. Modern materials like carbon steel and alloy steel have replaced traditional iron, but the core function remains unchanged. Today, nata are prized for their lightweight design and exceptional edge retention, making them ideal for forestry and land management tasks.

Back to the Main Story

We happened to be visiting the Smokies and stopped by Smoky Mountain Knifeworks (SMKW). We visit about once a year and SMKW is a store we always stop at. I check out the latest in blades in their huge store room and my wife likes looking at all of the cooking and gift ideas downstairs.

At any rate, we were there when they were having an open house with tons of vendors and it just so happened that a representative of Condor Knife and Tool was there. I really like Condor and it’s been great watching them grow over the years. I told the fellow that I had a bunch of Condor blades and planned on buying two this visit.

Well, he and I talked for a few minutes and a really cool Nata-styled knife caught my eye. It is their “Batonata” designed by Joe Flowers and it’s a cool take on the nata design. One look and you know it’s a nata but with a slightly different shape to the head, burnt American Hickory handle and brass wire wrap to further secure the full tang in the handle.

The blade is 0.20″ thick 1075 high carbon steel. The blade itself is about 10″ and overall it’s just under 17.5″. The weight is just under 2 pounds.

You can see the full tang the design uses and the brass rivets and decorative brass wire – it helps secure the wood slabs to the tang and adds a bit of flourish at the same time.
The dangler-style sheath is very nicely done out of thick, rich leather. It beats the heck out of the “vinyl fake leather over wood” cheaper Japanese sheaths. Now, if there is a nata-maker our there doing traditional leather over wood, I haven’t seen it. I’m just not a fan of cheap vinyl whatsoever.

I found the Batonata really easy to chop with. This surprised me due the the spine only being 0.20″ thick. The designer, Joe Flowers, compensated for this by giving the Batonata an oversize head thus having more mass up front. If you will recall force = mass x acceleration. The more mass there is then the more energy there is at the same speed of swing. The Batonata gets the extra mass by the raised steel above the axis of the spine. Going thicker to get more mass would also require more energy to cleve the wood out of the way – that’s why really thick blades make lousy machetes for example. Thicker blads tend to push the vines out of the way vs. slicing through them.

So, two thumbs up for the Batonata. Elegant design, well executed, cool sheath. It’s made in El Salvador instead of Japan but it never claimed to be a “Japanese” nata so we’ll let that part slide. Click here for it on Amazon and here are active listings on eBay:

A Traditional Nata – A Kakuri 210mm Nata

Kakuri is a corporation in Sanjo, Japan that was founded in 1946. They have designed and produced cutlery and woodworking and arborist tools for over 70 years and fully understand what a nata is. By the way, click here to open a new tab showing all of the cool woodworking and gardening tools Kakuri has for sale on Amazon.

The nata I chose was a basic “Gikoh” series 210mm (8.27″) nata. With a nata, the length given in mm is the length of the blade. It’s also 405mm (15.94″) overall. The nata itself weighs approximately 1.3 pounds.

Most nata makers will have some high-end offerings with better wood, finishes and sheaths in addition to the basic work models with no frills. Kakuri is the same – though they only have one higher-end model and most are working class tools.

One thing I find interesting is their use of high carbon Japanese Yasuki steel. Yasuki (also sometimes written as Yasugi) is a family of steels used in a variety of cutting tools. Yasuki has a very long history dating back to sword making but now owned and produced by Hitachi Metals.

The handle is made from oak wood and has a clear coat finish on it.

I found the Kakuri nata very easy to swing and it took a good bite out of some old oak I had lying around during testing. The edge held up very nicely despite hitting the dried oak.

The 210mm blade had no problem biting into dried oak. You can see the single bevelled cutting edge here.
This side of the blade does not have a bevel.
Thanks to the weight and blade design. the nata sinks right into smaller logs for splitting.
It comes with a basic vinyle sheath with the material pulled over a wooden core that helps maintain the needed shape.
I was surprised to find two retaining straps – one on the handle and one looping over the back top edge of the blade.
Here’s a good view of the wood core. On one hand, designs like this make it quick and easy to get the blade into or or out of the sheath. The negative is that it rattles some. Nepalese khukurik sheathes are the same way except they tend to be water buffalo leather stretched over the wood.

