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Extended 2 year AK Testing
Disassembly tips on AKs
Sig 556R 7.62x39 overview and testing
First Sig 556R 7.62x39 tested was version with railed handguard, shown with a Leupold 1-4x VXI.
Red dot sight (Chinese copy of an Aimpoint H1/T1) that they come shipped with - is not exciting.
Good scope setup? A compact Leupold in QRW rings is a quality cost-effective solution (~$300).
Folding sights must be lower height such as Troy Micro Sights to accommodate lower cheekweld.
All 556Rs (and the .223/5.56 models) have ambi safeties and reciprocating charging handles.
Thankfully, charging handle a good distance away from thumb of right hand when it is a support hand.
Immediate note about this version of 556R: very heavy versus the standard plastic handguard version.
And, 556Rs will not accept all AK mag varieties. They come with 1 Tapco mag, and steel mags work.
Varieties of AK mags including excellent US Palm mags will not lock into 556R. Steel mags still the best.
Also, the otherwise awesome Bulgarian 'Circle10' mags have not been locking into the two test 556Rs.
Front and rear catch contour/dimension due to epoxy-like paint and/or plastic layer causes inconsistencies
with 556R's more precise-dimensioned magwell opening; thus very few Circle10 mags locked into place
with any normal effort. Magazines that had difficulties did not give any hard time with eight other AKs.
Modifying two mags yielded slight improvement to insertion effort but I wouldn't want to modify mags
or be concerned about the 'what if I had to grab this or that mag in an emergency and oh no! it don't fit!'
No one should have to press the latch to insert and lock magazine into place to load the rifle, but
that's what had to be done with 9 out of 14 Circle10 mags in this test. Only 5 worked "normally".
Regardless, the Sig 556R rifle has solid shooting capability and as always, just be aware of your
chosen rifle's abilities or quirks. Obviously, magazines for semiautos are a very important concern.
First stages of testing include optic use (low magnification like compact 3x ACOGs and 1-4x Leupolds)
and quickly remind us that proper cheekweld and thus better hits will require correct height optic mounts.
Sept 30, 2012: The railed handguard 556R brought out to range, straight out of this Sig's cardboard box
without pre-cleaning or lube of internals, 150+ steel cased rounds fired by 10 shooters, zero malfunctions.
Horrible fails of early release 556Rs had been corrected it seems, and now confidence in rifle is possible.
This initial firing began rifle's 'break-in period' and noted left-and-right use and shouldering ergonomics.
Close-range 15 yard group consistency was as expected; punching cloverleaf groups with Leupold at 2x.
These steel index tabs for railed aluminum handguard got very hot firing a constant 20~30 rounds and
naturally, transfer heat across the entire handguard. Before many quickly state the solution is to install
vertical/angled grips, don't forget intrinsic facts of mag arc requirements of insertion or extraction and
expect that fighting situations will require different holds of rifle forend in uncommon firing positions.
Magazine's forward catch location is a steel insert within an aluminum lower receiver.
Various countries' steel AK mags and Sig's one issued Tapco mag worked flawlessly.
Oct 7, 2012: Tests continue with the railed handguard Sig 556R at 100 yards on paper utilizing
Burris 3-9x40 BallistiPlex scope in Larue SPR mount. Remington 7.62x39 FMJ was amazing.
'Can't-complain low-priced' Tula and Golden Tiger didn't shoot near as consistent as expected.
How S&B's soft point load dispersed crazily is shocking. Could it be related to bullet diameter
for particular loads versus the inside diameter of bore? This is why most American manufacture
7.62x39 bullets miked at .308 diameter printed better out of Ruger Mini Thirty rifles with .308
bore diameters versus running foreign ammo that miked at .310 diameter. 556R has .310 bore.
That should eliminate questions about bullet outer versus bore inside diameter, and focus on powder type/
loading consistencies. Groups fired for score or testing just need to be done on best days and conditions.
Hits on distant 450 yard steel (thru-scope image down below) was good using Burris Ballisticplex reticle.
