How to Clean an AK-47

Hello again, faithful audience. In this article I will be showing you how to take care of an AK-47 rifle. These are, in my opinion, the finest rifles ever made, mostly because of their extremely high reliability factor.

Even people who have never touched an AK are aware of its reputation as the toughest gun of all time. If you are fortunate enough to own one of these, you will need to learn how to clean it and take care of it.

People seem to think that you can abuse this gun any way you want, but let me be the first to tell you the any other firearm, the AK-47 WILL break down if it is not properly maintained. It will take a lot longer than most other guns, but it will happen all the same. Kalashnikov's design is amazing, but moisture, rust, and gunpowder residue are still going to be there, and they still eat metal. It just makes me want to cry when I see an AK that has been allowed to rust and decay, just because its owner thought it was unbreakable.

At present, there are a lot of politics associated with this type of gun. If I may digress for a moment, allow me to weigh in on a few things:

If you are one of those people who think I should not be allowed to own this gun, let me just say are an idiot and you need to go read the constitution again. If YOU want to give up liberty for false security, go right ahead, but as for me and my house, we will stick to the constitution because it is the only thing that makes our country free at all. Besides that, I live in a rough neighborhood and my AK is very reassuring to have on hand. I promise you, the criminals are NOT going to give up their guns no matter what laws are passed, so the people need to be just as well-armed as the criminals.

And as for those of you who may think my Confederate flag there is a symbol of racism...well, once again I turn to history for my defense. I could write PAGES about why the Civil War was not really about slavery, but instead, I will simply point out that slavery was practiced in both the Union and the Confederacy. In fact, slavery was allowed to continue in the north for about 5 years after the end of the civil war. So I can't help but wonder...why do we only blame the south for the crime of slavery? In truth, this flag represents the right of all people to separate themselves and be independent if they so choose. Soldiers with white, black and red skin fought and died together under this flag, so I have a hard time believing that it is racist.

Now, with that out of the way, let's get down to business.

Step 1: Make Sure the Weapon Is Unloaded

The first thing we must do is show you how to disassemble the weapon, but before we do that, safety must come first! We will start by removing the magazine. That's the technical term for a clip, in case you don't know. Locate the small button just in front of the trigger:

Put your thumb on this button and grip the magazine like so:

When you press in on the button, the magazine can be swung forward and out like so:

Inspect the magazine and make sure it is empty. Now, pull the bolt open and check the chamber to ensure there is no bullet inside of it. The bolt is that little cocking handle next to my thumb, in case you don't know.

Once you are sure that the rifle is completely unloaded, we can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Remove the Receiver Cover and Mainspring

First, locate this button on your rifle:

This button will remove that whole top cover. So, push it in like this:

And pull the top cover piece up and back, lifting it free:

This top cover is called a "receiver cover". This is because the large block of metal that it is connected to is called the "receiver".

Anyway, now that the receiver cover is off, we can remove the mainspring. All you have to do is push the button forward again, only this time, it will slide forward on some rails before coming loose:

now slowly release the button and pull the spring out:

Put these two parts aside and continue to step three:

Step 3: Remove the Bolt and Bolt Carrier

This is quite easy. Just put your hand on top of the bolt carrier like so:

And slide it back.

That piece you have your hand on is called the "bolt carrier" because it carries the bolt, which is underneath it. These two pieces are fitted together right now. Lift the whole piece up, and then pull back towards the rear of the gun, so that the bolt is lifted up out of the receiver (the main block), and the piston is pulled out of its hole:

Now, if the bolt and bolt carrier haven't fell apart from each other yet, pull them apart. Here is what it looks like when it is perfectly in place:

As you can see by now, the bolt is not really attached to the bolt carrier. If you turn the bolt just a little, it will slide out of a little groove in the bolt carrier:

And the whole bolt can then be pulled out:

Before we continue to the next step, It's time for a quick tip.

Do you see that shiny metal piston attached to the bolt carrier? that spot where the piston connects is the only weak point that this gun has. You can tell about how many times an AK has been shot by the amount of wobble that you feel when you jiggle the piston. If you are ever planning to buy another AK, you should ALWAYS check the piston before you buy. My piston has a tiny bit of wobble, but that's no problem, especially because mine is an Egyptian, which means it has an additional pin that helps hold the piston in place. That whole piston can be screwed out and replaced, if it's too worn down. Of course, you are not going to be able to just grab the piston and twist it out by hand. The last time I did it, I used a set of vice grips, and it was still a bitch. If yours is an Egyptian like mine, you will need to punch out a small pin as well. You can see this pin in the picture above. It is just a few inches up from my thumb.

