If you have a post-ban AK-47 rifle and want to bring it up to “no-ban” status, this article takes you through the steps to outfit a legal, pre-ban-appearance rifle. Or, to explain the term pre-ban a bit further, an AK as imported before the 1989 gun ban, with an original-style, fixed or side-folder buttstock, pistol grip, bayonet lugs, removable flash hider or muzzle brake and high-capacity magazine (subject to various state laws).
The rifle you have in your hands to convert is undoubtedly an import and probably has a thumb-hole stock, no bayonet lugs and no flash hider, and whatever device is on the muzzle is welded, pinned or silver-soldered permanently. Your state’s laws will determine whether you may legally insert a 30-round, high-capacity magazine.
There are many of those imported rifles just waiting for some TLC from their owners.
This article covers the stamped receiver model, which is the most common. Milled receivers convert in a similar way, except they need a buttstock specially made for milled receivers. A few notes on milled receivers are included.
You should have at least some mechanical aptitude to begin the conversion. Some may sail right through to the end. Others may hit a snag along the way and need help. Some may get involved and find they have bitten off more than they can chew.
Hopefully, you are like Clint Eastwood from one of the “Dirt Harry” movies: “A man has got to know his limitations!” Enough said.
We refer to semi-automatic assault rifles (SAW) and assault weapons ban (AWB) because that is how the 1994 gun ban defined the semi-auto AK-47s, as well as other semi-auto rifles. We certainly do not consider the semi-auto AK-47 an assault rifle because that term defines a rifle capable of fully automatic fire.
In other words, we really know better, so do not be alarmed into thinking we have been programmed by the anti-gun crowd.
Why Do This?
That is a good question to think about before you start. You will be spending several hundred dollars to accomplish the conversion. You will be spending a considerable amount of time taking it apart and working on it. You may ask yourself if this is way too much time and money to invest on a post-ban AK-47.
To help you decide, you should research online how much pre-ban and no-ban AKs sell for these days. The prices may surprise you.
If you own a post-ban AK, for which you paid $200 to $250 years ago, and you add $350 to it for conversion, you still have a good, solid investment since no-ban rifles easily sell for $750 to $1,000, depending on the specifics. Pre-ban rifles are easily $1,000 or more.
Even the rather crude Romanian WASR no-bans go for well more than $500 at retail gun shops.
Imported AKs are quickly drying up because people are snatching them up and the BATFE continues to restrict the importation of even partial parts kits. If you have an interesting AK that was assembled in the original country as a complete firearm, such as an Egyptian Maadi, it is worth the money and effort just to say you own one because these always have been considered the most authentic and closest to the Soviet AK-47s.
Plus, the original Maadi AK factory team (not some minimum wage worker of a large gun importer and distributor) assembled it. That makes your post-ban Maadi worth more than you think. The same holds true for complete post-ban imported Bulgarian AK rifles.
Like many of us, if you get into a financial bind, you probably sell the toys first. If you have increased the value, desirability and appeal of your toy, you will not only sell it more quickly, you’ll sell it for more than you invested. There are few investments with which you can do that.
It is like having your cake and eating it, too.
And of course, in the conversion process, you can assemble the AK about which you have dreamed, custom tailored to your specifications.
Do you have any good excuses for not starting right now?
Title 18 U.S.C. (922r) Discussion
No discussion on converting your AK from one status to another would be complete without a description of what 922r means as a law and what is required to stay legal.
Yes, you can convert it legally, and you need to jump through a few legal hoops in the process. This part may help you understand the need for what must be done later in the article.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush took steps to stop the import of 43 types of semi-automatic firearms considered to have “no sporting purpose” according to the language of the Gun Control Act of 1968. That stopped all “black” rifles from coming in— such as the AK-47 (series), Uzi, FAL, FNC, HK-91, Daewoo (series) and many other cool rifles—because President Bush thought they should be banned.
Be informed, that ban did not start in Congress, BATF created it at the behest of the Office of the President of the United States on Drug Czar Bill Bennet’s recommendation.
