Getting tired of the same old look and feel? We’ve found the way to put the ZAP back in the black…
by the ShootingDaily staff; promoted by Boyds Gunstocks
Any color you want…so long as it’s black.
That was the way the Ford Model T rolled back in the day, and pretty much the way the tactical firearm industry has rolled until recently. AR rifles…black. AR furniture…black. AR accessories…black.
That was then. Today, AR and AKM rifle owners and enthusiasts have options—particularly as they pertain to furniture.
For example, after years of shooting ARs with collapsible, skeletonized buttstocks, many folks are casting their eyes back to the simple charm and solid foundation of the fixed-length M16 A1- or A2-style stocks. They also like the fact that the hair doesn’t get ripped out of their faces with the fixed stocks as they often do with collapsible stocks.
Black plastic A1/A2 stocks, while a refreshing change for a growing number of AR shooters, are still black and plastic. Fortunately, there is an alternative.
Not long ago, wooden stocks on AR-platform rifles were viewed as novelties at best and “crazy talk” at worst. Today, not so much.
We wanted to see for ourselves what the wood alternative was all about, so we acquired a full AR furniture set from Boyds Gunstocks for our favorite varmint-buster. Let’s just say that after running various tactical-only ARs over the last several years, the wood furniture upgrade completely transformed the feel and personality of this particular rifle. So much so, in fact, that we got excited about the AR platform all over again.
The Boyds stock set is constructed around the company’s proprietary laminated hardwood process. This makes the furniture rock-solid when compared to conventional hardwood stocks, and provides an extra “heft factor” that eliminates the flimsy feel we’ve become accustomed to with ARs in standard polymer A2 trim.
Part of the Boyds manufacturing process is the ability to provide a color-fast finish to the laminated hardwood. And if you are an AR fan who likes flashy colors (like many do), Boyds offers a large color pallet. We wanted a more subdued look for our rifle, so we opted for the Pepper color scheme.
As you can see, the new buttstock has a more dynamic shape than the A1/A2 stocks, and includes a rubber butt pad and installed sling swivel post. The grip, with its finger grooves, provides a more ergonomic feel that improves hand position and rifle retention when compared to the standard A2 grip. Ditto for the forend. It’s slotted for heat dissipation, and the contoured profile is a vast improvement in grip over the A2 handguard.
The laminated hardwood stock set is perfect for those starting their build. If you wish to upgrade your existing rifle, however, note that the Boyds butt stock requires the A2 buffer tube, buffer spring, and buffer. So, if you’re upgrading your collapsible-stock rifle, you’ll need an A2 stock buffer tube kit that also includes the correct-length buffer spring and buffer.
Upgrading the AR-15
Removing the two-piece A2 handguard is a simple matter, but make sure you’re wearing your “man hands” because there’s a lot of spring tension to overcome beneath the delta ring. Pull down on the delta ring and then remove each handguard piece. Installation of the new Boyds handguard pieces is a reverse of the disassembly process. Depending on your particular AR, you may have to do a wee bit of sanding to get the handguards to fit.
Changing out the A2 pistol grip requires removing the pistol grip retaining screw with a 3/16-inch hex wrench (left). The safety selector detent spring seats inside of the grip, with the detent inside the receiver. Be careful not to lose either of these during the disassembly process. Replace the detent spring in the receiver, then install the new Boyds grip, maintaining correct alignment of the spring. Secure the grip with the supplied Boyds retaining screw.
If you’re replacing a collapsible stock, you’ll need to remove both the stock and the buffer tube, buffer spring, and buffer. First, remove the collapsible stock by pulling straight down on the adjustment lever and sliding the stock off the buffer tube (left). Next, remove the buffer spring and buffer assembly. This is held in place by the buffer retainer (right). To remove, use a flathead screwdriver or similar tool to depress the buffer retainer while pressing in on the buffer. The buffer is under strong spring tension, so once the buffer retainer is depressed, maintain control of the buffer and buffer spring as you ease it out of the buffer tube.
Replacing the buffer tube requires loosening the receiver extension castle nut so that the buffer tube can be screwed out of the receive extension. An AR-15 armorer’s wrench is used for this (left). Some manufacturers install these nuts using a thread locking compound, making them difficult to remove. Therefore, it may be necessary to secure the buffer tube in a bench vice so that it does not rotate while loosening the nut. Once the nut is loose, push down on the buffer retainer with a flathead screwdriver or similar tool and unscrew the buffer tube until it clears the retainer (right). The retainer is under spring pressure, so be sure to control it as you release the tension. If you don’t, IT WILL fly out and you may lose both the spring and the retainer. For this reason, it is important to wear safety glasses when performing this procedure.
