PSL-54C (ROMAK-III / Romanian "Dragunov") - Confederated Arms Aftermarket Composite Stock
(PSL: Before and After)
I've just traded out the stock on my PSL-54C - I'm nearly 7' tall, and the original stock is just way too short for me.
Confederated Arms' black composite aftermarket stock set has been a work in progress with early complaints about ill-fitting handguards and a gap above the pistol grip on some rifles due to variances in Romanian AK manufacturing and the fact that the stock is actually an original Russian Dragunov stock modified to fit the PSL. I'm glad I waited until now to find a new stock: I was pleased to find that Confederated Arms seems to have worked out most of the bugs. The adjustable stock set I received is one of the latest incarnations of the set, and it fits my rifle perfectly, with the pistol-grip gap filled in seamlessly with the adapter already installed.
Experience and Tools: The stock set included a hex-tool for adjusting the stock's length-of-pull, and a certificate of authenticity written partly in Russian. That's cool, but what was notably missing were instructions! Fortunately, I figured it out pretty easily on my own, but here are some instructions for anyone else who might need them. I think the installation of the stock set would be something that might take a little more trouble than the average novice would be comfortable with, so I would call the difficulty light-moderate. Time required might be perhaps 2-3 hours, maybe more or less, depending on how good you are at taking your time. You will need a screwdriver, possibly an adjustable crescent wrench or pliars, a standard Romanian AK-47 cleaning kit (optional, but probably included with your rifle and dirt-cheap from anywhere that sells AK parts and accessories), a spent/empty 7.62x54R shell case or 7.62x54R snap cap (optional) or equivalent for PSL's in other calibres, and a good drill and drill bit set (if you need to drill a hole for the grip bolt; workbench, vice, machine oil, and drill press are optional for this purpose but probably better for this purpose if you have them.)
Basic Disassembly: First, I performed a basic field strip of the rifle. Remove the magazine and clear the rifle to make sure it is unloaded and no cartridge remains in the chamber. The PSL-54C is actually just a really big Romanian AK clone, so it does disassemble mostly the same way as an AK-47 would: pop off the dust cover, remove the return spring, lock down the hammer using thumb pressure on it, remove the bolt carrier, bolt, and piston assembly. (Most AK owners have done all this many times to clean the rifle, and most AK experienced AK owners can almost do this in their sleep, but new owners may wish to consult an AK operator's manual for guidance.) After getting these parts out of the way, I felt it was safe to tap and pry on the rifle with no chance of terrifying mishaps.
Removal of Original LPS Scope: A locking lever under the scope can be gently pried downwards away from the scope base and rotated out away from the rifle; this allows the LPS scope to slide backwards off its rail. This probably wasn't necessary, but I would consider the scope to be a fairly delicate instrument and would want to keep it safe while working on the rifle, but I also wanted to replace it with a newer Kalinka Optics POSP scope anyway. It might be necessary to gently tap the front of the scope base to start its slide backwards - I used the side of my fist and tapped gently once or twice from a short distance, like knocking on a door, and the scope came loose easily.
Removal of Gas Tube with Original Upper Hand Guard: there is a lever on the right side of the rear sight block that locks down the gas tube; rotate the lever clockwise. Tip: the lever may be a tight fit and kind of awkward to reach, but it does have a tab that fits into one of the slots on a standard Romanian cleaning kit tube, and the tub can be fitted to the tab and used as a wrench to remove the gas tube. After the lever swings free of the sight block, it can be rotated back and forth until the gas tube comes loose - there's a sort of "sweet spot" near vertical where it unlocks the gas tube. Tilt the back of the gas tube up and remove the gas tube from the rifle.
Removal of Original Butt Stock: A pair of screws hold the butt stock in place - one on the "tang" hanging out over the back of the reciever, and another just underneath the dust cover. The screw under the reciever came out with no problems. The other screw/bolt is locked into a nut that fits up under the top of the handguard - supposedly, the nut or screw/bolt would need to be ground with a Dremel before it could be removed, but I had no difficulty with muscling it loose by hand without grinding it using only a good flat-blade screwdriver; your mileage, of course, may vary, but I am a scrawny computer geek, and I don't think most healthy people would have had any trouble with removing this screw from my rifle. After removing the screws, I wrapped the pistol grip in an old towel and gently tapped it a few times until it backed out of the reciever enough that I could gently pry it loose from inside the reciever using a screwdriver. The original stock fit very snugly into the reciever, but did not require much force to remove.
