IMO, there is a critical measurement more important to AK safety than headspace, and as far as I can tell, it is getting ignored

in favor of headspace. It is what I call bolt gap. Below is a picture of it being measured.

But first, here are some pictures that I think show why it is important. As you can see, the ass end of the case sticks out about the same amount as the case head is thick. Let that case stick out too far and the case wall starts becoming unsupported by the barrel. It should be obvious why that is bad. What may not be obvious is why a headspace gauge alone is not adequate. Here are some examples of what could go wrong with using a headspace guage.

1. A rifle with a short, burred or dirty chamber could check OK with headspace gauges but have too much bolt gap and case exposure.

2. Even worse, I can imagine that after building such a rifle, a well-intentioned builder might decide he needs to reposition his barrel forward and re-pin it. This would satisfy his headspace gauges, but give the rifle dangerous case exposure.

3. A rifle with a sloppy or long chamber might swallow a No/Go guage, prompting the builder to push the barrel in further and re-pin, only to find that the bolt will not close reliably (or at all) because it hits on the barrel. As far as I can tell, this would only be dangerous if someone were shooting back.



I use a 3/8 x 2. and if you can. If you set up for the measurement differently than I do (there are probably other acceptable ways) you will probably get different results. I have similar pictures of a brass Winchester case. if anyone is interested. and only as far closed. as the it rotates when being held by the carrier. OBTW. give or take a few. I have not found a factory spec (anyone have an AK repair manual?) but I find that 6 thousands. . The type of feeler with a tapered tip works best.5 inch spring. I use a Saiga and a SLR95 as reference standards.How to measure bolt gap Place a spring in the chamber to keep the bolt fully back. Use a feeler gauge to measure the gap on the left side (away from the extractor). Insert and rotate the bolt closed as far closed. is typical. compare your build measurements to a factory gun. The main thing is to be consistent. This is not quite all the way. but a regular one (like in the picture) can be used if you are careful.


It seems that I didnt sell/communicate my point very well. Right now. it is not coming to me. Moving the barrel and bolt in relation to each other would not change the length of unsupported case. I feel like I need to say that this is not just some goofy idea that I . Am I missing something? --------------------Hey guys. You are all correct. I will try to think of a way to explain what is missing. And thanks for taking an interest. how is this possible? I don't see how any adjustments can be made on the rifle to change how much of the case sticks out of the chamber. of course. It is late right now and I need to go to bed. I was starting to think no one would even say boo. It is solely a function of how the chamber was reamed. But fiirst. If you will humor me. Unfortunately.--------------------------------------Since the chamber depth is fixed regardless of where the barrel is pinned to the trunion.

but they have never rechambered or reset a barrel. which could be any one of the following: incorrectly chambered barrel. I may PO someone. ------------------------------Sherm. I mean all this in the best of all possible ways. yugoslavia. There?s a chance I will insult somebody. but at least you will know where I stand. stretched trunnion. lever. step on some toes. It a part of the standard procedure for setting up a barrel on any action that I know of. say. Also. incorrectly pinned barrel. give it a chance if you would. semiauto. Finally. But I am going to take the chance. possibly leading to a detonation out of battery even though the bolt closes? If my understanding is correct and say a kit left romania. I think it should be fairly easy to see that you wouldnt want to have .came up with. Firing a rifle with too much bolt gap is the equivalent having a cartridge go off out of battery. And others who are experts because they have figured out ingenious ways to bend a piece of sheet metal and rivet it between to blocks of steel. if he is willing to assume that the bolt gap is correct and the bolt head recess is correct. I see guys that have read that excess headspace is dangerous and figure that the opposite must be . ----------------------------Well fellas. but failing that. 30 mils gap. incorrectly recessed bolt head. I see board experts that didn?t know the difference between headspace and outerspace until a month ago. the bolt gap would leave exposed parts of the catridge case. then Go & No Go gauges are adequate. etc with excessive bolt gap. I am going to light off on a rant. and say something that is easily misunderstood. then Go & No Go gauges alone are adequate. Bolt. that is a good analogy. Konking out here. you struck at the heart of the issue. In the mean time. I had hoped to create some healthy dialog on the subject. If a re-builder is willing to assume that the barrel was chambered correctly and the bolt head is recessed correctly. The fix would depend on the cause. And so forth. there are too many variables to be checked with one type of gauge. that kit would have to either be re-reamed (ruining the bore) or tossed? ----------------------------------Yes Blood. I started this thread is because I am seeing a lot of misunderstanding about headspace in general and headspace gauges in particular. In essence. you name it. Ozzy ----------------------------------So basically. or locking lug damage/wear. it is no accident that the AK barrel and bolt consistently come from the factory with about 7 mils gap. Similarly. If I understood your question correctly.

