Book Review: Build Your Own AK, Vols. I & II, by Montag and Nicoroshi

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To the first-time AK builder, the task in front of him or her can seen daunting, or even impossible. Unlike AR-15s that easily go together virtually like a LEGO set, the Kalashnikov rifle requires a bit more effort – and more expensive tools – to put together. There are some resources available online to aid a new AK builder, but another option is Build Your Own AK, Volumes I and II, by Montag and Nicoroshi.

The first volume covers populating a virgin barrel with all the hardware needed to create a complete AK front end, while the second, larger volume covers assembling the rifle from a parts kit. Both volumes are very thorough, going beyond step-by-step instruction to cover potential problems, fixes for those problems, and the “hows and whys” of building an AK. Instead of simply telling the reader to press the barrel into the trunnion, Montag and Nicoroshi spend five whole pages explaining everything about the process, from what kind of press is best, to what kind of grease to use on the barrel journal, to how fast to pump the press handle. Below is a sample from the first volume illustrating this level of detail (it is in two page format and should be enlarged for reading):


If I had embarked to write a how-to guide on building AKs, I would naturally start by building an AK step-by-step and recording the process. Montag and Nicoroshi have done this, but their text goes further than that, addressing issues that would be brought up during a building course with new students who have no idea what they are doing. Whether the authors actually based the books on experience teaching students to build AKs or not I don’t know, but the text is full of answers to questions you wouldn’t know to ask without actually trying to build a rifle yourself.

Almost every page of Build Your Own AK has black-and-white photos to help illustrate how to set up and perform each process, and while some are lower quality than I expected, they all are definitely good enough quality for the purpose. More importantly, each photo shows the view as the builder would see it, with well-chosen angles to give a good idea of what to look for during each process.

One section of the Build Your Own AK books that definitely deserves mention is their appendices. Together, they come with 18 pages of appendices full of links to other web pages and resources where readers can learn even more about AK building, buy the parts they need, or learn other skills like wood and metal refinishing. In the electronic versions, all of the included addresses are hyperlinked for convenience, as well. After the appendices are also blank, lined pages for the owner to scribble their own helpful notes right into the book itself!

Short of taking a rifle building course, Build Your Own AK, Volumes I & II are the best resources currently available for the AK homebuilder. It can be purchased in paperback or a variety of digital formats (including ePub and iBooks, as well as Kindle) from the Build Your Own AK website, or through Amazon (Vol. I here, II here). At $14.99 and $18.99, respectively, the two volumes are affordable insurance for the new AK builder.

EDIT: I should have added in the original text that this guide walks you through building off an 80% receiver flat, as well as a complete receiver ready for assembly. Thanks to NukeDoc for pointing this out.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • As someone who lives in a country where Kalashnikovs are prohibited: I want to buy this book so bad.

    • Rock or Something

      In a country where Kalish’s are banned? Get a vz. 58! 😉

  • iksnilol

    I’ll admit, I want these books.

  • NukeDoc

    Do these books cater to folks starting with an “80%” AK flat? Or do they assume you have a full receiver all bent, welded, and riveted ready for assembly?

  • Patriot Gunner

    Good stuff Nathan. There is definitely old world “craftsmanship” involved with building an AK. When you see an AK built from a flat to a functioning gun is when you truly appreciate the genius Eugene Stoner was and how much better the AR is as an instrument of war for armies of a nation from a manufacturing and logistical standpoint. Which is why the AK, as great as it is, will never usurp the AR as America’s best selling rifle. Economies of scale + automation > labor intensive + hand fitted.

  • BrandonAKsALot

    I watched their videos over and over while I was learning on my first few builds.

  • capybara

    Nicoroshi is one of our talented AK builders over on Calguns,net. He has helped many, many students build AKs from scratch, before the ATF cracked down on letting people do that any more. No more AK build parties, sniff. They used to be fun.

    • Cymond

      I can understand why the ATF objected to something like 80% CNC build parties where the student just put the lower into a fixture and pressed start. However, shutting siren actual classes b is wrong.

      I wonder if build classes could resume if they only used complete receivers instead of 80% flats. After all, no gun is being manufactured, just parts installed into a receiver.