Removal of Original Lower Handguard: This part was slightly trickier than the others, as this is something I've never done before. On the right-hand side of the forward inside of the lower handguard is a tiny locking lever; this can be pried upwards and rotated forward, unlocking the front "bracket" for the handguard from its position on the barrel, and allowing the bracket to slide forward off the wooden handguard. Tip: a standard flat screwdriver blade can be used to gently pry the lever up, but the flat tool from inside a standard Romanian AK-47 cleaning kit works perfectly, too. The handguard can now be gripped firmly and rocked slightly downward away from the barrel and forward out of the receiver, until it can be removed from the rifle. Like the rear handguard, this was a snug fit, but work with it gently and take your time, and it will come free with little force.
Removal of Upper Handguard from Gas Tube: This part was the trickiest step. The upper handguard looks very delicate from underneath; it's difficult to tell at a glance how it is removed from the gas tube, and I was afraid of using too much force to move it. Note that between the gas tube and the handguard is wide U-shaped sheet metal spring; the only function this performs is to help keep the upper handguard from collapsing and splitting when squeezed; I mention this as my first impression was that it might have something to do with holding the handguard onto the gas tube, but this is not the case. Instead, the handguard can simply be twisted upside-down on the gas tube: it should rotate freely in its brackets. I needed to use an adjustable wrench applied to the back end of the gas tube to help twist it, as the handguard is a very tight fit, but once the handguard is completely twisted upside-down, it will pull downwards and slide right out of its brackets. Look out for that U-shaped shaping-spring from the inside middle of the handguard: It dropped free from the handguard onto my carpet and I barely noticed, and it's one of the smallest and most easily lost parts removed from the rifle so far (except for the screws from the buttstock.)
(The PSL disassembled into its basic components; this is really just a super-sized semi-auto AKM)
Carefully Storing Original Parts (optional): I like to save the original parts on my guns and keep them safe so that the guns can be restored to their original condition later. I oiled all the wooden parts, and, using the packaging that the new handguard set came in, I placed the buttstock, upper and lower handguards, and the handguard shaping-spring into the plastic bags, and then I put the original LPS scope into its protective cover, then placed all these parts for safekeeping in the cardboard shipping container with some silica gel, labelling the box with magic marker to make it easy to track down later.
TIP - extra cleaning (optional): While the gas tube is free from the rifle, you can use take this opportunity to clean the inside of the gas tube and the gas block, and then use the gas port cleaning tool (this tool may look like a small pin punch or slender metal rod and will be included in a standard Romanian AK-47 cleaning kit) to clear any debris from the tiny hole in the top of the barrel that opens into the gas block, by gently inserting the tool from the top of the barrel inside the hole in the back of the gas block for the gas tube. This optional step is especially recommended if you have fired plenty of dirty old surplus ammunition in your PSL.
Assembling the New Upper Handguard to the Gas Tube: This is assembled the reverse of removing the old handguard: insert it upside-down into the U-shaped brackets on the handguard, and then twist it into its proper position. There does not appear to be a front or back side to the upper gas tube, so I don't think it matters which end is forward. The fit on the new handguard seemed only a little looser than the original, and did not require as much force to twist into place.
Assembling the Lower Handguard to the Rifle: This is assembled in reverse of how the original lower handguard was removed: I gently rocked the handguard backward into the reciever and upward to the barrel, where I could push the bracket into place over the front of the handguard, rotate it verticle (it rotates slightly in either direction when loose), and then lock its little lever down in place in the front right-hand inside of the handguard.
Assembling the Gas Tube and New Upper Handguard Assembly to the Rifle: Again, this is done in reverse of how the original was removed: angle the front of the gas tube downward into its place on the gas block, hold the locking lever on the rear sight block upward to allow the rear of the gas tube to slide down into place in the rear sight block. Squeeze the gas tube assembly and lower handguard gently together against the barrel, and rotate the locking lever into place using the AK-47 cleaning kit storage tube as a wrench, if necessary. Getting the lever rotated into place can be tricky if the gas tube is not pushed down completely, but excessive force should never be required to rotate this lever completely and lock it in place - if it resists turning, you might push down gently on the metal at the back of the gas tube with a flat screwdriver or the flat tool from the AK-47 cleaning kit to allow the locking mechanism on the lever to rotate freely above the back of the gas tube.
Assembling the New Buttstock to the rifle 1 - Drilling the Pistol Grip Hole: This is where things get tougher. First, my rifle (and probably many other PSL-54C's and ROMAK-III's) does not already have a hole drilled in the bottom of the receiver for the pistol-grip bolt. If you are lucky enough that the rifle already has the hole drilled, then perhaps this stop can be skipped. Disclaimer: note that I call it a "pistol grip" for lack of a better term, as the aftermarket stock is actually a Dragunov-style thumbhole stock and does not have a separate pistol grip.
Insert an EMPTY 7.62x54R shell case/brass (or, alternatively, a 7.62x54R "snap cap") into the breech/chamber (back of the barrel), and a wad of newspaper into the back of the hole through the rear sight block that the piston goes through into the gas tube. If you have a PSL in some other calibre - I've never seen one but if you have one I'm sure you'll know it - use a spent shell or snap cap in the appropriate calibre instead. If you are going to drill a hole in the receiver, these precautions should prevent metal shavings from finding their way into the chamber, barrel, and gas system.
Remove the pistol-grip bolt from the new Dragunov buttstock, and assemble the buttstock into the PSL; it might need to be tapped into place. Using a long metal object inserted into the pistol grip, insert the stock onto the rifle, and mark the location of the hole; I used the pistol-grip bolt and tapped it once or twice and twisted it slightly so that it left a mark in the paint on the bottom of the receiver. Then I removed the buttstock and drilled the hole. I had to prepare myself for this part - I've never actually drilled a hole in a gun before, and I felt there was a good chance that I, in my clumsiness, would ruin the whole thing.
There's probably a "right" way to drill the hole involving machine oil, bench vice, and drill press, but I just used a cheap rechargeable drill (which was hardly charged) and cheap dry made-in-China drill bits from a cordless screwdriver kit, followed by a small cone-shaped Dremel grinding tool and cheap Dremel tool without a workbench, vise, or other tools while watching TV, and, to my relief, it worked out fine. Start with a small drill bit, and work your way up to one just slightly smaller than needed for the bolt. I alternated between the smallest bit in the set and a mid-sized bolt to get the hole started; the mid-sized bit seemed to be the one that got the most work done on cutting through the receiver's sheet metal, but the tiny bit seemed to pave the way for it. Once the drill makes it through the receiver, I debated whether to work my way up to a drill bit large enough to allow the bolt through, but decided instead to grind the hole wider using my Dremel tool, and this worked great: before using the Dremel, I fitted the stock back on the rifle, and made sure the hole matched up; it was slightly off-center, and the Dremel tool allowed me to grind the hold wider in the direction needed to center the hole correctly.
After grinding the hole a little at a time and fitting the stock until the pistol grip bolt will slip into the rifle, I assembled the stock permanently. Now it should be safe to remove the wad of newspaper from the hole for the gas piston. The empty casing or snap cap you inserted into the breech/chamber may be tricky to remove, but if you can't remove them with your fingers, don't worry about that right now.
Assembling the New Buttstock to the rifle 2 - Assembly: I had to place the nut for the pistol grip bolt on top of the tongue that slips into the reciever, just above the hole for the bolt, and then inserted the stock into the rifle. Then I pushed the bolt up through the pistol grip. This is where things get tricky, as there's not a lot of room to work in inside the reciever to hold the nut still while tightening the bolt. I had to use the AK-47 gas-port cleaning tool (the part that looks like a small pin punch) to help position the nut over the end of the bolt, and then blindly use pressure from the tip of my finger to hold everything still while tightening the bolt.