Oct 14, 2012: Testing continued with a second 556R that had a standard plastic handguard.
Similar results with previous manufacturer's ammo; even more was tried as 'off-the-shelf test'
continued in the thought process of 'what if you had to grab one of these right now and use it'.
This rifle also had no oiling or pre-firing cleaning done to it. This kind of testing is solid realism.
100 yards: after adjustment from first shot at arrow, Hornady SST 7.62x39 was rather good. Winchester was
dismal in the upper half of aiming circle. Combined result of budget Golden Tiger and Tula was as expected.
View thru Burris scope with Ballisticplex reticle. Their webpage: http://www.burrisoptics.com/reticles.html
450 yard distant steel rectangular plate in shadow and partially obscured in lower thick vertical crosshair
is already tough to hit even with a quality Arsenal AK fitted with Texas Weapons top cover and scope -
but either Sig 556R (standard plastic or railed handguard version) had more frequent hit results on steel.
7.62x39mm drops severely after 300 yards; hitting requires consistent ammo and careful trigger control.
Protective factory finishes on your defensive handgun
A common question especially in tropical climates: "in the worst conditions; which finish holds up the best?"
Melonite (Springfield XD, Smith & Wesson M&P) has been claimed to be a good finish but it took some years
before becoming a better finish. Early XDs (2002) and M&Ps (2005) that claimed Melonite finish still rusted.
From what has been seen with past inventory, if not kept oiled, just one handling session could cause rust.
With consumer's guns - if circumstances led to not being able to oil and maintain firearms, it will be apparent.
Many claim "my gun don't rust" - try a mild 'natural disaster' test and they often will. Sig's Nitron finish rusts.
[Nitron finish is the black color over their matte stainless slide. I still don't have an answer from Sig why the natural
stainless versions of Sig P220s, P226s, P229s cost more than the pistols that have Nitron applied over SS. -link-]
Melonite variations 2009/2010 (as on current S&W SD9) seem to be vastly improved from the early versions.
Glock's Tennifer treatment (unchanged from 1983) still has the longest proven track record in adverse conditions.
HK's Hostile Environment finish (1993) also has a long-running successful track record in corrosion resistance.
Contrary to what many articles claim, matte or bead blasted stainless for various firearms is the worst,
as brown of rust is more visible and freckling is bound to happen - those who use guns hard will see it.
Since I utilize a large number of handguns for teaching and personal use; if it can rust, I get it refinished with
special rust-resistant coatings. Operating a shop & teaching each week with many (20+) class guns requires it.
Rain. Salt rain. Seen here on many class guns, water all over and inside the handguns. If not protected; yikes!
How many would even think of letting their guns get rained on? This is why HK's Hostile Environment finish
and Glock's Tennifer are hands down the best in the industry. Why don't more companies follow their lead?
Slowly, other manufacturers are releasing guns that have coatings to resist some of the rusting possibilities.
Melonite finishes just may prove itself over the next few years. Good track record still requires years of proof.
Guns in use: Foreground: HK P2000 with their HE finish. Background: Sig P228 with Robar's NP3 finish.
HK and Glock finishes are factory standard! Robar's NP3 is satin gray nickel-teflon; I'd say well worth the cost.
20+ guns in this picture; 40+ different class guns are possible for a handgun class.
If it doesn't come with a good enough factory rust-resistant finish, or have a worthy aftermarket finish
already on the gun, I send the firearm(s) out ASAP after "break-in" to get protective coatings applied.
It is a great relief when having to deal with bad weather, constant usage situations, and cleaning/maintenance.
Silhouette Range not crowded at all... due to lots of rain. Small waterfalls poured down the ridges of Koko Head.
On this very rainy Sunday in December... It dumped so much rain, ponds/lakes formed. Perfect for salt rain test...
I hear so many people brag about their shooting ability and run away from the chance to shoot in the rain.
