Bolt Catch

What Seems to be the Problem Here?!


Unlike most modern rifles, AK-47's and AKM's lack a device for holding the bolt open after the last round is fired. Nor do they have a mechanism to hold the bolt backwards (with the action open).

Any commercial range or shooting club worth its salt has a strict cease-fire policy where all guns on the shooting benches have to be unloaded, mags removed and actions open for inspection by a Range Officer (RO). The RO will check to see if all firearms are unloaded before the cease-fire goes into effect. So what do you do with your WASR at the range when a cease fire is called? There are several ways of making sure the action stays open:

While your WASR is new it might appear you can "park" your bolt in the back position with the action open. This is commonly referred to as "AK Bolt Stick" and it can NOT be relied upon as a BHO (Bolt Hold Open) mechanism! Even if you have a pretty firm "Bolt Stick" it will wear off as you break in your rifle. "Bolt Stick" is NOT the same as a bolt catch. If you don't want to take our word for it try the following with your new WASR:
- Remove the magazine and make sure your rifle is unloaded by racking the bolt and checking the chamber.
- Now move the bolt backwards and release it slowly until it sticks. Hold the rifle up; looking great! Right?!
- Now give the rifle a firm slap with your left hand. The bolt will rack forward.
- Try to imagine one of your fingers in there, or that you were just loading a mag, or this happening during a cease fire at the range...

Any commercial range or shooting club worth its salt has a strict cease-fire policy where all guns on the shooting benches have to be unloaded, mags removed and actions open for inspection by a Range Officer (RO). The RO will check to see if all firearms are unloaded before the cease-fire goes into effect. So what do you do with your WASR at the range when a cease fire is called? There are several ways of making sure the action stays open:

The Century Arms Way


Century Arms came up with the following "Solution":
Century Arms Orange Tab
Figure 1: The Century Arms Orange Tab
You might have tossed it, but when you bought your rifle this stupid orange tab probably came in the box. This is how it works: You stick the long end down the barrel and the action will not close all the way. The orange flag will be sticking out to indicate that there is no round chambered. Some people use an empty casing to prevent the bolt from closing. Same idea, but kind of messy.

The Internet Order Way


If the "Orange Tab" does not "do it" for you and you are not very DIY-ish you might want to order a custom "Fire Selector Lever". These custom fire selector switches have a cut out which functions as a "Bolt Catch". The slot in the switch allows you to "park" the bolt carrier handle in the "open" position by flipping the safety switch up while the bolt is pulled back.
Custom Selector Switch
Figure 2: Custom Selector Switch

It does not require any real technical skill to install the new fire selector lever. The advantage of this solution is that you get to keep your original WASR-10 switch intact (for the purists among us). The main disadvantage of this solution is the price. These things are NOT cheap. Krebs makes nice custom selector levers which you can buy through Midway or directly from their website but at around $60 we think these are pretty pricey.

There is one other small disadvantage to this solution. Normally when the safety is flipped up, it functions as a dust cover that seals off the action and prevents dust and dirt from getting in. If you install a "notched selector switch" it will leave an opening even if the safety is on. We'll leave it up to you to determine how important this is and if it's okay for your environment.

NOTE: When you decide to go this route, make sure you buy a fire selector switch that fits your WASR-10. There is a difference between the switch for the regular AK and the Saiga. If you have an "under-folder" WASR model, you should get the switch that allows you to operate the fire selector lever even with the stock folded. The under-folder selector switch might need a little fitting as the finger pad on the standard AK safety is extended on this model so it might interfere with the round arms of the Romanian under-folder (it's probably meant to work with the Russian under-folder which has square arms). This is easily remedied by grinding down the finger pad just a little.

The Dublin AK Systems Way


The most novel aftermarket part we could find with regards to BHO and safety lever operation is the "Dublin AK Systems Bump Safe".
Dublin AK Systems Bump Safety
Figure 3: The Dublin AK Systems Bump Safety allows thumb / wrist operation
We have not tested this system but the modified fire selector switch seems to allow the operator to engage and disengage the safety switch without taking the shooting hand away from the pistol grip. It looks to be especially efficient in combination with their "Ratchet Charging System", which allows shooters to rack the bolt back with their non-shooting hand after which they can engage the HBO safety with the thumb of their shooting hand. This system does not seem to be for everyone as it makes it possible to disengage the safety accidentally. Again, we have not tested this system but it looks to be a pretty cool upgrade for anyone who uses their WASR for three gun competition or is just into utilitarian / tacticool mod's.

The DIY Way


Do you have a Dremel or a file, some patience and two hands? Then this DIY solution might be the way to go. In function it's exactly the same as the custom fire selector switch, but it's about $60 cheaper :-). Basically what you do is notch the "Safety Selector Lever" yourself so it can hold the bolt open. Disadvantage of this option compared to the custom part is that it requires you to be somewhat handy, to have some tools, some guts and to do some work. This article does an excellent job of describing the process step by step! Excellent DIY instructions by Russ Chastain (about.com) on how to modify the Selector Switch.
Customizing Your Selector Switch
Figure 4: Picture from the DIY instructions by Russ Chastain (About.Com). Read the article to see the finished result!

BHO Magazines?


A related topic worth mentioning here are "Bolt Hold Open" (BHO) magazines. BHO mags are magazines that have a follower (part of the mag that pushes the bottom round up) that will block the bolt from coming all the way forward after the last round is fired. These magazines do not eliminate the need for the above bolt catch solutions since it will only hold the action open as long as the (empty) mag is seated in the gun. As soon as you remove the mag the bolt carrier racks forward - unless of course, you have a custom(ized) fire selector switch that you can flip up to hold it in position!

The advantage of these BHO mags is that you have a nice visual indication that your mag is empty and if you combine it with the custom safety switch you can get a nice and efficient cycle going; shoot last round, move up custom safety switch/bolt catch, change mag, release safety switch, bolt racks forwards to chamber new round.

Yugoslavian magazines are known for their BHO feature, but there are more manufactures that offer it. The below article contains detailed instructions on how to modify your own magazines that have a "Chinese Style" follower into BHO mags. If you don't have a Chinese style follower you can buy one for a few bucks and still do this magazine mod! Excellent article! Excellent DIY instructions on how to make your own BHO magazines by Stargaser111 on ar15.com.

Here's an even simpler way to make your own BHO magazines

DIY Guide to making your own BHO AK Mags
Figure 5: Picture from the article by Stargazer111(AR-15.com) mentioned above. Notice how the Chinese Style follower sticks out more and is not rounded off. This will stop the bolt on its way back after your last shot, leaving the action open.