Hence, the term pre-ban rifle was created. Pre-ban rifle refers to any semi-automatic rifle (on the ban list) with all the “evil” features (such as the AK-47 series) imported into the U.S. before March 14, 1989. They are still legal to own and sell and are “grandfathered” by the law.
A few imported rifles were caught up in the ban process. Mitchell Arms had about 3,500 Yugoslavian AK-47s of several varieties and calibers waiting in Customs, where they remained for about five years before being released for sale. Even though technically considered post-ban rifles, they are now highly sought-after AKs (known as Yugo M-90s) and perfect candidates for the 922r conversion.
Five years later, Bill Clinton signed Congressional anti-gun legislation [the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, also known as the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB)] in September 1994, which defined an assault rifle for the first time (we cover the legal definition of that later in this article).
The bill also limited civilian sales of magazines of more than 10-round capacity. Pre-ban, high-capacity mags were still legal to own and sell. The bill furthered the import restrictions and determined the configuration of semi-automatic rifles assembled from imported parts that could be legally built in the U.S. The ban sun-setted in 2004 after much discussion in Congress about extending the ban permanently.
The purpose of that ban was to emasculate the firearm industry’s ability to make any politically incorrect firearms. However, the law did not take into account the cleverness of red-blooded, Second Amendment-loving, American gun manufacturers.
The AWB did more to stimulate the firearms industry than the anti-gun people ever could have imagined. Sales of firearms and ammunition of all sorts went through the roof, as citizens flocked to gun shows and dealers as a reflection of their distrust of the Government.
And rightly so. After all, why should you trust a government that takes your firearms?
At the start of the Clinton Gun Ban, you could import AK clones that passed the criteria for sporting purposes. Those were pretty ugly to AK lovers. Other black rifles suffered the same ugliness.
The wording of the bill under Title 27 U.S.C. made it illegal to import or assemble a pre-ban configuration AK with so much as a plain buttstock because it would need a pistol grip to function—the pistol grip being the clincher. That is because the language of the bill legally defines an assault rifle as a semi-automatic rifle having the capability to accept a detachable magazine and at least two of the following “evil” features:
- Folding or telescoping stock
- Fayonet lugs
- Threaded muzzle
- Flash hider
- Pistol grip
- Grenade launcher.
As a result, importers brought in a typical AK-47 clone with a large, ugly thumb-hole buttstock, no bayonet lugs, no threaded muzzle (or if it did, the muzzle attachment was welded on), no flash hiders whatsoever and a 5- or 10-round magazine.
After awhile, things improved as manufacturers started producing AKs using U.S.-made parts to bring the appearance back to something resembling the original configuration. The language of Title 18 USC, Part 922r, which stated that no more than 10 imported parts could be used to build an AK-style rifle with at least some of the evil features, allowed that.
The BATF originally wanted just two imported parts as the maximum; Congress upped the ante and settled on 10 imported parts as the maximum, which greatly decreased the U.S.-made parts that had to be substituted in the build. In other words, the required U.S.-made parts dropped from 14 to 6 in the final bill.
Apart from that small victory, it was a very confusing time to deal in AKs.
After Sept 14, 2004, things went back to normal because high-capacity mags were legal to sell to civilians, and evil features, such as folding stocks, flash hiders and bayonet lugs, were again legal. In retrospect, the 10-year AWB was a waste of time. It did nothing to reduce crime and only hindered U.S. citizens from owning their favorite weapons in the original forms.
Both the 1989 and 1994 gun bans pushed up the price of firearms and magazines. In 1989, after Bush’s ban was announced, the price of an AK-47 NIB import increased from $350 to $550 overnight. Through the years, all black rifles continued to increase in price as more and more restrictions were implemented, supplies shrank and demand grew. It is simple economics.
Now that same $550 NIB AK-47 brings $1,200, perhaps more. A recent, high-quality, brand-new, U.S.-made AK clone costs $750 or more.
