PAUL GOMEZ, THE URBAN AK, AND THE CENTURY ARMS AK63D
It has been nearly four years since Paul Everett Gomez died, in Seattle WA. Paul was on his way to British Columbia, to deliver his unique brand of training. Paul had two flagship courses, 1. RPM…”Robust Pistol Manipulation” that was Paul’s unique spin on ambidextrous gun handling, both shooting, loading, and fixing malfunctions, with EACH hand and one-hand-only, and 2. “Urban AK,” which was essentially, utilization of the AK at distances normally reserved for pistol and shotgun work, that is, inside of 25 yards. Paul slept on my sofa bed, the night before he departed Nashville for Seattle, and he left his carry pistol, a Glock 17, and his, “bag gun,” an underfolding AKM, in my possession. Paul stayed at my house regularly, every couple of days, and this was the custom when he flew to places he couldn’t carry at. I still have Paul’s guns, and they will be given to his children once they are old enough to have them.
I first met Paul at a Tactical Response, “Fighting Rifle,” course in about the Fall of 2006. Paul and I were the only students in a class of ten, that were using AK variants. At the time, the carbine itself cost less than $350, and a case of Wolf ammunition was $99, and sometimes you could find it for $79! Very inexpensive by today’s standards. Magazines were plentiful, and could be had for $8 to $10 each. Well, Paul and I were, at first, the odd men out, as everyone else in the class had an M4 of some sort, along with the flashlights, and red dot optics that work so well with the Stoner family of carbines and rifles. Paul and I had simple, wood stocked rifles, with simple nylon slings, and iron sights. They were about as, “stock,” as an AK could get. The weather was cold, and there was even some snow on the ground, but despite the precipitation, neither of our rifles had any malfunctions, and we both finished the class admirably. Our friendship was forged from there on out.
Over the next several years, I trained with Paul extensively. Sometimes we went to conferences, and would be in the same instruction blocks, and other times, we would just beat the stuffing out of each other in my living room, garage, or backyard. We also worked and taught together, both at the home range in Tennessee, and on the road. We formed a local training group, which used a rural range to test out various experimental training blocks, that would eventually become Paul’s flagship course, (RPM) as well as his Urban AK class. Paul and I devised an, “AK battlefield pickup,” drill that we ran students of varying skill levels through, at a tactical conference. Paul favored the AK, and I was a fan of the shotgun.
Before Paul’s death, he had been working on a book covering his method of AK utilization, for the civilian user. It was never published. Excerpts of it are here, and will illustrate what Paul thought that the AK could do for the self-defense user.
Understanding the Role of the Carbine in Self Defense
It’s been said that defensive gun training should begin with the handgun and after sufficient skill has been gained with it, training with carbines, rifles and shotguns is appropriate. The same people who make that statement generally go on to explain how poor the pistol is at stopping fights and that the only reason to carry a pistol is because it is not socially acceptable to walk around town with a rifle slung on your shoulder. I maintain that if you are not going to carry a pistol with you at all times and have it immediately available for use, if you are going to have to go and fetch a gun in times of duress, then you would be vastly better served by fetching a shoulder fired, magazine fed, semiautomatic carbine. Everything that the pistol can do the carbine can do better, except remain unseen. Even if you do carry a pistol with you at all times and you are aware of a problem brewing which you cannot avoid, you would be better served fetching that same carbine to the fight.
There exists a misconception that shoulder fired weapons are for use at great distances and, somehow, they are inappropriate for use in close range affairs. This is nonsense. Starting in the early 1980s, some trainers in the private sector began offering training in the short-range use of the rifle. Unfortunately it took events such as the so-called “Miami Massacre” on 11 April 1986 and the “North Hollywood Shootout” on 28 February 1997 and many less tragic events, to gain wide spread acceptance within the general law enforcement and training communities.
Comparing the shoulder fired, magazine fed, semiautomatic AK directly to the handheld, magazine fed, semiautomatic pistol should clarify the issues involved.
• The carbine fires a cartridge that strikes with appreciably greater authority than any defensive handgun cartridge. There is simply no comparison between the damage done by handguns cartridges and that done by, even relatively puny, rifle cartridges like the 7.62×39.
