In order to clean and maintain your rifle, the first step is to field strip (disassemble) your rifle.
The AK was designed so that military conscripts with limited training could be quickly taught to care for the weapon. In this respect, Mr. Kalashnikov and his team did a brilliant job.
Here’s a step-by-step primer how to do a basic take-down so that you’ll be able to clean it.
>> The first thing you’ll want to do is detach the magazine by depressing the magazine catch.
Make certain the safety is on “safe” mode and pull back the charging handle. Inspect the chamber to make certain there is no live round inside.
It’s also a good idea to put your finger into the chamber to verify that there is, in fact, no live cartridge within. (If indeed there is a live round in the chamber, place the safety lever on “fire” mode, and pull the charging handle to the rear to eject the round. If the round is stuck, slowly release the charging handle, put the safety back on, lay the gun down out of harm’s way, and get someone to help you.) For more insights on how to clear an AK malfunction this video from Rob Ski of the AK Operators Union (AKOU) is quite helpful.
>> The second step in your field strip is to remove the top cover of the receiver.
Just depress (with your thumb) the square serrated button located at the end of a top cover. This will compress the carrier spring and allow you to lift up the rear end of the cover. (Take note where the front end of the cover fits against the rear-sight block.)
With the dust cover removed, you’ll expose the “guts” of the rifle.
>> Next, remove the recoil spring assembly.
You’ll do this by pressing the same button forward until it’s released from its slot. Then pull the spring and guide out. Again, take note of how the spring assembly is inserted into the carrier.
>> Then remove the bolt carrier.
Pull the charging handle back towards you, as if you were ejecting a live round, until it pops out of the receiver.
Note how it travels along a rail towards the rear of receiver and can be removed once it clears a couple of slots. Simply lift it out.
At this point you can also remove the bolt from the bolt carrier by rotating it clockwise, and then pulling it out.
>> Remove the gas tube by flipping up the Gas Tube Release lever located on the right side of the rear-sight block.
You’ll want to move it into a nearly vertical position.
On many rifles, particularly new ones, it may be stiff, so you’ll have to use the end of a chop stick or a similar wedge (nonmetallic, so as not to spoil the finish) to move the lever.
Once the lever is positioned at around 12 o’clock, you’ll be able to lift the rear end of the gas tube up, and then off the top of the barrel. (You can take a brush with some solvent to the inside of the tube to remove carbon buildup.)
>> To put humpty dumpty back together again, align the front end of the gas tube with the gas block opening.
Snap the rear end of the gas tube into position and then pop down the lever and lock it into a horizontal position.
Secure the bolt properly in its housing then rotate it counterclockwise, moving it forward as far as it will go inside the carrier. The front of the carrier will be just about flush with the front of the bolt.
>> You are now in a position to place the carrier assembly back into the receiver.
Before you do this make sure the hammer is cocked back, otherwise the carrier assembly will not fit.
Take the carrier with your thumb and forefingers and place the gas piston into the gas piston cylinder. Make sure the carrier is seated properly on the rails by pushing it down through the slots and moving the whole assembly forward.
>> After the carrier is on its rail in the receiver, take the recoil spring and slide it into the top of the bolt assembly.
Push the button forward and then let it slide back, nestling the button backward into the grooves at the back of the receiver.
Lower the rear end of the cover and press it down, popping in the rear button. It may take some jostling to get it to fit, but eventually it will lock it in place.