Rob Ski, second from right, pictured with US Marines on a training mission.
Rob Ski, second from right, pictured with US Marines on a training exercise.

In our ongoing series on how to build a better AK, we’re featuring an interview with Rob Ski, the founder of AK Operators Union Local 47-74. Rob has a blog and Facebook page devoted to the glory of the AK platform. He’s well known for rolling around in the snow and grit to produce first class product reviews, videos, training exercises and thoughtful commentary on everything AK.

The membership of his users group reflects his own international background. 

Participants include operators from the Russian Spetsnaz (Special Forces), West and East SF’s teams, СОБР (Special Rapid Response Unit or SOBR) groups and various military branches from all around the world..

Unlike many so-called “Operators” he was actually trained with an AK as part of his military service in Poland. 

Rob acts as a bridge between the East and West. His blogging and his videos are compelling and full of useful information. What’s more, his Operators Union is starting to catch on. His FB page recently acquired its 10,000th follower.

He believes that the AK platform is finally getting its due in this country and predicts that 2014 will be the “Year of the AK”.  I think he’s on to something.

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Rob, you’ve got an unusual background. You are one of the few people know who was trained with an AK in your military service as a standard government-issue rifle.  Tell us a bit about your personal history.  Where were you born, what kind of military experience did you have and when did you come to this country? 

I was born in Poland and at that time I had to serve in Polish Land Forces, so I was basically an infantryman. Infantryman tradition runs deep in my family, my grandfather was infantryman in WWII and my father was an infantryman as well. After fall of communism, Poland was quickly integrating with the western world. At that time, because of my family I was presented with offer to immigrate to USA. I didn’t hesitate a minute.

America was always fascinating me and I have embraced that country with my full heart. At some point I have decided to not just to take from America, but also give to it and I have joined the US Army. As you may guess by now, of course I want to be an infantryman and Army was nice enough to even make me a paratrooper.

It was very unique experience because I could compare both training doctrines and I would say that when these 2 differ, the final goal is the same: to transform civilians into one of the best fighting machines in the world. Sand Hill at Ft Benning, GA (home of the US Army Infantry) is very good at this.  I had an honor and privilege to serve with really great guys and some of them sacrificed their lives for this country. They are real heroes to me. Every infantryman is my brother and I would go to hell and back with them.

What was the genesis of the AK Operator’s Union?

By default, I was exposed to AK rifles at very early age. AK’s were always around me, one way or another, I even remember when I was 7 years old, my grandfather gave me a beautiful East Germany made AK toy rifle. I had the best rifle on the block! This left a mark on my soul for the rest of my life.

When I arrived in the USA in the 90’s, of course I wanted to own my very own AK.

I remember going to one of the largest gun stores in Midwest and sure enough they had some AK rifles on display. But you should have seen my face when I picked every one of them up and inspected them. They were Frankenstein monsters made by some imbeciles with absolutely no AK gunsmithing knowledge.

It was a mixture of screws and poorly installed rivets — a freak show. I had to wash my hands after touching them so I wouldn’t catch “stupid” from their close proximity. People may not remember this very well, but few decades ago, things were not looking very good in AK world in America. Some of the worst made AK’s were unfortunately made right here, in the USA. 

Rob Ski’s personal rig.

All that changed when guys like Marc Krebs and Jim Fuller (to name a few) pioneered AK building techniques and started spreading their knowledge to US-basedshooting community. I have over 20 years of experience of using AK’s (military and civilian) and on a daily basis I’m still learning and discovering new things about AK operations, tactical deployment and manufacturing methods .

I’m by no means, an AK expert. I’m rather an enthusiast, who is trying to learn as much as he can, about his beloved subject. Inside our community, we have active and former members from Russian Spetsnaz units, US Special Forces, Serbian Special Forces, Polish Land Forces and militaries from around the world.  All are willing to share their experience with us and help each other to better operate and be more efficient with AK rifles.

What is its purpose?  How many members do you have?

The purpose of our Union is to mainly learn from each other, to exchange experiences and help to find better accessories or make modifications, without reinventing the wheel (and wasting your money). My goal is also to gather the best AK manufacturers, accessories makers, even an ammo makers under the AK Operators Union “umbrella” and offer manufacturers coupon discounts to Union members. (Editor’s note: How to Buy an AK-47 also offers advice on purchasing AK parts and accessories).

But that’s just the beginning. I’m working closely with combat instructors from Russian Center T (they have an extensive Special Operations background) and we want to offer at some point, AK Operator training classes to our members across the USA.

My goal is also to create one big media hub for AK lovers. This is happening as I type this, because we have launched our website a month ago and we are adding new content on a daily basis. At our website everyone can browse our galleries, watch our YouTube channel videos or read our blog. Of course we have a Facebook page and our own, Union store, so members can buy their patches, T-shirts and bumper stickers, to show their “Union pride”.

Profits from the store help us fund equipment for testing, pay bills associated with running the servers and etc. Most important thing to remember is, that I have started AK Operators Union, to help spread love for AK’s and to improve their image in the USA.

At this point we have just acquired 10,000 followers on our Facebook page and are averaging almost 80,000 visitors a day at our website.

You mention in your blog that this is the year of the AK. Would you care to comment on this?

Krebs UFM handguard

The way I’m looking at it today, we – AK users, are around 10 years behind the AR fan base with popularity of AK platform. But that’s exactly what makes it so exciting, because if you will go back in time to 2004, many things were happening at the same time. The assault rifles ban expired and we could witness birth of many new companies dedicated to improvements and evolution of accessories for AR platform.

Also the ongoing war on terror popularized AR rifles, because many people who were in the service, wanted to have their own civilian version. If you mix this with booming popularity of competitive shooting like 3 gun competition and etc., then you have a perfect storm and AR soared to the new highs in USA.

Unfortunately, the AK was kind of left behind and when many positive things happened; this platform never really took off like AR did. In my opinion, this is about to change for good this year. I have never seen so many new ideas, AK rifle types and accessories coming out at the same time. It is finally good to be AK user in USA.

Stay tuned for Part II of our interview with Rob Ski.

Photos courtesy of Rob Ski.

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

 

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