To me, the AK family of rifles are some of the easiest designs on the planet to field strip … but I have done it hundreds of times. For a newcomer, how to take the rifle apart can be daunting. I took a few minutes and assembled some of my favorite videos and online resources / manuals to help clarify matters:
I use a lot of flashlights and the problem is that I tend to lose them. Thus, while I like and appreciate high-end lights, they can be expensive to lose, crush, etc. As a result, I tend to try and find decent lights at a low price. In my recent trolling of Amazon I was intrigued by the LiteXpress LXL439001. You might think I was trolling for lumens but I am way over that – I want something in the 40-100 lumen range with good battery life, is LED, and rugged yet affordable. If I lose it, I don’t want to have an awful sense of loss.
I also prefer AA or CR123A batteries, which I buy in bulk. You guys may know this already, but shop for CR123A batteries on Amazon plus Walgreen’s Alkaline batteries are great and very affordable. When it comes to the CR123As, buy brand name and check reviews – all the major light manufacturers warn against the no-name cheap import batteries due to the risk of fire. I check brands such as Surefire, Energizer and Streamlight for volume deals on Amazon. The price savings are huge compared to local stores.
At any rate, what attracted me wasn’t lumens or some tacticool styling feature – it was the little rotary switch on the tail end and it stopped me dead. I loathe the “click and try to get it right” 3-5 mode lights. Seriously, they drive me crazy. I want something simple and predictable. I’m not even a huge fan of low-high-off but can deal with it. I’m sure you’ve seen the lights where they have all kinds of features – typically low, high, strobe, SOS, etc. You know what I really want – on and off. The LiteXpress has an on/off switch and the genius in in moving all the features to the rotary with symbols – I can go straight to whatever mode I want and if I hold the on/off button down, then the intensity can drop down from 122 by 10% increments.
You see, the LiteXpress is designed in Germany but built in China. There is an attention to design in this light that frankly surprised me so much that I bought it and decided to write about it. When the Amazon box arrived, I opened it up and found the light secured in a plastic blisterpack shell. Of course, I had to snap a few photos to share with all of you:
122 lumens max but can decrease to 10 lumens
Push-button on/off on the barrel
Rotary selector switch on the tail end. The modes are lock, high, flash (strobe or SOS can be selected), and temporary on/off. Pretty cool.
Three color filters that firm slide over the output end of the light
LED battery indicator: green = 100%, Yellow=approx 50% and Red=approx 10% remaining
It came with 2 Duracell CR123A batteries
I have been using it a few days now and really like it. It’s higher quality than I expected and you’ll find it hard to beat for $23. If you are looking for a decent flashlight, you might want to check it out.
Update on 7/1/14: We lost power last night and this flashlight was fantastic. I used it last night and this morning after the powerful storm went through. It worked great the whole time and even after at least 45-60 minutes of ontime the batteries are reported as “green” by the power indicator. We may well not have power tonight either and I will be using this more again if that happens.
In case you missed the original Tales of the Gun episode on the AK-47 when it aired in 2010, here it is. This is a very well done episode that goes into the history of the design and how it served in battle. Fans of the Kalashnikov will definitely want to watch this.
By the way, what I like about this particular Youtube video is that the quality is pretty good and it is the whole episode vs. being chopped up.
I’ve had folks ask why we branched from AK furniture into Himalayan Imports khukuris. The answer is simple – both AKs and HI khukuris are incredibly rugged, dependable tools that may not be the most “pretty” things made but you can bet your life on them. In fact, I got into the HI khukuris after so many board members on www.akfiles.com said over and over that HI khukuris are absolutely the best available. So, in the fall of 2011, I bought my first HI khukuri – a massive Super Chiruwa Ang Khola. Then I bought another … and another … and another. They are addictive just like AKs as well!
What I found amazing is that the bladesmiths in Nepal (known as “kamis”) are working in the HI factory in very primitive conditions forging these blades from salvaged truck springs (5160 alloy) and using basic hand tools and anvils. Their methods have been handed down from grandfather, to father, to son for hundreds of years making differentially hardened, field serviceable blades. The engineering, if I dare call it that, is so amazingly cool. They figured out what worked and what didn’t by trial and error over hundreds of years. Each khukuri is unique and reflects the kami who makes it. These aren’t mass produced pretty knives rolling off a conveyor belt. Instead they are extremely functional tools with a long proven history. If you like reading about history, there are so many fascinating references on the Internet and books available!
