Converting a Saiga rifle to an AK

Discussion in 'How to' started by mmmTang, Aug 23, 2007.

  1. mmmTang

    mmmTang Member

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    This sounds like a good topic to go in the new how-to section. This is the start of how to convert a Saiga rifle to a standard AK. I'll try to follow up on this later with pics and more of the rest of the process when my bro-in-law and I convert his to a pistol grip. I got into too much of a hurry in my conversion to take pictures as I went.

    A Saiga is a "sporterized" AK that comes with a low capacity magazine, no pistol grip, and a standard type rifle stock. For the money, Saiga's are extremely hard to beat. You can buy a 7.62x39 Saiga with a 16" barrel for around $260. Spend another $100 or more on a US made butt stock, pistol grip, and trigger group and you've got yourself a brand new Russian AK for less than the price of a shot out, crappily built WASR.

    First, read this site over and over:
    http://www.cross-conn.com/Saiga_Conversion/

    Second, check out this site for any other questions/pics:
    http://forum.saiga-12.com/

    Those two sites will answer any questions you could possibly have and give you pics to back it up.

    Legal:

    As for your rifle, modifying it so that you can use high capacity mags is actually pretty easy. The legal side of this is that the Saiga is imported to the US according to 922(r), which says that a rifle/shotgun must either be a "sporter" rifle/shotgun or it must have 10 or less foreign parts. The 7.62x39 Saiga is a "sporter" rifle that uses low cap magazines and doesn't have a pistol grip. If you change ANYTHING on the rifle from the BATF's list of regulated gun parts, then you have moved it out of the "sporter" category and the rifle must now abide by the 922(r) rules. Check out this 922(r) list for a list of the foreign parts that the BATF considers regulated parts of a firearm:
    http://www.tapco.com/section922r.aspx
    Modifications could be adding a pistol grip, adding a butt stock/pistol grip combination stock, adding a flash hider, changing the front hand guard, etc. This also includes modifying the rifle so that high capacity magazines COULD be used. So, even if you don't have any 30 round magazines in your house and you only have 5 or 10 round low cap AK magazines, if you modify your gun to be able to lock in a 30 round magazine, then you no longer have a "sporter" rifle and you must immediately modify the rest of the gun to comply with 922(r). This means that the rifle must now have at most 10 foreign made parts, including the magazine. The 7.62x39 Saiga rifles have 14 foreign parts on them because they don't come with a muzzle attachment or a pistol grip. This means that if you replace the trigger group and butt stock with US made parts, then you are now down to 10 foreign parts including the magazine, which has 3 of those parts. BUT, you must have fewer than 10 foreign parts total, so once you get down to the 10 foreign parts every foreign part that you put on the rifle means that another foreign part must be replaced with a US made part. So don't use a US butt stock and trigger group and then use a foreign pistol grip. That would put you back up to 11 foreign parts if you're using a foreign magazine, and you'd have to replace another foreign part like the gas piston or handguard. Once you modify the gun, the total must be 10 foreign parts or less regardless of the capacity of the magazine you're using. So if you just replace the butt stock and use US made 30 round magazines you'll have 10 foreign parts. BUT, if you lock the 10 round Saiga magazine in the gun, you've just violated 922(r) because the gun now has 13 foreign parts. You might even be violating 922(r) by keeping that 10 round stock magazine in the same house as the gun in that case b/c the BATF could say that having that magazine near the gun proves intent. Extremely stupid, but that's the law. I do not advocate breaking the law, and if you modify your gun to accept high capacity magazines, then you must modify the rest of the gun to comply with 922(r). I take no responsibility for your actions. However, the internet rumor is that no one has actually ever been prosecuted for a 922(r) violation, so you probably have a good chance at getting away with it. There's always the first guy to get charged with something, and if you do get charged with it, then I'm sure it's gonna be a whole hell of a lot more expensive to deal with than just converting the rifle to legal status. That's your warning. On to the fun stuff!

    Magazine:

    You'll need to install a bullet ramp and file the top of the magazine catch a little in order to use a standard AK magazine. The Saiga magazines have a thinner tab on the back of the magazine than normal AK magazines. This prevents a normal AK mag from locking into the gun because the magazine catch on the gun goes up higher than the magazine catch on a normal AK. So, you've got to grind down the top of the magazine catch a little to let the fatter tab on a normal magazine fit. Compare a Saiga mag with a normal mag and you'll see the difference quickly. The easiest way to deal with this is to take a Dremel tool with a slim abrasive bit and grind down the top of the catch ever so slightly until the magazine locks into the gun. I believe I used a chain saw sharpening bit I bought from Home Depot for $5. WELL worth that $5 and a whole lot faster than using a hand file, but a slim hand file will work too. Just go very slow with it and don't grind for more than a few seconds at a time. This will keep you from taking too much material off the catch at a time. Grind and check, grind and check, etc. until the standard magazine fits.

