The AK-47, made by Kalashnikov shortly after the Second World War, is arguably one of the most popular and well-known rifles globally. It is semi-automatic by default, which is fine for most firearm collectors as they prefer to keep weapons in their original condition. There are a few of us, however, who would like to turn it into a fully automatic, and this guide will show you how.
Converting an AK-47 to full-auto is simple but not easy. The AK-47 must be adapted to release the hammer automatically while the trigger is held while not allowing the hammer to fly unless the breach is secured. It involves two steps: Installing the auto mechanism and changing the restrictor.
Before we begin, there are two critical points to take note of:
- It is illegal to perform this type of modification in most countries, so check with your local authorities before you decide to attempt it.
- This post discusses the steps required to convert the true original AK-47, made by Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1947. Subsequent models, including those made by other countries and manufacturers, have most of the same internal mechanisms; keep in mind that there may be some differences here and there.
Preparing For The Full-Auto Conversion
There are two things you need to do to prepare for the conversion process before you start taking your AK-47 apart:
1. Fulfill Legal And Licensing Requirements
As already mentioned before, this type of firearm conversion is illegal in most countries. You may be allowed to do this if you get a license. Ask your local authorities and obtain a permit if necessary.
2. Get The Necessary Auto Parts
If you have a license, you should be able to get the necessary auto parts pre-manufactured and available to purchase or import. If you cannot get it for whatever reason, there are templates available online that you can use to manufacture them yourself if you have the required metalworking equipment.
You may have to manufacture the full automatic bolt carrier yourself; there are templates available for that as well.
Preparing Your AK-47
Once you have all the legal requirements and the full-automatic parts needed, there are two crucial steps to prepare your AK-47 for the conversion process:
1. Drilling The Receiver
You have to drill two holes into the receiver of the AK-47. There are templates available for this as well. Be sure to use drill bits of the exact numerical size, not letter sizes, to be sure to get it right. The two holes to be drilled are:
- Drill a 7mm hole into the left side of the receiver.
- Drill a 5mm hole into the right side of the receiver.
2. Slotting The Bolt Carrier Guide Rail Of The Receiver Wall
This step involves slotting (removing a small piece of metal from) a section of the guide rail. This will allow the trip arm of the automatic sear to project above the rail, engaging a cam on the bolt carrier. This, in turn, will lead to the automatic firing of the AK-47 if the selection lever is placed in the middle position.
The simplest way for you to achieve this is by drilling four holes next to each other. The holes should be 1/16” in diameter, and they should be located in a row starting from a point approximately 5mm from the rivet at the back of the magazine well, on the right-hand side of the AK-47. Once you’re done drilling the holes, you can use a Swiss file to smooth it out into a neat slot in the guide rail.
Clearing The Restrictor
Some AK-47 models have a folded piece of metal on the right side of the receiver. This is a restrictor placed there to prevent the selector lever from going to the lowest position. If your model of AK has this restrictor, it can be safely bent away using a screwdriver. Simply insert a flat screwdriver, push it outward, then hammer it down with the screwdriver still in place to create the gap needed.
You may now create a semi-auto detent for the selector lever to move into. You can either use a light mill cut or a 1/4” drill, or you may prefer to cold punch it. It’s absolutely critical to note, though, that the hole should never go through the receiver wall. If you use the cold punch method, you should use a wood or aluminum backing block inside the receiver.
Replacing The Semi-Auto Parts With Full-Auto
This is the last part of the process. If you performed all of the preparations correctly, you should not run into any problems.
You may not need to replace your bolt carrier. Some semi-auto AK-47 models already have a fully automatic bolt carrier. It is also possible that the carrier may have already been replaced in a previous repair process. If your AK-47 is still in its original condition (i.e., no parts have been replaced), this list will help you to determine if your bolt carrier should be replaced or not:
- All Galil 5.5mm models have a semi-auto bolt carrier
- Almost all Valmet rifles have a full-auto bolt carrier
- All MAADI models have a full-auto bolt carrier
- All Hungarian models have a full-auto bolt carrier
- All Yugoslavian models have semi-auto bolt carriers
- All Chinese models have semi-auto bolt carriers
- All South African models have a full auto bolt carrier
If your rifle still has a semi-auto bolt carrier, you will need to adapt or replace it. A full-auto bolt carrier has a slight metallic sear trip cam that semi-auto bolt carriers don’t have. If you can access a welding machine and a machine shop, you should be able to make this adjustment yourself. If not, replacement bolt carriers are readily available from gunsmiths or can be purchased second-hand.
Many of the parts between the models are interchangeable since they are all based on the same initial design. This makes second-hand replacement parts relatively easy to find.
Now that you’re ready to re-assemble the rifle take note that you are not to re-use the semi-automatic disconnector or hammer. They are to be replaced with the new or modified full-auto versions. You can also remove the spring that holds the axis pins in place since it will no longer be necessary. Then follow these re-assembly steps:
- Install the automatic sear and sear spring in the receiver. Insert the axis pin through these parts.
- Assemble the trigger, disconnector, and disconnector spring with the use of the AK-47 slave pin.
- Place the trigger assembly into the receiver.
- Raise the automatic sear spring over the trigger axis pin hole and insert the trigger axis pin, ejecting the AK-47 slave pin.
- Assemble the full-auto hammer and hammer spring.
- Insert the hammer assembly into the receiver.
- Press the automatic sear spring below the hammer axis pin hole using a screwdriver.
- Insert the hammer axis pin.
- Hook the hammer spring loops over each side of the trigger.
- Assemble the rest of the rifle as you would normally do; the full-auto conversion is now complete.
After following all the steps carefully, you should now have a select fire rifle. You can choose your fire mode using the selector lever. In the top position, it should be on safe. The lower position should be semi-auto, and the middle should now be your new fully-automatic option.
As mentioned before, converting an AK-47 to a full-auto rifle is a relatively simple process. One question you must ask yourself, though, is if you should do it. Not only is it illegal in most countries, but many AK-47s are so classic and valuable that converting does not necessarily make them worth more. Consider it carefully, and if you still choose to do so, enjoy your new fully-automatic rifle!