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My original “home build/ghost gun” AKM-47 now has over 10,000 rounds through it in just over a year. Not bad for a weekend garage build using scrap metal and spare parts. Even better than not bad is the trigger. The original Tapco trigger — which wasn’t bad at all when it started, now feels great. And that’s great by any standard, not just “great for an AK.”

Smooth as silk, it was breaking at about three pounds. Everyone, even real “Kalashlife” folks were impressed with it. And then, well, all good things must come to an end. At a range session, the trigger failed to reset. A few more rounds out, and then it kind of reset, released, reset, and released…really really fast. Yup, it was running two- and three-round bursts. My super awesome ghost gun had became a felony. Even worse, it was no longer a reliable hunting rifle.

After yanking the old trigger group, I set to looking at my options. That’s how I came across the CMC trigger. I like the CMC trigger for my AR. It has a single stage flat shoe feel, similar to my Elfmann triggers.But my CMC has proven far more reliable. And they make an AK Elite trigger with a similar flat shoe.

The CMC AK Elite trigger bills itself as “easy to install.” Easy is a relative term, and a quick ask of AK aficionados confirmed my suspicions after looking at the design. This is actually one of the most difficult triggers to install. In fact, it was far more difficult than the original Tapco trigger. It is also roughly $140 more. Then again, my Tapco trigger is a walking felony now, so maybe you get what you pay for.

Before getting into the build, I was strongly advised that YouTube was my friend when it came to installing this trigger. But while YouTube provided no help at all, the instructions provided with the trigger proved immensely helpful.

Before I explain the hard parts of the instillation, a note about AK and AKM rifles . There’s nothing even remotely close to the same standards of building on an AK pattern rifle as there is an AR. There are probably a hundred different version of the gun out there, and it’s not just the furniture. Receivers have slightly different, but meaningful changes. Some stocks require reinforcement to the receiver, and some don’t.

Home builds, like mine, are the absolute worst, since novice builders make all sorts of minor mistakes, slightly altering the geometry of the gun. That makes a “drop in” anything on an AK often not drop in at all. I say that to make sure you take my difficulties in installing this trigger with a grain of salt.

The first problem I had right off the bat . . .

The flat base of the trigger group wouldn’t seat against the floor of my receiver, since one of the rivets on the bottom of my reiciever stuck out just a little too much for the trigger group to sit flush. I can’t really cut the rivets, so five minutes in, my $180 trigger is getting the business from the angle grinder.

Following the directions, the next part, putting the two pieces of the trigger back together, was simple and straightforward. Installing the safety revealed the next complication. The new trigger sat higher in the receiver, so the bottom edge of the safety had to be filed down.

Not a big deal…I had to file it to fit the Tapco trigger as well. Once I got it short enough and installed, I brought the hammer back, and there was my big problem. The old safety was cut too wide for the new, narrower hammer of the CMC trigger. The hammer simply passed right by the safety, never engaging it at all.

Instead of going through the ridiculous effort of welding together a new safety, I called up the Dead Goose Society and ordered a new one. I waited a few days and drank some Stolichnaya while I waited, you know, just to keep the mood.

With the wait over, the new safety dropped right in. The same filing had to be done on the bottom of the metal, just a couple of passes with a file, then a check until it just barely fit. With that, at least my safety troubles were over.

A problem many people cited online —  but one I had no problem with — was installing the small set screws to keep the trigger group seated and in place in the receiver.

Those were easy to reach and went right in. They did, however, slightly raise the base of the assembly, so a little more of the safety had to be shaved again.

The only thing left to do was add the two long bars that further assured the trigger and hammer assembly would be retained in the receiver. Everyone I read online said that it was next to impossible. The instructions said “with a flat head screwdriver…”, and no. Stop right there.

The idea is that you are to weave this small metal rod under and over the rivets inside the receiver, all after everything is installed. I think this would be extremely difficult on most AKs. Fortunately, it was completely impossible. My rivets were set too low into the receiver, and there simply wasn’t enough space for the bars to go under them. I actually don’t think these bars are even needed, but no matter, the original Tapco trigger retaining bar still fit and worked just as well.

After a quick function check, the trigger was installed and it was time to get to the range. Just so none of you think that was too much time to spend on an AK, other than the wait for the new safety, the total time of installation was just about 40 minutes.

What was the result of all of that? A very good trigger. The final trigger pull weighs right in at the advertised 3.5 lbs, lighter than most traditional AK triggers, and just a tad lighter than original Tapco trigger I installed when I built the rifle.

The flat trigger shoe is the same as I’ve grown to love on my ARs, but I was a bit disappointed in the feel of the pull. It’s hard to describe. There’s no grit at all, but the pull itself kind of slides until a slightly squishy release. To be fair, I’m really nitpicking here. The trigger is far better than “mil spec” — whatever that means for an AK — but that final squish, instead of a sharp release just doesn’t feel quite right.