The score – two thumbs up for a well executed classic nata. Click here to open a new tab with the various Kakuri Nata listings on Amazon and here are active listings on eBay:

So far, you have seen a nata-inspired design in the Batonata. A classic design from Kakuri and now we need a modernized design from Japan.

The Silky 240mm Double-Edge Nata

When I was searching for a new nata, I really did not expect to run into this modernized nata from Silky. The blade looks like a nata but everything else is modernized – rubber shock absorbing handle (a BIG thank you for those of us with carpal tunnel) and futuristic looking shealth made from aluminum and polymers.

“Who is Silky?” was my very first thought. The name alone did not sound Japanese but that could just be a brand name or something for the export market so I had to look them up.

Silky is the brand name for U.M. Kogyo located in Ono, Hyogo prefecture, Japan. The company was originally named “Tamakitsune” and was founded in 1919 by Mr. Katsuji Miyawaki to make saws. Today, Silky is led by Uichi Miyawaki who continues to stress excellence.

To be sure, their focus is on saws for woodworking and arborists plus they make a few innovating nata models. Their distributor in the US is Vertical Supply Group and they sell the saws on Amazon [click here to open a listing in a new tab].

This nata has a 240mm (9.44″) blade that is 5.7mm (0.22 inches) thick and has an overall length of 340mm (13.35″). The weight is 2.11 pounds.

They say an “alloy steel” is used but don’t get into the details. I did some digging and it is reported as a SKS-51 (JIS) steel. SKS-51 is a cutting tool steel that is tough with good wear resistance. It also has a full length tang that extends almost the full length of the handle but is hidden from sight.

There are three interesting design points that I want to share. First is the “Genki” (that usually translates as health or healthy) rubberized grip. It absorbs the shock instead of your hands – I totally agree on this point. It was the most comfortable nata for me to use. It’s also replaceable without tools.

The second point is the blade finish – it’s an electroless nickel plate that both reduces friction and corrosion. They developed it for their saws to more consistently reduce friction.

The third, is that the nata is user-maintainable. Their suppliers carry replacement handles, blades and quick release clips for the sheath.

A good photo of the Genki handle. The nata cut into wood beautifully.
The unique look to the blade is due to the electroless nickel plating. The nickel reduces friction which means that the blade should penetrate further than an uncoated blade all other things being equal.
The sheath is made out of modern materials.
I did not expect to see a robust quick release catch to disconnect the sheath from the belt loop in a hurry. If you look at the photo on the sheath, you can see the Genki handle removed and the full length tang of the blade that is otherwise hidden.
A look down the mouth of the sheath. The funnel helps you insert the nata by guiding it into position.

Another two thumbs up. It’s an innovative design and the most comfortable for me to chop with – especially given my carpal tunnel.

You can find Silky Natas on Amazon sometimes (I bought mine there) – so click here to see them. Also, the following active listings are on eBay:

Comparing the Three Natas

It’s not easy to compare them and have a clear winner that everybody will agree with. It comes down to preferences. I’m going to first show you some comparison photos and then tell you my order of preference and why.

All three differ – the Silky Nata has a 240mm (9.44″) blade at the top. In the middle, the Batonata has a 254mm (10″) blade and the Kakuri at the bottom has a 210mm (8.26″) blade.
Overall length starting with the Batonata on the left is 443.6mm (17.58″). The Kakuri is 405mm (15.94″) and the Silky Nata is 340mm (13.35″).
A view frrom the top. Let’s review weights starting with the Batonata at the top – 900g (1.98 pounds). The Kakuri in the middle is 600g (1.32 pounds) and the Silky is 960g (2.11 pounds).
My least favorite sheath is the vinyl-over-wood design of the Kakuri in the middle. The Silky at the top has a really slick modern design and the Batonata has a really nice leather sheath.

So, my ranking is:

#1 – The Silky Nata – the rubber hande absorbs a ton of the shock and the thing is a chopper and a half. I will definitely use it more when I need something like a hatchet. It will have to compete with my khukuris but none of them have the extremely comfortable Genki handle.

#2 – The Batonata – The handle is comfortable and it takes a good bite. I definitely like the sheath. It looks cool too. Kudos to Condor for turning out a really decent nata-inspired blade.

#3 – The Kakuri – I have carpal tunnel and a handleof that size and shape is hard on my hands when I chop. It’s a perfectly decent nata and not the fault of the designers but I don’t see myself using it much going forward. If someone wants a traditional basic nata, I’d have no reservation recommending it.

