One of the things that used to drive me nuts with AK builds was driving out barrel pins and then I got a tip from Gunplumber – a variable trigger air hammer or air riveter makes it way easier. Many cheap import air hammers have an air valve behind the trigger that is either on or off and not much in between. Some guys call the variable valve triggers “tickle triggers” – why? I have no idea. At any rate, every air riveter, which looks like an air hammer, that I have seen has a tickle trigger to allow the user more control when setting rivets.
I use the pointed conical air chisel to start the rivet and that is the hard part. Once you get it moving, then use a big hammer and the largest punch you can fit in the hole to drive the rivet the rest of the way out. Note, I only do this when demilling. I use a barrel pin jig to install barrel pins because you have so much more control.
The following photo is of an ATS brand Pro Series 3X riveter. The bigger the number, the more poweful the riveter. I also have a big 4X equivalent Ingersol Rand that I use on large rivets or work needing a powerful tool. The 3X has a nice combination of power and weight and it almost always works on barrel pins and certainly on small trigger guard AK rivets.
You can find rivet guns from many suppliers – even Harbor Freight. I’d recommend you get a 3X for most work and a 4X if you want even more options.
The following is the riveter shown above:
When the conical chisel gets beat up, I grind the tip down and when it is really fried, I just pull out another. I would recommend going with a good brand name. For example, Ingersoll Rand, Chicago Pneumatic, etc.
The big 4x equivalent air hammer I use is the IR 117K standard duty model and it hits hard:
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