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New US AK-47 Manufacturer

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by Pingy, May 22, 2011.

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  1. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    Well, at least thats my goal anyway.

    Hello I'm new here,

    I've read a bunch of things before that popped up in google searches on different gun topics from this forum but this is my first account. I'm trying to start manufacturing high quality AK-47 variants and need to do some serious networking and rubbing elbows with bigshots.

    I have my bases covered so far.
    1. No Zoning Restrictions in my County
    2. Sherrif's office said there was no laws against having a firearms manufacturing business where I live
    3. ATF said so long as my background checks out, I'm good to go

    I'm still waiting for my fingerprint cards in the mail before I can officially apply for my 07 FFL but am trying to get suppliers, plans, and processes set up now so that as soon as I get my license I can get it on file with whomever needs it and get started right away.

    I was going to be getting good barrels and milled receivers from Lancaster Arms until I saw they had an "F" rating with the BBB, and I don't want my brand associated with that. So now I'm out of an "affordable" supplier, and the only decent pricing I'm getting is from Brownells and Tapco. Best pricing is from Tapco but a local gun store owner said that nothing "high quality" with tapco furniture will sell but slap it on a WASR-10 and we'll talk.

    I really need someone who will be able to form the receiver (milled would be preferable methinks) stamp my logo and serial number on it, heat treat it, and weld the rails in properly. After that I can use this 12 ton press I found at harbor freight along with various kits from AK-builder to get the rest put together. My main addition to value is going to be the fit, finish, parts chosen, and accessories chosen for said gun.

    Anyway, google has been sending me on wild goose chases and I thought you guys might have some connections and be able to help me, maybe I could help one of you, I dunno.

    I've got a sort of "log book" on my progress towards production and a bit about me and what I'm planning to do on my website www.pingyenterprises.com if you want to check it out. It's an actual business entity with a copyright pending on the logo and everything, I just can't seem to get over the limitations I have as far as equipment and finding reliable suppliers and parts cheap enough that I can charge less than $3000 without losing money. (exaggeration, but not by too much) So let me know what you guys think, I'd appreciate any and all help/constructive criticism you've got.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2011
  2. interlock

    interlock Member

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    for your barrel needs, how about contacting a barrel maker that has a decent reputation and asking them if they can produce barrels to your spec. There are loads of makers out there. Krieger, border, et al for them it will ony be a case of programming the required profile into one of thier mega machines. Cost might be an issue... how about finding out who makes the adams and bennet barrels that appear on midway for $90 usd each?
     
  3. docnyt

    docnyt Member

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    I thought it was a lot more expensive to get an 07 FFL?

    Good luck with the business though.
     
  4. WardenWolf

    WardenWolf member

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    Tapco furniture is hideous. No question there. The K-Var stuff is good, though. It's an exact US-made copy of the real Russian polymer furniture. I put some olive drab furniture on my WASR underfolder and it turned out quite nice.

    th_ODFurniture.gif
     
  5. ironhead7544

    ironhead7544 Member

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    Green Mountain is making AK barrels. NoDac Spud makes good receivers. Have you ever built a kit? Ironwood makes very nice AK stocks. Do a search for AK forums.
     
  6. Ohio Gun Guy

    Ohio Gun Guy Member

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    You are going to need to work on how to get the price down. From your post, you will be buying in much the same way a home builder could. So quantity and efficiency are your friend.

    Dont forget INSURANCE.

    There are also sources for US made Wood stocks, Timbersmith and Ironwood.

    Good Luck
     
  7. onebigelf

    onebigelf Member

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    I hate to say this, but someone should. From your post you plan on buying components off the shelf, just like any home builder would.

    "I having 0 heat treating capability, and I don't know how these people build their own furnaces, but I'm not that talented."

    "After that I can use this 12 ton press I found at harbor freight along with various kits from AK-builder to get the rest put together."

    "I finally found a toaster oven that will fit a 20 inch barrel diagonally (don't judge me, more on that later) so I've got the finish baking thing down"

    These statements are incompatible with "I'm trying to start manufacturing high quality AK-47 variants".

    To be blunt, you appear to lack the skills and resources to achieve your stated goals. Your plan of purchasing off the shelf components and assembling them in a mish-mash of parts using second rate tools and processes that can be duplicated by any Bubba in his garage over a weekend is NOT going to produce "high quality AK-47 variants" and certainly will not do so at competitive prices. I strongly urge you to rethink your plan and get some skills before trying something like this.