Summary

I hope this gave you some history on the natas plus three models to think about. I’m definitely going to continue using the Silky and probably the Batonata but the Kakuri would be problematic with my carpal tunnel.

I truly hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at in**@ro*********.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How I almost burned my Simplicity Broadmor tractor down

I got my 16HP Simplicity Broadmor tractor out the other day for another season. As usual, I checked the oil, tires and the battery had discharged some over the Winter so I hooked my portable jump starter to it and fired it up – after a bit of sputtering of course.

I brought it over to my garage and put fresh gas in it plus some Sea Foam cleaner to help get rid of water and junk. I then went to work mowing for the first time this year.

About a half hour into cutting I saw a bit of blue smoke but just figured it was the rings or the valves as the tractor was getting older. I then saw more smoke and thought the Kohler engine was wearing faster than I figured.

I no sooner got done with that thought when a lot of blue smoke started coming out – the blue smoke you get when oil is burning “Shit! Shit! Shit!” went through my mind as I hauled over to the hose, grabbed it and flipped up the tractor cover just in time to see it ignite on the exhaust pipe. Well, I hit it with water and it went out.

In looking at the exhaust pipe, I felt pretty foolish, I knew the engine had a slow oil drip – I didn’t realize it was dripping down on the exhaust pipe where it had coated a ton of dirt and dust that then caked the pipe. In short, it was a fire waiting to happen and it finally did.

So here’s my message to all you owners of old trackers – routinely check your exhaust pipe periodically and see if oily “gunk” is building up and take the time to clean it off. I went to the local Autozone and bought a can of Gunk Engine Degreaser, let it sit and hosed it off a number of times until everything was nice and clean. I went through a full can and most of a second getting it cleaned up.

Behind the red wire for the carb you can see the exhaust pipe and still some of the crud on it.
Gunk Engine Degreaser did a great job. I followed the directions on the can and everything was gone after maybe 3-4 rounds of application and then rinshing off.

Summary

I got lucky is the short of it. The fire was small and the hose was very close by. The thing is that it could have all been avoided. Going forward I will keep an eye on the exhaust and not let oily dirt build up. I bought my engine cleaner at Autozone and you also have a ton of options on Amazon.

I hope this helps you out.


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How to fix a nylon gun case seam without sewing

Have you ever needed to use a nylon soft-sided rifle or pistol case only to find a seam is pulling apart? Yeah, that happened to me again the other day figured it would be a good time to share a trick with you.

I re-use my cases and went to use a flat dark earth colored Midway rifle case only to find that a seam along an edge was pulling apart. Nylon is tricky – on one hand it is pretty strong and rot resistant but on the other, if you don’t pay close attention to what you are sewing and get to close to the edge or lack proper reinforcement, it can pull apart.

I bought two of these cases many, many years ago when Midway had a sale. How many years ago? So many that I have absolutely no idea how many – that’s the best I can tell you. Maybe 8-10+ years ago. The warranty was history long ago so I needed to fix the case. What I have found is that gluing the seam works wonders. The earlier you catch it the less obvious it is.

I didn’t think to take photos until part way into the repair. You need a glue that can bend and flex without snapping so any glue that dries, cures and is rigid will not work. I used Gear Aid’s Seam Grip WP have have also had very good luck with ShoeGoo. I am very impressed by Seam Grip and that is what I use the most. I’ll use the ShoeGoo too – don’t get me wrong and it works – it’s just that Seam Grip has become my go-to over the years. The one perk of Shoe Goo is that they have a black colored formulation.

I find that doing 2-3 passes with the glue to work best. I work the first one in try to secure the nylon the way I want or at least get it close. When you do the repair, go a bit further in all directions to make sure the adhesive has a good solid hold.
Use something to secure everything while the glue cures. I use blue painter’s tape here. I’ve also used clamps, rubber bands, you name it to hold things in position.
Not all repairs go quite the way I planned. This was the third layer of the seam glue and I put it on thick to fill up a bit of a gap and it ran on me overnight. It may not look great but it’s good to go.

Summary

Using glue to repair a seam absolutely works, I’ve done it many times and never had it let go provided I get 2-3 good coats on it and overlap the hole. Follow the directions on whatever glue you do use as this repair will take 2-3 days to do as each coat cures. If you rush it, you risk not having a strong bond.

