*K-VAR's AKU-94 Bullpup Conversion Kit*
The idea of the bullpup rifle has been around for a long time now. The idea of getting a rifle with a full length barrel to keep the velocity higher and ballistics of a conventional rifle but without taking the time to unfold a stock certainly does offer a tempting package for the individual who must operate in tight spaces such as the cab of a vehicle, urban areas, or areas with thick vegetation. In the past there have been several bullpup rifles to come out. Some such as the British SA-80, the French FA-MAS, and the Styer AUG have been adopted by several countries. Some other less known bullpup rifles such as the Valmet 82, Norinco Type 86, and the Bushmaster M-17S and the British EM-2 are other examples of the bullpup rifles that have come along and in some cases, gone the way of the dodo except in the hands of collectors. These days if you want a bullpup rifle for a non-collector's price, you have two choices, one is the Bushmaster M-17S and the subject of this article, K-VAR's AKU-94 conversion kit for an AKM rifle.
After getting my AKU-94 kit from the friendly UPS driver, I opened the box and after checking the manual to make sure all the pieces were there, I set out to convert an old Maddi RML version of the AKM rifle into my new bullpup rifle. The directions included with my kit also gave instructions on how to disassemble my rifle including the trigger group, lower handguard and sights in case the buyer didn't know how to do this already. A word of warning about this kit though, while it can be used on a milled receiver, it's best not to since you would have to drill a hole through the receiver where the barrel trunion would normally be for the trigger wire to run through. Another thing to check for before you decide to go with this conversion is the front sling lug. On a lot of rifles, the sling lug is part of the lower handguard retainer. With some rifles though, the lug is mounted next to the handguard. This means you will have to cut it off before the front handguards of the AKU-94 will fit.
Following the directions I didn't have too much trouble getting the new parts installed with the exception of a couple things. First, I ran into trouble with the replacement hammer release that took the place of the original trigger. It seems that there was a little excess metal on the front right edge that wouldn't allow the trigger to fit without binding on the trigger pin. A little grinding on this edge with the dremel tool took care of this problem though and the rest of the trigger group went in without any further problem. Next problem was the trigger wire. When it was hooked up to the new trigger and back to the hammer release, it wouldn't always release the hammer. Now granted the directions say NOT to alter the shape of the trigger wire but I needed it to be just a tad shorter so I bent the front hook near the trigger upwards a little to shorten it a little. After a little trial and error, I had the hammer dropping with every pull of the trigger. The last fitting problem I ran into was the front handguards. My Maddi still had the loop on the gas block for the cleaning rod that was interfering with a couple of projections interior of the handguards. These were ground off with the dremel tool with no problem. Another fitting problem was the area around the sling lug that the left handguard wouldn't fit around. Again, a little grinding of the handguard around the sling lug area and I had the handguards on.
After getting it all put together, it was time for a trip to the range. Starting out at 25 yards, I adjusted the sights to get it on target then moved back to 100 yards. Now on my rifle, my sights had to be moved far to the left to get centered on target, using up most all the windage on the rear sight. I really don't see this as too much of a problem though since I don't see doing a lot of fine sight adjustments with this rifle anyways. It's more of a "set-and-forget" arrangement. The great thing about converting an AK into an AAKU-94 is that you don't loose any sight radius length. So something like this really isn't going to have an adverse effect on you accuracy. As it turned out, accuracy of the AKU-94 compared to my rifle's original AKM design didn't change any with 4-6 inch groups being pretty common in both configurations. Yeah, it's no tack driver by any stretch of the imagination, but not many Kalishnikov rifles are.
So how does it handle would be the next thing to look at. Well, for most people, and I'm no exception, bullpup rifles take some real getting used to. First thing you notice is the shift in its balance compared to a conventional rifle. Instead of having the center of gravity between your hands, now the center is between your shoulder and firing hand, right about under my wrist when I am firing it. Combine this with the longer length of pull, it makes quick shouldering this rifle a little harder and slower but with it's lighter front end, makes it quicker to shift around once you have it to you shoulder. Another drawback is that since it's more muzzle light than a conventional rifle, muzzle flip during recoil more pronounced.
The next thing you notice is that the trigger is about as bad as you can get. To say that it's like a heavy squirt gun pistol trigger or a really poor double action revolver would be a fair description. Heavy, long, creepy, gritty with no real break in the trigger pull would be another way to describe it. This is the nature of the beast with any bullpup rifle though since instead of the trigger working directly on the sear as in a conventional rifle, here you have the trigger connecting to a trigger wire linkage that hooks into a hammer release or a second trigger of sorts. There hasn't been a bullpup rifle yet that has had a good trigger and the AKU-94 isn't any different. For it's compact length, you are going to have to pay something and trigger pull is it. During sighting in, I found myself starting to shake slightly trying to squeeze the trigger. The bet way I have found to deal with it is to shoot it like a revolver by slowly pulling it all the way through in one steady squeeze. My other gripe, though a minor one, about the trigger area is that the trigger guard could be a bit larger to accommodate gloves. I would say that the trigger guard in this rifle is about the size of a 1911 pistol's trigger guard. Serviceable but could be a little better.
Of course the main difference between the bullpup and conventional rifle is the action being placed behind the trigger group. Now if you thought the safety lever of the conventional AK was awkward, the AKU-94 is a lot worse. It's in an awkward place to get at and instead of shifting your grip, you have remove your hand from the pistol grip all together to turn it off or on. On the bright side though, with the trigger as heavy as it is, I just leave the safety off when I pick it up and turn it on when I lay it down or know I won't use it for a while. I just think of a straight trigger finger as my safety and the safety lever as a "master safety" and don't have any problems. The second part of the bullpup design is the inserting and removing magazines. With the curve of an AK magazine and having to be rocked in, I thought this might be a problem but as it turns out, it was a lot easier than I first thought it would be. The rounded butt of the pistol grip allows clearance of the magazine and removing and inserting the magazine wasn't as hard to get used to as I first thought it would be. The third thing about the AKU-94 is that unlike the Styer AUG where you can switch bolts to either eject out of the right of left side of the receiver, the AKU-94 is a right handed shooters rifle ONLY. If you have any plans on firing this rifle from the left shoulder, forget it. You are going to eat a charging handle if you do so I would HIGHLY recommend against trying it!
So is the AKU-94 worth getting and is it a weapon that one could trust in the real world? Well, it's going to depend a lot on your need for a compact rifle like this. For it's compact size that can be put to use without having to sacrifice ballistics or take the time to deal with unfolding a stock, you are going to have a rifle with some poor handling problems, mainly being in the trigger, balance and safety locations. If you can deal with these issues, it might be acceptable for you. I haven't had enough time with it yet to see if the trigger wire might cause functioning problems farther down the road but so far with a couple hundred rounds fired, it hasn't had any problems yet. At this point, I'm going to class the AKU-94 as a plinker rather than a serious rifle at least until more rounds have been fired and it's been tested in the field under some harsher conditions than a range. Neat rifle to play with but one that can wait if you have other needs that you want to deal with first.Grunt
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