Monday, October 18, 2021

I Finished My Latest Project ...

Stock unfolded and locked in place.

... A Romanian side-folder AKM with a sand colored furniture. I had originally used the furniture for another build, but switched it out on that build with a set of Magpul furniture. Since I already had it, I decided to use it for this build. It was a standard rivet build, and a friend of mine had the necessary crimpers for the front set of rivets, and the jigs needed for the other rivets, so the riveting went smoothly. He'd also purchased jigs for holding the barrel when installing the gas block and front sight, which helps a lot when pushing in the pins using my shop press.

    Since I was using a Melonited barrel, I decided against a full refinishing of the rifle, and only finished the receiver. That left a nice "worn" look to the other parts. Previously I've used automobile engine paint. On this occasion, I finished the receiver with Brownell's Aluma-Hyde. It did an okay job, but I'm not sure that I will use it again. Not only did it spray on a little uneven, but it tended to run a bit, and I had to sand and redo a couple areas. 

    The real challenge on this build was drilling the gas port as that had not been done by the manufacturer. If you are not familiar with the AK-47 and AKM, the holes for the gas port are drilled at an angle into the barrel instead of vertical as with the later AK-74 and subsequent designs. I had read of some people that had nevertheless drilled a vertical gas port. My concern is that because the gas block is also at a matching angle that if the gas was shooting vertically into the gas block, it might cause excessive erosion. Accordingly, I decided to drill the hole at the angle.

    In my research I found that most people achieved the proper angle by the simple expedient of installing the gas block and then inserting a drill bit through the openings in the gas block. I don't know about other people, but trying to drill at such an angle is challenging because the drill bit has a hard time biting into the metal being at an angle, I had to use an extended bit to have the necessary length, and I had to use a hand-drill rather than a drill press. If I had it to do over again, I would first mark where the gas port would be and use a drill press to drill in a little dimple before permanently installing the gas block. This would make the subsequent drilling easier.

    The bit I used was a 1/8" bit that was 6-inches long. However, I wasn't making too much headway with it alone, so I subsequently picked up a 5/64" bit to drill a "pilot" hole. I actually would use the 5/64" bit for a short time, then move to the larger bit, back to the smaller bit, and so on. This seem to speed up the process considerably. Of course I had put a wooden dowel rod into the barrel so that when I finally broke through I wouldn't scratch up the opposite side of the barrel.

    I had actually started on the drilling late last fall, put it on hold because the weather had gotten too cold to work comfortably in my garage, left off this summer because it was too hot to work comfortably in my garage, and returned to the project this weekend and finished. 

    My youngest son and I went out to do a function check on the rifle. I don't have an exact round count because a couple of the boxes of ammo I grabbed were only partially full, but I would estimate that we shot between 70 and 80 rounds through it in rapid succession at a large steel gong target. Everything worked well even using a variety of ammo from different manufacturers, and, to be honest, I regret not having brought more ammo with me as my son was having such a good time. 

    Knowing that the rifle works without issue, I will next bore-sight it and then take it out again for zeroing. 

    This is the first time I have shot a rifle sporting the Romanian side-folding stock. I have to say that I much prefer it to many of the other folding stocks on some of the older parts kits, especially the underfolders. The stock locks up tight. While I prefer the cheek weld that one gets with the triangle side folders, those fold to the left. This one folds to the right. The rod is shaped so you can still manipulate the controls if necessary; but by folding to the right, the stock is on the same side as the cocking handle making a much thinner package when folded than as is the case with the left folding stocks.

Stock folded.


  1. Looks nice!I've never done it myself, but there has to be something rewarding about building your own rifle. Looking forward to your range report!

    1. Despite the frustrations that crop up, it is rewarding once you have it all together and take it out to shoot. You definitely learn the basics of the mechanical operation of the rifle.

      The funny part is that I initially started out building a rifle as a means of saving money. To laugh! The first rifle I built was a CETME C, which involved welding and brazing. So I ended up buying a small arc welder, a small brazing torch, and a shop press (to press the barrel into place in the trunnion). Next I built an AK (a screw build because at the time I didn't have access to the jigs and tools to do one properly with rivets). Then a friend of mine decided to build an AK, and bought the tools and jigs for the rivets, but didn't have a shop press to compress the rivets, so I helped with the riveting as well as seating the barrel. But if I'd bought the jigs and tools myself, it would have a few hundred extra at least. And there is, of course, breakage. I have broken, bent, or worn out punches, drills, diamond bits, and/or taps on each of the builds.

      Of course, this was back when kits were fairly cheap and plentiful. Now the parts kits are, themselves, running several hundred dollars.

      About the same time as I helped my friend with his AK, I built my first AR, which is by far the easiest and requires the fewest specialized tools. I'm collecting the parts for my third AR right now.

      I would recommend that someone wanting to build their own rifle to start with something simple like an AR and then, if they liked building their own rifle and wanted something different, to move to something more difficult like the AK.

      On all of these, I have used a ready made receiver. It takes even more expensive jigs and probably a bigger hydraulic press than I have, to bend the receiver flats into shape for an HK/CETME or AK, and better welding skills than I have to assemble those receivers. But I may try my hand at finishing a Polymer 80 receiver some day.


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