Click here for Gear Aid’s Seam Grip WP that I used in this post. Click here for Shoe Goo in general because there are a ton of options on Amazon – just be sure to go with Shoe Goo brand – I have no idea how good the knock offs are.

I hope this helps you.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at in**@ro*********.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How to add an AR stock to a Zastava M77

Okay, some guys hate AR gear on AKs and if it’s not your cup of tea, that’s fine. I do like AR stocks and have no problems putting whatever stock on whatever family of firearms. I’m more into pragmatism and making a firearms do what I want than arguing over AR vs. AK or whatever. This is also why I have commenting turned off on the blog.

At any rate, even before I bought the M77, I knew I was going to trick it out for my purposes and I wanted to put one of the Magpul PRS Lite stocks on it for a few reasons:

  • I like adjustable stocks like the PRS but don’t need to constantly change the length of pull or the comb (where your cheek sets) thus I didn’t need to spend the money on a full blown PRS Gen 3. By the way, in case you are wondering PRS stands for “Precision Rifle/Sniper”.
  • The M77 will never be mistaken for a carbine given its length nor do I need to collapse the stock so the fixed postion PRS Lite was fine by me.
  • There are aftermarket thick recoil pads you can put on a PRS to absorb recoil.
  • By using a buffer tube, I can slide in a mercury recoil suppressor to add weight, absorb some of the recoil and balance the rifle out a bit more to compensate for a long barrel and relatively heavy front end.
  • Last but not least, the PRS Lite reminds me a bit of a PKM stock due to the skeletonized opening. (I’m sure someone just spit their drink out reading that). I had a new mint Romanian PKM stock many years ago that I sold at some point and still wish I hadn’t. In short, I like the looks.
  • Also, the PRS Lite is a bit cheaper than a PRS Gen 3 but that wasn’t a big factor for me – the PKM look is actually what tipped me in the direction of the Lite model.
This is the MagPul PRS Lite. It’s definitely a solid stock that I like – it does what I need it to.

Parts you will need

  • Zastava/Yugo to M4 adapter – this screws into the square hole in the rear trunnion and then presents the hole the buffer tube screws into and the end plate. Go with an aluminum model from a reputable vendor like Ace, JMac Customs, Desert Fox, etc. Note, JMac went a very different route with their pioneering 1913 Picatinny rail interface for the stocks and I provide more details down during installation.
  • A buffer tube – I’d recommend a M4 six position Mil-Spec carbine buffer tube for the greatest flexibility. Rifle length tubes are rarely used on new firearms now as people want the adjustable stocks. Commercial sized buffer tubes were due to some things Colt did many years ago and thus on the way out so go with Mil-Spec which refers to the outer diameter of the tube.
  • An AR end plate – on an AR, this plate keeps the selector spring captured and also aligns the buffer tube via vertical key that sticks up and keeps the carbine buffer tube from rotating – it does help to have it for that reason and you have tons of options out there ranging from the basic to ones with sling hooks and even QD sling sockets. Not all adapter support an end plate so this might not be needed,
  • A castle nut – this nut is threaded on the buffer tube and then tightened down against the end plate to secure the buffer tube in place. Note, you will need a spanner wrench or specialized castle nut wrench of install or remove a castle nut without tearing it up – I recommend the Magpul wrench. By the way, the castle nut gets its name from looking like a medevial castle’s crennelated tower. Crenels are the parts that stick up like teeth to give defenders some protection.
  • Finally, whatever stock you want. Just remember to match the buffer tube to the stock. If you get a rifle stock and it needs a rifle buffer tube then get a rifle buffer tube, etc. The PRS and PRS lite have an adapter and can work with either tube type but most stocks designed for a carbine can only work with a carbine buffer tube (just make sure you match on either the Mil-Spec or commercial diameter).

Removing the old stock

The first step is to remove the recoil pad which is held in place by two beefy wood screws with allen/hex wrench sockets in them. Remove them and then the recoil pad will pull off. You then remove the buttstock bolt and the stock pulls out of the end of the rifle.

