Sometimes when you start a gun project, you just have a vision of where you want to wind up at the end of your journey. Maybe it is performance related – a half-MOA precision rifle set up; or an aesthetic ideal – a Vietnam-era CAR-15 clone. For me, this vision came to life in Afghanistan in 2013. In my off time, I began looking at AK-pattern short-barreled rifles and saved the ones I liked to an Imgur Gallery. The project actually began when J&G Sales had the Zastava M92 PAP Pistol on sale for $399 and my wife purchased one for me as my birthday/Christmas/deployment gift. When I got back from deployment it was waiting for me at the local gun store. After picking it up, I immediately put on a Magpul AK grip and got several Magpul AK mags – I’d grown to love those two specific products on previous builds and knew they were solid in addition to counting towards 922r compliance once I began the process to convert the pistol into a rifle.
From there, I knew I wanted to turn the pistol into a rifle with an eye for SBRing it down the road. To that end, I searched and searched until I settled on a Manticore Arms MA-5100 Triangle Stock with a Stormwerkz Sidefolder Mechanism (SFM). I chose those components for ease of installation and because every review stated they were beefy and well-built. When I returned from deployment and received the parts, I had a machinist friend drill and tap the back of the receiver, and I installed the stock and SFM without incident. One thing I didn’t like about the configuration was the bit of eyesore the SFM added to the otherwise clean lines of the gun. Manticore Arms designed their stock to be used with the Stormwerkz hinge and took into account the added length to give the installed product the same 12.25″ length of pull (LOP) of the traditional Russian or Bulgarian Sidefolder stock. The Manticore Arms stock was as substantial as all of the reviews I had read – the stock was rock solid, and I thought I could have easily used it as a makeshift pull-up bar. The added weight at the end helped to balance out the rear end of the weapon.
In order to stay in compliance with NFA laws I had a USMachinegun.com 6.5″ long Fake Suppressor barrel extension pinned and blind welded to the end of the barrel before installing the stock, bringing the total barrel length to over 16″. The project at this point looked like so:
From this point I considered the handguards and mentally ran through various options, including an Ultimak Rail and Ronin’s M92 Polymer Handguards. Normally the decision would be clear cut towards an Ultimak rail if I intended to mount a red dot up front; however, I disliked the time consuming process of mounting and removing the rail for cleaning purposes. I had previously experimented with AK quadrails and knew they were a pain in the ass when dealing with corrosive ammo and cleaning the gas tube. I was leaning towards the Ronin’s grips when I stumbled across a post from Combloc Customs on AR15.com’s Equipment Exchange looking to trade some firearm parts for refinishing work. I had quite a bit of extra gear lying around, so I worked out a trade and discussed with him the possibility of refinishing wood handguards in a dark brown/black/smoky color. I’m not a wood working guy, so I described my idea as best I could to John and trusted him to produce a good product. When I got the hand guards back I was blown away – the hand guard color was exactly what I had in mind! The hand guards settled, I moved on to the next issue: optics.
I now turned to the prospect of mounting an optic on my newly minted rifle. The one problem with converting an AK pistol to an AK rifle is that your new rifle has pistol sights installed. The sights that came stock on the M92 PAP were 3-dot style pistol sights and a laughably optimistic 400yd rear site. The sight radius was also extremely short by rifle standards, especially with the 10,25″ barrel I was working with.
Being a pistol, the M92 PAP did not come with a side rail installed, so I could not utilize an optic mount like an RS Regulate mount. I had decided that I wanted to utilize an Aimpoint T1 for my optic because this would be a gun set up for short distance engagements. In the past, I’ve used the Attero Arms mount as a way to mount a red dot by replacing the rear sight, but this was not possible because of the unique dust cover rear sight employed by the M92 PAP pistol. I searched for other options for mounting a red dot and the options were few and far between. I could opt for an Ultimak Rail to mount my red dot, but that was $100+ and it would make my AK even more front heavy then it already was… plus, I didn’t like the aesthetic – the most important of ideals after function. I looked at the Stormwerkz Scope Mount Rail designed to be mounted just forward of the rear sight, but I disliked the lack of cowitness provided after you mounted an Aimpoint T1 on top of that. I eventually decided that none of the existing solutions for mounting a red dot on an M92 PAP would meet my needs… so I set out to make my own.
I didn’t want to recreate the wheel with my design, so I sought out a pre-existing mount that I could modify to mount to my AK. I knew I wanted to use an Aimpoint T1 for their small form factor and rugged reliability, so I began cruising AR15.com’s Equipment Exchange for a cheap mount I could modify. I eventually stumbled across a Midwest Industries AK Mini-dot Mount for Aimpoint T-1s that was slightly broken for $35. It also just happened to come apart into two pieces due to the design.
I took the useful half and asked a local machinist friend to drill and tap my M92 PAP’s dust cover in the hole pattern of the Stormwerkz Scope Mount Rail mentioned earlier; this way I preserved my ability to retrofit it with an industry standard mount if I ever sold it or wanted to mount a different optic. Within a few days I received the finished product:
At this point in my project, my machinist offered to trade my Manticore Arms stock with Stormwerkz SFM for his Russian triangle stock kit. The trade worked out to be about $150 in my favor, but the installation of the Russian sidefolder would run between $300-$400 after shipping, gunsmithing and refinishing fees – plus a wait time for a competent AK-smith, which are few and far between. I decided to go for the trade because deep down, I knew that I really wanted that Russian stock installed even if it would take a while to get it installed. I tried to utilize a locally recommended AK-guy to install the stock but he wound up half disassembling my PAP and then leaving it to rust and waiting for 3 months before I finally forced him to return it. The project moved to the back burner as I got orders to a new duty station and then began workups for my next deployment…
Right before I left for my most recent deployment, I found out one of the Marines in my platoon had a stepdad who was a gunsmith who specialized in the AK platform. Although initially skeptical as I had been burned once in the past, I sent my AK to be worked on right before I deployed. While I was in the Middle East, I received a stream of photos showing my AK being disassembled and rebuilt from the ground up. Besides my wife and daughter, it was the biggest motivation for my time deployed. I’ll repost some of the pictures below:
After receiving the rifle back after deployment, I was beyond pleased. I finally had the AK setup I had been dreaming of for over two long years. Now I just needed to finish installing my custom AK mount. My first problem was trying to located flush panhead screws that would not scrap the bolt during operation. The screws included with one of my Larue mounts and the MI mount proved to be a little too tall. Some googling turned up MetricScrews.US, a site that carried the M3x4mm panhead screws I needed, as well as some 6-32 screws to mount my rail to the dust cover. I had to order an assortment to ensure I had the right screws for the job, but in the end it paid off. I used some Loctite Blue 242 to help secure the screws to the Aimpoint as well as the mount to the rail, and I was set.
The final product met both my practical and aesthetic ideals for a CQB weapon. The Aimpoint T-1 provided awesome cowitness and held zero in testing. It also looked really good, which is 50% of most gun builds in my opinion! At the range, the results weren’t shabby from the limited testing I’ve been able to do since I got back:
I’d like to continue to shoot it and see how the mount holds up. My only concern now is messing up the beautiful wood grips, and to that end I’ll look into getting a pair of Ronin’s hand guards. I would also like to explore fabricating a non-destructive weapon light mount, so I can mount either a Streamlight TLR-1 or an Inforce WML. The biggest thing I am looking forward to now will be putting more rounds down range!
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.