Cotton Eye Joe
Where did you come from where did you go Cotton Eye Joe?? A summary of the AK platforms kits price performance in the United States.
Beginning imediately after the sunset of the 1990's era assault weapons ban, AK enthusiasts began enjoying the heyday of abundant and inexpensive parts kits. For the first several years parts kits originating from Romania and Hungary were the most prevalent. Romanian Guard rifle kits which were often brand new and unissued could be purchased in the $80 to $100 price range. Similar condition Hungarian AMD65 kits were also prevalent for as little as $60. Originally kits had zero restrictions on the barrel being imported, all came into the USA without having the barrels torch cut or removed. Romanian and Hungarian AK parts kits stand out as having the lowest price point. Selection was also very broad and included Bulgarian, Chinese, Polish, Russian, Yugoslavian and even North Korean. In those early years condition was prized over rarity. A Type 3 milled AK47 was less desirable than a Polish Tantal at the time. Markets had not yet fully developed and it seemed as though there was a never ending in rush supply. Limited information on building and few products to support hobbyists lead to the pioneer phase. A common practice was to drill out the front trunnion rivets and and tap them in order for attachment to a receiver. This debunked method was regularly done with the barrels still in place.
The next big turning point for the AK world was the barrel ban of 2005. In effect the ATF had ruled that barrels would have to be destroyed on military surplus rifle kits in much the same way receivers are cut for importation. Due to the mass importation of original barrel kits prior to the new ruling taking effect it took a several years before these cut barrel kits became very popular. What it did do, was immediately force AK builders into a situation where now a US made barrel was a priority. Simutaniously kits became more expensive and more difficult to build. From this point forward builders would have to popluate new barrels on there kit builds. Here you start seeing everyone getting much more comfortable pressing parts on and off of their kits. Building information was refined and professionalized. Builders scorned screw builds and rivet squashing became an art form.
Today's AK parts kit market still enjoys relatively low prices when you factor in the work required to carefully de-mil the kits. Often at least the barrel can be rebuilt and head spaced cursory set. An entire parts kit can range from $250 to well over $1000 dollars with even more rare examples commanding enormous price tags. The bar graph at the top of the page illustrates current pricing and how brand new production parts have become more disirable to consumers than surplus kits. A high demand rare item like the Russian Izhevsk kit will still command a higher price point. However the general consensus seems to be shifting back toward new production. Advantages of building using brand new parts include interchangeability, perfect fit, straight alignment and know need to struggle with matching pin holes.