Remove these two beefy screws and the recoil pad will pull off. I’m happy to see a modern screw head vs. slotted. I would have been even happier if they were torx screws this is a nice upgrade from the old days.
I kind of felt like Crocodile Dundee when I first saw the new recoil pad screws they are using “Now this is a screw”. If you’ve not seen the movie then the reference is lost but my point is that is a really heavy duty screw.
With the recoil pad off, use a 13mm socket on an extension to reach in and unscrew the buttstock bolt. Yes, that’s a bed. It was super cold out and I set up in our spare bedroom to take these photos.
They’ve shortened the buttstock bolt considerably. I’ve considered having these made but Zastava USA seems to keep them in stock so there is no pressing demand for them unlike our original Yugo military length bolts.
This is what goes into the rear trunnion. The numbering reflects the rifle it was fitted to. Note, these do sometimes get a wee bit stuck in the trunnion so you might need to wiggle it a bit or a few light taps with a rubber mallet and it will pull right out.
This is the rear trunnion and the use of a square hole and big bolt to secure it is one of the unique design changes the Yugoslavs did to the Soviet designs. See the finish residue and chips in there? The snug fitting of the stock, how much the finish has stuck to the metal and a bit of sawdust all combine to cause the stock to offer a bit of resistance during removal. In this case it all came out easily with just a bit of wiggling. You should remove all of that of course.

Adding the new stock

To add the buffer tube, I decided to use two parts that I happened to have in stock. I used an Ace modular adapter (“AKRBY-AR15” is the exact model) and then a JMAC modular stock to M4 adapter that has sadly been discontinued – I bought mine a few years ago so it’s not surprising things have changed.

JMac went a different route some years back and pioneered adapters that expose a 1913 Picatinny rail at the rear to which you can mount a ton of different stocks. That’s another option for you – click here. Once you have that, you add a folding mechanism, then a skeletonized tube (ST) for a cool “I’m not a normal AR look” and then your AR stock if you go that route.

Many, many years ago, Ace Riflestocks was its own company and alos quite a few years back they were acquired by Doublestar Corp – a large AR manufacturer. Same products and quality but you now see a Doublestar logo. Note, there is an Ace to M4 adapter that I have used many times but does not support the end plate. Not the end of the world but a different approach.

If you do not want the modular approach, Zastava also sells a direct adapter. It screws into the rear trunnion and gives you the mount for the M4 buffer tube.

This is the Ace Zastava/Yugo modular stock adapter. Only one of the two rows of screws holes are actually used giving you a bit of vertical adjustment. The adapter is secured by an 8mm allen key socket screw. The screw holes are tapped for #10-32 screws.
The JMac M4-Ace adapter is really well made. The two horizontal screw holes are for securing the Mac Adapter to the modular stock adapter. The bottom opening is for securing the botttom of the AR end plate that in turn holds the buffer tube in position vertically.
Put medium strength Loc-tite on before you install the screws.

If you want to insert a mercury recoil reducer

This next step is entirely optional – I installed a C&H mercury reducer to add weight to the rear and absorb a bit of recoil. The completely sealed 7/8″x5″ C&H tube weighs 16oz. The liquid mercury inside sloshes inside and absorbs some of the recoil. Does it do a ton on it’s own – no. Does it and the weight help mitigate some of the recoil? The short answer is yes.

What I do is wrap tape around the C&H so it fits snug and is roughly centered. I spray brake cleaner in the tub to get any oil out. scuff it up and spray it out again. I then scuff up the C&H tube, clean it with alchol (brake cleaner makes the tape gooey), coat the C&B unit with epoxy and push it in. Some epoxy will come out the drain hole so wipe it off with a rag with brake cleaner and then close it with a piece of tape. By the way, one end of the tube is tapped for a 1/4-20 bolt to help install it. Remove the bolt before everything sets up of course.
That’s not coming out or loosen up. Use a towel with brake cleaner to remove any epoxy on surfaces you don’t want. You need to do this before it sets up. By the way, the longer an epoxy takes to cure, the better it will hold up to shocks over time. Don’t use epoxies that claim to set in just 90 seconds or 5 minutes.

Let’s continue with installing the buffer tube

Put the castle nut on the buffer tubes with the largest slots facing backwards and thread it all the way to the bak, Then install the end plate with the “boss” (raised oval) facing forwards to it will go into the end of the AR adapter. You then insert the buffer tube into the adapter and start screwing it in place. When you can’t screw it in any further because of the plate, back it off a turn, push the plate into the adapter, tighten the castle nut with your fingers. Finally, tighten it down with the caste nut wrench – the torque spec is 38-39 ft pounds (you’ll sometimes ready 40 ft pounds but 38-39 is per USMC TM 05538/10012-IN). If you want to do farmer tight, that is up to you. I’d also recommend staking the nut – putting a divot in the nut in one of the small holes between the end nut and the castle nut so the castle nut can no longer turn without a wrench. Again, up to you.