Title 18 (922r) and Title 27 Laws
“Title 18 U.S.C., Chapter 44, Section 922 (r) No person shall assemble a semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of the imported parts listed in paragraph (c) of this section if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”
That statute began about 1990, although got little notice. With the 1994 ban, it received a lot of press when the BATF put manufacturers on strict compliance notice. The same notice holds true for individuals doing their own conversion work.
The 922r language presented a list of 20 parts that applied to all semi-automatic assault rifles (not just the AK-47 series) made from imported parts sets or kits. For the AK-47, 16 parts apply.
The following is a list of those parts, also referred to as compliance parts:
- Front and Rear Trunions (applies to stamped receivers only)
- Bolt Carrier
- Gas Piston
- Pistol Grip
- Upper and Lower Handguards (both count as one part)
- Muzzle Device
- Magazine Body
- Magazine Follower
- Magazine Floorplate
You may choose replacement parts from the list, as desired. A maximum of 10 imported parts from this list may be used to build an AK rifle. The bottom line is you must use six U.S.-made parts from the above list to assemble a stamped-steel AK and five U.S.-made parts for a milled receiver.
Since you do not want to do a total rebuild of your AK, you likely will choose the smaller parts. If you ever wanted to do a complete build from a parts set, you would be able to replace all parts on the list with U.S.-made parts, except the
- Bolt carrier
- And, possibly, the barrel (U.S.-made barrels are available for several AK builds but not all)
Title 27 U.S.C.
For historical purposes, Title 27, Part 478.11, defines the meaning of a semi-automatic assault weapon (SAW). It sun-setted with the AWB on Sep. 14, 2004. But, we will list the language as it appeared to demonstrate under what we labored for those long 10 years. A semi-automatic assault weapon is:
(b) A semi-automatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least two of the following features:
(1) A folding or telescoping stock.
(2) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
(3) A bayonet mount.
(4) A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor.
(5) A grenade launcher.
From 1994–2004, if you built a rifle with most of those features, you would have violated the Title 27 definition of a SAW. Thank goodness Sept 14, 2004 passed and can do away with that list of banned features.
However, you still need to comply with 922r, with no more than 10 imported parts in the build. It is sort of complicated although not overwhelming. We will get through it.
Let us say you have a post-ban Egyptian Maadi stamped-steel receiver AK-47. It has a thumb-hole buttstock, no lugs, welded muzzle nut and is ugly as heck.
The good news is it may have the very desirable laminated handguards. If those do not suit your taste, save them because they sell quickly. Since you possess an assembled rifle, there is no need to consider changing the receiver and barrel; that is just counterproductive and, actually would lower the value of the completed project. You do need six U.S.-made parts to make this into something recognizable as a no-ban AK-47.
The most practical course for any 922r rifle conversion is installing a U.S.-made fire control group (FCG), which consists of a hammer, trigger and disconnector. It is very simple to remove the old parts and install new ones. That gives you three U.S.-made parts. When you install those, you are halfway there.
You may choose a single- or double-hook FCG. The double-hook sets usually are for milled receivers although fit stamped receivers with little effort. You may need to open up the area around the trigger slot in the receiver with a small file for the double-hook trigger to fit.
A single-hook trigger fits with no modification. The advantages of a double-hook trigger are more positive grip on the hammer and smoother trigger let-off.
You must disassemble it to remove the old parts.
- Remove the dust cover, main spring and bolt carrier and put them aside.
- Find the shepherd’s hook holding the front- and rear-axis pins in place. It usually pulls out from the front through the magazine well.
- Once it is removed, tap the trigger axis pin to the left and work it out completely. That will free the trigger and disconnector.
- Set those aside in a clear plastic bag, and save the disconnector spring to use later.
- Remove the hammer axis pin similarly.
The hammer is wrapped in a powerful spring that usually holds it in place with long arms that get tangled in the receiver. You will experience that when you try to take it out. Study how it is placed because you will have to reinstall it correctly later.
- Pull out the hammer and spring.
- Put the hammer in the bag and save the spring.