But it does not verify that this distance matches your loaded ammunition. All it tells you is the distance between the shoulder and the bolt face. as commonly applied to a rimless cartridge is a misnomer. Third: It isn?t good enough to just check the headspace before you shoot the . But for rimless cartridges. I assumed everyone (or at least someone) was as familiar with setting up/chambering new barrels as I am. Anyway. As I tried to describe in my first post. you know what they say about assumptions. Second. and it is actually safer than using a gauge. but by itself it doesn?t tell you whether a rifle is safe or not. including the exact same location for the reference point on the shoulder. headspace doesn?t tell you how much head is sticking out of the chamber. On the other hand. but I would sure like to straighten out at least a little of it.true. It checks that this distance is a standard length. headspace meant space for the head. First point: Using a factory loaded round with a shim on the head is the old standard way of checking headspace. Don?t assume that the headspace gauge checks all critical dimensions. The reason is this: A gauge checks the distance from the bolt face to a reference point (ring) on the shoulder. this is not always a good assumption. but it ASSUMES that the bolt gap is OK. I suppose this is all just human nature. They ask what to do and inevitably someone volunteers that he should reposition the barrel. you have eliminated the assumption. They figure that they are safe as long as they check their headspace with a gauge. The guy with the new gauges thinks this sounds good and does it without realizing that a headspace gauge does not tell the whole story. In those days. The term headspace made sense in the old rimmed cartridge days. if I can. the term headspace. For that matter. I came to this realization after being scorned (here and even worse on another board) for saying that excess head space is not dangerous if you are not reloading cases. That dimension is nice to know. And I see guys posting (here and there) that just they used their shiny new headspace gauges and found that their headspace is off a few thousands this way or that. So far. What I said is true. Well. And I see old timers who have made custom rifles and handoaded wildcat cartridges for decades being blown off by the new experts. if you check your rifle against the ammo you are going to use. If you use a gauge. redrill the pin hole and replace the pin with an over sized pin. you are ASSUMING that the manufacturer that loaded the ammunition and the manufacturer that made the gauge used the exact same dimensions. Considering that we are talking ammunition and arms made in various countries over a decades of time. all of the problems that I see are based on assumptions that I think most folks don?t know they are making. On a rimless case. there are more variables involved that just the distance between the shoulder and the bolt face. it means space for the case.

I am trying to get my hands on an AK assembly or repair manual. here are some numbers. There is no way that you got that barrel back in exactly the original spot. I am sure you know that there is a current shortage of good preachers (although personally. You would make a good straight man. I prefer the term minister to preacher). you can be sure that the pressure of a cartridge can move it. I really don?t want to hazard a guess as to how far outside the norm anyone can go. if there is slack in the pin. I would be happy to expand on #4. I have seen it happen and there have been several posts where guys pushed the barrel in a little farther to tighten up the headspace and then managed to get the pin back in and improve their headspace measurement. I want to talk a little about bolt head recess. One person might be comfortable with a one in a thousand chance of KABOOM and another might be terrified with a one in a billion chance.gun and then forget it. Yes I agree. whose shxt list am I on? ------------------------Preacher. I even know of one guy who sheared a makeshift pin and shot the barrel out of the trunnion and onto the ground. The pin may or may not have realigned things. Because. I could probably rant on. Don?t assume that barrel wont move a little the first time you fire it. But first. you are entering the gunsmiths realm and you need to understand what is involved in correctly setting up a barrel. when you check the headspace and find out it is off. Having given my disclaimer. Forth: When you pull that barrel. I am seeing bolt gaps in the range of 3 to 10 thousands of an inch. but that?s enough for now. For now. So the best I can do is explain how things work and leave it up to each builder to decide for himself (herself). Case . But they need to know that the barrel will shift forward when the gun is fired. How do you know that the barrel didn?t shift forward. you need to know how to figure out the cause. because it is the only one of the 3 variables that hasn?t been examined. Safety is such a subjective thing. I can only provide the range of measurements that I see in my Aks. So. If you can pound a barrel in and out with a hammer. You need to check it again after firing. And that is why I started the post to begin with. It may have shaved. Rodm1. I would think you are safe as long as you stay in that range. And congratulations on your becoming official.

