_This rifle was the most fun I have had in a very long time while building a rifle. It was a mother of a headache to complete and challenged me in ways I didn't know I could be challenged, aka folks I loved it and her. This old girl is the semi-final product of a concept I started to develop about 4 months ago. Simply put that would be: To build a semi-auto bullpup rifle system the cost of which would not be more than one thousand ($1000) dollars including shipping and any outside labor. This idea came to me at the height of the Assult weapons ban talks in washing ton so I couldn't have picked a worse time as far as cost but I was determined and pushed on through. Pamela just barely fit the bill, I must admit I cheated a little. I am just counting costs for the rifle, not the accessories or mags, this is because in any system you will have to buy things like slings, optics, mags and grips. So I do not count them into any one project.
_The concept was actually pretty daring I thought, because most bullpup systems are well in excess of a grand in cost and there are very few rifles in the open market which lend themselves to being converted into a bullpup. After doing my research the only ones I found were: the Springfield M1A, the Ruger Mini-14/30, the Ak-47/ 74 (many variants), the SKS (all variants) and the M1 Carbine. Looking through all of them I looked into cost of the available conversion kits and the cost of the rifles. All the rifles I found are either proven, battle tested rifles or have high marks from civilian users for reliability. A few get marks for accuracy as well, however I didn't really put this too high on my list of things to have, my reason being that a bullpup rifle is supposed to be an ace at close quarters combat and ok at distance. All the rifles listed fall into the category of performance in their regular form so I was not worried. After much debate I finally brought my choice down to 3 rifles: the Mini-14/30, the Ak-47/ 74s, and the SKS.
_First was the Mini-14/30 by Ruger. I was leaning heavily towards the Mini-14 out of the two because the Mini-30 has had issues in the magazine department. The Mini-14 appealed to me because it has a very good record in civilian use and it has a slot in magazine rather than a rock in (like the other two of my finalists which have rock in mags). This clears a bunch of problems when it comes to actual use (trying to rock a mag into your armpit is no fun) and would put me into the 5.56 round which I already have a bunch of ammo for. The disadvantage and this is huge, was lack of options for the stock kits, I could only find two and I'll be honest when I say that these didn't impress me both from the reviews and the quality of the examples I could actually look at.
_The Ak-47/74 on the other hand had several offering which I was very impressed with, I found 2 companies which produce stock kits, Century Arms and Center Balance Systems both produce kits (Center Balance produces several different styles actually) which have great reviews and were good looking esthetically. I was leaning towards the Center Balance Systems models simply because they were made with better quality materials and looked better in finished product. The real problem I had with the AK platform at the time was the cost (one must remember that this was some of the highest prices in years), just to get into a rifle at the time I would be looking at almost 700 bucks which left me very little room to outfit the system. To be honest I still wonder if I should have gone with the AK systems just because of their simplicity to build.
_My final option and to my surprise to most prolific was the SKS, there are no less than 4 companies which make a stock system for this rifle, Shernic Gun Works, Center Balance Systems, Rifle Tech, and several people had systems that they would custom build for your rifle (I lump these as one because the 'custom' option was never really an option). The SKS is a battle proven rifle however is universally cheaper than the AK, the most expensive models running about the same as the least expensive AK at the time. The Rifle Tech system really didn't impress me, it's a quality system so I have heard but I just didn't like the look. Shernic Gun Works seems to be the most common stock available, doesn't look too bad and has very good reviews. Center Balance has 2 options for the SKS and both look good and have rave reviews and I had a hard time choosing between them and the SG Works stock, that was until I examined the trigger systems. Center Balance uses the traditional transfer bar system that most bullpup stocks use, this almost universally produces a bad trigger and has been the bane of the bullpup as far as long range accuracy is concerned. The SG Works system however uses an adjustable reverse wire system and this totally eliminated the creep and grit issues of most systems. I was sold immediately on this system and this rifle.
_Now that I had the rifle and stock chosen I had inadvertently brought another problem on myself. The SKS is standard with a 10 round Box mag which feeds off stripper clips and while they do make a drop in exchangeable mag for it they are called “Duckbill” mags for a reason. They were not an option for me. I did a little research and found that a couple companies produce a insert that lets you cut the duck bill off the front of the mag. I discarded this for two reasons: one they are rather expensive, and two I dislike having to modify something to fit a rifle, you mod the rifle to fit whatever so that in the future you don't have to cut up a part just to use it in your rifle thus lowering the value of the part if you ever want to sell it down the road. Not to mention that if your in a SHTF situation you don't want to have to mod mags in the field just to fit your rifle. In this research I found the SKS-M which is a Chinese SKS which was modified at their factories to take the AK-47 mags out of the box. This was a great idea and seemed to be the answer to my problem until you factored in price, the cheapest I could find at the time was $800 and I might as well go with an AK for that kind of money.
_So in searching I found this beauty, Pamela is a Russian SKS-45 made in 1955 at the Tula Factory, I paid a little bit too much for her but she was in excellent shape and russians are considered by everyone to be the highest quality of the SKSs on the market (not to mention the scare prices). So after eating 50 percent of my budget I knew that fitting into my budget was going to be hard, but was determined to push on through. After ordering all the parts I needed (and some I didn't need but thought I did) I spent a week doing more research on how to convert my SKS to take the AK mags. I am luck enough to have a Mill machine at home and so I was able to do most of the cut outs in the receiver myself, this saved me a bunch of money and in the end I only had to pay to get the welding and the threading done (the only thing I don;t have setup for). The guys down at Maverick Metal Works really helped me out with this one, and if anyone in the Denver area needs some custom machining done, look them up they can be pretty busy but they are great guys.
_This project was such a pain and such a pleasure, I literally spent weeks on this staying up till 5 am and up at 11, and just about every minute of the day was spent thinking about if not working on this project. The planning, the screw ups, the few times when everything when according to plan, this was so much fun! This project challenged me in ways I didn't know I could be challenged anymore, I must have spent around 200 bucks on parts that it turns out I didn't need in the end and while that is annoying, it isn't like some of that stuff I won't use in the future so not a total loss. Every time I made a cut into the receiver scared the pants off me, mostly because replacing the receiver would have been a total pain in the but and really screwed up my percentages for cost. The first test fire was absolutely awesome, took it out to my local range, and putting it up to my shoulder was a little scary simply because of all the modifications I'd made to the internals of the receiver. It did slam fire on me once when I chambered a round but I more than half expected that, the SKS is prone to slam fire because of the firing pin design and one US made firing pin and spring later it was all fixed. I had long since given the trigger a little love and after some tweaking with the transfer wire I was more than happy with the SKS trigger. I may change a couple parts out in the future for more American made one but I am 922r compliant as it is so no rush there. I also plan on giving it a paint job so everyone expect a Mk II very soon.
Now without further ado, Onto my famous List of parts!:
Russian 1955 SKS-45
S.G. Works SKS Bullpup Stock Kit w/ Enhanced Mag release and Tri-rail
PRI Railed .650 Gas Block
Magpul MS3 Sling (FDE)
Magpul AFG (BLK)
Vortex Sparc Red Dot Sight
Vortex G6A2 Flash Suppressor
Surefire M300 Mini Scout Light (FDE)
Murray's SKS enhanced Firing Pin
Centerfire Systems hungarian Tanker 20 rnd
by the way, everybody some things just anyone can do, but please do not try this without a professional gunsmith around to tell you if your doing something wrong! All the work makes me love this rifle even more but I took my life into my own hands a bit when I tested it the first time so please be careful if you want one of your own.