Rotate the nut away from the receiver, then slide the receiver end plate back and rotate to free the takedown pin detent spring (left). Now unscrew the buffer tube from the receiver extension.
As mentioned, the Boyds AR stock kit requires an A2 stock buffer tube, buffer spring, and buffer. This is necessary to ensure a correct cycle of operation. This comparison shows that the adjustable stock buffer system (bottom) is completely different than the A2 buffer system (top) and is not compatible for use with a fixed stock.
Reinsert the buffer retainer spring and retainer in the receiver extension and screw on the new A2 buffer tube. Depress the buffer retainer and rotate the tube to its final position against the receiver extension. The forward edge of the tube should overlap the buffer retainer channel so that it catches the retainer and keeps it in place.
With the takedown detent spring installed in the back of the receiver, slide the Boyds butt stock onto the buffer tube, making sure to guide the end of the detent spring into its slot in the stock. We found the Boyds stock’s milled profile to be a perfect fit to our receiver, with no adjustment necessary.
Use a hex wrench and the supplied butt stock screw to secure the stock in place (left). The screw threads into the end of the buffer tube. With the stock secured, lightly lubricate the buffer spring and buffer assembly and install it in the buffer tube. Do this by pressing down on the buffer retainer and feeding the assembly into the tube. Once the buffer face is past the retainer, release the retainer. The buffer and buffer spring assembly should now be secured in the buffer tube behind the retainer.
Our upgraded AR is light years from where we started both in terms of looks and overall feel. The platform is now more “substantive” in terms of handling and ergonomics compared to the original collapsible stock and A2 grip and handguard configuration.
The AK Options
AKMs have been around for a long time, of course, but it’s only been in the last several years that interest in the AK and its variants has spiked in the U.S. With that new interest, many enthusiasts are looking to upgrade their weather-worn furniture, and some have even stepped up to the challenge of building their own AKM rifles from demilitarized kits sourced overseas. Whatever the case, new furniture is an easy and highly transformative upgrade for any AKM, and the same Boyds laminated hardwood and color options available for the AR are also offered for the AKM.
We had a couple of AKM projects on our hands recently, and decided that both deserved something different in terms of furniture. A friend had a Romanian-style AKM built in the U.S., but wasn’t thrilled with the look or feel of the cheap plastic stock and grip set. When he saw the Zombie Green offering from Boyds, his hand shot up with lightning speed.
Boyds offers their AK sets based around the Romanian AKM Model 63—arguably the largest volume import kit or U.S.-manufactured variant in the States. The profile follows the original Romanian furniture, but the laminated hardwood sets are well separated from the typical solid hardwood sets used here to meet 922R compliance.
As you can see, the Boyds kit certainly turned our friend’s ho-hum AKM into something completely different. He’s all grins, now.
Our other project involved our first AKM build, which also demanded 922R compliance even though we were building it for personal use. Unlike our friend, however, we wanted this build to hold closer to the classical AKM look, so instead of a laminated hardwood set, we chose a Boyds kit in solid walnut.
For those who prefer the more traditional AKM look, the Boyds solid walnut set fits the bill. To our eyes, this is how an Eastern Bloc AK variant would look were it made in the West with classic English/American craftsmanship.
Installing AKM furniture is about as simple as it gets. Drill two screw holes in the rear trunnion to attach the stock, connect the grip with the machine screw and T-nut, and snap the handguard halves into place (no tools required here). That’s it.
Our home-built AKM looks like a classic and is ready for action.
If you’ve grown weary of the color black and want to give your AR or AKM a serious makeover, check out the various furniture options offered by Boyds Gunstocks. We think you’ll find that a bit of updating and upgrading can rekindle the excitement that may be missing in your black rifle endeavors.
article copyright © 2017 ShootingDaily.com; promoted by Boyds Gunstocks
Although Boyds Gunstocks is one of our sponsors, the views expressed in this article are those of the author. ShootingDaily.com receives compensation from Boyds Gunstocks in various forms to help promote their products.