by Rob Kay and RN Price
As anybody who shoots knows, the road to accuracy begins with the trigger. Call us snobs, but without a decent trigger, our interest in a firearm is nil. When we read about the rave reviews in the forums about Red Star Arms newest custom AK trigger, we paid attention. We did a search to see if there were any reviews and to my surprise, there was nothing in print, although RSA had shot several informative videos.
It seemed like a great opportunity to scrutinize a cool new product.
The new RSA trigger also seemed like the perfect addition for anyone doing an AK conversion. The question loomed, was it as good as people said?
We needed to find out.
If you google “Red Star Arms” and do an image search the first thing you see is a very attractive model dressed up in Russian military attire. It seems that Red Star Arms is just as renown for its pretty girls as its custom parts. So what about the company? Who designs these triggers? We thought some background info would be appropriate.
Power Custom, which owns Red Star Arms, is a family run business founded in 1959 by Ron Power.
Mr. Power has been a working as gunsmith ever since he began work for a gun shop in Kansas City in 1957 where he repaired and customized rifles, shotguns, and pistols. He’s clearly had a lot of gunsmithing experience. In the U.S. Army he was assigned to the Marksmanship Unit as a pistol team member and national Match Weapons Armorer. He’s also taught seminars at Trinidad State Junior College, NRA Gunsmithing Schools, Montgomery Community College, Ruger Police Armorer School, and as a Police Firearms Instructor. He was President of the Missouri State Rifle and Pistol Association and has been a serious pistol competitor and avid handgun hunter.
He was also a pioneer in the design of heavy barreled PPC revolvers and has patented a number of tools and accessories.
Randall (Ron’s son) is carrying on in the family business. A Graduate of CMSU (Central Missouri State University Ron has created and designed the Ruger 10-22 Titanium Parts back in 1994. Randall mainly specializes in customizing the Ruger 10-22.
The RSA FCG
Before discussing the RSA trigger let me preface this story by saying the stock VEPR trigger is pretty good. Not great, but pretty darn good for an AK style rifle. I just wanted to look at something better.
The RSA AK Trigger Group, designed by Ron Power, has only been on the market for several months. It comes with the three parts of the fire control group (not including the disconnector spring) as well as a tiny (1/16th”) allen wrench, a tiny tube-like tool to help install the FCG and a applicator filled with a Loctite type substance. They also include a very detailed, three page set of instructions.
It didn’t seem all that difficult to install this trigger.
However…the world of AKs is not quite that simple. Unlike a stock trigger, the RSA installation entails removal of metal. On page 3 of the instruction manual is a line drawing of an AK safety that shows a blacked out space with a description that says “Remove metal here (shaded) for trigger clearance.”
We can’t ever recall being asked to do this kind of thing in an AR build. With an AK you’re entering a different universe and perhaps going back to an earlier time where standardization was a theorectical term.
After dropping in the RSA trigger with no problems, we added the stock safety. At once we realized that indeed metal had to be removed. Unless we did so, the safety was not going to co-exist with the trigger.
We dutifully set out to modify the safety with a dremel, slowly grinding away metal according to the detailed instructions. We are not by any means gunsmiths so this was terra incognita. It was clear that the tab-like cam on the safety needed a good shave in order to allow it to slip by and over the disconnector. As it turned out, we “removed” a great deal more metal than the line drawing indicated. Nonetheless, we got the safety to fit.
So we had the trigger in. We tested it and found there was no problem getting the hammer to drop. We had a chance to play with the trigger adjustment screws just to see what kind of action it had. We could definitely see the potential.
However, we were not out of the woods yet.
Although the hammer freely dropped, we could see that our trigger wasn’t functioning properly. In a normal cycle, after the bullet is fired, the bolt propels the hammer back and the hammer is captured by the disconnector. Upon releasing pressure on trigger, the disconnector releases the hammer which is handed off the sear. The engagement of the sear prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin.
However, in our case as we released the trigger the disconnector released the hammer as it should but the sear did not engage the hammer. Instead the hammer was released and struck the firing pin.
This would have caused the rifle to discharge when the trigger was released–in effect causing a two-shot burst.
We tried every adjustment that this trigger affords. This entails screw adjustments for “take up” or “Pretravel”, over travel, and engagement. We didn’t mess with the screw that tweaks pull weight, but that is also adjustable. We got in touch with Randall Power, who offered some suggestions on the various adjustment screws but also said that maybe, just maybe, we would have to do some additional filing under one of the sears.
We weren’t feeling very confident about this. In our minds, its was miraculous that we hadn’t butchered the safety and now he was suggesting messing with the trigger itself. This was just a bit more than we bargained for.
Time to visit our official On Target Hawaii gunsmith, Brian Takaba, from X-Ring Security over in Waipahu (a 45 minute drive outside of Honolulu). We explained the situation to Brian who understood exactly what Mr. Power wanted. He proceeded to take out the sear, place it in his vice and methodically run a large file over its underside. He also instinctively know how much metal to take off. This was not a lot—maybe four or five swipes of the file.
He reassembled the file and bingo, we had a working trigger.
It was as simple as that…when you know what you are doing. Now it was just a matter of adjusting the trigger to suit our needs.
The cool thing about this trigger is that it can be set up both as a single or double stage affair.
We set it for a double stage arrangement with an approximate 4-4.5 lb pull. It’s quite easy to adjust the amount of travel on the first stage. By adjusting the amount of tension on the disconnector spring (which we lost but Mr. Power kindly replaced) it’s also quite easy to tweak the resistance of the second stage.
The upshot: The trigger has just enough uptake to allow us to lean on it oh-so-slightly and come to the point of resistance, after which we know it will break. According to the documentation from RSA the pull weight can be adjusted in a range from 3.5 LBS up to as much or more than 8 LBS.
You can theoretically set this trigger up to be like a sniper rifle, even though that seems a bit far-fetched for a 16” AK. However, it’s not so far-fetched when you consider that VEPRs and Saigas are available with long barrels and calibers that can reach out and touch someone. Thus with a 20+ inch .308 or 7.62x54R VEPR or Saiga you really could have a sniper rifle using this RSA trigger.
So what’s the verdict?
The not so good news is that not being gunsmiths, we were at a loss to understand how and where exactly where to file down the actual trigger component. We discussed this with Ron Power who assured us that he was listening. Evidently others have had this issue come up before and he said the next trigger iteration would offer a factory modification the offending part.
In other words, they would fix it.
To cut RSA some slack, this is a brand new product and brand new products always need kinks worked out. We would highly recommend that RSA make a video showing how to install/adjust the trigger and file down the safety lever.
The trigger was a pleasure to pull and if RSA can tweak the product, they’ll have a real winner.
It’s still a chore to file down the safety but in the end it’s worth it to get such a high quality trigger. In the ideal world, it would be nice if this was a simple “drop-in” like a Timney, but in the Tower of Babel AK universe, where there are dozens of variants, it’s not so simple to make a universal trigger.
As our friend Rob Ski from AK Operators Union is fond of saying, “it is what it is”.
Our bottom line: If having a fine trigger on AK is important to you, you’ll be very happy with this product.
Photos courtesy of On Target staff.
Questions? Comments? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org