    John
     
  8. RhinoDefense

    RhinoDefense Member

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    If a bank doesn't loan your business money or only trusts it with a few grand, that means your business plan doesn't convince them your business is worth the risk. That is not a bank you want to deal with for loans. They essentially want you to make one rifle, try to sell it, and see what (gross) profit you make from it. Anecdotal data such as that is not a good gauge of business potential profit viability. The bank seems amateurish in this field.

    Get a solid business plan together that is presentable to a venture capitalist or financial institution. The Small Business Association has a program called SCORE, which is the Service Corps of Retired Executives. It's a taxpayer funded resource for business owners that assists them in drafting a business plan for investors or bank loans, marketing plans, cash flow management, legal assistance, and general business management. I suggest you put things on hold and give them a call.

    Side note here, the best thing you can do is have a full time job and start this FFL business with your free time. Then you don't have the stress of trying to sell product to get a meal later that night. Start bootstrapping your business by taking money from your regular job and invest it into your business (make sure the accounting is spot on). Take out some luxuries in your lifestyle to free up cash for investing in your business. Since you aren't relying on business income for your livelihood, because you have a full time job to support yourself, reinvest all the profit back into the business for growth. Don't plan on drawing any paycheck out of the business for the first year. Stay cash solvent.

    Since you are having issues with startup capital, I would suggest starting with parts of lower cost, like stamped versus milled. I do not know if NoDak Spud offers manufacturer discounts, but it can't hurt to ask. They might require decent quantity for such, ie 100 minimum order. Build some stamped kits and use those to establish your brand. One hundred receivers might be too expensive for you and so will a few milled receivers with most of the work done for you. Unless you're building custom target rifles for benchrest, the firearm industry is a volume game. If you get the small loan, make and sell that one rifle, you will most likely lose money on that sale and be upside-down on that loan.

    Also, since your company is a privately owned company (ie not public stock offering) I would keep financial information private. It's not the public's business to know you can barely get X dollars in business loan.

    I would get a plan together and really look at the realities of your idea. To me it looks like you're going to be making AKs from whatever you can get your hands on or afford and assembling them with hobby grade tooling and try to market them as a "quality" weapons. AKs aren't like ARs where you buy quality parts from the manufacturers and assemble them in a half hour flat. I'm not sure of your process capability or your experience in actually building AKs from kits. I would take a hard look at that.

    I admire your entrepreneurial spirit and urge you to not get into anything financial before you sit down and get a very realistic objectified view of your plan. There is nothing wrong with starting small or "microbusiness" I guess is the term these days. In fact many customers appreciate small businesses over large businesses.
     
  9. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    I have spent hours and hours going over this plan, and it has evolved almost as many times as I have spent hours doing research. This isn't an issue of me throwing together a piece of crap and marketing it as quality as a few suggest, my goal is quality and I'll market it as whatever it turns out to be.

    The 07 FFL is actually cheaper than I thought, it's only $150, but that doesn't mean that everyone who can do this is going to make something they can sell.

    In the Marines I learned that what you think are your limits, are actually nothing with a can-do attitude and hard work. As a radar repairman, I had to repair a jackhammer one time. Never thought I could do it, but I jumped in, did what I needed with what I had and got it done. This is going to happen if I have to bend receivers with my teeth and color the gun by beating it black and blue with a baseball bat.

    As far as insurance, I already called an agent and am waiting for the insurance quote. Unfortunately my current company won't touch liability insurance for gun makers. Any affordable companies that some gunsmiths here could recommend?

    I appreciate those who are trying to help by offering ideas, possible solutions, and asking hard questions to get me to think harder about my plans and possible alternatives.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2011
  10. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    Ok, I am now researching heat treatment ovens and processes to build my own. You guys have challenged me and now I am tackling the task of increasing my manufacturing capabilities and also decreasing costs to decrease overall price. Lets get it on!
     
  11. dovedescending

    dovedescending Member

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    May I ask why "Pingy" and why the penguin logo...? Neither of those strike me as being very, well, gun-like...

    Somehow I don't see purchasing a new AK-47 for $1500 and having to explain to my buddies why it has a penguin on it. You may wish to hire somebody to do some creative work for you.

    BTW, I should probably mention here that I am not a manufacturer of firearms, firearm accessories (with the exception of a decent pancake holster I made a few months ago), or for that matter anything that might lead you to think I was some sort of competitor. I am a consumer. And producers should ALWAYS listen to thoughtful consumers.

