AK-22 machine-gun fun!
Back in the early 80’s there was a beginning trend of making rimfire rifles look like the rifles that the worlds armed forces where using. One of the more successful companies at doing just that was Armi Jager of Italy.
They started with their AP-74 (in roughly 1974) that was a copy of the very popular M16 rifle used by the US military and others. The rifles where known as being well made and relatively reliable. they weren’t exact copies by any means, but they looked pretty similar, and had a fairly similar manual of arms with only slight differences in the safety and the magazine release.
The AP-74 proved to be very popular, and was followed a few years later by the AP-80, with the AP-80 being a scaled down copy of the kalashnikov AK47. The manual of arms is almost identical, and with the “large body” magazine in place, only the most observant onlooker would guess that the little gun is anything but a rifle caliber gun.
The AP-80 was imported by several groups into the US, with the earliest guns coming in under Bingham’s banner. There may have been another small importer after Bingham and before Mitchell, but the records are a bit fuzzy, so I’m not certain. Sometime after Bingham ceased importing the guns, Mitchell arms in California (I know, California?) began the import of the AP-80. There were subtle differences between the guns that can be noted fairly easily by the keen observer. The Mitchell guns had a much thicker dust cover over the action, with the front of the dust cover being secured to the receiver by rivets on either side of the “trunnion” for lack of a better term, while the Bingham guns had thinner list covers, and were secured at the front by wedging beneath a roll pin protruding from the trunnion beneath the rear sight.
After the AP-80 debuted, other rimfire clone guns followed from Armi Jager, including Galil copies, Famas copies, and a copy of the PPS-31.
I’m going to focus on the AP-80 for this article, for reasons that will be clear shortly.
Prior to the implementation of the machine gun ban in 1986, there where a number of AP-80’s registered and converted to select fire by enterprising individuals. SWD of Atlanta offered conversion kits, and the services, JD Farmer did conversions as well, but didn’t sell DIY kits. These two are probably the most commonly encountered conversions, but calling them common is a bit of a misnomer.
Both SWD and Farmer conversions used an automatic sear trip, along with lengthened selector lever throw. Most Farmer conversions had the selector stop ground off, while the SWD conversions often had the selector notched for the added travel.
SWD conversions consisted of the auto sear, auto sear spring, bolt anti-bounce weight, cut selector lever, bolt modified for the sear trip, and modified disconnector (so that Semi auto remained an option). The SWD DIY kit consisted of the auto-sear, spring and anti-bounce weight, with instructions on how to install the parts and make the needed cuts.
The Farmer conversions where a little more involved, using all of the things mentioned in the SWD conversion, the Farmer jobs (other than cutting the lever vs grinding the receiver) also lengthened the bolt stroke and added a booster spring to the main (hammer) spring to ensure more reliable ignition.
Today, finding one of these gems as a transferable is fairly rare, with probably less than 5 on the market at any given time. In looking just now, I could only find one for sale. Any of them are likely to need work to make them run right.
I purchased one last summer, and once I was finally able to bring it home from the dealer a few months ago, I began the process of working on it to produce a reliable gun. Mine was an SWD style conversion, though it seems it was likely done at the Bingham (importer of the gun) shop, as that’s who the the maker is listed as on the form 4.
I made a new firing pin, as the factory unit broke fairly quickly. It’s profile is different, and it uses a much thicker body and a shorter spring. I also made the tip slightly sharper to help with ignition.
The hammer spring was replaced with a much stronger unit. The recoil spring was replaced as well, and the recoil stroke lengthened about 1/2″. The dust cover had to be opened up as well for the increased stroke.
The bolt was polished and all of the nooks and crannies were cleaned out with an ultrasonic cleaner and brushes. the extractor was reshaped for improved grip.
Once I had done that work, the gun went from running about 50% to running about 95%
Then it was time to play, so I made an adapter block so that I could mount a VZ-58 stock, I chopped a parts kit barrel down to 5″ (it’s a machine-gun, so there are no barrel length requirements for legality) and threaded it 1/2″x28 tpi for attaching a standard rimfire suppressor. Since the forend would no longer work, I made an adapter so that I could mount the pistol grip from the parts kit as a forward K-grip.
I also made a mount for the red-dot sight so that I wouldn’t have to fab up a front sight. It uses the rear sight position and set screws to hold the red dot in place and supply gross elevation adjustment.
It looks a little funky, but it handles very very well, and it’s a ton of fun to shoot!