Kalashnikov enthusiasts and parts kid builders in the United States have long known about the “sterilized” East German (GDR/DDR-German Democratic Republic/Deutschland Demokratische Republik) MPi-KM kits coming in from the Balkan states. These kits have been imported into the United States for a number of years, sometimes diminishing or increasing in supply so they certainly aren’t rare or unavailable by any means. However, compared to more common kit builds with non-sanitized factory markings, these ones are harder to come by and usually aren’t advertised much. The issue of not having serialized components as per ATF doesn’t exist because to the ATF these are nothing but pieces of metal. The serialized component is when the actual receiver is produced and is turned into a firearm by incorporating the parts kits, thus manufacturing one.
Specifically, what is common to all these MPi-KMs is that they have their serial numbers dremel-ed out on both the trunnion and the bolt heads. Usually, the work is somewhat rough, and it was obviously done with a hand dremel. However, the DDR factory markings are still present, both on the inside of the trunnion and on the bolt head. The examples TFB photographed are from the Apex Gun parts warehouse facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado (of which they were so kind to give TFB a personal tour of), from a recent shipment of MPi-KM parts kits from a surplus dealer in the Balkan states. You can purchase the entire kit for $499 on their website.
Notice the factory markings left that would have been underneath the rear sight block.
Also, you can see a promotional video that Apex recently put together, taking a look at these same kits-
The question we want to answer about this sterilization is why? The break up of Yugoslavia and ensuing conflict, very similar to today’s conflict in Syria saw an enormous diversity in the trade and manufacture of small arms, going in and going out of the conflict zones as all the various armed groups tried to get ahold of weapons to arm themselves with. Sterilization almost entirely is done to allow plausible deniability to the presence of a country’s small arms in another location. China in particular made entire batches of small arms with dedicated markings such as M21 on SKS’s, complete with actual serial numbers. These were fed into Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos during the Vietnam War. This is a photograph I took of while in Burma of one such example-
What I don’t understand with these MPi-KMs is that the factory markings were left on the bolt head. If whoever did this want to prevent DDR affiliation, then they missed a critical part of the process! if the markings were dremel-ed off the bolt head but not the trunnion, I could understand because the trunnion wouldn’t have been able to be disassembled. In addition, the fact that the (former) original rifles depicted here were almost brand new adds another element to the mystery.
By the way, if you really want to be confused, try following the chain of events that affected the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. You’ll be more confused than a butcher in a SPCA kennel.