In the world of cheap AKs, it does not get any better than the WASR-10. As the Don Gammill Jr. review shows, taking a communist bloc AK and throwing in some Tapco parts to comply with some asinine government regulations still yields a rifle that is surprisingly accurate and damn near foolproof. It’s like calling up a Vegas call girl service with only a hundred bucks in your pocket and having a pleasant surprise show up and give you the works. The only problem is the good times end when you wake up the next morning and have to clean up.
Just like being left with a nasty case of VD, cleaning out the WASR 10 after a day of range fun will expose its nasty black plastic parts, its cheap-ass laminated wood that attracts black gunpowder from your hands and makes it look like you work for Cartridge World refilling toner, and gooey little bits of milsurp Cosmoline. I was tossed into the world of the AK-47 when the gun club I am affiliated with scored a group buy on the suckers that brought the price under the $350 level. Concurrently I also started my first AR-15 build so I did not want to get into the AK world. But at that price… I am glad I joined the Kalishnikov party! Now lets make it better for minimal cost for a fun project.
Step one is a thorough cleaning. You and Cosmoline will get to become good friends and you take Q-Tips and try and get all of the gooey stuff from the 70s out of the Romanian slophouse. It is not a difficult job to dismantle the AK down to bare bones; the best way to do it nowadays is to find a proper YouTube video and press pause after you complete a step. My reference point was from a dude called BarKeepah (thanks dude!) who breaks the gun down for a wood refinishing project.
The exterior metal parts that still looked nasty after cleaning got a nice coat of BBQ Black Krylon. This included the rear of the stock, the sling mounts, and other sundry screws and fasteners.
Step two is to address that nasty laminated wood. Now, there are those who will argue the proper way to dress a WASR 10 is to let the commie wood soak in cordite from your hands and develop a third-world patina. However, I cannot justify owning something that ugly. Or nasty to the touch- the wood is splintery too! Luckily, you can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Unbelievably (even to me), the stock wood (which is the upper handguard, lower handguard, and stock) can be refinished to look absolutely beautiful, but it has its limitations and it ain’t ever gonna be American Cherry or Walnut. However, with some effort, you can attain fantastic results. I went with a glossy finish on mine over an ebony stain, and gun aficionados comment how nice it looks.
So here are the tricks: Watch the Barkeepah videos referenced above. Sand everything down to 320 grit using a sanding block and stay on the 320 more than you think would be necessary. Then I applied the ebony stain- most purists go with a red color, but I wanted to be different- shop the Minwax section at your Home Depot and pick what you like. I applied the stain with cheesecloth just like the Barkeepah video.
However, I did not go with Linseed or Tung oil for the protective finish. Working around boats my whole like, I am used to Spar Vanish and its characteristics. Don’t worry, it will be hard enough for use on a gun (some say it is too soft but not applying it my way). Using a light sanding and tack cloth inbetween coats, you apply a coat using a foam brush. Every night for ten days I would go down to the basement, lightly sand, and apply a light coat of varnish. Total time per evening: ten minutes. It can’t be rushed but the results are staggering for about $45 worth of stuff from Home Depot. You’ll even have leftovers for another firearm project.=
After the ten coats are on there, it is time to wet sand the project again with 400 grit, 600 grit, 800 grit, 1000, 1200, 1500, then compound, then wax. This is what separates the men from the boys. You’ll probably be satisfied with the results after your final coat and can walk away without any sanding. But finishing down to the automotive-grade papers yields that deep-gloss, looking into glass wikkid finish. Purists might also note you might not want to do that because the rifle can become more reflective in the sunlight, pinpointing your location. Whatever. If the decline of western civilization happens, I am going out stylin.’ On the next installment, lets mount a light and laser on this Kalishnakov bad boy so it is more suitable for a home defense weapon.