I am seeing bolt head recess in the range of 0. These numbers are based on examination of the following Aks. Polish UF. I usually see 2 to 4 thousands. If someone else is checking these and has different numbers. And from what I can tell. Military rifles have more excess headspace to allow for ammunition variances and fouling.reveals are in the range of 0. These are just my observations. KABOOMs in AKs are extremely rare. headspace and bolt head recess. you are correct. It could mean that the rifle has been damaged. But if they do start checking. Hungarian 63/65/85 and Romanian. because the AK service manual lists pages of inspections. . This is because headspace is the sum of chamber depth plus bolt gap plus bolt head recess. Excess headspace is the amount of headspace that is available beyond what is needed to chamber a standard case. A few extra thousands of an inch of excess headspace is needed to allow for fouling and variances in case dimensions. and never once mentions headspace or bolt gap. Saiga. It is only important if you are troubleshooting headspace problems. it could be due to any one of these factors. I think we would all agree that it is vital that they understand what they found before they decide to make corrections. I suspect that he would tell us not to be too concerned. More on that later.117 inches. If your headspace is off. The key thing to know about headspace and bolt gap is that if either is out of spec. For this reason. ETA clarification: Headspace is measured between the bolt face and a reference point on the shoulder. that problem will have been solved for those monitoring the thread. He might be able to tell us what the most likely problems are. SLR95. The standard upper limit for new rifle excess headspace is 6 thousands of an inch.160 inches at the extractor cut. Yugo M70. I think the most likely cause of problems is the guy with gauges that doesn?t fully understand the relationship of the three key dimensions: bolt gap. -------------------------Bolt head recess Bolt head recess is the depth of the depression in the end of the bolt. Target rifles are set with almost no excess headspace in order to maximize accuracy. They are not gospel. but my experience is that IF EVERYTHING ELSE IS OK.152 to 0. Guacho1 Yes. you need to find out why. Russian type III. And I hope that by the end of this thread. please speak up. For a good answer to that question. but if you are having trouble. Bolt head recess is the least likely problem. I am not trying to convince anyone that they need to check anything. headspace alone is not critically important as long as you are not using reloaded cases. Excessive headspace occurs when the excess headspace is larger than it should be. we need to hear from someone who has worked in a combloc armory and has inspected a large number of AKs. it needs to be eliminated as a cause to be sure.110 to 0. I have not seen a standard for field headspace.

Below are pictures of the recess in the bolt head and the gauge I use to measure it. I checked several rifles and found the measurement to vary between 0. . Be sure not to measure at the firing pin hole or the ring shaped groove at the outer part of the bolt face.110 and 0.200 . The gauge in the picture is indicating a bolt recess of .200 to get the bolt recess value.117 inches.0. The dial indicator reads 0.99).200 when the gauge is placed on a flat surface. I had to make this gauge because I could not get consistent readings with calipers. but that is how dial indicators work. So I have to subtract its reading from 0. I know it sounds obnoxious.111 (0.



