Cleaning the WASR-10 AKM / AK-47 - For Dummies

This richly illustrated tutorial will step you through field stripping, cleaning and reassembling your Romanian WASR-10 AKM (AK-47) rifle. Since all AK models are pretty much the same, this tutorial can be used to clean and disassemble any type of AK.

When to Clean

You must clean your WASR-10 after initial purchase to remove the Cosmoline® (a thick preservative) and the metal shavings that Century Arms left behind when they milled out the magazine well.

After that, we recommend cleaning it after every time you use it - especially if you don’t intend to use it again soon. It is not that putting it away dirty will affect the function of the rifle, but just just want to keep it nice, and prevent it from rusting.

Disassembling the trigger group is not part of this tutorial. If you want to take your trigger group out and clean that you'll find detailed instructions on how to disassemble the trigger group here.
Field Stripped WASR-10
Figure 1: Can Read? Check. Opposable Thumb? Check. OK, let’s get to work!

Cleaning Supplies

Let’s start off with a disclaimer: The AK does not need a lot of tender loving care. The Taliban “maintain” their rifles with shoe laces, goat fat and some fresh morning urine. Since good goat fat is hard to find in the US, we have a different shopping list.

Here’s what we think you need to get the job done without breaking the bank:
1.) Cut Up Trash Bags and Old Towels You probably have a pretty cool wife / girlfriend if she let you buy an AK-47 and clean it on the dining room table. To ensure that she stays that way, you want to make sure you don’t ruin the table with gun oil splatter or dent it with imprints of the charging handle.
2.) Cheap Cleaning / Lubricating / Corrosion Preventing Spray You don’t have to use any hi-grade stuff. The Gun Section at your local Wal-Mart is your friend. We used Remington Oil and Winchester Break-Free CLP. Any gun oil works. For the AK we like the spray on kind.
3.) Tactical Brushing System. We prefer used SpongeBob themed tooth brushes but some sources recommend going with the Disney theme. Whatever works for you. Just don't use your wife / girlfriend's; see point 1.
4.) Needle Nose Pliers If you had to, you could use the back of a magazine or a rock to detach the gas tube but since you apparently have internet access we will assume you can get access to a pair of pliers.
5.) Old T-shirt We prefer Ralph Lauren but some people have been getting decent results with Calvin Klein or even Haynes.
6.) Q-Tips and Cleaning Patches There are several places in the action that are pretty hard to get to. This is where Q-tips come in handy. You’ll also need some cotton cleaning patches to run through the barrel; or simply cut up part of the T-shirt in 1 inch squares.
7.) Gun Cleaning Rod w. Attachments If you don’t already own a cleaning kit first check inside the hatch in your butt stock. You might find a spring loaded cylinder with a cleaning kit! We were not so lucky; Century Arms must have forgotten to put the cleaning kit into the butt stock finger trap on our GP WASR-10/63. The good news is that for about $20 you can pick up a decent cleaning kit at your local Wal-Mart. Whatever you buy, make sure it contains some copper brushes that fit your 7.62mm caliber WASR-10 AKM barrel (or 5.45mm caliber if you own an AK-74 / WASR-2)
8.) Small Copper Brush. If you buy a cleaning kit, look for one with a small copper brush to clean the sturdier parts like the gas piston. If necessary use the rod attachment or buy one at your local hardware store.
9.) Gloves, Beer, Tunes Exam Gloves come in handy as do a few beers and some tunes. Gun cleaning can get very boring.
10.) Family Pack of Johnson Paste Wax Really? Yes, really. Unless your furniture is treated or you are about to treat it, you want to use this stuff to prevent dirt, sweat and grime from getting into the pores of the wood.
WASR-10 Cleaning Sundries
Figure 2: You can always recognize a professional by looking at his tools.

Step 1: Prepare the Cleaning Surface

Before whipping out the AK, cover the table with some trash bags and then stack a few layers of old towels, curtains or whatever on top. Also cover the surrounding area with some towels. Observing this step will prevent you from staining or denting the table and help keep your significant other happy.

Step 2: Unload Your Rifle Soldier!

Since you probably keep your AK loaded for fear of the coming Zombie Apocalypse, Alien Invasion, or Tyrannical Big Government Politicians, this step is very important: Unload your rifle! Remove the magazine, rack the bolt back and visually inspect the chamber to make SURE it’s empty. Always follow this step with any gun you clean, even if you KNOW it’s empty. Why? Research shows that, just like you, people that have accidental discharges while cleaning their guns did not think of themselves as morons either.

Put the magazine and any ammo you might have lying around far away from your cleaning table. Then break out your first beer.

Since you are racking back your bolt carrier to check the chamber, this is a good point to bring up something important: The WASR-10 does *not* have a “Bolt Hold Open” (BHO) mechanism. A BHO is a mechanism that keeps the bolt back when you pull it back when the gun is empty. Most modern guns have this, the AK does not. Yes, the bolt will sort of stick in the backwards position (especially if your AK is pretty new). This is called “AK-Bolt-Stick”, but it can NOT be relied on. So unless you want to really, *really* hurt your fingers, never try to leave the bolt in the backwards position (as seen in the picture below).
Unloading and Checking the WASR-10
Figure 3: Unload & Check. Notice the “Specialized Tool” that is operating the CA legal bullet button…

Step 3: Disassembly

If you want to keep your carry sling clean, remove it. Try to remember how it was attached. Sometimes it can take a lot of fidgeting to put it back on correctly.

Unscrew the slant muzzle break from the business end of the barrel by pushing down on the spring loaded retaining pin and rotating the break counter-clockwise. Next pull down on the cleaning rod which is located underneath your barrel. Once the tip is clear of the slot it sits in, pull the cleaning rod forward and out.
Removing the Muzzle Break and Cleaning Rod on the WASR-10
Figure 4: Unscrew the “slant muzzle break” and remove the cleaning rod.
Before opening the action, rack the action to make sure your hammer is in the cocked position. Do not pull the trigger.

Press the retainer button on the back of the receiver cover forward. This will allow you to pop the receiver cover up and off. (See Figure 4)
Removing the Receiver Cover on the WASR-10
Figure 5: Press this button down and the receiver cover will come right off.
Push the same “button” forward to unseat the spring assembly. Once the retainer button is unseated you can pull the spring right out of the back of the gas piston. (See Figure 5)

Removing the Recoil Spring on the WASR-10
Figure 6: Push the recoil spring assembly forward to unseat it. Then simply take it out.
With the recoil spring out of the way, slide the bolt carrier and gas piston all the way back past the end of its rails (also called raceway). Then slightly lift up and continue to pull it backwards until the gas piston is free of the gas tube (See Figure 6). In order to slide the bolt carrier backwards, the hammer needs to be cocked in the downward position. Should you happen to have the hammer un-cocked (Figure 5 actually shows the hammer in the un-cocked / up position) you can just push it down until it’s locked by the hook in the trigger group.

Removing the Bolt Carrier on the WASR-10
Figure 7: First remove the recoil spring assembly, then slide back the bolt carrier and remove it.
Now that the bolt carrier is free from the gun you’ll need to push the actual bolt backwards within the bolt carrier, it will rotate while you do this; hence “Rotating Bolt”. Once its free of its spiral track, rotate it a bit further to make sure you can remove it by sliding it forwards. This will detach the bolt from the bolt carrier. None of these steps require any force. If you think you need to use force, STOP! because you are doing something wrong.

Tip: After you're done cleaning, when you put the rotating bolt back into the bolt carrier, it is good to remember that with the bolt all the way forward in its spiral track, the extractor should always point to the bolt carrier handle.

The next step is to remove the “Gas Tube”. To do this, you need to flip the “Gas Tube Locking Lever” upwards. You'll find this lever on the right side of the rear sight block. Moving the lever up will allow you to lift the gas tube right off. This is the only step that requires some force. This means you are going to need some sort of tool to get the gas tube locking lever to move up out of the indent where it rests. We used a pair of needle nose pliers, but you can use whatever tool you want or have handy. Whatever you use, you’ll probably want to put a piece of cloth between your “tool” and the lever to prevent scratching the gun.