Here you can see the end plate, the groove in the buffer tube that it travels in and just a bit of the castle nut behind. All are oriented correctly.
I screwed in the buffer tube until the end plate couldn’t rotate, backed it off one turn (or so) until I could get the end plate to slide forward and go in its hole. Note the orientation of the castle nut and it is not tight yet.,
Do you mess with castle nuts a lot? Get a Magpul Armorer’s Wrench. In the photo, the right side is for the castle nut. The left is for the barrel nuts and I don’t use that one much but that castle nut portion gives you a wonderfully secure grip especially when you are breaking ones free. The square hole is for a 1/2″ torque wrench. The oval hole is for rifle receiver extensions and the groove in the castle nut end can be used on the traditional bird cage flash hiders.
Once the buffer is installed, the PRS site can go right on. Just follow the directions with the stock, You remove the screw that holds the front flush cup in place and slide the stock on. You can then put the QD swivel flush cup on whatever side you want.
Both the full blow PRS Gen 3 and PRS Lite stocks have thin hard recoil pads that I always replace. This is a Limbsaver PRS Gen 3 recoil pad that fits both models. It’s well made, fits and feels great. I always make the swap unless the stock is going on a light recoiling rifle like 5.56 NATO. If you want the best recoil pad I have found for the PRS Gen 3 or PRS Lite, get the Limbsaver pad.

End Result

The rifle feels really good and handles well. I think it looks great also!

Summary

Once you know the parts you need, it’s a pretty easy swap to make. Once you get the M4 buffer tube installed you have tons and tons of options out there .

I hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at in**@ro*********.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Finally, ALG AK Ultimate Triggers (the AKT-ULs) Are Back In Stock

I started seeing them two weeks ago and I just ordered two. Folks, the ALG AKT-UL is hands down my favorite AK trigger. Smooth and crisp. I can’t recommend them enough. I like the Enhanced model, which is a step down, but given the choice, I’ll go for the Ultimate.

These have been out of stock literally for years – since before COVID I think, So, they are back but I have no idea how long they will be in stock so snag them while you can.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at in**@ro*********.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Why Some Grips Will Not Fit Yugo or Zastava AK Rifles

I am often asked if some model of grip will fit a Yugo surplus or current day commercial Zastava rifle and the answer is a bit of an “it depends”.  Let me tell you why.

When Zastava was still located in the former country of Yugoslavia, they did a number of modifications to the base Soviet AK-47 design.  Relevant to this post whas their decision to use a retained grip nut that is riveted to the receiver.  This is different from AKMs that have a removable forged grip nut that drops down through a square hole between the trigger guard and the rear end of the receiver.

All AK-based rifle designs that I know of have this grip nut “strap” that is riveted in place.  Note how the trigger guard rides higher than a normal AKs and a longer rivet is used to pass through the trigger guard, strap and the receiver itself.

When it comes to grips, that strap and its rivets are the problems.  If you have a grip with very limited space in the top, it will not fit – at least not without modification.  The AK-12 grip has a tight backstrap that goes along the bottom of the receiver and I don’t think it could even be made to fit.

Notice the extra rivets sticking up behind the round grip screw hole.
This is our version of a Russian AK-12 grip.  It’s very comfortable and a grip I like a great deal.
The middle of the top and some of the back aren’t going to clear the grip nut strap and rivets.  I could carve/Dremel the middle out but there is very little material to work with in the back.  Might it work?  Maybe but I didn’t have time to give it serious try.

If you look at the top of a traditional Zastava black polymer grip, you’ll notice the top is wide open.  It has plenty of room to accomodate the grip strap.  So, a grip like a Russian Molot will work as well.

The Molot’s top is wide open.
Due to the wide open top, a Molot grip can readily go on a Zastava.

Summary

Grips with shallow tight tops will not fit on a Zastava rifle, unless modificatios are made.  Examples of grips like this are Hungarian AMDs, IMI Galils, Polish Beryl eronomically styled grips, and Russian AK-12s.