At any rate, as I journeyed along, I noticed a lot of guys who owned AKs also owned an HI blade or were very interested in getting one. Given that we’ve been working with plastics for over three years now, it seemed like a good fit. Starting in the spring of 2013, we began planning for the custom Kydex sheaths including research into designs, materials and tooling. Over the course of the summer we made a number of test sheaths until we hit on the current type of design and how to make it. We also found out that a lot of folks, women included, didn’t just want a sheath – they wanted to get the blade from us as well to one-stop-shop. Thus, we first started making sheaths for our spare blades to sell plus we got into rehandling the khukuris using the various types of micarta that are available.
Coming in at over eight pounds and 1200 pages, this book has a ton of photos, very clear text and is organized by country. The book covers over 500 weapons from 51 countries with over 1,000 photos in fact and was a massive research effort.
Without a doubt, it covers a ton of material and what I like is that it is well organized. There is a good table of contents up front and a detailed index at the end. You can go search by country alphabetically even. This is one of those books, where you can even just flip it open and learn something.
There are special sections on operating principles, ammunition as well as more detailed write ups on certain weapons of interest such as the German FG-42 and Sturmgewehr, the Russian AK family, and US arms such as the BAR, Lewis, M1 Carbine and M16/M4 family.
It’s cool having a blog because I can elaborate on questions that people have asked me. A recurring one is how to remove the upper handguard cover, also known as the “gas tube” cover on AK rifles. Every military AK I have seen uses two half circle metal retainers to hold the half moon shaped gas tube cover. Sometimes they cover comes off super easy and other times you need mechanical assistance. Here is the basic process – hold the gas tube with one hand, grab the cover with the other, turn the cover 180 degrees so it is facing the opposite way and then pull it out of the retainers.
Now, sometimes the wood or plastic has really stuck/doesn’t want to budge. Do the following:
Place the forged end of the gas tube in a vise with either soft jaws to pieces of leather to protect the forging. Absolutely do not put the circular end into the vise or you will crush it.
Close the jaws just enough to hold the assembly in place.
Either firmly by hand or with a strap wrench, rotate the cover 180 degrees so it is face the opposite direction. Note – you can turn it either way as these are just semi-circles and you may find it turns easier to the left or to the right.
If you are applying force and are getting nervous that it still will not turn, you have some issue with one surface sticking to the other. You have two approaches you can try: 1) use a heat gun and warm up the metal retainers from their ends. Sometimes the varnish, BLO, urethane or partially melted plastic is sticking and heat can soften it after which it turns much easier. 2) Just brute force it and if it snaps then replace it. I have never had to resort to this.
The new cover goes on the reverse. If you are using a wood cover, or our polymer cover, don’t forget to install the retaining clip first to limit cover movement. Some plastic gas tube covers do not use this but our gas tube covers do just to be clear.
Here are some videos that others have recorded to help further just in case:
The method I just outlined is very similar to what this fellow does:
Here are two more for additional perspectives:
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A lot of guys, myself included, have run into retaining wires for the trigger and hammer pins in an AK and had a heck of a time removing or installing them depending on the design. I can’t tell you how many I have had challenges with over the years for one reason or another. I decimated the stock Zastava wire in my M77 the other day but I can explain that one – I now rather despise the wires and just pull them out with pliers with no plan of reusing them. Thus, I bent the heck out of the wire just yanking it out.
There is a solution to the retaining wire problem – or at least, my problem with retaining wires. About two years ago, I stopped using wires altogether and moved to the use of “plates” which are pieces of spring steel or sheet metal that simply go nose first onto the hammer, you then rotate the plate down and it engages the trigger pin and then finally the hole portion winds up aligned with the safety/selector lever hole. What this does is the plate locks up the two pins and then the selector lever locks the plate in place. They are incredibly simple to install and remove if you are doing work with the fire control group.
In terms of plates, there are basically two styles you will find. One originated with RSA and I have used these for a few years now. I only have had one problem – during installation one part of the hammer pin portion snapped right off. I called RSA and they promptly replace the plate. Kudos to them for good customer service.
A relatively newer style is from Tapco but I haven’t used it yet myself though I do have one on order for my Vepr 12 to try out. It does the same thing but has a small tab. I have big fingers and am wondering if this will make installation and removal any easier and let me point out that the RSA is a breeze to install and remove.