Oh, and how so many talk up their favorite gun(s) and the high price they paid? Ready to put your guns
and your nerves to the test? Ready to detail strip that complex, 50 to 60 parts count reputedly 'superior' gun
and magazines to prevent rusting and seizing parts of that beloved $1,000+ 'fair-weather-only' defense gun?
1911 directly above in picture: classic example most would never even dare think about: use your 1911 in the rain.
Even deeply textured G10 grip panels that seemed secure when dry become slippery in this onslaught of rain.
Slide serrations that looked ok in dry conditions offer no grip and nearly impossible to run to the rear while wet.
Many manufacturers seem to have lost sight of what matters in fighting handguns - slippery means no control.
The 1911, Sig, Berettas in pictures needed to be cleaned thoroughly and oiled extremely well. Even though this
Sig had Robar Tecnologies' nickel-teflon NP3 satin gray finish, it still required some attention in getting oil onto
springs that aren't able to be NP3 finished. HK P30 was less of a concern with its factory Hostile Environment
finish although there are many small internal parts that also should get a thorough oil treatment. These Beretta
92s shown above have blued barrels that would rust immediately so grip screws+washers, parts under the grips
had to be cleaned and oiled just the same as the 1911s and Sigs. Oil I use is non-carinogenic mineral Ballistol.
It emulsifies with water and effectively gets to all the steel parts inside hard to reach areas w/o detail stripping.
Glock is clearly a winning gun; the factory Tennifer finish has been utilized since 1983, and is the best example
of a defensive handgun that no one worries about serious usage - even in the rain. Minimal parts inside the gun.
Glock's Rough Textured Frame had good grip in this soaking wet condition. Pebbled grip on M&P did not.
Glock's Gen3 RTF curved slide serrations were a step in a positive direction and improved gripping ability over their
standard vertical serrations. Sadly, Glock went right back to the vertical with Gen4s. M&P serrations are awesome.
Their narrow width, angled depth and sharper height of slide serration pattern allows racking of slide with less effort.
With Tennifer finish, treated internals: everyone would agree how weather-proof and abuse-capable Glocks are.
M&P pistol above has Cerakote finish on slide and barrel, Robar NP3 finish on magazines. Original finish rusts.
To be thorough, all guns and mags should have emulsifing oil like Ballistol part of the cleaning and relubing task.
Kimber's KimPro finish on Tac Entry and Aegis slides made them very hard to grasp. They're already difficult due to
the width, depth and rounded heights of the slide serrations. Aegis' slide serration pattern is way too wide and
offers no solid grip even when slide is dry. Unacceptable exchange of style for function. Sig P228 slide serrations
were effective even with excellent slick-surfaced NP3 finish, even when this wet in the rain. Unfortunately, Sig P229
models that succeeded the P228 all have half-height serrations that make racking the slide a new frustration when
under any pressure, if hands are wet or simply when one does not get a secure grip of serrations to rack the slide.
Before anyone begins the cliche' comments on how revolvers would be a better choice than semiautos,
here's an array of pictures/facts concerning more fine-motor-skill requirements for revolvers vs semiautos.
Spray and bake finish, costs more than rebluing or phosphating, but more durable. Can be applied in various colors.
Cerakote (ceramic based) coating services - an example above is a Springfield XD-45 in Flat Dark Earth.
Black Cerakote on Sig P229 slide, barrel, guide rod, trigger, trigger pin, hammer, takedown lever, decocking lever,
mag release components, slide stop and grip screws - everything that's rustable steel except the aluminum frame.
Wear marks are expected and would show up just the same in factory's standard finish, especially on the barrel.
Sig P220: Cerakote Flat Dark Earth frame, slide, grip screws. Cerakote Matte Black appointments:
(barrel, guide rod, trigger, trigger pin, hammer, takedown lever, decocking lever, mag release button, slide stop)
Cerakote Olive Drab frame and Cerakote Matte Black slide and levers on S&W M&P9.
Cerakote Flat Dark Earth frame and Cerakote Matte Black slide and levers on S&W M&P45.