The reset, however, feels just right. Very easy to feel, or “positive” in the trigger lingo, loud, and then pulls to release much more crisply than the initial pull. For those of you familiar with their AR triggers, I installed a similar CMC AR15 trigger (in about 10 minutes) on one of my AR15s. The release feels the same, but there is more take-up and not quite as crisp of a release on the AK model compared to the AR. The AK trigger design is what it is, and I guess there’s only so good you can make it.

I’ve run 300 rounds through it so far with no malfunctions of any kind and no noticeable wear or shifting on the trigger assembly. The trigger didn’t enhance my accuracy from the previous trigger, at least when the previous Tapco trigger wasn’t running. It did, thankfully, fire only one round when depressed, and reliably reset for the next loaded round. Mission accomplished.


MSRP: $184.99

Rating (out of five stars):

Overall * * * *
The trigger is very good, if comparing it to the Jewell triggers on some of my bolt guns. It’s amazing for an AK. Plus, now my truck gun is no longer illegal (other than in the usual states). Caveat emptor: it was by no means a “drop-in” installation on my rifle, and is much more difficult to install than other AK pattern trigger assemblies.


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  1. A flat trigger surface (shoe) sounds not intuitive.

    I thought (yeah, yeah, I know, doing *that* again) having your finger on the same spot on the trigger was necessary for consistency and being curved, would ‘guide’ your finger to the same spot.

    Enclue me, please…

    • That little horizontal section at the bottom gives me consistent placement, and the flat edgy surface helps me to pull straight back. The only time I like a curved trigger is on a double action revolver.

  2. “My super awesome ghost gun had became a felony.”

    Is that true? I thought the standard for this was intentional modification? I was under the impression that malfunctions or broken parts that cause the weapon to fire more than one shot per pull of the trigger were not covered by laws on machine guns.

    I’m not saying I’d want to try to explain it to a LEO or ATF agent but I didn’t think it was illegal unless you did it on purpose.

    • The question, of course, is what a federal judge\jury will think. If you are at the range firing single shots and suddenly you get a burst, go “oh shit!” and take the gun apart to replace the part that’s one thing. If it happens a bunch and you keep shooting it… will a jury think it’s a bug, or a feature?

      After all, anyone could take certain guns and ‘accidentally’ modify them to become ‘less reliably semi-auto’.

      • The last time I read about this IIRC correctly the rifle was sent to the ATF for testing. They tested it and concluded that it was broken/malfunctioning and there were no charges. The weapon was returned with the caveat of “Get this fixed. We don’t want to see it again until you fix it”.

        Similarly there was another story about guy who did illegally modify a rifle by using a home made lightning link, again the rifle was taken and sent to the ATF where they determined it was an intentional modification. He was charged.

        I looked that sort of thing up after my SKS decided to alternate between not firing and firing two and three round bursts when I first got it. Kind of an exciting first trip to the range with it. That was however, more than 10 years ago.

      • That answer is pretty much it. If I know that it is a problem, and that it can be either repaired, replaced, or stopped entirely (by pulling the trigger out) and I do not fix it, it is a crime.

        • Ah, OK, so you get a little grace period to figure it out but if you know what’s going on and refuse to fix it that’s where it becomes a crime.

          Thanks for the clarification.

        • strych9, and this is one place where me being an FFL/SOT holder with a machine shop and inventory would have not helped, but really hurt. It would have been pretty hard to argue that I could not repair the gun, as I built it in the first place, and had replacement triggers in inventory (although not this particular one).

        • when i asked sparky (deceased) at buffalo range what i should do about double firings, he told me to put the rifle under my bed that night, kneel down and pray for triples.

        • jwt:

          That would make it harder to plead ignorance.

          I got maybe four bursts out of the gun, with disassembly and tinkering in between them, before I took her home to figure out what was going on away from prying eyes that might have alerted the fuzz to goings on that I didn’t want to talk about because I couldn’t yet explain them. At the time I was not intimately familiar with the internal workings of the SKS and I didn’t want to find out that a previous owner had illegally modified the gun in a way I overlooked but was going to have to explain/prove I didn’t make myself.

          So I understand the caution on your part, I was just curious about the actual legality of a malfunctioning/broken firearm that decided to start touching off extra rounds when the trigger was pulled.

          Again, thanks for the clarification.

  3. Man, for all that hassle you went through, I think I’ll stick with an ALG trigger for my AK build. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds nice enough. But I’m not sure it’s $180 nicer. Especially since we’re talking about AKs.

    I’m wondering if the decreasing accuracy is the barrel, after so many rounds?

  4. I installed the curved shoe CMC in my FEG AMD-65 and I love it! Best Kalashnikov trigger I’ve ever experienced. It WAS a bit of a faff to install (especially when one doesn’t read the instructions and just dives in). Your review makes it sound like the safety lever could be installed after the trigger group was in the receiver, my safety had to go in first (learned when the aforementioned in-diving occurred) followed by the trigger group.

    • It wouldn’t matter if I installed the trigger before or after installing the safety as my safety had to be uninstalled to alter it to clear the trigger group housing anyway.

  5. That is bad ass looking AK. The fact you built it yourself makes it that much cooler. I have had trigger pins on my AR builds start to walk out on me, giving me the surprise 2 round burst at the range.

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