- Take the new hammer and install the spring on both “ears” and reinstall it in the receiver.
This may take a few minutes the first time. If you get it wrong, you will figure it out because it only works in one configuration.
- Dip one end of the disconnector spring into some heavy grease, such as Hoppe’s gun grease or even Vaseline.
That will keep the spring from falling out during assembly.
- Put the disconnector spring in the disconnector spring hole (greased end first).
- Position the disconnector in the trigger.
- Align the trigger and disconnector so the axis pin goes straight through.
That is not as hard as it sounds but may take some trial and error.
- Once both axis pins are in place, reinstall the shepherd’s hook to retain the pins under fire.
You cannot skip this step or give it short shrift. It must be firmly in place, or the first time out, you will get a massive jam when the axis pin slips and the hammer jumps out of place. One shortcut to eliminate problems replacing the shepherd’s hook is to take the axis pins to an auto supply store and ask to look at the E-clips widely used for assembling throttle and carburetor linkages. Find two that fit and use those instead of the shepherd’s hook. They work.
- Reinstall the bolt carrier and bolt as well as the main spring and dust cover.
- Ensure that everything functions smoothly back and forth.
The trigger should hold the hammer solidly and release smoothly. In fact, you may find the new trigger is quite a bit better than the original. With those parts installed, move to the next step. (Editor’s Comment: There are several good FCG sets available. TAPCO and K-VAR are two good brands.)
You need three more U.S.-made parts. A U.S.-made stock set will make three parts. There are many parts available today. You may choose wood or synthetic stocks, or furniture as it is called in the firearms world.
Do you want to have a folding buttstock? Time to decide. You can do that, but you may have to substitute another U.S.-made part because most of the good folders are East German. There are U.S.-made folders that work just fine; however, they install on the receiver in a non-original way.
Do you want an original Soviet or Polish laminated stock set? That is possible and permissible. Just ensure you use no more than 10 imported parts in the conversion.
We will install a U.S.-made synthetic stock set on the Maadi. A number of sets are available. Standard length buttstocks and buttstocks that are 1 1/4-inch longer are available, depending on how you want to set up your AK. The choice of color is yours.
- Remove the thumb-hole stock.
- Remove the pistol grip screw with a slot screwdriver.
At the rear of the receiver is a tang with at least two wood screws. One is visible outside the receiver and one or maybe two screws are under the dust cover.
- Remove all the screws.
- Pull off the stock.
Whatever it takes to get it off without damaging the receiver is OK.
- Before assembling the new buttstock, also remove the handguards.
- With the dust cover off, remove the main spring, bolt carrier and gas tube.
- Under the gas tube is a short lever you need to lift and swing forward.
- Once it is forward, move the collet forward.
The lower guard will then drop out. The upper handguard is a bit trickier, andyou can easily deal with it once you know the secret.
- Use a large woodworking clamp with wooden jaws, or put the upper handguard in a large vice with padded jaws, to twist the wooden handguard 180 degrees. This will come out for sure although may be stuck in there pretty good. Keep at it until you have it off.
- Leave the firearm in the vise.
- Reinstall the new upper handguard in an opposite manner.
- Reinstall the lower handguard installs just the opposite of removal.
It may take a tap with a brass hammer to get the collet back into position. Brass hammers will not damage steel because the brass yields first, and do not get carried away pounding.
- Install the buttstock.
It goes in about the same as the old one, except it does not use the pistol grip screw to keep it in place like the thumb-hole stock. A synthetic stock may need some minor fitting with a small file, sandpaper or Dremel tool. Do not get carried away with removing material because you want it to go in snugly although not to the point of deforming the receiver. You want it to fit around the rear tang and end of the receiver with no gaps. Take your time to get this to fit properly, and you will be proud of your accomplishment.
- Install the pistol grip.
The grip screw you took off earlier should be fine to reuse. If not, you may need to buy a longer one. Also, you may need to do a bit of fitting on the grip to match the angle that the grip screw goes in to get a snug fit. The pistol grip should also go up against the trigger guard very tightly to get the proper relationship on the trigger when shooting. Those are usually minor fitments.