Operating the Locking Lever on the WASR-10
Figure 8: Moving the latch upwards takes a bit of force.
Lastly, push the safety down to the “fire” position, put your thumb firmly on the hammer and pull the trigger to release the hammer. Ease the hammer forward with your thumb until the gun is “un-cocked”. Taking the tension off the spring will prevent you from getting yourself hurt during cleaning.

Un-Cock the hammer on the WASR-10
Figure 9: This step is called “The Full Cavity Search”. Use your thumb to control the hammer and pull the trigger with your finger.

Step 4: The Actual Cleaning

This is both the most important and the most boring part of the whole process. We know, you could probably shoot your AK every week for years without EVER cleaning it. However, regular cleaning does prevent corrosion, which will build up if you don’t do it. It will also prevent unnecessary wear and tear. It will also keep your gun looking a lot nicer. Take care of your equipment if you expect it to take care of you.

Start off by spraying your cleaning & lubricating oil into the barrel, gas tube, gas block and inside the action. Also spray every part you just removed. Don’t be shy with the oil. Try not to get it on the furniture. We’ll treat that in a later step. Some people like to use a special cleaner first and a separate lubricant. We say let 'em.

While the different parts are soaking, start by running a copper wire brush through the barrel with a cleaning rod. Again, if you don’t have the original cleaning stuff, Wal-Mart has some cleaning kits available “for cheap”. Some people like to use a “bore snake” which is a high tech version of the shoe lace the Taliban uses.

After you use the brush to loosen the gun powder residue, spray the barrel some more and run pieces of cloth through there until it comes out clean. When you are done the barrel should be slightly moist inside but not soaking wet.

Cleaning the Barrel of the WASR-10
Figure 10: “After” & “Before”… It’s always amazing how dirty it comes out…
Now that you are done with the barrel it's time to start scrubbing like a housewife in the 50’s. Start scrubbing the inside of the gas tube and the rear sight block with oil/cleaner and your tactical SpongeBob toothbrush. Then, run a piece of cloth through it until it's clean. Again you want a thin film of oil on there, but don’t leave it soaking wet. Make sure to apply some extra lubricant to any surfaces where there is metal-on-metal contact such as the spiral rack through which the rotating bolt turns and the race track over which the bolt carrier moves back and forth.

Thoroughly scrub the gas piston and the rotating bolt with oil and brush. Pay special attention to the bolt face and the extractor. Don’t use anything heavier than a plastic brush on the bolt face.

Clean the bolt carrier and, in particular, the piston. On the gas piston you can use a light copper brush if needed.

Cleaning the Bolt Face on the WASR-10
Figure 11: The bolt face and the extractor deserve some extra TLC.
Clean the slant muzzle break, barrel treads and recoil spring. Also apply a light film of oil to the receiver cover, inside and out. We even wipe down the cleaning rod before sticking it back under the muzzle. As a general rule, if it's a metal part, apply a film of oil to it.

Now try and clean the inside of the action as well as you can. You’ll find lots of little nooks and crannies in there; which make it pretty tedious work. Q-Tips come in handy here.

If this is the first time you are cleaning your Century Arms WASR-10 you might find a lot of thick grease in there. This stuff is called Cosmoline® and it's the reason your AK is not totally corroded after decades in Romanian storage. You’ll also find copious amounts of metal shavings that you’ll need to clean out. The shavings are the result of the widening of the magazine well that was done by Century Arms after importing the rifle. Make sure you get rid of all metal shavings. Watch your fingers; metal shavings make some pretty nasty splinters.