Cerakote Gray receiver, barrel and rustable steel parts on a custom build Saiga 12ga.
Robar Coating Technologies Services
Featured: NP3 finish
Before sending up this Sig P226, several hundred rounds had been fired. In fact, the wear marks on the barrel
become prevalent even in frequent cycling of the slide just by hand, let alone within the first hundred rounds.
These pictures follow the P226 before and after the NP3 process. Prep work included some de-horning.
Rear of slide had extremely sharp points that got beveled before the protective NP3 refinishing was applied.
Constant handling of Sigs by serious users will reveal the rust that starts on all steel parts of the Sig handgun.
Sigs (and others) I use for teaching get the NP3 (satin gray) or Roguard (satin black) finish applied to them
as they get handled weekly by many shooters. The NP3 finish also makes cleaning very easy after firing.
Even if the slide inscription says 'stainless' it still rusts, along with the control levers and grip screws.
Those who don't believe it or don't agree - leave a Sig un-oiled for a day or two after handling it.
Run an oiled white patch across the steel and it will turn rust brown. Some witness this the same day as firing!
A finished Sig P226, very nice contrast and even with lots of firing and holster usage, the excellent NP3 finish
resists wear and gets smoother as time goes on. Unlike hard chrome or nickel finishes, NP3 can be reliably
applied to aluminum as well as steel, and does not allow rust to creep under the finish. NP3 is easy to clean
and very rust resistant. The only other finish within any comparison is Glock's Tennifer finish - and that is
a process done by Glock's factory and goes below the steel surface, almost becoming the surface itself.
Sig P228 complete NP3 finish. Trigger guard gets slightly polished from holster use. Mags, parts stay rust free!
Picture on right: some examples of Robar Coating Technologies' NP3 finish on parts that are rustable steel.
L: Rain-soaked Sig P228 with NP3 finish. Naysayers of NP3 try and see how quick a Nitron finished Sig will rust.
R: Browning Buckmark would rust horribly if not treated with a good finish. Slide, barrel, rear sight originally blued.
Both guns' magazines would have to be taken apart, dried, cleaned and oiled if they were original factory bluing.
Of course, guns and mags should be cleaned and oiled well after such a soaking. NP3 helps alleviate concerns.
Cleaning made easier with Robar Technologies' NP3
Rub marks appearing on barrel after firing is easily wiped off. NP3 finish is so slick that fouling cannot adhere.
Locking block, inside of frame: Carbon fouling wipes right off. NP3'd barrel exterior, recoil spring guide too.
Inside of barrel is not NP3'd, so clean it as usual with bore brush, solvent, oil, etc.
Slide breechface and under extractor: A nylon brush does it and that's without any harsh solvents or liquids!
Clean under the extractor, and once that is done the rest is an easy wipe-down.
Within slide recesses, cleaning can be with paper towels; without harsh solvents. Light oiling and it's done.
The bolt assembly and inside the reciever of a NP3 coated Thompson after 400 rounds were fired.
Cleaning promptly yields an easier time at it, again most of the carbon fouling is wiped off with paper towels!
Robar Technologies' Roguard Finish
Springfield XD pistol before being sent for refinishing with Roguard exterior and NP3 interior.
Roguard: a satin black corrosion resistant finish, applied to rustable steel parts like trigger, crosspins, slide.
Internal parts like locking block, trigger bar, firing pin block are NP3'd and almost eliminate the rust concern.
These finishes also make it easier to clean the firearms and increase lubricity of parts and smoother function.
Robar Technologies' Forward Slide Serrations
Sig P220 and P226 before cutting of slide serrations and Roguarding. Pencil lines indicate planned serrations.
The after picture: forward slide serrations cut and refinishing done.
Another view of finished slides and new front serrations. By the way, standard sights left, night sights right.
Internals NP3'd (locking block, trigger drawbar, ejector). Exterior levers, hammer, and grip screws Roguarded.
