[Read Rifle Dynamics AK Builder & Armorer Class, Part 1: Theories and Rivets]

Day 2 begins...
Day 2: The AK builds begin in earnest. Photo by the author.

I’m still trying to wipe the smile off my face, and so perhaps I should explain why.

Several months ago I contacted Rifle Dynamics after reading about their AK Builder’s Class. Students start with a bag of parts and a receiver, and leave with a fully function-tested and tuned AK, and perhaps more importantly, an understanding of the design philosophies and the tools and techniques needed to make a quality AKM or AK-74 as the Russians would build them.

We had talked about the philosophy and theory behind the Soviet mindset on the first day of the class, which we discussed in Rifle Dynamics AK Builder & Armorer Class, Part 1: Theories and Rivets. We managed to figure out the basics of riveting, too, as we riveted in our trigger guards.

But as I arrived early to an empty shop Saturday morning, I was beginning to wonder… was I really going to be able to build an AKM in just a day, with no prior knowledge, and do it right?

Our trigger guards set the evening before, our next task was to mount the front trunnion—the part that holds the barrel and everything else on the front end of the gun—into the receiver. We’d start by setting the front trunnion roughly in the receiver and seeing if it was square.

If the trunnion isn’t square in the receiver, you end up with a crooked piece of crap instead of an AKM.  The more technical term for that “crooked piece of crap” is a  WASR.

First, we fit the trunnion in the receiver and hand-fit the middle two rivets to ensure that the trunnion does indeed fit squarely.

Ensuring that the trunnion  was squared up properly in the receiver was a primary concern until we had enough rivets in place to ensure it wouldn't shift. Photo credit: Gene Higdon.
Ensuring that the trunnion was squared up properly in the receiver was a primary concern until we had enough rivets in place to ensure it wouldn’t shift. Photo by Gene Higdon.

I don’t think any of the students had a receiver/trunnion grossly out of spec, which was yet another benefit of using a good factory-made receiver, instead of trying to build a receiver up from a receiver flat.

The front trunnion of an AKM sits in the receiver as it is about to be slid into place on the riveting jig.
The front trunnion of an AKM sits in the receiver as it is about to be slid into place on the riveting jig. Photo by Gene Higdon.

From there, we established a cycle I’d call “rivet and chase” (which would be a good name for a talk show).

We’d set a rivet, check to see if the opposite rivet would go in straight, and if it didn’t, we needed to chase (drill out) the hole so that the rivet would fit flush… all while ensuring that the trunnion remained square within the receiver.

It’s the “lather, rinse, repeat” of AK building!

The author, getting ready to press a rivet.
The author, getting ready to press a front trunnion rivet. No, I do not have two right arms. The one pressing down on the receiver in the photo belongs to Billy Cho of Rifle Dynamics. I let him have it back later. Photo by Gene Higdon.

We had two flat rivets that needed to go in on each side, one at a time. The “rivet and chase” process was neat, if a little nerve-wracking in the beginning for those of us not used to A) setting rivets, and B) using a drill press to chase holes. That allowed, I was amazed at how quickly you could develop a feel for when a rivet was properly set. There’s a little bit of Zen involved. Kind of like riding a bike, setting a rivet correctly is a little tricky to learn at first, but when you’ve got it, I suspect that you’ve got it for life.