Assembling the New Buttstock to the rifle 3 - The "Tang" Bolt: The Dragunov rifle (which the stock was originally designed for) and the PSL-54C have different constructions, and Confederated Arms had to make an adapter for the part that fits into the reciever so that the stock would fit a PSL. The adapter, unfortunately, still leaves a tiny gap between the top of the stock and the "tang" than hangs over the back of the reciever. Tightening the tang bolt down anyway will cause the stock to tilt upwards and put stress on the stock and pull the pistol grip backwards away from the trigger and receiver, leaving a tiny but unsightly gap; this looks "bubba", it can't be good for the stock, and it messes with the stock's alignment with the barrel. Most users fix this by using a metal washer about the thickness of a U.S. quarter-dollar to insert between the top of the stock and the tang, but I happened to have a small sheet of sturdy black plastic about that same thickness, which I trimmed to the same outline as the tang, drilled a hole through, and then inserted into the gap between the tang and top of the stock. This worked great - the black plastic cannot be spotted by looking at it, and the stock definitely looks custom-made for the rifle now.
Adjusting the length of the stock: Unlock the plastic latch on the bottom rail of the Dragunov stock and adjust the stock to your comfort using the hex tool - it should fit into a hex screw head visible through a hole in the rifle's buttpad. Counter-clockwise will extend the stock a few inches until a goon-sized shooter (like me) is comfortable, clockwise will contract it until it has the same short length-of-pull as the original PSL stock. Lock the latch back down when you are happy with the length-of-pull.
Clean the Rifle: At this point, I strongly recommend cleaning the rifle carefully. If you cleaned the gas port earlier, then debris may have found its way into the barrel, and there is some danger of metal shavings from drilling the hole finding their way into the chamber. For your safety and for the sake of your rifle, make sure all this debris has been cleaned out of the chamber, barrel, and receiver before attempting to fire it.
Further Re-assembly of Rifle: Most experienced AK owners can skip reading this step and complete the re-assembly on their own, as they can probably do this blindfolded, but some new AK owners might find this informaiton useful. Insert the piston/bolt/carrier assembly into the reciever through the back of the rear sight block through the gas tube. I sometimes find it kind of tricky to rotate the bolt to the right position to allow it to slide on the rails properly; if it requires any excessive force to even start the assembly sliding down the rails, you should stop, back up, and try again; the bolt should be mostly extended forward on the carrier, with two flat "ears" facing downward to sit down onto the rails through gaps in the top rear of the receiver (take your time - once you've done this a few times, it gets easy to do.) Once the piston/bolt/carrier assembly is inserted onto the rails correctly, it should slide freely forward into place against the rear sight block. Insert the front return spring into the hole in the top rear of the carrier assembly, then compress the spring until the bottom of the square button on the back of the spring will fit into place in its grooves at the top rear of the receiver. Insert the front of the dust cover into the inverted U-shaped groove in the back of the rear sight block, then firmly push the back of the cover down over the square button, until the cover snaps into place over the reciever and the button snaps through the square hole in the back of the cover. Firmly draw the bolt back and let it go twice; if everything is assembled correctly on the PSL, the bolt carrier should snap forward freely, and the spent casing or snap cap should have been ejected successfully. Then, keeping the rifle pointed in a safe direction, release the safety and pull the trigger to release the tension on the hammer (for some rifles this is not a good idea, but it should not hurt the PSL or other AK's to "dry fire" it like this on rare occasions.)
Re-assembling the Original LPS Scope: If everything has gone well to this point, you should be ready to put the LPS scope back on the rifle. It should slide forward on the rail from the back of the rifle until it stops, and the locking lever can then be swung closed and locked into place. Unless someone has messed with the adjustment dials, the original LPS scope should have been sighted in at the factory and should re-zero itself once it's locked into place, and you should be ready to take your modified rifle to the range now. The scope should fit tightly, and should not move, slide, or rattle once locked into place. It is possible to tighten the original scope's latch down if the scope does rattle or move: remove the scope from the rifle, and then press the lever upward against its spring to allow the nut underneath it to tighten clockwise; tighten it a little at a time until the scope locks firmly onto its rail (your rifle may need to be re-zeroed if you need to tighten the locking lever in this manner, and you likely had accuracy problems anyway if the scope was loose.)