    Bullet Guide:
    http://forum.saiga-12.com/index.php?showtopic=13403

    Now you need to add a bullet guide/ramp. Take a look at the front of the Saiga magazine and compare it to a normal AK magazine. You'll notice there's a notch cut into the normal magazine where the tip of the bullet is. On the Saiga magazine this notch is not there and that extra material on the Saiga magazine acts as a bullet ramp. When you put a normal magazine into a Saiga the round will not feed correctly, and it will probably just slam straight into the bottom of the front trunnion. So, you have to add a bullet ramp/guide. The easiest way to do this is to buy a bullet ramp from a guy named Dinzag on the Saiga-12 forum. For $25 or less he'll ship you the ramp and a drill bit and tap if you need them. That is a great deal, and if you don't have the time or don't want to deal with it, then I highly recommend using Dinzag's parts. But, making your own bullet ramp is very easy and can be done in an hour or two with a hacksaw, a file, and some metal for the ramp. Depending on the shape of your front trunnion you'll either need a pipe nipple (either 3/4" or 1" OD, can't remember) or a piece of 1/4"x1" flat stock. I bought a 4' section of 1/4"x1" from Home Depot for $10 or so, but you're only going to need a 1/2" section. Field strip your gun and look at the front trunnion. The front trunnion is the structural piece that the barrel is pressed into, and the trunnion is riveted to the receiver. Look below the barrel at the trunnion in front of the magazine hole. If there is a 1/4" groove cut into the trunnion, then you'll need the flat stock. If the trunnion is all rounded, then you'll need the pipe. You may or may not have a bullet ramp rivet hole already in the front trunnion. My x39 Saiga had a groove cut in the trunnion and it had a rivet hole already, but my bro-in-law's Saiga that he bought 2 months before mine at the same shop has a groove in the trunnion but no rivet hole. Either way, it's not hard to do, but you have to know which kind you're dealing with first. The Russians love to mix and match parts and the Saigas are made alongside the real AKs so they'll use the same parts on both sometimes.

    For using the pipe to make a bullet guide, refer to the CrossConn conversion page. For the flat stock guide, you'll first need to measure the width of the groove in the trunnion. Cut out a piece of flat stock to this width. Now, lock in a standard magazine and measure from underneath the barrel on the trunnion to the inside of the front wall of the magazine. The tip of the bullet guide should just barely overhang the front of the magazine, if at all. That length will be the length of the bullet guide. Now you just start grinding away on the guide until it fits into the groove and has a nice slope to it on the front. The rear of the guide should slide underneath the barrel, so you'll have to grind that part down pretty far. The key point is that the bolt will rotate as it goes into battery, and a lug on the bottom of the bolt will pass over the guide. You've got to make the guide low enough that the bolt will rotate over it. If you check out Dinzag's bullet guides, you'll notice that his 7.62x39 guides aren't really sloped at all, just like the front of your Saiga magazine isn't sloped. The bullet tip sits slightly higher than the top of the bullet guide, and when the bullet hits the guide it automatically heads skyward b/c of the curvature of the bullet. So his x39 guides are like blocks and his .223 guides actually have a slope. I made mine look like his .223 guide, but this was before he had a picture of the x39 flat cut trunnion guide up. Mine has worked just fine for 500 rounds, so I think it'll be just fine, but apparently is more work than necessary. Mine took about 2 hours or so of grinding and fitting b/c I started out with an 1/8" thick piece of flat stock that ended up being too thin. I used some double sided tape to hold the guide in place as I hand cycled rounds without the recoil spring in place. When I finally got the guide to feed rounds with no contact between the bolt and the guide, I put a fresh piece of double sided tape on the bottom of the guide. I put the guide into the trunnion and pressed down hard for a few seconds. When I pulled the guide back up the tape had remained on the guide b/c the trunnion was a little oily and there was a nice hole mark in the tape where my pre-existing rivet hole was. This gave me a nice marker on the guide to make a dent with a center punch so I could drill the hole in the right place. I countersunk the top of the hole in the guide so that the 8/32 machine screw I bought would fit flush with the top of the guide. Then I used a 8/32 tap I got from Home Depot and tapped the rivet hole. It might have been 10/32, so check the rivet hole yourself. If you don't have a pre-existing rivet hole, then you just drill whatever size hole you want in the guide and the trunnion and tap the hole. #6-#10 seem to be the popular sizes. When you think you're done try cycling an entire magazine by hand as hard as you can with the recoil spring in place. If everything feeds just fine, then you can either loc-tite that screw now (like I did), or wait until you've emptied a few magazines the fun way before you loc-tite the screw. You should probably wait, but I just went ahead and did it. Worked fine for me, but I'm really glad it worked b/c loc-tite sucks to break free. Make sure you try some hollow tip rounds as well as FMJ b/c sometimes the guide needs a little tweaking for the hollow tip rounds to feed reliably.