If you really need a quick piston fix, look for a certain type of glue called "Loc-Tite". It works well because it gets stronger as it gets hotter. Using some of this glue in the threads will lock it in there super-tight, and from what I have seen, it will be very secure and hold pretty much forever. When A friend of mine glued his piston like this, I didn't think it would work, so I tested the repair job out by firing 3 full clips (that's 90 rounds) through the gun as fast as I could dump them out. There was no malfunction and the piston held fast. Last I knew, the gun was still functioning smoothly. So, even though some gunsmiths would crap their pants at the suggestion of gluing your gun together, it actually works quite well in this case. The only downside to this glue method is the fact that it will make the piston much harder to remove if it ever breaks entirely.

Step 4: Remove the Gas Tube

This one is really easy. For a start, locate the small lever near the rear sights:

Turn the lever up like this:

It might not be easy to do this, especially if the weapon has not been disassembled in awhile. You might need to get a screwdriver or something and gently pry it up.

Anyway, after the lever is raised up, you should be able to remove that little tube in front of it. This tube is called the gas tube because, whenever the bullet goes off, some of the hot gas from the gunpowder is transferred through this tube, where it moves the gas piston back, so that the mainspring can move it forward again, chambering another round from the magazine as it goes.

So to remove the gas tube, just push forward and then lift up:

If you have any trouble, jiggle the handle.

Now, just in case you want to remove the stock, I will tell you. Bear in mind, though, that you don't have to remove the stock for a routine cleaning. If you want to change the stock, remove it by taking out two screws. One is located on top of the stock:

And a second is located in the pistol-grip:

The top of this screw is located just underneath where the mainspring button was. Your AK may have more than two screws, depending on what type of stock it is set up with.

To remove the fore-end grip, locate the small lever just in front of it:

Turn this lever over:

and pull that metal piece forward:

Now the bottom half of the fore-end grip should just fall right out:

As for the upper part of the fore-end grip (which is still attached to the gas tube), you just need to put the wooden part into a vice and turn it. As the stock-piece turns, it will get to a position where you can pull it out. It's a real pain in the ass to do it by hand. Depending on what kind of stock you use, this process can vary a little bit.

Step 5: Clean the Rifle

Start by getting out a cleaning kit, like the one shown below:

If you don't have one of these, you need one. They only cost about 20 bucks. You will also need some oil and solvent. I recommend Rem Oil because it is both oil and solvent.

Get your 30-caliber wire brush and screw it into the end of a cleaning rod.

Now screw the cleaning rods together. Mine is three pieces, but they vary.

Now just screw the handle onto the end:

Now that your cleaning rod is assembled, stick it brush-end first down the barrel:

Put it all the way down the barrel and then pull it straight back out. Repeat two more times.

Now, unscrew your wire brush and replace it with a 357-Caliber soft brush. Run it through the barrel two or three times just like you did with your wire brush.

You will notice now that the soft brush is filthy. It is probably almost completely black. Before it goes into your barrel again, you need to clean it. Do this by holding it in an old sock and putting solvent on it:

Now "roll" the brush in the cloth, so that the gunk is wiped off:

My brush is only this clean because my gun is not really dirty, by the way. This process of "rolling" the brush in a piece of scrap cloth is also explained in my article on SKS cleaning. After the first rolling, add more solvent and do it again, this time using a different part of the cloth. When the brush is at least marginally clean, add more solvent and then run it through the barrel three more times. Then, clean it again and repeat the process until the barrel seems completely clean.

Of course, you aren't done with your barrel until it passes the ol' white cloth test. First, take a cleaning patch or a small piece of white cloth:

wad it up and stick it down the barrel:

You should have to force it a little, but not very much. Now, use your soft brush on the end of the cleaning rod to push the white cloth down the barrel:

The test cloth should drop out the other end. Inspect it. If there is any dirt on the cloth, repeat the test. Keep running test patches down the barrel until they come out completely white.

As I told you in the SKS article, don't skimp when it comes to cleaning the barrel!