Adding a New Kalinka Optics POSP (or similar) Scope: The radioactive Tritium in the original LPS scope has almost certainly exceded its half-life to the point where it no longer glows in the dark enough that you can see the "cross hairs" adequately, making an aftermarket scope a useful accessory for the PSL-54C, and Kalinka Optics sells a variety of combat scopes of the same type that work great with the PSL-54C and other AK's with side-rails; most scopes by Kalinka Optics will have a black finish (as apposed to the LPS's original grey), which looks great with the new black furniture on the PSL! The "SKS/Dragunov" version of the sight base for these scopes is the one that should work with the PSL-54C, and should be the version you pick if given a choice. The POSP 4x24 with Dragunov-style 400m range-finder "crosshairs" will be practically identical to the LPS scope, but a more powerful scope or a different style of crosshairs may be more comfortable for some users. (I might recommend the 6x42 US Mil-Dot version of the POSP for users who might be more comfortable with Western-style scopes and crosshairs.)
The Kalinka Optics "SKS/Dragunov" style scopes may need to be tightened slightly to lock down on your PSL without sliding or rattling; instructions should be included with the scope that explain (in Russian) how to do this. If you can't read Russian, that's OK, as the illustrations get the point across fine, and maybe I can help here, too. I found that using a small "jeweler's" flat screwdriver to lift the end of the clip on the bottom of the locking leaver up enough to rotate it off the lever helps with this adjustment; once the clip and the washer underneath are off the locking leaver, I could then use the locking lever to tightent the gear on the lever's post down a couple fractions of a turn until I met just enough resistance that the scope was secure. Then I put the washer back onto the post around the gear, dropped the locking leaver onto the gear into the closed position, and then loosened the gear a quarter-turn so that I could slide the clip back on and rotate it back into its locked position on the lever; with the lever open, the scope should be loose enough to slide off the rail with a little resistance, and with it closed the scope should be locked firmly into place without rattling.
Tips for sighting in the new scope: To sight-in your new scope, you could do things the old-fashioned way, but I recommend instead using a laser bore sighter kit with a 7.62 / .30cal adapter (should have been included in the kit) - it saved me a lot of time and trouble! The cheap laser boresighter kit I bought has more than paid for itself in ammunition for the various guns I've used it with. For the PSL and similar weapons, if the the flash-hider / muzzle-brake has not been permanently welded on I recommend removing it from the rifle before inserting the bore sighter into the muzzle. (Be safe: make sure the gun is unloaded with you use the bore sighter, and that you remove the bore sighter (and its adapter) from the rifle before you shoot.)
In conclusion: I thought this was a short and fun project that didn't require too much effort or any special tools. The extendable stock actually makes the rifle possible for me to use, which I'm pretty excited about (until now, this rifle has spent most of its time in the back of my safe because I didn't fit the original little stock at all) - I can't wait for some nice weather to take it shooting in now! Confederated Arms' US-made handguards fit my rifle perfectly and appear to be of great quality and durability, while the modified Russian-made Dragunov stock is of exactly the quality I would expect for original Dragunov parts: it's sturdy, comfortable, and has a leather cheek rest that is much nicer and more functional than the wooden bump on top of the original PSL stock. My only complaint on the fit is that a spacer is required between the tang and stock; that was easily fixed, but it is something to watch for. I chose the installation of the Kalinka Optics scope and Confederated Arms stock set mainly for practical reasons, but I can't believe how different the rifle looks with the black furniture and scope, and it's a huge improvement: the PSL looks more like a real Dragunov than ever now, while retaining enough of its sleek and aggressive Kalashikov silhouette that I actually realize the PSL is a more attractive-looking rifle than the Dragunov, and now I prefer the PSL to the more expensive Dragunov design. The only permanent modification to the rifle was to drill a hole in the bottom of the receiver for the grip bolt to pass through; I regret making that alteration, but it's nothing compared to the fact that the bayonet lug was ground off for import, so I won't lose sleep about that. Because this actually makes a good but tiny rifle useable by me, it was worth the money, I feel it improves the appearance of the rifle, and as someone who enjoys this kind of work with fairly simple challenges the installation was a lot of fun, too.
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