Going Custom and lessons learned!

Gents, one of the best things I ever did in regards to the AK is when I sent mine in to get custom work done.  I have always been fascinated with AK’s.  The way they look, operate, fire, the controls, the odd Russian calibers.  Everything about it fascinated me.  However, I always wanted to do to tweak it here and there and set it up to my needs.  Well a few years ago I noticed Travis Haley’s AK that he used in his Adaptive Kalashnikov dvd,(excellent video from Panteo Productions) and I noticed that something was peculiar looking about his gas block.  I really liked his whole setup and was extremely intrigued by the gas block and the fact that he had a surefire muzzle brake on the end of his AK74.  I immediately did my research and discovered that Rifle Dynamics in Las Vegas

Image courtesy of Rifle Dynamics

Image courtesy of Rifle Dynamics

was producing extremely impressive AK’s under the helm of Jim Fuller. After researching more about the custom mods that could be done to AK’s I decided I was going to do it and build my own spec’d exactly how I wanted my AK setup…in short it would be my dream AK.  After assembling my dream list of parts and mods that would surely make even Mikhail Kalashnikov bow to my awesome rifle I started looking for people to do the work.  Initially, I wanted to go with Rifle Dynamics because their production RD500 and 700 series rifles pretty much was exactly what I was looking for anyways but was not enthused about the estimated year turnaround time.  With me not being patient enough to wait that long I gave up on my dream AK and decided it was not meant to be and went back to my AR-15s.  Fast forward to a about 6 months ago and I was having work done on my knights armament SR-15 and out of curiosity asked my friend if he could do some work on AK’s.  He asked what and I told him what I wanted and he said he couldn’t but he would put me in touch with Chase Sisgold of Definitive Arms and see what he could do for me.  I talked to Chase and I told him what I wanted and he said everything was doable.  I was kind of shocked and wasn’t sure if I wanted to send my rifle to these guys because I hadn’t heard much if anything about Definitive Arms but after much conversations between us I decided to take a leap of faith and told him it would take me a while to assemble everything but once I did I would send in my gun to get the definitive arms treatment. With my dream AK a possibility again I became as giddy as a teenage school girl at a Justin Bieber concert and started buying up everything to make this happen.

Image courtesy of Definitive Arms

Image courtesy of Definitive Arms

The first thing I decided I need to pick up was the actual gun. Always a good place to start and I picked up an SGL31 off of gunbroker.  I had owned a Arsenal SGL31 a few years before and was extremely impressed by the rifle and to boot it came straight from the Izmash factory in Russia.  Ecstatic over the fact of owning an authentic Russian AK I scooped it up at a reasonable price and decided to go with the 5.45 caliber over the 7.62 for several reasons.  Firstly and most importantly is cost.  The fact that ammo prices have soared following Sandy Hook really set back my shooting time as Im sure most of you did as well.  The comm bloc 5.45×39 ammo can still be had for under $200 in spam cans of 1,080 rounds and is perfect for guys who are high volume shooters and don’t want to go broke from shooting.  My next deciding factor was the fact that 5.45 is ballistically similar to 5.56 and as such allows me to utilize 5.56 muzzle brakes which I will talk about later.  I am fairly confident with 5.45 and the fact that it is a very flat shooting round helped influence my caliber decision whereas 7.62×39 has some serious drop after 300 meters. Now that I had rifle in hand and caliber decided I figured I need to set about getting my accessories for my gun.

Starting with the butt stock I elected to go with an authentic Russian side folding triangular paratrooper stock.  Mostly for the stock I just wanted to be able to fold it and thats it. In hindsight if I could do it again I probably would elect to go with an AR stock adapter so I could run a Magpul CTR stock with a riser but that’s another story.  With the stock out of the way I wanted to improve the safety.  Stock AK safeties for me are bothersome to manipulate and I don’t like the fact that I had to roll my hand slightly off fire control to manipulate it on and off and just wanted to be able to manipulate it with my trigger finger.  Luckily for me Mark Krebs at Krebs Custom Guns makes just such a safety so that was a no brainer and is by far one of the best enhancements you can add to your AK to increase your speed and handling.  Moving on to the pistol grip I elected to go with a US Palm AK battle grip.

