Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Saiga Rifle: Quality Kalashnikov Project Gun

Most people who know AKs, know the Saiga. The Saiga ( named for a breed of antelope from the steppes of Eurasia) is a sporting version of the venerable Kalashnikov (AK) rifle which is produced by the Izhmash arms division in Russia. It offers the same piston driven reliability as the military version of the AK in a sporting package. When they first arrive in the US they look like this:

In a Monte Carlo style stock, no pistol grip, no flash hider, and with only a 10 round proprietary magazine. Many people who desire to own a true Russian made AK, will use these sporting rifles as a base model to build upon and have a full fledged Russian AK. Please keep in mind that when you modify a Saiga or any other imported rifle such as this, you must abide by 922r Compliance. I have never heard of anyone ever actually getting charged with non compliance to the 922r stipulation, but it's better to air on the side of caution. Without wasting a bunch of space explaining the ins and outs of 922r, I'll just say look it up for the details.Basically you have to use a number of all US made parts to make the gun "compliant".
A few years ago, I began a project of converting a 7.62x39mm Saiga into a more tactical form.
I had gotten it in a trade and decided that I could always use another Kalashnikov.
This weapon made the perfect project gun for me, and I set about adjusting her to fit my needs.
I added a Dinzag Arms bullet guide to the front trunnion so it will accept and feed from a standard AK magazine, as well as moving US-made Tapco trigger group forward into the correct spot and adding a Tapco SAW style pistol grip for the sake of 922r and a NATO length US made Polymer stock from K-VAR Corp. At the time, I found no replacement handguard that I particularly liked, and since there is no AK style handguard retainer on the barrel I couldn't use a standard wood set, so I kept the Saiga polymer front guard.
Additionally the standard leaf sights have been replaced with a Krebs Customs rear aperture sight.

The bullet guide installation is not something I would suggest to a novice machinist. I enlisted some help on this little task. I'm glad I did as it turned out quite nicely.
The Krebs Custom aperture sight is a great mod for this rifle. I love the sight picture it gives.

My result was this:

I was never happy with it, and wished I had done more modifications, so I decided that it was time to take the project forward after a multi- year hiatus.
After reading an article in the Complete Book of the AK47, I decided that a folding stock on this rifle would add to the versatility of this rifle.
I decided to go with  skeletonized machined stock as well as an ACE side folding mechanism ( which by the way is compatible with all manner of stock designs).

One thing to consider when doing this mod, is that the trunnion block that you add will require that you cut of the rear tang of the rifle, which means you will be stuck with at least an ACE type stock of some sort. You won't being going back to a traditional stock again. So think long and hard before you do this mod.
I sliced off the rear tang very carefully with my cutting disc, minding not to get into the area where the recoil spring stops.

After you make sure you have it flush, time to add the trunnion block.
The block slides into the back of the receiver and the four lock screws go through the sides of the receiver by way of the holes in the Saiga receiver. (the holes are a result of the trigger group being moved forward, back to the traditional position of the trigger in a standard AK)

The top screw goes through the trunnion block and it's then locked in place. I mounted the folder adapter in the right side folding position and then mounted the stock to that.
I decided that the Tapco SAW style grip had to go, so I went back with a Hogue rubberized grip instead.
stock unfolded and locked in the shooting position

with stock set up to fold to the right, allowing the use of the optic mounting rail on the left side of the receiver.

The project Saiga as she stands now. Another mod to the front may be coming soon.

The stock locks up nicely, with no slop. Recoil is not overly noticeable, and it helps give the rifle a more modular ability. I can store it in a relatively small area, making it a great truck gun, a camp rifle, a SHTF gun, etc.
A quad rail handguard was added along with the Magpul AFG, (which I don't care for on most guns, but it seems to work well on the Saiga). As of writing this, I am considering changing the front rail system to something lighter, possibly the Midwest Industries rail handguard, or modding it to accept standard wood, and utilizing the very nice Timbersmith US made wood handguards.
I am pleased with the work, and I haven't second guessed the permanent modification to the rear trunnion.
I will be looking into having someone thread the barrel and adding the Venom Antidote muzzle brake which is available from the great guys over at Rifle Dynamics.
After all that is finished, time for the CeraKote.
Time and Money, the two things that stand in the way of perfection.

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