• The greater sight radius available on long arms aids in practical, real world accuracy. “Sight radius” is the distance between the front and rear sights. On pistols it is minimal. For instance, on a Glock M19 the distance between the front and rear sight is a paltry 5.75 inches. On a standard AK, the sight radius is 14.25 inches. The closer the sights are the greater the error as range increases. This means that I could have a sighting error approximately 2.5 times worse when using an AK and still hit as well as I could with a Glock at the same distance. In other words, due to the greater sight radius, we have more room for error with less disastrous effects in close range engagements with the carbine than we do with the pistol.
• Due to the greater number of interface points, or physical reference points, between shooter and gun with the carbine you can utilize your whole body to mitigate recoil and control and move the gun. When this is coupled with the longer sight radius, the ability to get hits under stress is vastly superior to the pistol.
• Standard magazine capacity for the AK is 30 rounds. Standard magazine capacity for most pistols is rarely greater than fifteen rounds and the availability of standard capacity magazines for pistols is problematic and, in some cases cost prohibitive. Thirty round magazines for most AK carbines are readily available for less than $10 apiece at the time of this writing. Having a large on-board ammunition capacity allows the operator to expend less time and energy manipulating his equipment and spend more time involved in solving and/or extracting himself from the problem.
• Lastly, the use of the carbine is largely range independent. With an appropriately zeroed weapon, you merely put your sights on what you intend to hit and work the trigger without disturbing the alignment, regardless of distance from two feet out to beyond 200 meters. You cannot do this with any other platform. Not with pistols, not with long guns chambered for pistol calibers and not with shotguns.
Understand that the defensive fight does not magically transform into something other than what it is based on how you have chosen to arm yourself (the number of bad guys doesn’t change, their intentions don’t change, whether they are wearing body armor isn’t affected by the presence of a rifle, etc.) but, also understand, you may effect great changes upon the participants based on how you have chosen to arm yourself.
Paul was literally a walking, talking database of names, dates, factoids, and seemingly miniscule details on the most arcane, odd, and strange things of anyone I have every known. Most folks remember Paul being an amazing historian and expert in just the firearms and training fields, however, he was also AS knowledgeable in general! So, in the spirit of Paul Everett Gomez, I sought out one of Century Arms’ latest creations, an American MADE Kalashnik0v variant (the Hungarian AK63D), and ran it through a series of drills, instruction blocks and bumping around on my travels, to see how it held up, and if it would function in the capacity of a self-defense weapon, or, THE URBAN AK!
One issue that many American shooters gripe about with Kalashnikov pattern rifles is the safety (AKA selector) lever. On some weapons, the safety lever will flop about, willy-nilly, and on other samples, it will be tight and nearly immovable. The AK63D’s selector lever was moved easily, and clicked into place with a very positive and palpable fee. Paul’s thoughts on safety lever manipulation were as follows:
Manipulating the Safety
The two biggest complaints with the AK platform have always been the sights and the location of the selector lever. Thankfully, we have sighting options now that we didn’t have just a short while ago, but we are stuck with the clackety-clack selector lever. The selector lever is placed in a completely inappropriate location which prohibits the user from maintaining a firing grip on the gun while being in a position to disengage the safety in a timely manner. There are several different methods of actuating the safety, as well as simply carrying the gun with the chamber empty and the safety off and racking the action prior to engagement. I would no more advocate carrying a carbine with the chamber empty than I would for carrying a pistol in that condition. If you store your AK with the chamber clear that’s well and good, but when it is put into defensive service, it needs to have a round in the chamber and the safety engaged. The method that I advocate maintains a physical reference point on the pistol grip, keeps excess movement to a minimum, and allows positive control over the weapon should that become an issue in close quarters.