Robar Technologies' Glock Grip Reductions
Left: G22 frame cut down to a model 23 (shorter frame height). Comparison of reduced backstrap, factory.
Reductions of grip helps one to reach the trigger and Robar adds a secure textured surface to the Glock frame.
Cut down G22 frame to accomodate flush, shorter G23 magazines. G19 on right, different backstrap contour.
With reduced arch of a backstrap, some find the firearm much easier to control at speed in handling and firing.
Comparison of frame (grip) height and with mags inserted in a G27 and G22 (frame cut down to G23 height).
Right pic: side view of a G19's grip reduction. A slight curve was specified to remain on this G19 backstrap.
Here are two possible methods of gripping a small handgun. When frames are short, extensions can help.
Originally designed for the small finger to curl under the mag, short frame handguns were designed optimum
for legal concealed carry where applicable. Finger rest extensions were created to make it more comfortable.
However, more comfort in grip height = less efficient for concealment. Larger frames give more control.
Continuing report on Vector AK-47
September 20, 2005
Ongoing 'test' has continued over three months. It will continue to ? ; as long as I can resist cleaning this AK and doing what should be done (really, you ought to) - for maintaining one's firearms and cleaning after firing!
Vector Arms Model AUSA, at the 300 round mark. Of course, we all "know" AKs can handle abuse; just conducting a long term test to see how much crud it can take and how Vector's parkerized exterior holds up.
An earlier Part I report looked at different magazines and feeding characteristics. There are differences and due
to vast numbers and varieties of AKs out there, some magazines will not work as well in one AK as another.
Underside of the reciever magazine well opening, some accumulation of crud. Visible is the mfg Armory USA.
Recievers, mag well openings, mag catches will be different. Some Romanian WASRs had difficulties with
insertion/extraction of mags due to being converted (widened mag openings) from a single stack configuration.
At first stage of AK disassembly; carbon is seen on the recoil spring guide where it goes into the bolt carrier.
Looking inside the reciever, not much particles or fouling, this is around 400 rounds. I doubt it looked any
different at the 300 round mark. AK design allows less firing residue to find their way into the reciever.
Some rust is visible in the gas block. Background: the normally bright gas piston is black, covered with carbon.
L to R: Front view of the recoil spring guide and captured spring, gas piston, gas piston tube, bolt assembly.
Inside slant brake is the expected carbon build-up. Time to fire more rounds! Next report around 600 rounds.
December 10, 2005
The same AK continues to be fired when there is enough time to shoot at least 100 to 200 rounds at a session;
here are pictures of the AK after being handled and fired at the last HRA fun shoot (11-27) without being
wiped down on the exterior (and it will continue to be neglected with no cleaning of the bore or interior).
Yes, rust has started on parkerizing - on areas frequently touched like the safety lever, surrounding top cover,
bolt handle, mag catch lever, and naturally more fouling accumulated in magazine well and chamber of rifle.
Some rust started on trigger and the top of mag has obvious wear marks. For firearms like AKs and variants
that do not have bolt hold-open devices, use something in ejection port (empty 12 gauge hull shown here) to
show chamber clear during cease fire on firing line. Do not rely on any temporary 'hang' of the bolt to the rear.
Developments since the last 400 round report: rear sight leaf is stuck at the battle setting (which is fine to me)
and upper handguard is still loose (wobbles a little left and right) but who cares? It is all AK and it works!
Many types of 7.62x39 ammunition continue to be fed into the rifle. By the way, all five types shown seemed
to hit the steel plate at 440 yards with regularity while utilizing the same sight picture and slight 'holdover'.
And, soft point ammo (center box) did sound different when striking the steel. The hollow point fed just fine.
(L) Shown for clarity is an "entire front sight" sight picture, (R) is what I use for the approx 440 yd distance.
This is with the rear sight leaf set at the battle setting (without moving it to the 400 mark) as it is stuck there.
In the (L) picture, you can just make out the steel plate (a greyish dot) right above the front sight post.
Accepted is the fact that left-right windage is set and mechanically zeroed at a slightly off-center as seen here.