    So, that's the very long winded version of how to add a bullet guide and file the magazine catch to a Saiga rifle. I probably write 4x the words as I should, so try not to drool on your keyboard when you fall asleep.

    Parts & tools you'll need:
    Bullet guide stock $1-$10
    or
    Bullet guide from Dinzag $22-$25
    Flat head/countersunk machine screw

    drill bit & tap $10
    drill
    Dremel chain saw sharpening bit $5
    Dremel tool
    flat file
    Hacksaw
    center punch
     
  2. budder

    budder Moderator Staff Member

    mmmTang, thank you for assimilating all this information. I had planned to exactly like you post when I decide to get around to rifles, so it's great to have all the information in one place.

    I hope you and your father are doing well.
     

  3. mmmTang

    mmmTang Member

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    It's all stuff I picked up over time, and I'm glad to help out a little. I converted mine in April and my bro-in-law and I will probably convert his later this year. When that happens I'll be supervising and taking pictures. All you really need tool-wise for the conversion is a dremel, a drill, and a couple hand tools like a flat file. I could probably do another conversion in a few hours start to finish after doing one. Just keep in mind that cutting discs with a dremel will make very short work of rivets, a drill press is better than a hand drill, and cobalt bits are a must to get through the trunnion and the spot welds.

    Dad is doing just fine. I think I might have convinced him to eventually buy his own Saiga. All I had to do was let him help with the conversion a little and then let him put a couple magazines through it. It took a lot of effort on my part, but he was sold after that! He's also beginning to see the reason for high capacity handguns after the pistol class. Revolvers are excellent backup guns, but I personally wouldn't want only 5-7 shots. So I might also have convinced him to buy a G19.
     
  4. RepeatDefender

    RepeatDefender New Member

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    Dangit, now I want a Saiga of my own to convert :(
     
  5. Cavediver

    Cavediver New Member

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    Edit: Nevermind. I found an answer to my accuracy question. :D
     
  6. budder

    budder Moderator Staff Member

    :) How was his hand after dealing with the revolver for the weekend? :lol:
     
  7. Cavediver

    Cavediver New Member

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    You talked me into it. I ordered a Saiga .223 last week, I should be able to pick it up on Wednesday.

    I also bought a case of Wolf to get started.

    If this rifle is too long for my wife to shoot, I'll have to put on new furniture and drop in a trigger from TAPCO. I'm not going to mess with the rest of the conversion process for a while, sometime after we figure out if we like long guns or not. I might invest in one or two Saiga hi-cap magazines ("just in case"), but that will also have to wait until the furniture changeover.
     
  8. M249

    M249 New Member

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    Will they work with standard AK mags? It looks like you have to do some butchering of the standard mags to make them work.
     
  9. Cavediver

    Cavediver New Member

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    My understanding is that some magazines will work with minimal modifications. You have to install a feed ramp, then file down a couple of ribs on the magazine. All in all, it doesn't look too complicated. I'm going to buy the feed ramp in a couple of weeks instead of making my own. An hour or two of drilling, tapping and filing should get me where I need to go. Changing out the stock is still first on the list.

    You know, it sucks when you get a new toy and can't go play with it for several days. :cry:
     
  10. Cavediver

    Cavediver New Member

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    My Saiga .223 update:

    I bought Tapco furniture set, a new trigger group and a feed ramp. This weekend I was able to get the new stock, trigger, and pistol grip installed. It took a couple of hours, going slow with the grinding and cutting. All in all not as difficult as I thought, but it is a little disconcerting when you start working on a brand new rifle with a file and a drill press...

    During the conversion process, I also took the time to smooth out the new trigger and the bottom of the bolt carrier with a couple of "slip" style sharpening stones. The new trigger pull was fairly smooth and light as it arrived from the manufacturer, now it's even better :D

    I'm still waiting on delivery of the feed ramp. In the meantime I've purchased 6 Galil .223 magazines and I've modified them to fit.

    All in all, I'll have about $450 invested in the rifle, plus another $150-200 for extra magazines.

    As well as this thing seems to shoot, I'm seriously considering another one (mine alone instead of sharing with my wife :D ).
     
  11. BlenderWizard

    BlenderWizard New Member

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    Put in a bullet guide and do some minor filing to the Saiga mag catch, and a standard AK mag works just fine.

    forum.saiga-12.com has all the answers you will ever need for saiga related questions
     
  12. Saiga-12

    Saiga-12 New Member

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    Do it! It's a load of fun and was easy enough that even I did it right (12g version).

    :)