AK Battle Grip from US Palm

AK Battle Grip from US Palm

  The factory pistol grip on AK’s is to small for my meaty hands and leaves a lot to be desired so the addition of the US palm grip is a game changer and is much more comfortable option and also puts your trigger finger in a better, more inline position with the trigger.  Not wanting to leave anything untouched on my quest for the ultimate AK, I decided to go with a Tapco G2 trigger.  While to some this trigger may be to light and for duty use I would say they are right but for me this trigger really helps me get awesome accuracy out of the gun as well as allows me to shoot faster when needed.  Moving on from the trigger I decided I would just run my AK with an Ultimak rail.  This rail is essentially machined into a gas tube and is a one for one replacement with the gas tube that comes on the rifle. I love the Ultimak rail for its simplicity and durability; you can usually pick up these rails for around $100. The only down side to Ultimaks is that the optic sitting on that rail absorbs a lot of heat off the rifle and there is the potential to fry your optic depending on how hard your running your gun so just be aware.  For the hand guards I decided to leave alone to save on weight and it really wasn’t necessary for me to replace as my optic and light could be ran off the Ultimak rail anyway, however with that being said I would definitely go with some type of rail replacement for the hand guard because after extended strings of fire the hand guard becomes too hot to touch even with gloves sometimes so just be aware. For the gas block I picked up a venom tactical gas block which allows the barrel to be shortened on most AKs. This gas block from Venom Tactical is really a game changer and just plain sexy when compared to a factory gas block.  Rounding out the gun after much thought I had a battlecomp 1.0 installed.  The battlecomp 1.0 is one of the best compensators for AR platform rifles and with the venom tactical gas block installed and the fact that I was having my barrel chopped from 16.25″ to 14.7″ the battlecomp was the way to go for me.  The battlecomp 1.0 makes the gun extremely smooth shooting a very light recoiling.  I can’t stress enough about how awesome the battlecomp 1.0 made my rifle shoot but I will get to that.  With all these parts finally assembled I packed everything up and sent them to Chase at Definitive Arms and then I began the hardest part of the whole project… I had to wait.

Battlecomp muzzle brake

Battlecomp muzzle brake

Not two weeks later after I had sent my AK off it was back on my doorstep courtesy of the UPS man.  I grabbed the box and opened it eager with anticipation.  When I pulled my rifle out I was blown away.  Chase had nailed it.  Everything was perfect.  Chase not only did one of the best pins and weld jobs on a gun I have ever seen but he also polished up my trigger without even being asked.  Everything was perfectly installed and had done it for an extremely reasonable price.  In fact a lot of things he did he didn’t even charge me for such as installing the rails, stock, and polishing the trigger to name a few.  The work was so good in fact that I felt guilty about what he had charged me and felt like I should send him more because the rifle was perfect! With my AK in hand I quickly grabbed a can of 5.45 and 6 Bulgarian made AK74 mags, slapped on my Aimpoint micro and headed to the range to see how it would shoot.  Now, I will admit I was a bit worried about having my barrel chopped.  Well… I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve ever had done to my AK.  I know it doesn’t seem like much going from 16″ to a 14.7″ barrel but let me tell you the handling of the AK increases so much more when it’s done.  It also makes the gun much lighter and is much more maneuverable.  Some of you may be wondering why I had him chop the barrel to 14.7″ and the answer is that any barrel under 16″ is considered a class 3 weapon and requires a special tax stamp and paperwork to own but if you have the barrel shorter than that with a permanently attached muzzle device and the overall length is 16″ you are ok.  So I was extremely pleased with how the AK felt but I wondered how would it cycle? Would the accuracy be affected? I nervously rocked in a 30 round mag, chambered a round, and dialed up my Aimpoint so the dot was just visible so I could zero my rifle at 50 yards.  Assuming a good field prone position I easily manipulated my Krebs safety to fire and started pulling back on my polished G2 trigger. Bang! the rifle discharged and the recoil was so soft with the battlecomp I couldn’t believe I was firing an AK.  Impressed with everything I set about printing a 3 round group so I could zero my rifle.  After adjusting so I was in the black I delivered my final 5 round group to confirm zero and then walked up to inspect my group. When I got up to my target I was stunned to see my final 5 round group had turned into one ragged hole! The combination of my 2 MOA Aimpoint micro, great barrel and excellent G2 trigger had produced a group good enough to rival virtually any AR. With the worry about my gun not being accurate out of the way I set about running my rifle hard to see if it would cycle right and how it handled… Long story short and 2500 rounds later I still haven’t had a stoppage even tho I’ve never cleaned it.  The rifle was perfect in every way and I couldn’t of been happier.

Krebs Custom Guns safety

Krebs Custom Guns safety

In closing Chase Sisgold at Definitive Arms had nailed the project and not only did everything I asked him too perfectly but also did things on the side at no cost to make the weapon better.  He is extremely knowledgeable and I can’t recommend sending your AK down to Definitive Arms enough if you want custom work done. These guys are extremely knowledgeable and know their trade inside and out. Combine all that with an excellent price and lighting fast turnaround time and you can’t go wrong with definitive arms.  In closing guys my journey to build an AK exactly how I wanted too was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever embarked on and was well worth it.  So if you’re on the sidelines about doing it I recommend going for it.  You’ll end up with an AK setup exactly how you want and that’s what it’s all about.

– Sean John

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