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Preview – Build Your Own AKM Rifle

How to Build a Custom AKM From a Polish Parts Kit

AKs are magical beasts. They come from foreign lands and are shrouded in mystery brought on by import laws and urban lore. One thing that might be unclear to the casual observer of the AK market, U.S. citizens can’t buy authentic communist AKs made in authentic communist factories.

It’s easy enough to buy an AK off the shelf, but it’s likely a mash-up of imported components that were assembled stateside with some domestically manufactured parts to make it legal. More on those laws later. Some companies are building guns with all U.S.-made parts, too. Good guns, but no commie soul.

We wanted the best performing AK intertwining our American heart with a COMBLOC soul, so we decided to cut out the middleman and build our own AK from an imported parts kit.

We linked up with Gary Hughes and Mike Pappas from Dead Air Armament. The two are partners in a side project called MOD Outfitters, an outlet for their huge fascination with imported guns. And we mean huge; Pappas has his own BMP (see page 40). Hughes just likes the AK platform for its elegance.

“The thing I like about AKs is that they are brutally simple,” says Hughes. “It’s the assault rifle concept boiled down to its essential ingredients.”
If the AR-15 is a Lego set for grownups, we guess that makes the AK something like an Erector set. Where an AR clicks, bolts, and pins together, building a reliable and accurate AK is more involved.

AKkit polishAK

An AK Is Not Just An AK
In fact, the Soviets learned this lesson the hard way. At the time Mikhail Kalashnikov was dreaming up the AK-47, he was likely looking at the German sheetmetal masterpieces, the MP40 submachine gun, the MG42, and the StG 44. The stamped-metal construction of these firearms was a departure from the milled manufacturing methods of the day.

In those stamped guns, the Soviets saw a way to equip their enormous army with easily manufactured, inexpensive, accurate, and reliable assault rifles. Turns out, the original AK-47 met only two of those four criteria and had issues with durability and accuracy.

According to Frank Iannamico in AK-47: The Grim Reaper, the Commies gave up on the newfangled stamped metal Type 1 AK receiver and replaced it with the more reliable and accurate milled-steel Type 2 and later, the Type 3 milled-steel receivers.

By the mid ’50s, the Soviets finally figured out the sheetmetal thing, perhaps with help of the captured German weapon designer Hugo Schmeisser, the Kalashnikov of the StG 44. The original AK went the way of the Apple Newton and was replaced by the iAK, otherwise known as the AKM (AK Modernized). The AKM was everything the AK-47 should have been, incorporating the accumulated features of the AK-47 platform with lighter and less expensive riveted sheetmetal construction.

The AKM assumed the AK mantle and never looked back. Soviet allies who adopted the AK retrofitted their operations and began pumping out AKMs by the hundreds-of-thousands through the ’60s and ’70s.

And that’s the abbreviated story of how Kalashnikov’s AK-47 resulted in the standard Polish AKM parts kit we have before us for our building pleasure.

What’s in the Box?
We bought a Polish AKM parts kit from Arms of America. The kits include all the parts of a surplus Polish military AKM, minus the receiver, which is crushed or torch cut during the demilling process, and barrel. In place of the original barrel, AoA provides an American-made, button-rifled barrel they’ve populated with parts from the original kit. This saves us a huge amount of time and hassle.

We picked up an AKM receiver from Childers Guns. Childers developed a following (and a wait list) by providing excellent quality receivers that mate up with Polish parts as if it were the original murdered receiver’s unbloodied identical twin found in a Polish orphanage and delivered to our doorstep. With only a couple of U.S. made parts in the mix.


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