Friday, May 25, 2012

Panteao Productions' Jim Fuller AK Armorer's Bench Review

Out of the gates, I have to say a great video!  It is just over 3 hours in length without the included extras.  The extras do have some great info as well, but these are the Pro Tips that will probably be available on Panteao's You Tube page eventually.

Like the Travis Haley Adaptive Kalash video, it has Panteao's excellent production quality, which is great for the detail close up shots.  However, I did find myself wishing that there was a full HD digital download or Blu-ray available.  I ordered the DVD instead of viewing it through Panteo's streaming HD monthly subscription.  While Panteao's subscription service is a great deal, I did have to cut back on it a couple of months ago.  Plus, I really like to have a DVD or digital copy for those times I don't have an internet connection.  While this DVD is well done and more than sufficient quality, this is one time on an instructional DVD I thought HD would be a plus due to the small parts and detail close ups being just that little bit more crisper.  Honestly, on most DVDs as long as good information gets across, I'm happy with relatively low production quality.  However, Panteao is definitely starting to change my standards.

The DVD starts with the typical safety rules, introduction of Jim Fuller, and history of the AK.  Then it moves into basic field stripping and more detailed bolt disassembly.  Fuller next explains the fire control group in detail with a very neat color coded cutaway of the mechanism.  For those of you that are new to the AK platform, it will help your understanding of the fire control group immensely!  After showing the trigger group workings, the different U.S. group options are discussed along with modifications to improve the trigger pull (but not the overall weight, which for most groups is light enough for the purpose).  Before moving to the outside of the rifle, cleaning is discussed.

The DVD then moves to the exterior for awhile.  Changing of furniture is covered, along with some of the options out there.  Sight adjustment and replacement sights are detailed as well. The Magna-matic sight tool is featured too as a great adjustment method and particularly so for stuck sights.  While the Magna-tool is an excellent option, it doesn't fit some of gas/front sight combo blocks like the Draco and AK-104 style.  Minor gripe for only a few AK users, but if you have one of these with a stuck Draco sight drum like I did, a wrench socket can support a Kroil soaked front sight block while using punch will do the trick.  While not covered in the DVD, I believe though I did learn the socket method from a Fuller post on a message board.

Next, muzzle devices are then talked about where Fuller recommends different types flash hiders and brakes, especially the AK Battlecomp, of which Fuller's Rifle Dynamics is the exclusive distributor.  The typical 14x1 LH and 24x1 RH threadings on AKs shown.  Booster usage for short barrel rifles is explained too.  He also shows how to check that the threads are concentric to avoid bullet strikes.

After muzzle devices, Fuller of the details the cycle of operation first from the gas system side.  Fuller shows why piston wobble is actually recommended.  Then feeding, the bolt carrier cycle, and ejection is modeled with dummy rounds and the previous chapter on the fire control group is referenced.  Fuller also credits the AK's tapered rounds for part of its feeding and ejecting reliability.  While not that big of deal, I do wish there was a little more detail here.  Discussing how the bolt is camming and locking up would have been nice.  That can somewhat be shown through the magazine well, there probably isn't a really good way to show bolt without some kind cutaway.  Another minor thing that could have been nice is pointing out the ejector and how to check it.

At this point the DVD is about 2 hours in and now definitely takes a shift to more advanced techniques.  Some of the fixes after this require a hydraulic press with tooling and jigs being highly recommended.  Often the ones that require the press are really just guidelines of how it is done since there is no press in the video's work area.  If you have enough hydraulic press experience you could probably pull off what Fuller discusses but for a beginner who bought a press to do some serious AK work, it wouldn't cut it.  However, Fuller does mention that there are plans do do more advanced videos of these things in the future.

Trigger guard and magazine latch replacement is the first one of these that would need a press and jig.  However, even for someone like me who probably won't do something like this it was still cool to see and helped my overall understanding of AK construction.  Also the AK-Builder jigs featured are mechanically  interesting to me as well.  Almost makes me wish the days of parts kits weren't pretty much over so I would finally build an AK from a flat.  

The next topic of barrel removal is another one that requires a press.  It was definitely interesting to get an idea of what it would take to change out an AK barrel, but again unless you have a press and some general experience, it was more academic.

Fuller then moves forward and shows how to check the front sight, gas block and rear sight for alignment and then fixing cant.  However, Fuller makes a point that needs to be reiterated: not all canted sights are a bad thing, sometimes it is for a slightly bent barrel.  Canted sights don't scare me that much, and this video shows how to fix them if they need to be.  In my opinion, I would only absolutely fix front sights if I ran out of windage adjustment before point of aim/point of impact matched up.  I would consider fixing cant if I used so much windage to zero that the sight was close to one of the sight ears. But if the front sight is canted and the post is somewhat close to center I leave the sight alone!

Mag well and latch adjustment is addressed next.  Overall, great advice to help you with a misfeeding AK.  Another nice part of the video is safety fitting.  Fuller goes through multiple methods to loosen up the safety and make it easier to move.

The DVD closes out with sight mounting options, 922r compliance which then leads into Fuller's take on the modern AK.  The Ultimak, US Palm (Midwest Industries), and Texas Weapons Systems mounts are recommended, with Ultimak installation and tips being demonstrated.

As seems to be their standards, Pantaeo and Jim Fuller have an made excellent effort.  While not perfect, I cannot think of a better single source for basic AK technical information.  It will be interesting to see what else will come out of this relationship in the future.  This was so exhaustive of the basics, the only way I see for them to go from here is really AK building (of which the heydays have unfortunately passed) and true AK gunsmithing. It covers nearly everything needed at an Armorer "kitchen table" level.  Every serious AK owner needs a copy! 

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