you are hearing about it now for the first time (except maybe for G3s). Your only adjustment is movement of the barrel toward or away from the bolt. then the bolt recess and the chamber depth are fixed. It may give you a clue as to the . I think you are asking why. When you move the barrel in or out. If you trust that the manufacturer is perfect. If you adjust (repin) your barrel. I am seeing about 7 mils in the dozen or so rifles I have measured. you are questioning if there should be any bolt gap. The answer is that there has to be some gap to assure smooth and reliable functioning of the action in field conditions. With that goal in mind. Now I would agree that the odds are that you wont have any trouble. The answer is that if you are only setting up rifles with prechambered barrels and premachined bolts. If I understand you correctly. If you have headspace problems.Thanks for joining the discussion. you have no way of adjusting them. That is. But we are talking about demilled rifles from various countries produced over decades of time. then you have nothing to worry about. If you are setting up a rifle with a prechambered barrel and premachined bolt. it is a good idea to check to see what the bolt gap is. then it was factored in when the manufacturer chambered the barrel and machined the bolt. Second. you are affecting the bolt gap and the amount of case that is not supported by the barrel. I will summarize the basic concept. And I am not saying you have to check bolt gap (although it is very easy to check). possibly with swapped parts and battle time. What I am trying to do is promote a full understanding of the factors involved in case someone reading this thread happens to find out his rifle doesn?t headspace right and wants to know what to do about it. the bolt gap gets smaller or bigger. after building numerous rifles.

but havent been able to prove it. There is no mention of headspace gauges.problem. -------------------------Ozzy. I suspect that AK armories use a similar approach. This thread has turned into a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Fair enough? OOPs Sorry. It shows how bolt gap is used to check headspace in a G3. Didnt mean to go on if you already understood. Oh well. "bolt gap" on a G3 is not the gap between the bolt and breechface. it is the gap between the rear of the bolt and the bolt carrier. I'll try to do better later. With the bolt . --------------------------------I found this in a HK G3 armorer manual on page 5. ETA: Looks like the image didnt come out quite right. I'll just leave it as is in case a summary would help someone else. Just saw your last sentence. It is checked on an empty chamber as it is not a headspace related measurement.

the first thing I would do would be to check the bolt gap. there is a good chance that the bolt. barrel and/or trunnion are damaged or worn. the most important thing to do is to determine why. Or am I missing something obvious? ---------------------------Fixed the G3 image above. If either bolt gap or headspace are out of spec. The bolt is not "locked" in the traditional sense so headspace is not too critical. the gap between the bolt and carrier indicates the state of wear in the roller locking mechanism. but never mentions headspace. I would suspect measurement error. And that is the basis for my position that the bolt gap is the most important check a rebuilder can do. I understood that the bolt gap on a G3 is measured at a different location than on an AK. destroying any chrome lining which might be there. It is a good bet that it did not come from the factory that way. I would also inspect the locking lugs and .bottomed out against the breechface. ---------------------------OK. the AK service manual describes armorer inspections from one end to the other. I am in full agreement that it is reasonable to expect that the factories chamber and assemble the rifles correctly. then the headspace is almost certainly also out of spec. or pressing the barrel further back and then enlarging the chamber with a reamer. If the headspace checks OK and the bolt gap doesnt. What then? Only options I can see are throwing away the barrel. One can not change without the other changing. Headspace is not normally checked on a G3 as there is really no easy way to do so. Headspace and bolt gap are mathematically entertwined (functions of each other). indicating the rifle had been fired with a barrel obstruction. so your AK build checks out fine for headspace. If you find that your bolt gap is out of spec. but you have excessive bolt gap. the action would have been subjected to overpressure and could be damaged. But I do not agree that the HK manual and I are incorrect in saying that G3 bolt gap is related to headspace. As the rollers wear the locking piece goes deeper into the bolt and the gap gets smaller. If it is now out of spec. The first thing I would look for would be a ring in the barrel. As I noted previously. If I were to buy a rebuilt AK. The other dimensions (chamber depth and bolt head recess) are fixed at the factory. If that were the case. Bolt gap is the only headspace related dimension that the rebuilder can affect.