You now have at least six U.S.-made parts on the Maadi and are legal for that configuration. If you later want to go with a side folder, and you use an East German crutch stock, you will need to add another U.S.-made part to be legal. Another part you can use for that contingency is a U.S.-made muzzle device. That leaves you covered for future changes.
The rule is if you add one imported part, then you need to replace an imported part with a U.S.-made part somewhere else, always having no more than 10 imported parts on the rifle—from the 922r list, of course.
While we are on the subject, here is a brief discussion about installing a folder. It will install in the rear trunion the same as the synthetic buttstock. The only difference is that it may require using a metal working file instead of sandpaper to get it fitted snugly into the trunnion.
Remove any metal from the folder, not the receiver. You may need to perform some touchup with cold blue solution before you do the final installation to keep the bare steel parts from rusting. A coating of Hoppe’s Gun Grease is also good to apply over the re-blue.
If you want to retain one of the FCG parts, handguards or other compliance parts for whatever reason, you may opt to install a U.S.-made gas piston. This is a fairly easy operation to perform, although it is a bit more work than replacing the FCG and stock set. The thread pattern for virtually all gas pistons are the same size and pitch. So take heart in knowing that the one you buy will fit your import.
In at least one instance, the gas piston you are replacing will need to be a bit longer than the ones available so be aware of this before you change out the gas piston on the Mitchell Arms M90 Yugoslavian .308 M77 counter sniper model. This piston is 1/4-inch longer than standard. You would have to find a shop to make one for you on a special order basis.
- Remove the bolt carrier and bolt.
- Locate the pin holding the the gas piston in place.
You need to look at the bolt carrier just behind the gas piston to see if you can find the pin that is holding it in place. You may need to take a piece of emery cloth and give the area a sanding like buffing your shoes to get the pin to stand out.
- Use a small drill bit to drill the mushroomed head out.
- Take a drift and start to tap it out the other side.
This may take a bit of force so be careful not to damage the bolt carrier in the process. It is best to brace the carrier on a nylon gunsmith anvil.
- Before removing the piston, take an overall measurement of the distance from the end of the bolt carrier to the end of the gas piston.
This will be needed when you reinstall the new unit.
- Once the pin is out, unscrew the old gas piston completely out of the bolt carrier and place it in the baggie with the FCG parts.
- Clean up the inside of the bolt carrier, especially the threaded area.
Aerosol brake cleaner or Gun Scrubber is a good tool for this job.
- Take the new piston and thread into the bolt carrier.
Be sure to apply the measurement of the old unit and make the new piston the same length. Once installed, your piston should have some wobble to it to allow it to float in the gas tube. If it is completely rigid, you may have some troubles with the action jamming or short stroking.
- Re-pin the piston in place.
There are two methods to use here. One is to drill the piston with a 1/8-inch drill bit and install a 1/8-inch steel roll-pin. This is perhaps the easiest method. Trim the roll-pin to fit inside the bolt carrier after it is installed as you don’t want it standing proud to snag on anything. However, this method will not appeal to the purist as the hole will be seen on the bolt carrier upon pulling the bolt back. Not a big deal for most of us, however. The second method involves either making or buying a replacement pin to rivet into position like the original. You will still need to drill the new gas piston to accept whatever size pin you have selected to use. This pin should be a soft steel to facilitate the forming of a mushroom head; don’t try to use an old drill bit as it shatters wildly.
- Mushrooming the head can be accomplished using a steel mini-anvil and steel ball-peen hammer.
Don’t worry about anything standing proud of the bolt carrier when you are done as that is easily removed with a small file, and can be polished with some emery cloth. In fact, when you are done, take the emery cloth and polish the entire forward part of the bolt carrier in a shoe-shine manner to give an overall uniform appearance. If you choose this method, it should be almost impossible to tell where you did the work.
- Reassemble the bolt carrier and check for smooth operation.
