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Old 02-06-2011, 01:02 AM
Mazryonh Mazryonh is offline
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Post Just how difficult is it to manufacture automatic weaponry from scratch?

Note: I am NOT talking about converting semiautomatic-only firearms to fully automatic ones. I am only concerned with building fully-automatic weaponry from scratch.

If the "AK-47 is the most illegally manufactured assault rifle in the world," then just how difficult is it to manufacture them? Where are these illicit manufacturing facilities located? Just how low-tech can you get before you can't actually make them?

I remember reading how "crisis guns" like the British Sten or the Russian PPS-43 were manufactured with a minimum of high technology, but if they were so easy to make, I'm surprised that more people who want this kind of firepower (such as criminal gangs or insurgent groups) aren't making their own versions of weapons like these. Is it more difficult to make weapons like these than their reputations claim?

Supposedly, resistance groups in Axis territory made their own versions of the Sten in WWII. There are plenty of people now who handload their own cartridges or even manufacture their own bullets, so it can't be too difficult.
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Old 02-06-2011, 01:34 AM
ersoz ersoz is offline
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The question should have been, how expensive is it to manufacture your own automatic weapon. Or even creating a production line...
In certain regions of the world, it is possible to purchase automatic assault rifles for less than 400 US dollars per unit. Why bother manufacturing your own if they are already so inexpensive?
Manufacturing "something" is not extremely difficult. If you have all the equipment/machinery which will most definitely cost millions of dollars. I'm talking about creating moldings and serious metalworking.
Also, I don't believe the Kalashnikov AK-47 is the most "illegally" manufactured weapon in the world. But it sure is the best known.
Slightly off topic perhaps but I'd like to share this trivia with you from the movie Lord of War. Instead of using prop AK's for a particular scene the production crew decided to rent real weapons from an armsdealer.. It just cost a lot less.
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Old 02-06-2011, 02:49 AM
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Rockwolf66 Rockwolf66 is offline
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Well if you have an automotive body shop you have everything you need to make a stamped reciver SMG. Might not look very good but it will funtion. I've handled the fire control group for a Uru Mekanika and the only thing that wasn't stamped or pressed steel was the plastic covering on the rear pistol grip.


I know in my own fiction one of the antagonists made a small run of a few dozen Ingram SMG's in .380ACP. It's an easy design to copy and in mexico the .380 round is legal as it's not a "military caliber".
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Old 02-06-2011, 03:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazryonh View Post
the "AK-47 is the most illegally manufactured assault rifle in the world,"
First of all, what does "illegally manufactured" mean? When Izmash OKB claimed years ago that the AK was "illegally manufactured", they were referring to all of the former Soviet Bloc factories that are producing AKs without paying licensing or royalty fees. You seem to be talking about civilians who manufacture AKs illegally in their home machine shops.

For weapons that are almost all metal and wood (the AK being the best example), its not too difficult to replicate them from scratch. Throughout the Northwest Frontier province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, there are gunsmiths who manufacture AKs and sell them from their homes or shops. I've seen pics of some of them, and they're very close copies of Russian and Chinese AKs. But these gunsmiths take a while to manufacture them (in the article I read, I think one guy said that with his family's help, he could make about 10-12 AKs per month, and he'd sell each for about $100 USD), and they're usually of vastly inferior quality compared to the originals. And obviously, these guys aren't going to be able to duplicate weapons such as H&Ks or ARs that use plastic (well, maybe they could build an equivalent in wood or metal).

Anyway, that's just in Pakistan, where any tools more complex than a lathe are going to be difficult to find (let alone power). In more developed countries, including the U.S., anyone can go to Home Depot and order a milling machine and dremel. I don't see why it would be all that difficult to set up a machine shop that could turn out illegally manufactured full-auto AKs and other weapons, provided it was done by a competent gunsmith. If you ever look at some of the "assault weapons" makers in the U.S. (the companies that are building new AR-15, AK, and H&K clones for the civilian market), most of them aren't gigantic corporations with huge robotic factories making their products. They're mostly just small mom-and-pop operations with 10-15 people who build guns that get shipped out to FFLs nationally. If somebody really wanted to to set up a similar-but-illegal operation that built full-autos instead of semis, it seems perfectly feasible.
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Old 02-06-2011, 04:27 AM
Mazryonh Mazryonh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MT2008 View Post
First of all, what does "illegally manufactured" mean? When Izmash OKB claimed years ago that the AK was "illegally manufactured", they were referring to all of the former Soviet Bloc factories that are producing AKs without paying licensing or royalty fees.
Yep, by "illegal" I should have written "without a license, or a government's approval/sanction." And I wasn't talking about "assault weapons" (a nebulous term that is too ill-defined), but rather about fully-automatic guns.

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And obviously, these guys aren't going to be able to duplicate weapons such as H&Ks or ARs that use plastic (well, maybe they could build an equivalent in wood or metal).
The wikipedia article on the M-16 claims that one could make a version out of wood and steel that would function identically to the more conventional models using composites in its construction, just with more weight. I don't know how true that actually is, but I'd definitely like to see what the result would look like (and how well it would perform).