Now, cleaning the rest of the gun is pretty straightforward. Just use the solvent and a piece of scrap cloth to wipe every piece until it is absolutely clean. Wipe with a piece of white cloth to test each piece. As before, when the part will no longer stain the cloth at all, it is done. Cleaning the gas tube can seem tricky, but it isn't. Just work some scrap cloth through the hole and "floss" it. With the gas tube, it is of special importance that you clean the inside of it very well. Make sure that no solvent is left on the inside of the tube. Since most gunpowder solvents are highly flammable, this should make sense.

Another tricky part is getting into those hard-to-reach places. Every little nook and cranny of the gun needs to be cleaned, so use Q-tips to get into those hard-to-reach places:

Chances are, the dirtiest part of your gun will be the end of your piston. Use plenty of solvent here, and lot of elbow grease. If this isn't enough, use a small piece of sandpaper.

Now, let's talk about all these little tiny parts that make up the trigger group:

I do know how to remove all of this and put it back together again, but I am not going to include it in this article unless it is requested, because it is rarely necessary. Apart from that, it is a giant pain in the ass to get it all back together correctly. Unless you are a gunsmith or something, my advice is to leave all this stuff alone. Truthfully, I only learned how to remove it because it irritated me that I didn't know how.

That being said, if you really need to know how to remove the whole trigger group, leave a comment below and request it.

When cleaning this area of the gun, you can just use Q-tips and plenty of solvent, and you should be able to get it clean enough.

Step 6: Re-Assemble the Rifle

Ok, the worst is over with. Re-assembling this gun is almost as easy as disassembling it. Did you notice how few working parts this gun has? Not only does this make it easier to take apart and put back together, it also means fewer things that can go wrong. This simple design is what makes the AK the dependable workhorse that it is.

Start by Re-Attaching the stock, if you removed it. It is hard for me to give specific instructions here because there are many different kinds of stocks, but if you were able to remove it, you should be able to put it back on again.

Now, fit the small end of the gas tube back into its place like this:

Then, push the other end down into place. Once again, if you have any problems, jiggle the handle.

Now return that little lever to its original position:

This should lock the gas tube into place. Tug on it a little to make sure it is firmly seated.

Now, you will need to fit the bolt and bolt carrier back together. Remember that groove that you turned the bolt out of? Here's a closer look:

My dirty-ass index finger is pointing to the spot where the bolt enters and exits when it turns. So, just drop the bolt back into its hole, where it was before:

Now spin the bolt in its hole until it fits back into the groove:

Now, as the bolt slides into that groove, keep turning it and pushing it forward.

When the two pieces are fitted together just right, they look like this:

So, now our piston, bolt carrier, and bolt are all together. Drop them down into the receiver again.

Push downward on the bolt carrier and push the whole thing forward. it should slide all the way up:

Beginners sometimes have trouble with this part. Just be patient and don't force it. Keep trying until you get it all to line up just right.

From here, it is a simple matter to re-insert the spring. Stick it back into the same hole you pulled it out of:

Slide the button end of the spring back onto its rails, where it will be locked in place by its own tension:

Now for the receiver cover: Take the front of it (this part):

And fit it into the groove that it came out of:

Here's another part that beginners sometimes have trouble with: Push the receiver cover into its groove and keep pushing forward. At the same time, push down on the back of the receiver cover. This will cause the button to lock the receiver cover into place as the button slides into its hole:

Now all you have to do is work the bolt back and forth a few times to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Re-insert your magazine and you are ready to head for the range and fire it up again.

Oh yeah, you might notice that my AK is overdue for a re-blueing. I will show you how to do this in an upcoming article.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this article, and I hope it has been helpful. If you would like to thank me for writing it, you can do so by writing your representatives, signing petitions, joining the NRA, and doing everything else you can to help preserve our gun rights for future generations to enjoy.


Great article with nice photos of each step. Much nicer than the "manual" that I had to download from I.O. Inc. Question: How do you clear the last round in the chamber if you don't fire all the rounds in the magazine. Unlike my AR-15 and every other gun I have used, it seems that an unfired round is too long to be ejected when I pull back the bolt. I cleared it by firing the round, but there must be a better way.

Just bought an AK 47 at a local gun show. When I went to clean it I discovered that the threads on the cleaning rod did not match the threads on the various tips that came with the cleaning kit. The gun is from I.O. Inc and is the sports model. Had to use another cleaning kit that I borrowed from my neighbor. This wouldn't work in the field.

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