It should be just as smooth as before you changed the piston out. If you feel a drag, inspect the parts until you find the source. If the piston drags anywhere in the gas tube, it is probably because you did not clean the threads in the bolt carrier of trash and burrs enough to allow the piston to float. Or if you used the original pin method, you did not drill a large enough hole for the pin in the gas piston to allow the piston to float. That is why the steel roll pin method works the best; it allows the piston to float and is easily taken apart for whatever reason.
Bayonet lugs are not required except for completing the look of the original AK. Many AK lovers want to be able to install their matching bayonet while they display it in their homes. Nothing wrong with that. We will proceed down that avenue.
There may be a problem doing this depending on which post-ban AK you have. If you have a model with the underside of the gas block completely smoothed off, then you are facing a bigger challenge than one with the stub for the cleaning rod to pass through, still intact.
In the first case, either decide to forgo the lugs or face the challenge of replacing the gas block itself. This is not a small operation and requires a press of some sort, preferably hydraulic. You would have to first remove the front sight tower to get to the gas block. It is not recommended to go this far with your 922r conversion, for obvious reasons. You could possibly create a T-shaped unit with cleaning rod hole in the center to weld or solder in place, but that would be up to the more mechanically gifted out there.
A similar situation exists for those that have the cleaning rod stub still on the gas block. You will have to make or buy some “ears” to either solder or weld in place to serve as the bayonet lugs. This is a much easier task than the above situation and hopefully the one you are facing.
Of course, if you want to forgo this operation, that is up to you. At least you will still have the cleaning rod which gives the original look to the AK. Bayonet lugs, either missing or present, are not usually noticed until closer inspection.
Adding a muzzle device, such as a flash hider or slant brake is not too difficult to do. Hopefully, you have an AK with the threaded muzzle, with some device tack-welded in place. If not, you will have to go a slightly different, yet easier route.
Muzzle with Threads
With threads present, go about the task of removing the welded muzzle nut.
- Use a Dremel tool with synthetic cutoff wheel and carefully cut off the nut.
Be sure to wear your eye protection before starting. Of course, you want to remove the nut without damaging the front sight tower or the threads. You can cut through the welds piecemeal to get the nut off. This will leave you with a bit of Swiss pattern file work to remove the last bit of weld from the tower, but it is not too hard to accomplish.
- Take your time.
- Clean the FST to be square and clean looking.
- Test fit the new slant brake or flash hider to see if it threads all the way up to the FST without kinking.
- You must also make or buy a pin and small spring to serve as the retainer for the new muzzle device.
The pin can be easily made from a worn- out drill bit “upper end” of appropriate size. The spring can usually be found in a common mechanical pen or pencil. The hole for the pin and spring is almost always present to begin with. If not, you will have to determine where it should be and drill it out. This is a bit more involved, so if the hole is not there, you may want to skip this operation or secure the slant brake with a small set screw out of view on the under side.
Any muzzle device you want to add, short of a sound suppressor is now legal to install.
Muzzle without Threads
For those with no threads on the muzzle, your easiest route is to
- Fit a slant brake with a small hole drilled in the bottom side to accept a set screw.
- Line up the brake to be a bit on the bias or 45-degree slant and mark through the set screw hole on the barrel with a marking pen.
- Use your drill to put a very shallow hole in the barrel for the set screw to hold to.
- Use loctite on the set screw.
This method of attachment will be almost unnoticeable on the final job. You might also find a muzzle attachment made especially for non-threaded barrels which will usually be a much tighter fit. Keep in mind, however, if you use an AK-74 style brake on a non-threaded barrel, it must have the small hole in the barrel for the set screw to catch on, otherwise it will shoot off after a few rounds. Been there, done that.
After the steps required to put your AK into 922r shape, you may find that all the handling and fitting leaves you with a bit of a ragged looking rifle as far as appearance. There are several ways to remedy this—including doing it yourself!
It is not required or recommended to refinish the internal parts such as the hammer, trigger and disconnector. These have clearances that would possibly be altered in the grit-blasting process and would need to be touched up after refinishing. It is just easier to leave them in the shape they are currently in.
