To quote Rick Davis, an AK maven who kindly contributed a number of photos to this book, “Cleaning is almost as fast as describing the process: pressing the receive cover latch button, lifting the cover off, pulling the carrier and bolt out and maybe pulling the gas tube off. After this, a good swabbing with suitable bore cleaner appropriate to the type of ammunition used.”
Mr. Davis’ comment about “swabbing with suitable bore cleaner appropriate to the type of ammunition used” is important to understand. He’s referring to the surplus ammo from the former Eastern bloc which is quite popular in this country. It is inexpensive but there is a caveat: It contains corrosive priming agents, which is common with older military surplus ammunition.
The bottom line: If you use this type of surplus ammo you’re going to have to clean the gun ASAP or your rifle will suffer the consequences. One of the individuals I spoke to said that after 24 hours “he rust was so bad in the gas block that the piston seized.” He said that he had to “kick the charging handle to open it.”
Cleaning to remove corrosive residue requires a slightly modified procedure to remove the nasty priming compounds from the internal surfaces. This is rarely more than running a patch soaked with Windex or ammoniated cleaner to remove the priming residue. There are some who recommend pouring hot, soapy water through both the barrel and the gas tube / gas block, in order to ensure that all the corrosive salts are dissolved and flushed away.
There are also products available specifically for corrosive priming residue.
Note that if you use the commercial ammo such as Tula, Silver Bear, Wolf, etc, these brands do not have the corrosive priming agents so you don’t have to worry about cleaning the gun the same day.
Once your rifle is field-stripped you’ll be in a position to actually clean and lube it. To do this, the main implements you’ll need are a toothbrush, a cleaning rod with bronze (or nylon) brush and patch jag, the requisite patches, as well as solvent and rags. Before you get started, I suggest you watch a video by my colleague, Rob Ski, of the AK Operators Union. He does an excellent job demonstrating how to clean and lubricate your rifle in this video.
What lubricant to use?
You’ll find people on the forums who advocate just about anything that’s slick (including motor oil). Rob Ski, who trained with an AK in his native Poland, knows the rifle inside and out. He said that any brand of ordinary “no name” gun oil is just fine. Grease works great in milder climates but was never used in winter because of the possibility of freezing.
The first thing to do is apply a cleaning agent such as CLP or Hoppes #9 to a toothbrush and scrub away the carbon and grunge from the bolt carrier/gas piston and the bolt. I always wear nitrile exam gloves because I don’t want solvents permeating my skin. A lot of solvents are carcinogenic. Enough said.
You can use Hoppes #9 to clean the bore by passing a saturated patch down the barrel but there are other solutions. Bill Rogers has a good cleaning system that uses a sort of squeegee and his own formulated cleaning goop. Otis also has excellent tools, including their own proprietary bore snake called a “Ripcord” that works very well getting gunk out of the barrel after you’ve been to the range. (It’s a preliminary cleaning move. It’s not used with solvent).
After you’ve scrubbed out as much junk from the bolt, bolt carrier and rails with a toothbrush you must clean the inside of the gas tube. This can be done with a heavy duty nylon, or a brass brush. After degreasing and cleaning you’ll want to wipe everything down.
Lubrication can be done with any type of gun oil, CLP or gun grease. You’ll want to lube all moving parts such as the bolt, bolt carrier, trigger (aka fire control group), as well as the rails that the carrier group ride on. Inside the receiver it’s also good to coat the interior with a light film of gun oil. I use RIG gun grease on the rails but there are other good brands such as Tetra grease. You don’t need too much.
This video from Jim Fuller should be very helpful to newbies: