Build An AK-47. It’s Legal And Totally Untraceable.

Forget 3-D-printed guns. Inside a “build party” where anyone can make a rifle that no cop will ever know about.

The wooden and steel parts I need to build my untraceable AK-47 fit within a slender, 15-by-12-inch cardboard box. I first lay eyes on them one Saturday morning in the garage of an eggshell-white industrial complex near Los Angeles. Foldout tables ring the edges of the room, surrounding two orange shop presses. The walls, dusty and stained, are lined with shelves of tools. I’m with a dozen other guys, some sipping coffee, others making introductions over the buzz of an air compressor. Most of us are strangers, but we share a common bond: We are just eight hours away from having our very own AK-47—one the government will never know about.

The AK-47, perhaps the world’s best-known gun, is so easy to make and so hard to break that the Soviet-designed original has spawned countless variants, updated and modified versions churned out by factories all over the globe. Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun’s key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we’re assembling the guns for our own “personal use,” whatever that may entail, we’re not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California’s stringent assault weapons ban, that’s perfectly within the law.

Among those ready to get going at this “build party” (none of whom wanted their names used) are a father-son duo getting in some bonding time and a well-bellied sixty something with a white Fu Manchu who “loves” the click-ack! sound of a round being chambered. Assembling a Romanian variant is a builder wearing a camo jacket and a hat embroidered with an AR-15 rifle above the legend “Come and take it.” His knuckle tattoos read “PRAY HARD.”

We crowd in as our three hosts, all expert gun assemblers, hand out waivers with a list of questions: Are you a convicted felon? Ever been dishonorably discharged from the military? Addicted to drugs? Mentally unstable? The guy in camo looks up and, to much laughter, says, “So it’s all ‘No,’ right?”

The hosts collect our paperwork without checking IDs. We don eye protection and gloves, and soon the garage is abuzz with the whir of grinders, cutters, and drills. Sales of receivers—which house the mechanical parts, making a gun a gun—are tightly regulated, so my kit comes with a pre-drilled flat steel platform. Legally, it’s just an American-made hunk of metal, but one bend in a vise later and, voilà, it’s a receiver, ready for trigger guards to be riveted on. Sparks fly as receiver rails to guide the bolt mechanism are cut, welded into place, and heat-treated. The front and rear trunnions, which will hold the barrel and stock, are attached to the receivers.

Now I need a hand. A stout guy with caramel skin, tired eyes, jet-black hair, and a penchant for peppering his sentences with F-bombs assists me. He starts hammering the barrel into the front trunnion. “If this were an [AR-15] and we did this, we’d be crying doing so much damage,” he says. “But an AK, you can drop this thing in shit, drag it through the mud, smash it against the ground, pick it up, pull the charging handle, and keep shooting. That’s why they’re so popular.”

Durability and simplicity are why AKs have become the most widely distributed guns on the planet since their 1947 debut. They began proliferating in the late ’50s, when the Soviets permitted “fraternal countries” to manufacture Kalashnikovs at will. Soon they spread from one hot spot to another, their reputation for ruggedness and reliability growing along the way. Now there are as many as 70 million in circulation. Colombian drug lord Pedro Guerrero and Saddam Hussein’s son Uday had them plated in gold. Both Hezbollah and Mozambique display them on their flags.

Many kits come from stockpiles in former war zones. “I can guarantee you this one has bodies on it,” says one of the hosts as I peer down the barrel of a Yugo RPK. It’s lined with grit and soot. My host says the AK I’m building is an Egyptian “Maadi” that came to the United States via Croatia, likely having been shipped there during the Yugoslav wars. He tells me some wooden stocks come with tally marks notched in them.

We prep the metal components in a sandblaster and submerge them in a phosphoric acid solution to protect the steel from corrosion. Finally, we grease and assemble them, semi-automatic firing controls included. Owning a gun that can shoot full auto, like these did in a past life, is effectively illegal under federal law. But you can buy a souped-up stock that will harness each shot’s recoil to help trigger the next, a bit of clever engineering that mimics automatic fire—and stays on the right side of the law. Adding one would be a simple future modification.

The first guy to finish is all smiles, but he has a question: “Say some Johnny Law comes up who don’t know shit about this law, and I’ve got an AK without a serial number—then what?”

“There’s a series of laws that make this legal,” says one of the hosts. “Just print those up and have them with you in case Johnny Law does come by.”

The next morning I do exactly that before tossing my AK in the trunk and heading to a gun store so busy I have to take a number. I pick up a barrel cleaner, a 10-round magazine, and 40 bullets before driving out to Jawbone Canyon, federal land northeast of Los Angeles. I park on a bluff, walk to a spot where I can aim at a mountain of scrub brush and sand, and load five rounds. I empty the magazine in seconds. Their reputation has been rightly earned: AKs are popular because they work—every time.