With any finish you decide on, don’t forget to refinish at least a couple of magazines to match the rifle. If you paint, don’t add too much paint to the end that inserts into the magazine well. Otherwise, it will be difficult to install and remove, and you will mar the paint in the process.
If you have access to a grit-blasting cabinet and airbrush, you can easily prepare the metal and apply special paint for a long-lasting finish.
- Strip the rifle down to the barest possible condition.
You should have just the barrel and receiver with no internal parts remaining. This includes removing the front sight windage and elevation assembly and the rear tangent sight.
- Be sure to plug and tape the bore on both ends as well as the gas block.
- Place the barreled receiver into the blast cabinet and use aluminum oxide as an abrasive.
- Go over the assembly in a thorough manner, both inside and out.
- Go light over any markings on the receiver to keep from obliterating them.
- Blow any remaining grit out of the receiver.
- Go over it with Gun Scrubber to flush it out completely.
- If it is going to be a few days before you paint, add a coating of WD-40 or light oil on the bare parts to keep them from rusting, which they will do in a big hurry.
- Before painting, go back over the parts with Gun Scrubber to remove the oil.
Be sure to let the solvent evaporate and go over the crevices again, as any trapped oil will keep the paint from adhering.
There are several specialized paints designed for gun refinishing. Get one in the color and luster you are happy with and follow the instructions included. Most of these paints can be applied with a standard hobby airbrush such as a Paasche, which is about the best.
Some notes on painting
- You will need to reduce or thin the paint to get it to spray.
- You will also need enough thinner to do a clean-up afterward.
- Most of the paints will dry quickly and need about 30 minutes to be able to be handled.
- It is best to make a few jigs to hold the parts while they are in the drying stage.
- Rubber surgical gloves are handy to use here so you can hold small parts while you are painting them without getting that nasty paint on you.
- Keep in mind, it is best to do this paint work outside as the fumes will be very thick, to the point of making breathing quite dangerous. Unless you have a special paint booth with power ventilation, go outside.
Notes on applying the paint finish
- Lay up a “dust coat” to start with.
- This makes a sticky surface which supports the following coats without sagging or runs.
- If you get a run on the bare metal, have a rag with some thinner handy to wipe it off and respray immediately.
- Runs on top of previous coats may have to be dried completely and lightly sanded before you can proceed with the final paint job.
- Light coats lead to quicker drying times and avoid runs and sags.
- Walk the line on getting enough paint on the metal to provide a long wearing finish, yet not so much you affect the operation of the AK by applying too much paint in critical areas, such as the rails that the bolt carrier runs on.
- Too much paint will tend to crack off, rather than wearing off.
- Also, a primer is not generally required when using a specially formulated gun coating since the grit-blasting gives a very good “tooth” for the paint to adhere to.
- The problem you would face if you did apply a primer is that any nick in the paint would likely expose the gray or green primer.
- This would not look especially good or authentic. Bare metal exposed, however unfortunate that would be, is still better than seeing primer.
Stencils are available to create a camo job if that is what you like. In fact, complete sets of firearm paints and stencils are available to create camo finishes. Most of these paints are designed to be baked after painting, although they can be left to air dry if you have the time.
Keep in mind it will takes several weeks of non-use to cure in this manner or you could mar your paint job. This is by far the easiest finish for the at-home 922r conversion.
Parkerizing is pretty much for the professional finisher. Unless you want to shell out $$$ for the setup required to do this work, it is best to take it to your local gunsmith.
However, a park job is one of the nicer finishes to apply. It is the standard finish of military firearms. Expect to pay $100 to $200 or more for this work. Many colors and tints are available to pick from.
You may even want to send your parts off to a parkerizing specialty shop such as Arizona Response Systems. These guys deal with the black rifles all the time and have undoubtedly re-parked hundreds of AK’s. For an extra fee, they probably would do a turn-key job for you.