What will fit are grips with big top mouths such as many traditional AKMs (Romanian and Egyptian), plus newer grips like the Bulgarian ARMs, and Russian Molots.

I hope this helps.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at in**@ro*********.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Adding a RS Regulate GKR-9DY Handguard To A Zastava M77

Ok, so I planned to completely redo the M77 and keep the Battleworn wood for the future just in case. The first step was to swap out the wood handguards for a RS Regulate GKR-9DY. It’s a 9″ MLOK rail for Zastava AK-type rifles – this matters because a Zastava handguard is longer and a different shape than an AKM handguard.

Scot Hoskinson owns RS Regulate and is a meticulous engineer. His products are top notch and one thing I would tell you is to always read the instructions. He puts a lot of effort into documenting what you need to do so find the instructions and follow them.

Trust me – read and follow the instructions to install a RS Regulate handguard. Note the instruction sheet is for the old part number GKR-9Y. Scot revised the part number and it is now the GKR-9DY — same handguard but different part number.
Per the instructions in steps 3 and 4, I tapped the end cap into place. Note, you do need to test fit and make sure it will fit. You aren’t beating it into place with a ton of force. Mine went in without any filing needed but I did need to tap it to get it fully seated. You want the end cap to sit in the receiver firmly – not loose.

I don’t have photos of every step Scot lists, but I do want to mention step 5 – the front retainer set screws are backed out towards the receiver with the allen heads facing the rear. Once you have the front retainer in place and screwed to the handguard in step 10, you then tighten down the set screws to make everything nice and tight.

In all of his steps, be sure to follow the torque specifications and use blue loc-tite or your favorite medium strength thread locker. If you don’t, then the screws will risk coming loose and potentially falling out.
You can see the rifle’s handguard retainer is locked in place because the cam lever is rotated backwards. Looking down past the barrel you can see one of the two front retainer set screws waiting to be snugged down.
I used a long Bondhaus ball head allen key to reach in and tighten the set screws. Let me spare you some future grief – buy quality sets of allen wrenches that properly engage your fasteners. The cheap import keys are prone to poor fitment and/or rounding over the edges and both will mess up your fasteners.
I applied Blue Loc-Tite before I snugged down the set screws. I removed the residue with a shop towel.

The Gas Tube Cover

The RS Regulate handguards are the lower-half only. It’s up to you to decide if you want to run the wood or just what. In my case, I am using one of our Yugo/Zastava gas tube covers that is made from glass-fiber reinforced high-temp urethane. A Yugo gas tube cover is significantly longer than that of an AKM and are not interchangeable.

To remove it, rotate the locking lever on the rear sight base. Zastava is one of the makers that make that lever really tight. I use a large adjustable wrench’s jaws to hold the lever while I rotate it up. You can also use a hammer with plastic heads to tap the lever up. Once it is rotated, the rear of the tube closer to the receiver can be lifted up and the unit brought back just a tad to clear the front gas block. By the way, the bolt carrier must be removed or the long gas piston will be in the tube and block removal.

I didn’t get a picture of the gas tube with the wood before I removed it so we’ll just pick up here. This is one of our high-temp Yugo/Zastava gas tube covers. The spring clip is from the wood set and pops into the our cover to help provide tension and support. If you don’t have the clip, I would recommend buying one vs. skipping it. Check Apex Gun Parts, Robert RTG, Numrich, Centerfire, etc.
The spring clip just presses into the pocket molded foir it in the cover.
I like to use a vise to hold the forged end of the gas tube. DO NOT try and clamp the thing circular end or you will crush it. The vise you see has smooth jaws and will not hurt the forging – if your vise has aggressive jaws to hold material, use something to protect the gas tube like jaw covers, pieces of wood, etc. In this photo, the cover is fully rotated into position. You may find it easier to rotate your cover to the left or to the right when it comes to installation or removal. If it will not turn, carefully inspect why and remove a bit of material as needed with a file, Don’t rush – you want a firm fit and for it to look good.
What it looks like when done.

Years ago, I did do a blog post with more instructions and links to videos. Please click here if you want to read it.

End Result

Summary

RS Regulate makes some great lower handguards for a variety of AKs including for the Yugo/Zastava M70 and M77s. It takes a little bit of effort to install and is very much worth it. You can optionally use your wood gas tube cover or buy one of our polymer units.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at in**@ro*********.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


When Strength and Quality Matter Most