On a G3. If I had removed and reinstalled the barrel.308 would require a bolt weighing some 30+ pounds to operate safely. -------------------------I think you could safely determine proper bolt gap by inspecting fired cases. this dimension is set by the depth of the chamber in the bbl. the actual correct terminology would be "roller delayed blowback". This dim is normally treated as non-critical and in fact this is the first time I have seen it discussed.I think in theory your concerns are valid and you will have to decide how you want to address them. cut or otherwise deformed. Headspace is normally measured from a point on the shoulder area of the chamber to the bottom of the casehead recess in the bolt. the bolt is pushed up against the back of the bbl when it is measured. Any damaged parts should probably be replaced. The bolt is never locked. OLD SANG ----------------------------OS. A straight blowback . The rollers introduce a "mechanical disadvantage" into the equation that reduces the force the bolt . I would suspect that the pin was driven in with the barrel slightly out of position and now the pin or barrel is galled. If you think it is. cracking or deformation. this does not affect the distance from the boltface to shoulder. The normal cure for this according to the manual is to install oversize rollers to compensate for the wear. What the armorer's manual is telling you to measure is the gap between the bolt and carrier.recesses for damage such as galling.In practice there does not seem to be a problem. The distance between the shoulder and the bolt face is not being measured in this situation. The G3 bolt gap dimension is variable because the bolt rollers and their recesses in the trunnion wear with use and the locking piece which is attached to the carrier goes deeper into the bolt to compensate. The G3 action is often referred to as "roller locked" but this is not exactly accurate. Once it goes in so far that the gap disappears the self adjustment is gone. please explain how this is done. Who is it that normally treats "this dim" as non critical? ----------------------------Bolt gap measurement on a G3 is not related to headspace at all. Again. It is measured with an empty chamber. If you wanted to measure actual headspace on an assembled G3 you would have to build a depth micrometer setup to go in from the rear of the receiver and measure the protrusion of the headspace guage from the rear surface of the bbl and also measure the recess in the bolt.something you should always do with a new gun.

then proper case head exposure is assured. If the minimum specified bolt gap is present. there would be no assurance that the locking mechanism is holding the bolt head fully forward. imagine that the barrel is short chambered and the case is sticking out of the barrel too far (case head overexposure). If the bolt gap is within specified tolerances. The bolt head would not be able to fully advance. if zero bolt gap exists. -----------------------------The HK specified headspace check (bolt gap check) verifies acceptable shoulder to bolt face headspace as follows: Excess headspace. the rollers would not be fully set in place. because the potential for case wall rupture exists if the case head is overexposed. That is. Additionally. Inadequate headspace: Inadequate headspace results in cartridge/bolt face interference. If the bolt gap reaches zero. the locking piece would be forced back by the rollers and excess gap would exist between the bolt and the bolt carrier. First. the HK specified headspace check verifies that the cartridge head is not overexposed. the forward position of the bolt is uncertain and the possibility exists that excess headspace is present. the locking piece would be forced back by the rollers and excess gap would exist between the bolt and the bolt carrier. If the maximum specified bolt gap is not exceeded. This is extremely important. then the position of the bolt head is not known and the case could be allowed to back out of the chamber. as I noted earlier. The case would hold the bolt head away from the barrel face.imparts to the carrier during firing. adequate headspace exists. Second. Case head overexposure would result. --------------------------Originally Posted by ozzy the nuke The HK specified headspace check (bolt gap check) verifies acceptable shoulder to bolt face headspace as follows: . then excess headspace will not exist as long as the factory machined and checked the chamber and the bolt head recess correctly.

