Marc Krebs, AK Gunsmith extraordinaire, in his workshop with the "M1" model

by Robert Kay

Marc Krebs, AK Gunsmith extraordinaire, in his workshop with the “M1” model

At SHOT 2014, the mother of all firearms industry trade shows, you couldn’t go anywhere on the floor of the Sands Convention Center without bumping into an image of General Kalashnikov, his chest brimming with decorations. The fact that he was a Soviet cold war hero didn’t seem to bother anyone at the show.

On the contrary he was and is recognized for his iconic rifle which has captured the imagination of millions of Americans.

It’s hard to improve on Mr. K’s creation, but the subject of our interview, Marc Krebs, is taking the AK into the 21st century. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Mr. Krebs is one the most influential gunsmiths around.

Born in Seattle and raised in San Francisco and Mexico, both his parents, were in his words “Beatnik” artists. He was named after one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, Russian-born painter, Marc Chagall.

No doubt Mr. Krebs’ artistic pedigree serves him well. His father, a painter, was also an inveterate tinkerer and that gene definitely got passed down to his son—along with the creativity quotient that characterizes the artistic process. 

At his Wauconda, IL shop, Marc and his team craft some of the most sought after AKs on the market.  In addition to traditional gunsmithing, he has designed and patented his own handguards, sights, muzzle breaks, safety selectors and other items.

A Krebs custom AK with folding stock–it’s built on a Saiga platform–one of his preferred variants

In the last of our two part series we hope to convey something about the development of Marc’s career as a gunsmith and how his name became synonymous with the legendary AK.

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Q: I notice a lot of people mount the scope midway down the rifle. I personally prefer to have the scope nearer to my eye. Is there a right way to do it?

A: I would experiment by taping the scope to the rifle and see what works best. If you mount the scope further down the barrel you have an entire field of view. The four minute dot then becomes a one minute dot because it’s further from your eye. (You can crank up the intensity to pick up the dot more easily). For me it’s a quicker way to acquire the target because your field of view is unobstructed.

Q: What if I want to use a peep site on the AK?

A: We offer two options.  One that is mounted on our rear site rail system, and another that will go on the traditional rear sight support. That latter is for fast sight acquisition and older eyes. The scope rail provides longer sight radius and a place to put the optic.

Krebs patented safety lever has become de rigueur for discriminating shooters

Q: In addition to your handguards and other peripherals, your Mark 6 safety has become very popular among AK aficionados. Why did you come to design it that way?

A: For any firearm that is used in a defense mode or for hunting, you need to be able to take the safety off quickly when needed without having to reposition your hand.  I’ve worked on the ergonomics so that this is easier to do.

Q: Let’s say I’m interested in doing a DIY modification of an AK with one of the sporterized imports from Saiga or VEPR. My intention would be to move the trigger group. Would you recommend this for the average guy who has never done this before?

A: Depends on how handy you are. My inclination in this case is let a gunsmith do it. This is an equipment-heavy task.

Q: Is changing out a stock difficult to do for a DIY build?

A: With a regular AK stock there may be a little fitting. With an aftermarket stock, typically no.

Mr. Krebs is a big fan of the Vltor stock adapter for the AK

Q: What variety do you like the best? 

A: I like the collapsible stocks the best. Once you get used to a short stock, it can really provide you with some nimble shooting. I like the Vltor and Magpul the best.

Q: Do you have any particular third party AK accessories that you particularly like?

A: What I like are the AK adapters that will provide a straight line across the top of the receiver. Vltor makes one—it goes straight along the line of the bore. There’s a lot of other good stuff out there.

Q: What about a folding stock. Does it make ergonomic sense to get one?

A: You’d get one primarily because of the ease of storage—getting in and out of a car, jumping out of a plane, etc. I would go with a collapsible stock because you can vary your length of pull.

Q: Do you have any preferences when it comes to third party rails and handguards?

Krebs is unabashedly partial to his own handguards

A: I don’t want to come off as arrogant and say nobody makes as good a product as me but I think we (Krebs Custom) did a good job with the aesthetics and the functionality. I’m sure there’s other good stuff out there but I don’t have experience with it.

Q: Got any preference in grips?

A: It really depends on the individual—grips are really subjective. Tapco, K-var, Magpul and Hogue all make good grips.

Q: What about third party wooden furniture?

A: Ironwood or Timbersmith are both good bets.

Q: What about a third party match trigger?

A: Tapco makes a good trigger. Redstar is very good as a match trigger.

Q: What about putting on a muzzle break/flash hider?  Is this easy to do and if so, what style do you recommend for plinking/hunting?

Red Star Triggers are a good choice for a match trigger

A: Ours is one the better ones out there. We use a Vortex for a control to test. There’s a link on our Facebook page showing someone testing our flash hider.  (Url for FB link)

Q: How interchangeable are Saiga and VEPR parts?  

A: The internal parts are not interchangeable. It’s hard to generalize with the other stuff. They may or maybe not be interchangeable.

Q: Do you have any other favorite third party add-ons that you think readers should know about ? It could be anything in the way of rails, stocks, sights, muzzle breaks, slings, furniture, etc. 

  • AK builder.com offers a lot things for do at home riveting.

    CMR Leatherwood scope is highly recommended.
  • Magpul has good grips and magazines for the AK.
  • Both RS Regulate and Midwest Industries make very good side rails scope mounts. I particularly like the RS Regulate product, which is very durable
Q:  Thanks Marc for all your time.
A: You’re welcome!

Photos courtesy of Krebs Custom, Vltor and Rob Ski (AK Operators Union 47-76).

Questions?  Comments?  Contact us at ontargethawaii@gmail.com

Rob Kay writes about firearms for Hawaii Reporter and is the author of How to Buy an AK-47.
 
Read more of Rob’s articles on OnTargetHawaii.com

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