A couple of months ago I wrote an article telling about how a Russian guy converted his Vepr 308 hunting rifle into a tactical one using mostly homemade parts and modifications. Recently, the same man (Andrey) came up with another DIY project. He made a non-reciprocating forward charging handle for a Saiga-9 semi-auto 9mm carbine.
Andrey started this project because the original charging handle on his Saiga-9 broke. Reportedly, the first batches of these rifles have an issue of brittle charging handles. Sending the gun to the factory was a troublesome and expensive process and he decided to make a new forward charging handle.
Before explaining how this DIY system works, let me remind you that this is a blowback operated firearm. The AK gas block on this gun is simply there to retain the gas tube which in its turn is just a cover for the bolt extension.
Andrey started with cutting a charging handle slot in the gas tube and gas tube cover. Then he took a metal bar which would become the shaft of the charging handle system running in the gas tube. He cut a slot into the bar to fit a charging handle from a semi-auto shotgun. Then he installed a spring-loaded plunger in the metal bar which would apply pressure to the charging handle and retain it. The plunger is designed to reliably retain the charging handle, however, if you pull the handle with some extra force, it will come out allowing to disassemble the system.
Initially, the shaft was completely cylindrical fitting the front dented portion of the AK gas tube. However, when moving to the wider rear portion of the gas tube, the smaller diameter rod would bend and malfunction. That’s why he came up with a new shaft design with the star-shaped end which fits the dented portion of the gas tube and works as a guide once the charging handle assembly is in the wider rear part. This way the mechanism is always aligned and in-line with the gas tube axis. Because the bolt reciprocates behind this assembly, the charging handle remains still during the cycling of the action.
The designer was also planning to cut an H&K MP5 style L-shaped notch in the charging handle slot to be able to lock the bolt back, but later he changed his mind because it wouldn’t work with the red dot sight mounted on the gas tube.
The YouTube video (in Russian) where this charging handle was shown is embedded below.