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Saiga To AK-47 Conversion:

The AK-47 rifle is probably the most recognizable rifle on the planet. Everyone has heard the name Kalashnikov. However due to import regulations, your only way to get a rifle with a new Russian manufactured AK receiver, Barrel & Bolt is to buy a Saiga rifle:

Saiga to AK-47 Conversion

Doesn't look much like an AK-47 does it? Due to import regulations it can't have items like a pistol grip, high capacity magazine, bayonet lug or a bunch of other features and still be legal to import, so the above is what you get. As imported, the trigger is heavy and numb (because it is in the wrong place, it should be up against the magazine), and the extra length of the Monte Carlo style stock pushes the weight too far forward.

However providing you comply with certain laws, including what is commonly referred to as 922(r), it is legal to assemble it into a new rifle. 922(r) specifics and implications are discussed at length on numerous other web sites, so we won't go into detail here, but the bottom line is we can keep up to 10 imported 'compliance parts' like the receiver, bolt and barrel, and everything else has to be of U.S. Manufacture.

If you look on our Facebook Page you'll see a bunch of different conversions we have done, however we have chosen to document this particular one because it is one of the most comprehensive, and we are trying to keep as true to the original AK-47 as we can.

In this build we are going to do the following:

  • Install wooden furniture
  • Move the trigger group forward to where it is supposed to be
  • Install bullet guide and modify the magwell to work with imported magazines
  • Thread the barrel and install a slant break, install new Front Sight and Gas Block
  • Refinish the rifle
  • Ensure it is fully 922(r) compliant.

New Parts:

The picture below shows the parts we are going to install on this particular Saiga rifle:

Saiga to AK-47 Conversion

The furniture set is a Birch Laminate from Ironwood Designs with their Russian Red finish. The rest of the parts are a mix of new and surplus parts.

An important note here is 922(r) compliance: If you are not familiar with 922(r), you should get familiar with it before undertaking a Saiga conversion to ensure you stay legal. A Saiga rifle as imported has 14 imported parts per 922(r). We are adding 2 more parts in this build that impact our calculation, a pistol grip and a muzzle attachment, making a total of 16 parts that we need to be concerned with. To be compliant, 10 or less of these parts can be imported - in our case we are using 7 US made parts (Muzzle Attachment, Pistol Grip, Buttstock, Forearm, Trigger, Hammer & Disconnector), leaving only 9 imported parts per 922(r).

Step 1: Strip the Rifle

Start of doing a basic field strip of the rifle. A flat bladed screw driver is required to remove the buttstock (3 screws) and forearm (1 screw):

Saiga to AK-47 Conversion

In this particular build, we can discard the forearm, gas tube and buttstock. In more basic conversions, the gas tube and forearm are reused.

The trigger on an AK pattern rifle belongs just behind the mag-well (pivoting on one of the pins indicated by a green arrow below). To eliminate the pistol grip and move the trigger back, imported Saigas have one of the most convoluted fire control groups you will find anywhere, which pivots on 4 different pins. In the picture below, the two pins indicated with red arrows need to be carefully drilled then pushed out, without damaging the receiver (note, these spin freely, making drilling even more fun). Once these pins are out, and an internal spring is removed, the pins indicated by the green arrows will easily push out.

Saiga to AK-47 Conversion

As you remove the 4 pins, the mess below will fall out (some parts possibly at high speed due to the springs). It's easy to see why the Saiga's stock trigger feels so awful - the trigger rotates about the rearmost pin, which moves a rocker on the second pin, which operates the final part of the trigger mechanism/disconnector on the third pin, with the hammer on the 4th and final pin:

Saiga to AK-47 Conversion

The parts on the left are the parts we'll use later. The parts on the right aren't used. Note we've further disassembled the disconnector - the G2 trigger doesn't come with a disconnector spring, so we reuse the one we take out.

Next we are going to remove the trigger guard and a cover plate on the bottom of the receiver. The three red arrows in the picture below are the rivets holding the plate/trigger guard in place, these need to be ground or drilled out. The trigger guard is also spot-welded to the plate (green arrow). Since we are going to reuse the trigger guard, we have to deal with the spot weld also.

Saiga to AK-47 Conversion

The rivets are soft and come out easy. Once removed the plate and trigger guard come off, revealing:

  • Pre-cut trigger hole for a single hook trigger
  • Pre-cut pistol grip nut hole (we have had Saiga's, specifically Saiga 12's, where this hole is missing and has to be cut).
  • Rust. Yes, rust. If you have an unconverted Saiga rifle, the bottom of your receiver is rusting. Without exception, every single receiver we've converted has been like this, even brand new ones like the one pictured here.

Saiga to AK-47 Conversion

Next we have to separate the trigger guard from the plate, which is now only held in place by a spot weld. Trying to drill through the spot weld can get expensive in drill bits, best way is to grind it off from the back.

Saiga to AK-47 Conversion

On the left side of the picture above, you'll notice there are two holes and the furthest left hole is stepped slightly lower. Before we reinstall we will cut off this lower step, leaving just one hole.

If you are just doing a basic conversion, we can stop stripping the rifle here. However on this conversion, we are going to convert the front end as well, so there is more work to be done.

Next: Stripping The Barrel

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