A while back I had the opportunity to build an AR-15 rifle at home for the very first time. After completing the build, it was plain to see why so many folks choose to assemble these rifles themselves instead of buying them off the rack. With the AR completed, I started researching how one goes about assembling another popular do-it-yourself rifle, the semi-automatic version of the AK-47 and its multitude of variants. But as I started reading up on what it takes to build an AK, it became clear that these rifles require a markedly different approach.
AR-15s employ a greater number of components than AK-47s but assembling them is comparable to a simple car repair, like switching out a spark plug or changing a flat tire. Although there is a definite learning curve and plenty of small parts to keep track of, it's a fairly easy process that can be accomplished with a sturdy table, a simple set of hand tools and a few specialized support blocks.
The AK-47 design is less complicated but building one is a more involved process, like repairing a car’s transmission. It calls for a greater investment in tools and shop space than AR-15 related projects. In addition to a set of simple tools (hammers, punches, wrenches, etc.) it also requires a hydraulic shop press, drill press, riveting tools, torches, specialized jigs and more.
While the tools and skills needed to build an AK-47 are certainly within the reach of the dedicated hobbyist, it was simply too expensive of an endeavor for me to pursue at the time. So, I shelved my plans for a custom built AK and moved on to other projects.
A few months later, I was talking with the Mike Pappas, director of product development for Dead Air Armament. During our conversation I mentioned that I would like to build an AK-47 but lacked the means to do so. As it turned out, Mike and the Gary Hughes, director of sales and marketing for Dead Air, have set up a small operation called MOD Outfitters, which specializes in building custom AK-pattern guns. Mike made a generous offer that I was more than happy to accept: If I would gather up the parts needed for a rifle build, MOD Outfitters would conduct an in-house custom build so that I could see how an AK is built.
Keep a few things in mind when reading this series of articles. First, there's more than one way to go about building and finishing a rifle. The approach and tool set shown here may not be the best fit for your needs. Secondly, the order of events in this build might not be the same order you would choose to follow. Finally, it takes a couple of instruction manuals (see Build Your Own AK-47: Conclusion) worth of material to cover all of the details involved in building AK-pattern platforms. This series is meant to provide a high-level view of how one particular gun was put together.