    And for my last little thought, blasting THR on your website is, um, unprofessional? To say the least.
     
  12. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    I get where you're coming from with the logo, it's a general thing I had when I started the company and before I knew exactly what it was going to do. I have gotten mixed responses about the logo and name in relation to AK-47's, either people love it or hate it. I haven't gotten enough feedback to really make a decision on whether to stick with it or not but at the very least I do know it will stand out. I've still got time before production begins to sort that out and I appreciate your comments.

    I appreciate the suggestions about insurance, nondisclosure of financing information, suggestions for barrel suppliers, and suggestions on how I might better start out.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2011
  13. dovedescending

    dovedescending Member

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    You may wish to start a separate blog for your company and put personal thoughts and musings there, instead of on your front page. Just a thought :)

    Are you starting up this company by yourself? You may wish to find yourself a partner who has more manufacturing know-how to pair with your business education. It's never a bad idea to have a second perspective.
     
  14. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    Would you say that the "progress towards production" is a good place for what is there, or should I change the title to something that might fit better? I will take your advice and remove that stuff from the first page. A friend of a friend is a gunsmith and I'm planning on contacting them to come over and help with my first build.

    As funny as this sounds, I actually did pay a guy from Slovakia $20 to design my Penguin logo and am rather partial to it so I'm REALLY hoping it'll be useful. I'm also soliciting offers to have a kiln built with a reliable and accurate means of heating, but I'm doing that on another website where I know people a bit better. The site is actually not related to guns at all but there are a lot of guys who know about electronics that I'm friends with who'll give me good prices.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2011
  15. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    Oh yea, and this is a one man show right now. I'm a little stressed because of what i found out about who my main supplier was going to be and it completely threw my plans for a loop. I'm going to pursue a business relationship with Nodak Spud, but I'm a little afraid that with the low volume I'll be initially purchasing they won't want to mess with things like logos or model numbers. I guess I COULD stamp it on the side of the rear sight block without having to worry about damaging anything if I have to do the stamping myself, want to stay away from trying to stamp the hardened receiver.
     
  16. Ohio Gun Guy

    Ohio Gun Guy Member

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    I Wonder if there is a local engraver that would put something on the stock or send batches of sight blocks to the engraver.

    Commercial kitchen equipment may go high enough and have good heat control / accuracy. I think you can do this if you are determined. You will probably need to hire a testing agency or engineering service to test the first of your product line, if your doing heat treating and the like. You should also have the finished rifles inspected by a gun smith, or get qualified yourself. Some means of reliable quality control will go a long way in finding problems.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2011
  17. Rollis R. Karvellis

    Rollis R. Karvellis Member

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    I'm, not sure about the name, but I, do like the logo.
     
  18. Dreamcast270mhz

    Dreamcast270mhz Member

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    You have great ideas! I suggest you do what other US AK manufacturers don't do, and that is make a Bizon AK clone. Cheap and simple to start out with as it is conventional blowback and you would not have nearly as much competition.
     
  19. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    So that is:
    1 No for Logo
    1 Yes for Logo
    1 No for name

    I need to go make an official tally at my other place too. One thing that I need to keep in mind though, is that this isn't my target demographic. You guys know waaay to much about guns and will research, and find there was a model of AK-47 imported in 1984 that 1 store still sells for $30 and it's the best AK-47 ever. I'm exaggerating and making that up of course, but I think you get my point. My target audience is the guy who walks into the local gun store and says "Wow, that rifle looks SWEET" because it's the only AK-47 in the place and has the disposable income to pull out his wallet and buy with cash. Of course I'm still going to build the best product that I can which will keep them happy with the purchase forever. So to that end, I'm going to try to build a rifle that you guys would like and buy because if it's good enough for you, it'll be more than the other guy will ever expect.

    Local engraver is a good idea, but commercial kitchen equipment runs a little too high and is a little too big. Luckily though, I just remembered that one of the guys I served with always loved building things and got his degree in Electrical Engineering so he could rig up a kiln with heat bricks and a good heating element with temp control.
     
  20. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    Bizon AK? Ok, now that I've googled it, not a bad idea! Only thing is... where am I going to get those mags and parts? That would definitely stick out to customers.
     