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Originally Posted by MT2008 View Post
In more developed countries, including the U.S., anyone can go to Home Depot and order a milling machine and dremel. I don't see why it would be all that difficult to set up a machine shop that could turn out illegally manufactured full-auto AKs and other weapons, provided it was done by a competent gunsmith.
That's why I find it hard to believe that people with a sufficient grudge against authority don't turn to making their own guns if it is perfectly feasible and has been done before under duress (witness the Sten and the PPS-43). Properly done, it could be more reliable than relying on gunrunners or the like. I wonder if it would be possible for people in an area where guns are tightly controlled to start making their own to fuel an insurgency/organized crime/armed rebellion. I could see that happening if, for example, the authorities ever manage to definitively shut down the flow of smuggled guns to the drug cartels in Mexico, or if the fires of rebellion take hold in a country where guns are tightly controlled (such as China).

Right now chemicals that could be used in illicit drug manufacturing are carefully controlled (such as the ingredients for crystal methamphetamine), as are chemicals that could be used in clandestine manufacturing of explosives (especially fertilizer). But I'm not sure the machines you could make guns with are that tightly controlled.
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Old 02-06-2011, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazryonh View Post
The wikipedia article on the M-16 claims that one could make a version out of wood and steel that would function identically to the more conventional models using composites in its construction, just with more weight. I don't know how true that actually is, but I'd definitely like to see what the result would look like (and how well it would perform).
Yes, there are homemade AR clones that have wooden lower receivers, and wood furniture. However, I'd expect they're going to be way, WAY less reliable than the mil-spec versions (which aren't exactly all that reliable to begin with).

You can also cast AR lowers rather than forge them, which is much easier to do, but those lowers also tend to be poor quality (a few major AR makers in the U.S. used to build weapons with cast lowers, and they faced a huge backlash).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazryonh View Post
That's why I find it hard to believe that people with a sufficient grudge against authority don't turn to making their own guns if it is perfectly feasible and has been done before under duress (witness the Sten and the PPS-43).
The reason this isn't done more often is because it would be redundant. Full-auto is highly overrated and unnecessary in anything smaller than a belt-fed machine gun (which is why every professional Western military force teaches its infantrymen to fire their rifles on semi). And as long as semi-auto AR-15s and AKs are readily available at FFLs in the U.S., there's no reason for criminals and domestic terrorists to go to the trouble of making their own versions. Criminals are mostly apolitical and indifferent to the gun control debate; they're not going to try and manufacture automatic weapons just as a big "fuck you" to the gun controllers.

But my point is that IF the Obama Administration were to ban production and sale of all semi-auto assault weapons tomorrow (politically impossible) AND confiscate all of the existing weapons in private hands (physically impossible), I think it would be quite feasible for criminal entrepreneurs to set up underground gun shops and capitalize upon the unfulfilled demand for AKs and ARs. And they'd probably go ahead and make them full-auto, since the law wouldn't distinguish between either type of "assault weapon". If it can be done in countries like Pakistan, it could definitely be done (better) in North America.

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Originally Posted by Mazryonh View Post
I could see that happening if, for example, the authorities ever manage to definitively shut down the flow of smuggled guns to the drug cartels in Mexico, or if the fires of rebellion take hold in a country where guns are tightly controlled (such as China).
First of all, nobody's going to shut down the flow of smuggled guns into Mexico. At the local and state level, the Mexican government, police, and military have been heavily corrupted and/or infiltrated by the cartels. Regardless of what the Obama Administration does to close down the flow of guns from Texas to Mexico, the cartels are powerful and wealthy enough that they'll always have sources of arms.

As for China, the PLA has been fighting against armed Uighur separatist groups in Xinjiang Province for decades now.
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Last edited by MT2008; 02-06-2011 at 05:53 PM.
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Old 02-08-2011, 03:57 AM
Markost Markost is offline
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Blowback designs are easier to manufacture, just like the Holmes SMG.
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Old 02-08-2011, 05:31 PM
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Blowback designs are easier to manufacture, just like the Holmes SMG.
True, and there are already a zillion books that you can get at American gun shows or even off Amazon that provide instructions for building cheap, stamped sheet-metal SMGs with open-bolt actions.
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Old 02-13-2011, 11:42 PM
Mazryonh Mazryonh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MT2008 View Post
True, and there are already a zillion books that you can get at American gun shows or even off Amazon that provide instructions for building cheap, stamped sheet-metal SMGs with open-bolt actions.
If the knowledge is really widespread, then why hasn't someone tried to manufacture the "AK-47" of SMGs ideal to the purposes of criminal/terrorist groups? Something cheap and easy to clandestinely manufacture and easily rechambered to fit local ammunition (as well as easily concealable) would be well suited for them, especially if arms traffickers prove unreliable.

While I will admit that accurate semiautomatic fire is best used with rifles, SMGs have nearly always included fully-automatic fire capability for CQB purposes. Fully-automatic weaponry really excels if you're trying to pull a Baruch Goldstein or a Hotel Mumbai as well. Being under fully automatic fire you can't really escape or hide from is uniquely terrifying to people who haven't been trained to keep their cool in such a situation.
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Old 02-13-2011, 11:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazryonh View Post
If the knowledge is really widespread, then why hasn't someone tried to manufacture the "AK-47" of SMGs ideal to the purposes of criminal/terrorist groups? Something cheap and easy to clandestinely manufacture and easily rechambered to fit local ammunition (as well as easily concealable) would be well suited for them, especially if arms traffickers prove unreliable.
Didn't I answer this question already? What would be the point of trying to manufacture full-auto AKs when there are 100 million of them in the world and they can be illegally purchased/imported with such ease? It would be redundant.
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