A brief tour of the Action of the WASR-10X
Figure 12: Short tour of some distinct features inside the action.
While you are probing the action with Q-Tips, spend a little time around the fire control group (See Figure 11). First, note the small steel colored spring (#1) on the left of the action. This is commonly referred to as the “Hammer Pin Retaining Spring” because it starts at the hammer and pushes into a groove in the two cross pins that hold the trigger group together. WASR owners who have actually removed and replaced this spring tend to call it “The Ex-Wife Spring” because once removed, it will make your life hell for quite some time. Removing and replacing this spring (with a clip) will be covered in a separate tutorial. For a regular cleaning as described in this tutorial you do NOT want to remove it. Trust us on this one.

Note that the WASR-10 only has a single hook (#2) to hold the hammer back. Military AK’s have symmetrical “Double Hooks” which grab the hammer both left and right.

Finally check out the “plates-with-lip” (#3) that Century Arms welded just above the inside of the magazine well. These are intended to help prevent the double stack magazine from wobbling from left to right. AKM’s that were intended for double stack magazines from the get-go have stamped indents, commonly referred to as dimples instead. WASR rifles do not have these indents except for the WASR-22 (.22LR). On the WASR-10 models currently being sold these “anti wobble” plates seem to look and work well for the most part. This was not the case on the original WASR-10 rifles.

After you're done cleaning the inside of the action, lightly clean and oil all metal parts of the rifle inside and out. Again, a thin film of oil is enough – there is no need to keep it soaking wet. And try to keep oil off the furniture.

Step 5: Reassembly

Now that everything is nice and clean we can start reassembling. First put the cleaning rod back in. Slide it through its hole in the bayonet lug and push it all the way back until you hear it snap back in place underneath the front sight post.

Next, screw the slant muzzle break back on. You need to press the muzzle break retaining pin back and keep turning it as many times as you can. If you cannot make another full rotation turn the break back and let the pin snap into the indent on the muzzle break. When you are done, the open part of the slant muzzle break should be pointing to the right and up. Having the slant point up and to the right, helps control the gun when you fire it. The gas escaping to the top right will push the gun slightly down and to the left, into your left hand which is on the left underside of the hand guard. Note: Everyone in the Eastern Block must shoot right handed.

Next, put the gas tube back on. If the latch is pointed up, you can put the front of the gas tube on the gas tube mount attached to the barrel and just slide the gas tube down into place behind the gas block. After that, you need to press the latch on the right hand side back down until it rests in its hole. Again, this will require some force and the needle nose pliers. Remember to put a piece of cloth over the latch or around your tool to prevent scratching!

Removing the Gas Tube
Figure 13: Remounting the Gas Tube.
It's time to reassemble the bolt. To do this, stick the rotating bolt backwards into the hole on the bolt carrier. Then move it forward down its spiral track until it’s all the way to the front and can go no further. Figure 14: With the rotating bolt in its most forward position, the extractor (smaller circle) should be pointing in the same direction as the charging handle (larger circle).
Correct Bolt Assembly on the WASR-10
Figure 14: Reassembling the bolt (note where the extractor is pointing.)
Now press down the hammer into the action until it cocks. Put the safety on (fire selector lever in the up-position, not down as shown in figure 15). Stick the gas piston into the gas tube and align the back of the assembled bolt carrier with the slot all the way on the back on the rails. Push the bolt carrier down and then gently slide it all the way forward on its rails. Since the hammer is cocked the bolt carrier should slide forward with relative ease. If it does not slide on with ease, STOP! You either have it on the rails crooked, forgot to push the hammer down, or you did not correctly reassemble the bolt back into the bolt carrier (bolt should be all the way forward in the spiral when you put the bolt carrier assembly back in). (See Figure 15)

reassembling the bolt carrier on the WASR-10
Figure 15: Stick the gas piston into the gas block, then line up the bolt carrier right behind the race track (rails) and slide it forward. This should not require force.