  21. RhinoDefense

    RhinoDefense Member

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    No, you don't have to have a "ton" of money, just enough money. No one here suggested you have "the most expensive processes", we urged you to get proper equipment. That does cost money. You don't have to buy everything new, but buy smart. Go to auctions, talk with machine shops that might have equipment laying around unused that they would like to sell you and get some of their money back.

    It takes money to make money. That is a fact that is not avoidable. Today it's not about having money yourself, it's about having access to money. There is a difference. If you can't open your wallet, then you need people who are willing to do it for your business. Either way, it takes money. Welcome to the real world.

    You'd be surprised what weapons started out being made in a garage by home based 07 FFLs.

    Lose the attitude and take off the blinders. We are not trying to disuade you or conjure up cute little military cliches. We are giving you real world insight and advice which you sought. We WANT you to succeed. I'd love for another US based AK manufacturer to make a living off it, but I want them to know the realities of business and industry that you are getting into. What you need to develop is thick skin. Banks, investors, venture capitalists, and suppliers are more harsh than anyone on a gun forum. There are manufacturers on gun forums, such as myself, that have survived many years in this industry and started from more humble and dramatic beginnings than yours. Instead of puffing out your chest in defense, you'd be better off sitting down, getting a beer, and opening your ears. Process the information you are given. I've seen literally HUNDREDS of FFL businesses fail in my life because of one thing or another, usually poor business skills. I don't like seeing failures.

    I admire your confidence, but your fellow AK manufacturers (I'm not one of them, BTW) have been in business longer than you have been alive. They've seen young hot shot companies come and go time after time. That's your competition. It isn't easy to be beat, let alone competitive itself. You are the underdog that's inexperienced and underfunded trying to climb the tallest mountain in your life. I've been in the Corps and it doesn't prepare you for this.

    I sincerely wish you the best of success with this. If you want to talk to a firearm and ammunition manufacturer that's been around for several successful years, you know where to find me. I give no BS information.

    Rhino

    PS: head over to guninsurance.com for firearm manufacturer liability insurance.
     
  22. Pingy

    Pingy Member

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    As much as you telling me to lose the attitude makes me want to say "you haven't seen attitude yet," I understand what you're getting at with the thick skin thing so I'm just going to ignore it, listen to the helpful things you have to say, and just go with it.

    I'm thinking the moral of this story is to teach selective perception, ignore the crap talk and and take all the nuggets of information out of your post that I can. Thanks for the business lesson. This is more of a learning experience than a "make a living" thing right now, so I'll take all the lessons I can get.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2011
  23. dovedescending

    dovedescending Member

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    You know what I'd like to see? The functionality and robustness (if either of those are even words) of an AK in a sleeker, less communist package. I'm going to get hate for saying this, but AK's are some damn ugly rifles. There HAS to be a way to make 'em purtier.
     
  24. RhinoDefense

    RhinoDefense Member

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    Trust me, I've seen attitude. Teenage girls, years spent in the Corps, years spent in law enforcement, oh trust me, Sir, I've seen attitude from all areas of the spectrum. :) Business is about knowledge, knowledge is about learning. You are too defensive. Just let it go. I was the same way when I started out.

    Just remember, Charles Walgreen, Henry Ford, Sam Walton, Andrew Carnegie all failed many times before they got the right program together and were successful businessmen. Not a single person on this planet learned to ride a bike the very first time. We got training wheels, then bumps, cuts, and bruises from failed attempts. But then something *clicked* and we "got it" and were successful. That's exactly how business is.

    Since you are in college, the university should have a business club. Join it. Get in touch with the business instructors. They will help you. Trust me when I say to pursue the SBA's SCORE program. There should be a local chamber of commerce, become involved. Network with people who would be interested in buying your product. When I started out, anyone worth knowing or having be known by, was anyone having to do with the annual gun shows. The top city officials and businessmen were all about the guns.

    Use the time in college with R&B paid for, to get your process down, focus on your intentions, manage customer expectations, manage cash flow. Anything you can do with cold cash, do it. Paying interest on a loan means you have to factor someone else's profit (interest) into your markup to cover your COGS (cost of goods sold). Goods are sold FAR less efficiently than they are made.

    Set yourself up for success now so that you can enjoy it later. Entrepreneurship is about living your life now like others won't, so later you can live life like others can't.
     
  25. john wall

    john wall Member

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    Also, don't forget the ITAR. Google the State Dept, read it and weep. It is a destructive tax for the small manufacturer.

    For a good looking 7.62X39 rifle, look at the VZ-58. It is light years ahead of the AK.
     
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