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AK Building 101

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  • AK Building 101

    Greetings fellow AK Enthusiasts. I have had alot of inquiries over the years in regards to building AKs. There are many ways to skin this particular cat, some methods more correct than others, and there are also plenty of great sources for tools, equipment, kits, parts, supplies, and further instruction. I am going to be continually updating this post over time, and if there is anything you feel I am leaving out, anything you have questions on or would like to see, or any tips or tricks of your own, feel free to let me know.

    Parts Kits. They come in varying states of completion, and for the new builder I recommend acquiring a kit with a headspaced and populated barrel. What this means is that the barrel's headspace is set in the front trunnion, the barrel pin is drilled, and the rear sight block, gas block, and front sight block are placed and pinned to the barrel. Even when building from one of these the kits, the barrel should still be removed from the front trunnion when rivetting the trunnion to the receiver, and the headspace should be rechecked and confirmed upon pressing the barrel back in. There are those that will say you can get by without removing the barrel and just setting your rivets against the barrel. Will it work? Yes. Will you rivets be crushed adequately? Not in comparison to doing it properly. As regards the headspace, ideally you will use proper headspace gauges. It can be done using ammo, and a great many homebuilders built aks using the ammo & tape method prior to headspace gauges being readily available in soviet calibers. I have done both methods, and using proper headspace gauges is quicker, easier, and more accurate.


    This list is not all that is out there, but it is the bulk of em. Some larger sites, midway, sportsmansguide, etc will occasionally have parts kits for sale as well.

    In addition to a complete parts kit, at minimum you will still need a receiver and rivets. Rivets can be had at most of the sites selling parts kits, receivers are another story.

    Receivers: Available in 100 percent completed form, with all holes drilled, engravings, etc. Also available in 80% form, they can still be had with engraving to properly match the country of origin of the parts kit. A complete receiver needs to be shipped to an FFL, and can still need some work to be ready to build. I advise against buying a receiver with the trunnion rivet holes already drilled, as there is a good chance that they will not line up perfectly with the trunnions from a given parts kit. You can drill the holes out with a hand drill if you lack a drill press or mill, but if you don't have a drill press you should pause here to reevaluate your manhood before moving on.

    If you decide you want to build from an 80%, there is a bunch of work needed to get it ready to build. I build all my AKs from 80% receivers from Childers receiver shells originate in the Radom Poland AK factory, and are as close as you can get to an authentic receiver in America. You can choose engraving options to match the selector markings with the country your kit hails from, and they are already heat treated (a must for these shells). To complete your 80% you will need to spot weld the lower rails in (buy the polish ones from Childers), fit the ejector on the left side lower rail, drill the holes for the FCG (fire control group), drill the rivet holes for the front trunnion, rear trunnion, and trigger guard, drill the hole for the center support and rivet it in, trim the upper rails to allow the bolt carrier to move and operate properly, possibly trim the overall length of the receiver, and drill any additional holes needed if building an underfolder or sidefolder.

    Receivers can also be built from a flat. I never build from a flat, so I won't give any info on em.


    Tools: There are some basic types of work needed to build an ak. These include drilling, rivetting, pressing, grinding, and spot welding. The cost of tooling can vary greatly depending on the amount of tooling and jigs you can fabricate yourself as well as the amount of extra money you would rather spend to make your build easier. You could complete an entire build with nothing but a hand drill, a BFH (Big Fucking Hammer) and some scrap steel, but it won't be the prettiest girl working the pole.

    Drilling: Any drill can get the job done, but ideally a drill press and some decent bits for drilling your holes. The Childers receivers and blanks are tough as nails.

    Rivetting: You can make your own rivet plates and backers, you can make your own press if you want or you can spend a bit of money if you are going to be in the hobby for a while or just want to make your life easier.
    Front trunnion rivets and short rear trunnion rivets can be crushed with modified bolt cutters, available for sale or can be modified yourself.


    For the long rear rivets and center support, there are various jigs available that can be used with a shop press. Many of these will also crush the small rivets as well.


    The trigger guard rivets require their own little jig, I definitely recommend it, works great and building your own can make the process a little frustrating.


    There is also a fellow over on the by the name of akmachinist, makes great jigs at great prices.

    For barrel installation, removal, and population, there are generally two methods, not including the BFH. using a shop press and associated plates, or using the allthread method, which can be bought or made yourself. The 12 ton H frame from Harbor Freight is well regarding, and 12 ton is generally considered the minimum force for AK building.


    If you are building from an 80% receiver you are going to need a spot welder for welding in the lower rails. The 120v spot welder from Harbor Freight works great, with the 220 it is too easy to blow through your receiver and rails. The lower tong will need to be replaced ( or or modified to fit inside the receiver. I recommend modifying your own, cut, grind, drill and tap for regular mig tips. This makes it easier to just throw a new mig tip on should it start to wear or deform over time. There are jigs used for holding the lower rails in while spot welding, in my opinion an unnecessary purchase. C clamps and a 1/4 inch piece of round stock or drill bit to offset the lower rails from the upper and they are right where they need to be.

    In addition to the the spot welder, you are going to need to accurately located the holes for the fire control group and center support for drilling. Childers makes awesome layout guides, C clamp them to your receiver, mark the holes with a transfer punch, stamp with a center punch and you are ready to drill.

    So we have covered the majority of everything you need to start building. I will just outline what I generally use and prefer, as it has all served me well.

    I only use Childers 80%s, I like being able to size the upper rails myself and the mag stabilizers on the lower rails for minimum mag wobble. I have built from Nodaks as well with no complaints. I use the Childers layout guides for locating my holes, a drill press for drilling them, the Harbor Freight spot welder for the lower rails, and the ak-builder trigger guard jig for those rivets. I use a jig I made for trimming the upper rails to rough size for final fitting, the requiem arms bolt cutter jaws for my short rivets, and a few rivet plates I made for the long rivets and center support. I made a "mini press" for lack of a better term for my long rivets and trigger guard jigs, it consists of a 12 ton bottle jack inside of a frame made out of steel plates above and below that are held together by all thread and nuts. Not only does it work great, but it also takes up alot less space than the full size shop press. I do my barrel work with the toth tools allthread tools.

    Some basic tools you should have on hand are C clamps, a center punch, a dremel tool, good quality drill bits, and a rubber/plastic hammer.

    If you are looking to use different furniture, accessorize, or find some less common parts to help make your AK your own, here are some good places to start.

    The greatest source of information on AK building, hands down, is Their gunsmithing section is a vast wealth of information, and I recommend anyone considering an AK build spend a few days reading through it. Their market place is also a place for great deals and rare parts.

    To Be Continued...

  • #2
    Thanx Matty. Great stuff as usual. Will keep tuned in.