As the weapon is depressed into the ready position, the gun-side hand loosens its grip allowing the fingers and wrist to rotate to make contact with then selector lever. The thumb of the gun-side hand stays around the pistol grip as much as possible. For me this means that the tip of my right thumb back to the first joint stays around the pistol grip and my second (social) finger contacts the shelf on the selector lever, with my index finger resting above and my ring finger resting below. Once contact has been made, upward pressure moves the selector lever to safe and the hand maintains its position with the fingers staged on the selector lever and the thumb hooked around the pistol grip. The gun-side hand maintains this position at all times unless it must perform a task which requires it to move elsewhere. To disengage the safety and establish a firing grip, the fingers initially move as a unit dragging downward in a tight arc. Once the safety has been disengaged, the fingers continue moving towards the pistol grip, with the exception of the trigger finger which immediately locates the trigger and begins the firing stroke. This action sequence is known as “Click-Touch”. As the selector lever disengages the safety (click) the trigger finger locates the trigger (touch) and begins to remove the slack (if you intend to fire immediately).
Due to the positioning of the gun-hand thumb, it is very intuitive to help secure the gun by grasping the pistol grip tightly to aid in retention. With many of the other methods taught for actuating the safety, the gun-side hand is merely resting on the selector without assisting in controlling the gun at all. Should a disarm attempt be made against someone holding an AK in that fashion, the gun literally peels away from them. Maintaining a firm grasp of the magazine and having the gun-side thumb indexed to grasp the pistol grip goes a long way toward insuring your control of the gun.
In keeping with the Gomez Doctrine, I decided to put the carbine to paper, in a test that would demonstrate many of the operating characteristics that Paul believed make the AK a superior weapon for the civilian defender to use, in lieu of a pistol, at, “probable,” engagement distances. That is, particularly 5-10 yards (household distances) and a maximum of 25 yards (upper limits of the majority of civilian self-defense shootings). To do this, I used one of my (NOW) favorite benchmark tests, THE TACTICAL PROFESSOR’S, “BASELINE PERFORMANCE,” drill. I slightly modified it for the rifle, starting at the Gomez, “Low Ready,” and shooting the drills at 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. I used a 30 round Bulgarian Waffle Magazine, and a 20 round Hungarian magazine for the drill. As I said, I started from the, “Low Ready Position,” that Gomez talked about, here:
Deployment from Ready Positions
The default ready position for use with the Kalashnikov, or any other carbine, is known as the Low Ready Position. It is important to understand that low ready is a flexible position. It is not a fixed point, such as “the support side arm must rest against the ribcage and the muzzle must be held at a 45-degree angle” but rather any point along a given arc that accomplishes the necessary goal at that time. Low ready can be with the gun muzzle depressed just below the eye-target line and it can also be with the muzzle pointing six inches forward of your toes. I feel quite strongly that good guys don’t point guns at other good guys, so for me, my default low ready position directs the muzzle at such an angle that it is pointing towards the ground in front of whomever I am interacting with. The exact angle changes based on distance and environmental factors, but this position allows me to observe the scene while obstructing as little of it as possible, not violate any of the universal gunhandling rules and still present and aggressive image.
To familiarize yourself with the low ready position, begin with the gun on point, in the offhand position. From the offhand position, depress the muzzle. Realize that only the shoulders and the upper portion of the stock are moving. As the muzzle moves downward, the butt stock will begin to move away from your chest. As long as the lower portion of the stock, called the toe, remains in place and both hands maintain their original positions on the gun, you are in an acceptable low ready. The toe of the stock maintaining contact with your chest serves as a physical reference point which, along with the cheekbone, allows you to rapidly return the gun to the offhand position and engage the threats as need be.
Anytime that the weapon is not on point, aimed in on a target, or malfunctioning, it should be on safe. Practicing moving the selector lever from safe to fire as the AK is brought from ready to point and as it is brought from point to ready you should practice the reverse. It does absolutely no good to quickly get your gun on target only to discover that it won’t go bang and it’s rather embarrassing.
For additional study, I’ve included Paul’s thoughts on the, “extreme low ready.”
