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Merry Kalashmas! An AK-Centric Event in Texas

Todd Mission, Texas is known for its annual weeks-long Renaissance fair–so people running around in period dress is the norm.

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Abnormal is the Slav Squad. Adidas tracksuits, gold plated AKMs slung across their backs, all waiting patiently in line to check in for the day’s activities.

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AKs are not my forte–I’m much more accustomed to an AR pattern rifle, but that did not stop me from accepting an invitation to this inaugural event dubbed “Kalashmas 2018”. It is the first of many AK-centric events planned by hosts Tony Heady and Klay Owens.

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Heady owns Khyber Customs, a company specializing in aftermarket parts that improve performance, aesthetics, and ergonomics of the AK platform. Heady started the company in 2016 after being initially interested in AKs as a hobbyist and realizing there was a void of quality aftermarket accessories. His first product “The Cheese Grater” an upper handguard sold out in 24 hours. Now almost three years later Khyber Customs has over a dozen AK related parts and accessories. They have a popular line of laminate pistol grips affectionately named Mika, Vera, and Marina. They also offer a lower handguard with an integral stubby hand stop called the Shark Fin.

The design of Khyber’s products adheres to the ruggedly simple classic AK looks with updated ergos, not trying to reverse engineer an AK into an AR variant like most products out there. They even have the “Nyet! Rifle is fine!” crowd questioning their orientation.

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But this event wasn’t just about Khyber Customs, Heady invited other local vendors, manufacturers, and dealers to come out and share in the activities. He along with his tracksuited friend, Owens (klayco47 on the gram), ushered the crowd of attendees to each booth at designated times. They introduced each vendor, allowing them to display or demonstrate their wares or services to a captive audience. A few of the companies on hand were Autonomous Armory, a local Cerakote and tupperware chop shop specializing in custom coatings and frame work.

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Autonomous showcased their Malthus glock designs and top-notch rifle color schemes. Local favorite Texas Rifle Works showed up with their extensive collection of NFA toys which the attendees got a chance to shoot. One of the added attractions of Kalashmas was not only that the price of admission was only $30, but that ticket also covered an allotted amount of ammo at specific vendors. Never shot a full-auto? Texas Rifle Works was there to help check that box.

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Century Arms sent up a team from their Florida headquarters with a selection of their AKM offerings and a couple Canik pistols. I ran a few mags through an MRDS equipped TP9SFx and was pleasantly surprised with how well it handled, making easy work of a set of steel plates at 10 yards as fast as I could drive the gun. Primary Arms was on hand as well in the 50-yard live fire bay with a half dozen of their optic selections mounted on various platforms that you could try out.

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However, the true stars of the vendor expositions were Michael Whitesides and Lan Nguyen of Dissident Arms, a Houston based company specializing in custom built Molot VEPR-12 shotguns for competition. Years ago, you could show up to a 3-gun comp and troll the open class guys with your magazine-fed AK pattern shotgun and just get dirty looks. They did an outstanding job highlighting their product and reaching out about competition shooting to a crowd that typically doesn’t get a lot of attention. Whitesides even hinted at some AK-centric competition events for 2019.

Did I mention that Kalashmas was a two-day event? Day one was comprised of a AK-specific carbine course taught by Ken Allen of NEShooters. Allen traveled from the wilds of New Hampshire to share his knowledge with a sold-out class on Saturday. I sat down with Allen and discussed his training background over lunch from local Houston food truck, Bright Relish, that was catering the event. He is one of the few go-to guys for quality AK specific training in the U.S. His impressive background includes certification as a Sig Sauer Master Firearms Instructor, IALEFI Master Instructor, he is even a trained Kalashnikov systems Armor/ Builder under no other than Rifle Dynamics’ Jim Fuller. The attendees present on day two had nothing but good things to say about the previous days training and I look forward to taking a class or two from him in the future.

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After it was all over, I had a chance to talk with Heady about his plans for the future of Kalashmas and where it all started. As he began to get more and more involved in the social media aspect of his business, he came to a realization.

Texas didn’t have it’s own AK centric event, we have a huge amount of AK shooters, tons of AK related companies but nothing special. No events. That’s not how we do it in Texas. So we started the Texas AK revolution and here we are. Guys are already asking for tickets for 2019 and we just kicked off a new clothing line called Third Pin Threads.. It’s a Kalash Lifestyle brand…”

This event was just the start and I am excited to see where Heady and Owens lead their comrades to in the future.

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