(R) picture, background and target area is depicted correctly as out of focus as we focus on the front sight.
the firing continues . . .
March 26, 2006
We all 'know' AKs as well as other military firearms are supposed to take being in the rain or be submerged -
How about actually doing it?!?
The best day yet - a fun shoot where it had been raining for weeks with resultant ponding of water . . .
To start off, rounds continue to be fired and the AK left in the rain for March HRA fun shoot. Load mags:
insert mag (but for safety considerations, not chamber the first round), and get ready for the plunge:
and into the pond of water it goes! The cheers and groans from other shooters present were awesome.
This is the beginning of the 'real deal' - and it sure does look at home doesn't it?
Let it sit for a minute, then out of the water (and continuing to observe some safety precautions):
let water out of the barrel (the gas tube design has more drainage clearance for sure), chamber the first round:
and of course, it fires perfectly fine. In weeks to follow, we will see how interior holds out. For sensible care
of this firearm, I dried off water inside and out to make sure rust over the next series of months does not cause
any parts malfunctions or failures - after all, this will be utilized for more sessions of shooting as well as be
featured at the July Shooting Sports Fair. Exterior metal has been oiled or developing rust transfers to clothing.
Quite obvious most people would appreciate not having rust brown on their apparel when having fun shooting.
July 8, 2007
600+ rounds fired during '06 and '07 Shooting Sports Fair contributed to the 1900+ rounds to this date ....
This continuous report tests functioning of an abused and occasionally fired AK without cleaning 2 years ....
Here is where it got even better: foreign crud in the action firing test. Disclaimer: do not recreate this test and
be prepared for stoppages. Yes, with enough grass, dirt and rocks in the action ANY gun will have stoppages.
Wonderful part of this however, is that the vast space inside the action of an AK allowed it to throw and crush
most of the crud. When it had failures to feed and close bolt fully, a strong rack of the bolt handle and
simultaneous tilt to the right cleared the stoppage, chambering the next round and the firing could continue.
December 23, 2007
Here is the final segment of the AK long-term torture test; more than two years since starting in June 2005
and tracked with a diary in pictures since September 2005. The final hurrah was a bowling pin shoot with
some ferocious firing against some not so ferocious pins (yet must be taken out nontheless!) - fun for sure.
A week after the fun, another session of firing, and now the complete disassembly of the trusty Vector AK:
Lots of caked-on carbon and crud on the bolt carrier and bolt assembly.
Almost a full two and half years of intermittent firing, round count now just over 2200 rounds.
While this long-term test did not have a high round count (like 10,000 rounds or so), the testing was to
prolong firing and cleaning of an AK over an extended period of time so carbon and crud could accumulate.
No one should abuse their AK or any firearm as depicted here, especially when cleaning time and supplies
are available in some form or another; and because "we should not conduct this gross abuse of a firearm....."
Disassembly tips for an AK - including gas tube and lower handguard
A professional does it right on disassembly procedures: Remove the source, check chamber, and check again.
Press recoil spring guide rod button on rear of reciever to release top cover, remove the recoil guide assembly.
Remove bolt carrier assembly - retract fully to rear and lift out of the reciever guide tracks at rearmost position.
Gas tube upper handguard's release lever can be rotated with a crescent wrench or original slotted AK tool.
Approximate position of release lever to allow upper handguard to be lifted up and out.
Remove AK cleaning rod if it's on your rifle. Some AKs don't have them; some are tough to insert/remove.
Lower handguard's front retainer has 'L' pin to be rotated forward. Masking tape helps prevent tool marks.
Plastic mallet taps retaining cap forward, notice the groove where the 'L' pin would be turned and locked down.
Lower handguard tips down. Here's a nice surprise: a wood forend with metal tensioners for retainer cap.
Now the gas tube (upper handguard assembly), gas port, lower handguard assembly and barrel's exterior
can be cleaned and oiled as desired as well. Also, any handguard replacement project can be performed.