With the bolt carrier in place put the recoil spring into the hole in the back of the bolt carrier and seat the back part of the recoil spring assembly back into its groove just over your butt stock.
Installing the Recoil Spring on the WASR-10
Figure 16: Stick the recoil spring back into the bolt carrier and seat it just above the butt stock.
We are almost there! The last step is to align the front of the receiver cover with its groove on the back of the gas block. Once it’s aligned, push down the dust cover to snap it in place on the receiver cover retainer “button”. If you have lined it up correctly this does not require any real force. Some people like to reward themselves by giving the cover a firm tap to get it in place. This is called the “Moscow Slap”. Don’t worry; you’ll get better at it.:-)
Installing the receiver cover on the WASR-10
Figure 17: Align the front of the cover with the groove in the gas block. Then give it the Moscow Slap.

If you followed all the steps above you should be done with the mechanical part. Push down the safety lever and rack the bolt a couple of times. Enjoy the bad-ass sound while you rack it. This must be the sound that every burglar fears most. Also try pulling the trigger (of course while pointing in a “safe” direction). This is to make sure the action functions properly.

Once you are satisfied that everything works properly make sure you pull the trigger one last time to relax the spring before you put the gun away. After all, it might be a while before the coming Zombie Apocalypse goes down and we don't want our double-coiled recoil spring to get fatigued while we are waiting.

One last tip: The AK is NOT a bolt action rifle, so when you rack the gun, never “help” or “ease” the bolt carrier forward. The bolt carrier was designed to be forcefully rammed forward by the recoil spring, so just pull it all the way back and let it rip. Easing the bolt forward can cause problems such as “Failure to Feed”. The “Let ‘r Rip” rule is a good rule of thumb for just about every semi-auto rifle, handgun or shotgun.

Step 6: Wax on, Wax Off

This step assumes that you have not applied a finish to your furniture. If you plan to finish it sometime soon you would of course skip this step. If you don’t have any immediate plans to do anything fancy with the woodwork, waxing your furniture is five minutes well spent. If you don’t do anything to the wood a combination of sweat, gun powder residue and grime will make the wood look real bad, real fast.

Get started by putting a layer of Johnson Paste Wax onto the butt stock and hand guard. Let it sit for a while then rub it in with a clean part of the old T-shirt until it’s mostly gone. Repeat a few times for better results. Don’t be shy with the wax. When done the wood should have a nice shine, but not be “wet”.
Polishing the Furniture on the WASR-10
Figure 18: Ask your mom if you can borrow her Johnson Paste Wax :-)
As a finishing touch wipe down the outside of all metal parts with an oiled cloth again This will remove any wax and dirty finger prints it might have attracted.

Now you can finally reattach your sling.

Step 7: Behold!

You should now have the cleanest AK on your block!
Cleanest WASR-10 on the Block. Yeah!
Figure 19: Tada! Try that with goat fat, shoe laces and morning urine!

BONUS MATERIAL: Cleaning tip by our forum user Allen Davis

Wal-Mart sells this really great stuff SUPER CHEAP called "Gumout Carb & Choke Cleaner." You can simply spray this stuff down your gas piston cover and into the bore, and it GREATLY reduces the need for scrubbing. In fact, with the gas piston cover, all you need is a shotgun mop to clean out the gunk, even with the crappiest Russian ammo.

Even though the bores on almost all AKs are chrome-lined, this helps clean-up after shooting.

Most people shoot Russian-made, steel-cased ammo. They still load hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammo with chlorate primers, which contain mercury and is extremely corrosive. The chrome lining in the bores resists this well enough. While the chrome plating may protect the bore, other internal parts are still vulnerable to corrosion and rust.

To test for the presence of chlorates or mercury, soak a patch with warm or hot ammonia (can be mixed with water at 50:50 mixture). Swab a fouled area with the patch. If it appears bright blue or purple and presents with extremely small bright metallic specks (visible under even minor magnification), then clean your gun as though you'd fired a ton of Argentine ammo from 1948 for your 98 Mauser 8 mm.

The AK is one of the greatest weapons ever, but it should never be abused or neglected.

Wanna See More?!

Here a video of a fellow WASR-10 owner cleaning his rifle.

Figure 20: WASR-10 Cleaning Video by Fellow WASR Owner