There are several options for finishing or refinishing your stock set if you go the wood route. Red stain and gloss finish are very popular right now to emulate the Soviet look. You may use any color of stain and clear-coat luster that gets your AK juices flowing.
Take a look at some of the pics posted online on some of the gun forums for ideas. If you are doing an economy trip and have an ugly, beat-up imported stock set you have gotten at a cheap price, you may want to consider painting over it. Black is a color that hides the most sins.
Of course, you may elect to go with a custom camo job for the entire rifle that make seven an AK in the worst condition AK look very interesting. Remember, you may use an original imported stock set as long as you use no more than 10 imported parts overall.
The synthetic stock set is colored throughout and does not need any refinishing for scrapes. However, you may have a black set and wish to change to OD Green or Desert Tan.
This is easy to do with the same paints used on the barreled receiver. Camo is an option, as with the wood sets, and you may not have to use a base coat; just add the highlight color patterns (tiger stripes perhaps).
Once you have your “pet” AK refinished, take your time in getting it back together. Get a padded bench mat to lay your receiver on while you work, such as a foam pad for laying on your automobile fender. These work great and are usually impervious to solvents.
few special tools such as a brass hammer and drift set, steel drifts, and a gunsmith screwdriver set make your work much more agreeable and less likely to damage parts on the assembly job. Buggered screw heads are the mark of a real gun hack.
Of course, that’s what most of us really are, although why advertise that fact when a set of screwdrivers are not that expensive and will last many years?
When you are done and have taken your time, most will have no idea that your AK did not come that way from the factory.
- Work the action several times to be sure it is free to move in the required manner.
- Be sure the bore is completely free of any grit or residue that may have crept in.
- Check your magazine and make sure that no paint build up in the mag well prevents mag insertion.
- Same for your mag if you painted it too.
With these checks complete, take it out and shoot your new toy! Be sure to go to the range on a day when you can show it off to lots of people.
Hey, after all that work, you deserve a few compliments!
If you don’t fully comply with the 922r statute, you can be faced with confiscation of your rifle and a felony change. If convicted, this means federal prison time. It ain’t worth it folks!
Do it right or don’t do it at all.
Keep in mind, some states do not allow “assault weapons” under any circumstances. Be absolutely sure you are allowed to own one before converting your “sporting rifle” to 922r configuration.
Most 922r U.S.-made compliance parts are marked as such these days, although not all. It may be wise to keep all your receipts in case someone calls your hand on your conversion.
High Capacity Magazines
Some states have laws that do not permit high capacity mags, even if your AK is 922r compliant. This may be also true of local areas such as counties, parishes, and cities. You must be aware of these laws before inserting a hi-cap mag into your AK rifle.
Some states allow hi-cap mags, and they must all be made prior to the 1989 gun ban. Most of these states place a felony level charge on having an illegal hi-cap magazine, so, the same penalties as described above may apply here, except that you may end up in a state prison.
Again, not worth it.
We actually installed eight U.S.-made parts on our Maadi. These are as follows:
- Pistol Grip
- Gas Piston
- Muzzle Brake
We have two more U.S.-made parts than required to meet 922r minimums. However, it hurts doesn’t hurt anything to be a few parts over the count. You may want to later change that fixed buttstock to an East German folder. No problem, you would still be one U.S.-made part “strong.”
If you decided to go for the full original Maadi look and use an original Egyptian laminated furniture set (three imported parts), you would need to resort to using one more U.S.-made magazine part since there are not any other parts to substitute, practically speaking.
That’s not too bad as you can load up some Egyptian 30-rounders with U.S. made mag followers (One U.S. made part) and always have them with that rifle. It’s basically mix and match.
Keep in mind that many new products for the AK-47 are popping up every month. Keep an eye on our web pages for the latest gear.
This article is intended to cover the 922r conversion process from start to finish. However, there may be some areas that were not touched upon adequately or at all. Feel free to chat online or call us to ask any questions you may have about this process.
Have you converted your AK-47? Will you now that you have step-by-step instructions? Do share your experiences and questions in the comments section.