Speaking on a personal level, I will never again do business with a company called “Texas AK Designs”, who are now apparently owned by / part of “Canis Design Group”. From my own personal experience, their shipping department is substandard, their customer service is basically non-existent, and their products… well, let me put it to you this way. I love Kel-Tec to death for the revolutionary and cutting-edge products they dream up, but the fit and finish of those products leaves me with a raging case of the heebie jeebies. That said, in comparison to the products from “Texas AK Designs” I have handled, products from Kel-Tec suddenly resemble a custom, hand-fitted 1911 from somewhere like Ed Brown.
Yes. It is that bad.
The parkerizing (or whatever finishing they use) is irregular, the metal is roughly cut, moving parts grate and squeak as they move, things that should not wobble do, and things that should fit into other things apparently do not. For example, their flagship product – a device that allows .223-chambered AK-pattern rifles to accept standard STANAG magazines – literally does not allow those magazines to drop free when the magazine release button is depressed. If you can dork up something that standardized, why should I trust you with any other measurements/dimensions?
And that is just their products. Apparently the folks behind the company get… shall we say “childishly upset” when other people come forward expressing concerns over the substandard quality of their products and regarding the difficulty they have had installing those products, to the point of attacking other small businesses on those business’ Facebook pages, and using those other business’ Facebook pages as springboards to advertise their own services. Having no particular dog in the fight myself, I am quite comfortable in saying that is pretty shameful behavior.
So, if you, like me, happen to desire an AK platform that can accept STANAG / M4 / M16 / AR15 / etc. magazines (just because .223 Saiga and VEPR magazines are stupidly expensive and hard to come by), I can only suggest investigating a company called Definitive Arms, LLC. For ~$450, they will take a rifle you provide, attach their conversion magazine well, reliability test it out for you, and send it back. For an additional $175, they will provide the same services, finish the firearm in their specific black parkerizing, and thread your barrel.
Honestly, I cannot say whether or not those prices are reasonable – this is something of a niche market – but these are the only other folks out there I am aware of doing this kind of thing.
Alternatively, if you are willing to consider something that is not technically an AK-platform, but functions in much the same way, take a look at Faxon Firearms’ ARAK-21 upper. It happily pins on to any AR-15 lower, allows for the use of folding stocks, and allows for in-the-field barrel swaps.
Oh, and yes, the glorious monstrosity at the top of this post would have been mine… if I had bothered to keep up with my finances in other arenas. As it is, I would like to thank Owen Martin at Snake Hound Machine for working with me on the build, and doubly thank him for finding that rifle another home once I concluded I could not reasonably purchase it any more. Unlike our federal government, I know when I am overextended. Unfortunately, Owen’s experiences with this particular build have convinced him never to do something like this ever again, so if you want one of your own… well, see the above post.
[Update] On the Twitters, @Keith1911 rightly asks, “what is wrong with a Kel-Tec SU-16?” In a word, nothing; in fact, I plan on procuring a PLR-16 at some point in the future, just because. For those unfamiliar, the SU-16 line of rifles uses a long-stroke gas piston for operation – much like the AK platform – but also uses STANAG magazines for feeding ammunition, so it would also satisfy my “AK-like-action-plus-STANAG-magazines” desires. That said, and simply put, there are better options out there. Like I said in the second paragraph above, the fit and finish of Kel-Tec products are not exactly what I would consider “confidence inspiring”, and they are not the most durable things in the world. Sure, most people are not going to stress test them to failure, but when you are looking for something that can meet the durability of the AK platform, well…
And aside from all that, despite having that funky-arsed magwell attached to its ventral side, the above rifle is still a Saiga .223, and uses all the same parts as any other Saiga / AK-platform rifle. Likewise, the upper receiver from Faxon is kind of unique, but it still uses the same AR-15-platform lower with all of the same parts commonalities as any other AR out there. The SU-16 family of rifles is unique unto themselves, with, as far as I know, no parts commonality with any other .223 rifle out there. Again, if you are looking for something that can meet the ubiquity of the AK platform, well…
So while the Kel-Tec rifles are an option, I do not think they are the best option… unless you are in a situation like Keith where he lives in Kalifornistan, and, in its factory original configuration, the SU-16CA does not require an asinine “bullet button” and is not an “assault weapon” under state law. Both an AK-platform rifle and the Faxon upper would count as the latter, which makes them either impossible to own or encumbered by the aforementioned or some other mechanical idiocy, and in that case, I can totally see purchasing a Kel-Tec. [/Update]