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.