Sunday, April 5, 2009

Romanian AK Test Build

It had been a couple of years since I built an AK kit all the way through, and in the past I’d had the benefit of using a friend’s shop (he restores classic cars, and his shop is the bomb). With all of the AK build projects I have going on, I wanted to take one to completion to make sure that all of my jigs, presses, and tools are working properly. More importantly, I wanted a chance to hone my skills with the tools on my set-up before I started working on some of the more exotic builds. I have several Romanian “G” kits lying around and I’d always intended to build one up with the Tapco furniture (largely because the original furniture on this kit was completely hosed). One of my next projects is to do one in the original wood, but as this was a practice run, I didn’t want to have my “best parts” on the line.

The Parts: Romanian “G” kit. Tapco olive drab folding stock, SAW grip, and Galil handguard. Tapco three piece trigger group. Tapco rivets. Armory USA receiver. Ak-builder trigger guard and mag release. Power Custom shepherd hook replacement.

The Tools: AK-builder barrel press tool. AK-builder trigger guard jig. AK-builder riveting jig. 12-ton arbor press. Rigid freestanding drill press. Makita hand drill. Cobalt drill bits. Various clamps, hammers, vises and punches.

Above is a picture of the completed build. It didn’t come out too bad for a first solo attempt. There are a lot of things I would do differently on future builds (detailed hereafter). I still need to get it refinished, but before that I’m going to get it oiled up properly and run a functional test as it still seems to be a bit tight. Part of the problem could be the Romanian kit was non-matching. I also need to check it with the “go” and “no-go” gauges.

After demilling the kit, step one was getting the Armory USA receiver ready to accept the trunnions as it was only drilled for the trigger guard. The steel they used on this particular receiver was particularly hard, and I damaged one of my bits drilling through it. I hadn’t needed cutting oil on other receivers I’d prepped, but obviously this type does. In fact, getting the holes drilled on this one was such a pain, I’ve pretty much decided that going forward I’m just going to spring for the NoDak spud pre-drilled receivers going forward and spare myself the hassle.

Once the holes were set, then you can rivet in the trunnions and trigger guard. The AK builder jigs work beautifully. The front trunnion is a walk in the park – all you have to do is properly set the length of the bar and you’re good to go. You’re also able to divot the receiver properly to accept the rivets. I’d used some AK-builder rivets in the past, but all I had handy were the Tapco ones. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really like the Tapco ones as much. The heads seem a bit large (so they don’t drop into my jigs as well). I’d run into problems in the past with AK builder rear trunnion rivets being a bit long, so I shortened the Tapco one about to the point where I’d shorten the AK-builder ones. They worked okay, but now one side is very small as compared to the other (I forgot to account for the larger head on the Tapco rivet). I’m not sure that I would have been able to replicate the look of the Tapco head because the tools are designed for smaller head rivets.

As I didn’t have the original trigger guard for this kit, I was using an AK-builder one. The gauge of the metal is a bit thicker than what I’m used to, but it’s a nice piece. I had the added wrinkle of having to demill it off of a failed attempt, but I was able to get it nicely back into register. In fact, the only real problem I had with the AK-builder trigger guard was setting the magazine release spring. Once I’d drilled the hole for the mag catch pivot, it was very difficult to hold the compressed spring in place while I got the pivot rod through the trigger guard and mag catch. However once I got it in, it seems to work perfectly. My Chinese test magazine inserts and catches perfectly.

With the primary receiver work complete, the next step was to put the barrel back in. I’d used the AK-builder jig to remove barrels and barrel pins, but this was the “maiden flight” reinserting one. The hardest part was getting the barrel aligned with the trunnion before trying to press it in. Once I got the barrel aligned, though, it went in easily and lined up perfectly to accept the barrel pin. I was able to re-use the existing barrel pin, which went in without a hitch.

At that point, it’s a simple matter of putting on the furniture, dropping in the trigger group, and assembling. The Galil front handguard fit nicely, and it’s a simple matter to remove the gas tube (you just have to remove the top cover. The folding buttstock took a little drilling before the screws would feed through, but once I’d gotten that done it attached nicely. The SAW grip had the oddest screw configuration I think I’ve ever seen. Instead of running the primary screw hole to fit with a standard pistol grip, they put it aft of where the screw needs to go with a slot (for variable placement?) for the pistol grip screw. It tightened down okay, but it was a very strange. Installing the trigger group was a pain as always – largely because of the tension on the hammer. I got my customary bashed knuckle, but when the trigger group was installed it worked fine. The Power Custom trigger group retaining bar works great, and it much simpler to deal with than the shepherd hook.

Overall, the finished product seems to be in good shape and ready to go. I want to run a few tests with it before I spring to get it refinished. As I said, there were a lot of lessons learned on this trial run. First, I’m probably going to stick with pre-drilled receivers going forward – much less of a pain than undrilled ones, and with a 1 year old son, I don’t have infinite time. Second, I’m probably not going to use Tapco rivets going forward – they don’t work well with my jigs. Third, long rivets take a fair amount of finesse to get to where they look right. I’m going to need a fair amount of practice on those before the Tabuk build, because it has not two, but three of those buggers. Still, this should end up a good dragging through the brush gun as the barrel is decent. I’ll post it’s functional test in a future blog entry!

Until next time!!!

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