Muzzle Depressed Centerline Ready
Muzzle depressed centerline ready can be thought of as an extreme low ready. However, it possesses some unique attributes which must be addressed separately. The purpose of the muzzle depressed centerline position is to allow unrestricted movement in 360 degrees. If you were to attempt to turn completely around with your carbine in a more traditional low ready position, the cone that would be swept by the muzzle would be unacceptable in many situations. It would also require an inordinate amount of attention to continuously adjust the muzzle to avoid non-threats in the environment. With the muzzle depressed centerline ready, the gun can be “parked” with the muzzle straight down between your feet. To place the AK into muzzle depressed centerline ready, dismount the gun from the offhand position into low ready. As the edge of the magazine contacts your centerline around waist level, rotate the gun towards your non-gun side so that the ejection port is facing forward and your grip is maintained on the magazine which is now facing towards your gun-side. The gun-side hand releases from the pistol grip, except for the thumb and stages on the selector lever, as described previously. To return to the offhand position from here, simply rotate the gun inboard which returns it to low ready and continue back to the offhand position.
The stock sights are made to please the collector and military purist crowd, and they simply are tough to use! There is almost no light visible on either side of the front sight, in the stock configuration. I did paint the front sight with red nail polish, after shooting outdoors in the bright sun, to help pick it up, quickly. I will also take a dental diamond bur to the rear sight and hog it out into a, “U-notch,” not unlike the Warren Tactical Sights on my pistol. If you don’t have access to dental rotary tools, you could use a dremel, and I know other folks that have done the same thing manually, with a chainsaw file. This seemingly simple and basic modification makes a simple rifle even better. Hit it with a Q tip full of cold blue to cut down on the glare, and you are ready.
Paul and I used to argue at length, over sasparillas (me) and Shock Tops (him) about the viability of the AK as a home/shop defense weapon for the (what I am now calling) CIVILIAN DEFENDER. I was a dogged fan of the shotgun for home defense, and he was an AK proponent, although we both practiced with each weapon type. At the time, the Corbon DPX for the 7.62×39 had been widely released, and Paul was a fan of it for anti-personnel use. We talked about the danger of pellet accountability, but I think a great deal of that would have been remedied by the Federal Flite Control buckshot loading. One thing I learned from Paul (of many) was to thoroughly think through a problem…no matter how small, and study the component parts, to figure out what the best direction to find the answer was. I think that Paul would LOVE the Century Arms American Made AK’s. Even though he would probably prefer a stamped receiver, instead of the milled, due to the weight savings, he would agree that the AK63D is a rugged, accurate, well-handling machine, with just a couple of tweaks (to the grip and the sights), would serve well in the role of the, “Urban AK.”
The world lost a Great Father, a Good Friend, a Wise Instructor, and a Brilliant Polymath in May 2012. Paul lived to seek out knowledge, and he was very much a believer in the idea that if you wanted to master a subject, you should teach it! Paul loved attending multidisciplinary tactical conferences, like the RANGEMASTER Polite Society Conference, as well as other regional and topical conferences. In that vein, in the day following the discovery of Paul’s death, I began a monetary trust to support Paul’s three children, so that they would always be able to educationally prosper, and not go without the things that their Dad would have provided for them. With HUGE support from Craig Douglas, Paul Sharp, Chris Fry, Cecil Burch, Tom and Lynne Givens, Claude Werner, Rob Pincus, Larry Lindenman, Chuck Haggard, Caleb Causey and the entire TPI (Total Protection Interactive) community, Dr. William Aprill and I organized the first PAUL-E-PALOOZA MEMORIAL TRAINING CONFERENCE in 2012. It was a huge educational and philanthropical success. We had the second PEP in 2014, and the third in 2015. Every year, we gather more interesting instructors AND great corporate sponsors (in keeping with the mood of the conference, our only educational requirement of the instructors is that the material has to be part of the multidisciplinary spectrum, and the weirder, or more arcane, the better. KEEP PEP WEIRD). The NEXT PAUL-E-PALOOZA MEMORIAL TRAINING CONFERENCE will be in August of 2017. I will post details as soon as they become available. ALL of the funds that are generated by the tuition fees go into the Paul E. Gomez Children’s Trust, and so far, we have raised over $100,000 for Paul’s kids. We have paid for Paul’s eldest daughter, Gabriella, to attend LSU, and we have paid for the other kids’ Boy Scout Camps, medical expenses, and so many other things that their Dad would’ve handled, if he was still alive. It’s something that I plan on continuing as long as I am able to! If you have attended the past PEP’s, THANK YOU for doing so, and if you want to attend the PEP’s of the future, stay tuned here, for updates on the specifics of the next conference.