I’m left wondering: Seeing how easy this is, are build parties monitored? Do hand-built weapons ever surface in crimes? Are the cops worried? When I call local law enforcement representatives from Los Angeles, Orange County, Santa Ana, and Garden Grove, they say they’ve never heard of such a thing. “That doesn’t happen here,” says Bruce Borihanh, an LAPD spokesman. But a cursory browse of online gun forums is enough to show that, well, clearly it does. There seems to be one about every month. Plus, I just attended one less than an hour’s drive from his office.

I’m reminded of what one of the build party hosts said before I left: “Remember that thing I told you about why people do this: These builds can happen only because they aren’t blown out to the public and law enforcement.”

People are selling AKs like mine on—the eBay of firearms—for as much as $1,600. In most states, there are no records tracking such private sales. California residents have to go through a certified dealer to sell them legally. But since this AK is untraceable to begin with, who’s to know how I choose to unload it?

Between you, me, and Johnny Law, here’s what happened to my homemade AK. Back in my garage I use a grinding wheel to cut the receiver in half and the other components into pieces. I put the scraps back in the cardboard box the kit came in and leave it for the garbage truck.

Written by Bryan Schatz.

17 Responses to Build An AK-47. It’s Legal And Totally Untraceable.

  1. GScott says:

    The price of the kits is ok for middle income workers,But the Minimum wage earner can’t afford them,so i guess that leaves them to use bows and arrows

    • Ho baggin says:

      Yep, sure does. Guess you had better go and get some schoolin’ and get a better job. Instead of wasting time bitching about it on here.

    • NoGuff says:

      Ummmm….. yeah. If you want something you need to buy it. I’d love to have a Ferrari. So why doesn’t the government just give me one. Actually, the government would take the money from someone else to give me the Ferrari. You seem to be a big proponent of taking things from people so that others can have what they want, so why don’t you just give me the money for my Ferrari? Or do you believe I should work hard, improve myself, and make the money required to buy that Ferrari? If you believe that, then you’re nothing but an uneducated, hillbilly, inbred, Nazi Capitalist, aren’t you?

    • Randy Brown says:


      • zinseszinsrechnung kredit excel says:

        "The idea of Muslims as a religious Herrenvolk with a special status that makes them above criticism and immune to the challenges of free speech."Sometimes my head feels like it is exploding.Good stuff Daniel.

  2. Steve says:

    I wonder… if I ever need an unregistered AK, wouldn’t a registered one do just as well? After all, if I need to pull one, I’m in a world of hurt whatever way it goes. Just wondering what the upside is.

    • Seweryn Bielecki says:

      The government can seize weapons from people. they donk know about you having firearms, they wont come asking.

  3. Chuck says:

    Here’s a great question for the author of this article. Why cut up everything else? Only the receiver is the atf controlled firearm. The barrel, foregrip, stock, cover and internals are unregulated by the atf. I’m going to do something I don’t normally do and call you out. You sir are an ignorant liberal with knowledge of guns equaling that of Senator Feinstein.

    • James says:

      The simple fact he was reporting for Mother Jones should tell you all you need to know about this man. I’m sure it’s already made its way to Feinstein’s desk and will be the basis for her next assault against our freedoms … how DARE someone in Kalifornia do that?

  4. bowhunter says:

    I think I have to agree with you Chuck!!

  5. Dominic says:

    Looks like s couple of you ladies don’t understand the use of sarcasm.

  6. John says:

    Theres a good reason why these build parties don’t happen here or other “free states.” We can already buy 2nd hand complete rifles “without a trace” from private sales. See this AK is a California legal version with the stupid fixed mag which is not even mentioned in the video nor article. The liberal moron destroys his hard work after all that work too. Oh noes and this goes for any privately made gun. Unless you buy a receiver from a dealer thats already made. So many ways to do this and it happens everyday around the country.

  7. Tom M. says:

    Except what Bryan failed to say was this is a Semi Automatic AK-47, which is no more dangerous than a common Hunting rifle, which you can buy in most states without making yourself. 

  8. Noah Rifenburg says:

    Where can you buy these kits?! Can you provide a website link? Thank you.

  9. Bill says:

    You can buy these kits from Gun Broker or any other type of gun auction site. It will come shipped to your house in pieces. Its up to you to figure out how to put it together. There is a ton of information online on how to do this correctly. There are several methods to do this, all of which require some tools you may or may not have in your garage. A dremel, a spot welder (harbor freight for 150$), a press, a drill press, a vice, some bolt cutters modified to smash the rivets. You will have to buy a receiver (either 80% or complete), rivets etc. To follow the 922r compliance ( the govt regulations) you will need to replace some of the components of the rifle with USA made parts such as the FCG, magazine, stock, etc. It really depends on what is important to you on the weapon, but you need to follow the guidelines if you want a legal weapon. Its not hard, it is just time consuming if you arent already set up to build this.
    For the comments stating why you would want to,, 1. because you can. 2. because maybe you dont want uncle sam knowing you have a rifle like this. 3. if some sort of massive gun ban happens, they dont have a record of you owning this type of rifle. 4. Its like anything else, you get a sense of pride building up a device that functions and serves a purpose (same as rebuilding a 350 small block yourself).

  10. Patriot556 says:

    He was joking people. He never cut up the rifle.

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