as I noted earlier. Which is what I said. adequate headspace exists. Two identically chambered G3 rifles. the forward position of the bolt is uncertain and the possibility exists that excess headspace is present. Since HK bolt gap is measured on an EMPTY chamber it wouldn't tell you much about a short chamber. Which one has a longer headspace? Neither. one has a bolt gap of . This is extremely important. The bolt head would not be able to fully advance. they are the same! One just has a little less wear on the roller mechanism than the other one. First. because the potential for case wall rupture exists if the case head is overexposed. the HK specified headspace check verifies that the cartridge head is not overexposed. the gap is a measurement of the locking roller engagement. If the maximum specified bolt gap is not exceeded. then excess headspace will not exist as long as the factory machined and checked the chamber and the bolt head recess correctly. Quote: Originally Posted by ozzy the nuke Additionally.019. If the bolt gap reaches zero. If the minimum specified bolt gap is present. then the position of the bolt head is not known and the case could be allowed to back out of the chamber. the rollers would not be fully set in place. That is. Case head overexposure . the locking piece would be forced back by the rollers and excess gap would exist between the bolt and the bolt carrier. there would be no assurance that the locking mechanism is holding the bolt head fully forward.Excess headspace. if zero bolt gap exists. "There would be no assurance that the locking mechanism is holding the bolt head fully forward". Quote: Originally Posted by ozzy the nuke Inadequate headspace: Inadequate headspace results in cartridge/bolt face interference. AFAIK there is no published factory spec for bolt gap with either a cartridge or headspace guage in the chamber.007 and the other has one of .

If bolt gap on an HK were measuring headspace. I propose that it is safe to assume that the chamber and the bolt head are correctly machined on a demilled AK. one could experience the same thing if they were to fire a bolt action with the bolt only turned down 1/4 of the way to locked.would result. the locking piece would be forced back by the rollers and excess gap would exist between the bolt and the bolt carrier. not a headspace measurement. then there is reasonable assurance that the headspace is within tolerance. Checking bolt gap requires no specialized tools. the Kernel has explained why bolt gap measurement is not headspace measurement. . Q. then proper case head exposure is assured. one adjusts the wear parts of the locking mechanism. My second post in this thread shows how easy it is to measure bolt gap. The necessary feeler gauges can be purchased at Walmart or an autoparts store for a just few dollars. this would be because the action is partially unlocked. If the bolt gap is within specified tolerances. I return to AKs. If the bolt gap is within tolerance. Assuming it were possible to do so. If that is a reasonable assumption. imagine that the barrel is short chambered and the case is sticking out of the barrel too far (case head overexposure). I recognized this distinction from the beginning. AK bolt gap measurement can similarly be used to reach reasonable assurance that AK headspace is acceptable. The loop has been closed. Meanwhile. then the only component of headspace that needs to be checked by a rebuilder is the bolt gap. This is essentially the case with a G3 rifle that has no bolt gap. The case would hold the bolt head away from the barrel face. And I explained why the HK bolt gap measurement procedure is a satisfactory headspace check. However. Instead. ------------------------------HK measures bolt gap as a headspace check. Second. And so. You're right.D. Now. I was careful to only refer to the HK headspace check as a headspace check (not a headspace measurement). case head overexposure could result in a case blowing upon firing.E. the cure for an incorrect bolt gap would be to adjust the length of the chamber.

The easiest solution is to pound the barrel back forward using a punch (or big bolt) with pennies or nickels to protect the chamber entrance. half hole). Do this with the pin still installed. . but I actually consider it to be best (for reasons given in my thread GJ linked above). No big deal. The pin has probably shaved a little off the front side of the barrel hole (actually. 3 discs equals about 6 thousands. but I and others have used it successfully before. I do not recommend redrilling the pin hole unless you are absolutely sure that it is the necessary and correct action. If the barrel doesn?t move forward. OBTW.----------------------------------Having re-read your initial post. the barrel is sitting a little too far in toward the bolt. the barrel will shift forward against the pin (where it belongs) and you will be able to chamber a round. This may sound like a crude method. where it belongs. which is the standard maximum for headspace. As a result. If you are lucky. it does sound like you have inadequate headspace. feel free to ask for better advice. This is commonly caused by installing the barrel a little too far in (5 to 10 thousands) and then managing to get the pin in anyhow. Not everyone agrees that a case with shims on the back of it is good enough for this purpose. Next check your ?no go? headspace using a cartridge with discs made from sticky notes on the end of the head. The barrel will stop when it is fully forward against the pin.

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