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Opinions Wanted: How long is “Too Long” to wait for a kit to be built

the gman

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Except in the most unusual case, any business that takes 6 months or more to finish a task that takes hours is poorly run.

There is nothing wrong with having work in queue. But the queue should never exceed a few multiples of the time required to complete the task. There are two easy ways to solve this problem. Hire help. Raise prices.

The fact is that if your project sits on the shelf for six months, the person you've hired is completing tasks and expending their effort towards things that are higher priority to them than what they've promised to do for you. Your project doesn't move up the priority list until you complain, and the craftsman risks his reputation by not fulfilling the promise. He gets to it because he has no choice. Or maybe not at all. People who run businesses like this often go belly up leaving a bunch of customers in a lurch.
There are multiple custom gunsmiths out there whose wait times are measured in years, not months. Some very reputable smiths have simply closed their books and are not accepting orders. I know Mark stopped building anything except FAL's years ago and once closed his order book because he had too much of a lead time. Sometimes, delays occur because of circumstances outside of your control. I once contracted to build a rifle for a customer, accepted the kit and expected to get on with it in short order. Unfortunately, we had ordered a custom serial number receiver from Coonan which we were damn lucky to eventually get but it took many months longer than initially anticipated.

Having said all that, a good, full time smith should be able to tell you with some degree of certainty when your kit will come up on rotation. Again, I know of other smith's who put your name down on a list and will call or email you when it's time to send it.

Hiring help is a significant pain in the ass for most custom smiths. Finding the right guy or gal, with the right attitude, work ethic, degrees of honesty, reliability and aptitude is a huge issue these days. A good friend of mine is best friends with Ron Power of Power Custom/Red Star Arms. When Ron was actively building PPC guns, if he found out someone was charging more money than him for the same kind of build, Ron increased his prices. He remained busy until he effectively retired. Many decent smiths are too afraid to increase prices lest it push it past what the market will bear or direct business to others who will do it for less. It's a difficult balance to achieve at times.
 

mullicrk

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Let me guess, it's a Galil and the builder is pretty well known. You are not the first to complain about him.
Well if your talking about Jeff he is probably slammed with business. Not sure of his lead times but if there any problems all you gotta do is call him. Make sure to set aside some time for great conversation :)
 

adam6955

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If he is slammed with business, he should not take on new work and make unrealistic promises
Jeff will tell you its going to be a while. But he answers the phone, he is honest and realistic, and is good at what he does. And as mentioned its always a good conversation! I doubt the OP is talking about Jeff, but who knows.

If you are in a hurry then buy something already built....because the custom build game is not for you.

This goes for ANYTHING CUSTOM in ANY HOBBY.

These threads are funny when people dont name the business. Just ask the damned question!! "What is a typical lead time for XXX builder?" Does not mean you are criticizing or attacking, its just a question.
 

peter-paul

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Jeff will tell you its going to be a while. But he answers the phone, he is honest and realistic, and is good at what he does. And as mentioned its always a good conversation! I doubt the OP is talking about Jeff, but who knows.

If you are in a hurry then buy something already built....because the custom build game is not for you.

This goes for ANYTHING CUSTOM in ANY HOBBY.

These threads are funny when people dont name the business. Just ask the damned question!! "What is a typical lead time for XXX builder?" Does not mean you are criticizing or attacking, its just a question.
It’s not relevant to the question at hand, as I provided the particulars.
 

peter-paul

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There are multiple custom gunsmiths out there whose wait times are measured in years, not months. Some very reputable smiths have simply closed their books and are not accepting orders. I know Mark stopped building anything except FAL's years ago and once closed his order book because he had too much of a lead time. Sometimes, delays occur because of circumstances outside of your control. I once contracted to build a rifle for a customer, accepted the kit and expected to get on with it in short order. Unfortunately, we had ordered a custom serial number receiver from Coonan which we were damn lucky to eventually get but it took many months longer than initially anticipated.

Having said all that, a good, full time smith should be able to tell you with some degree of certainty when your kit will come up on rotation. Again, I know of other smith's who put your name down on a list and will call or email you when it's time to send it.

Hiring help is a significant pain in the ass for most custom smiths. Finding the right guy or gal, with the right attitude, work ethic, degrees of honesty, reliability and aptitude is a huge issue these days. A good friend of mine is best friends with Ron Power of Power Custom/Red Star Arms. When Ron was actively building PPC guns, if he found out someone was charging more money than him for the same kind of build, Ron increased his prices. He remained busy until he effectively retired. Many decent smiths are too afraid to increase prices lest it push it past what the market will bear or direct business to others who will do it for less. It's a difficult balance to achieve at times.
Wise perspective as always, George!
 

gunplumber

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Edited after dinner, because at 7PM on a holiday weekend, I'm still working. And I noted my poor spelling.


I'm not making excuses for anyone, myself included. But some who do not do this shit for a living have an unrealistic view of what it is like to run a gunsmith operation.

I currently have 60 FALs in the shop. That's down from 90 earlier this year. There is enough paperwork to be accountable for what is physically here. I cannot keep track of what isn't here. So no, I don't have a list and contact someone when their "appointment" time is drawing near.

There are some days when I never make it into the shop. Depending on how a gun is packed for shipping, it might take me an hour per box to open it, hack away all the freaking duct tape and bubble wrap, inventory/inspect for any obvious issues, generate a work order, and log it in. I might get 6-8 new orders in one day. So the whole freaking day, I'm just logging stuff in. One mistake, I can lose my license. So it is a process that takes care. And if something is screwed up, I photograph it on receipt. Because yeah, I've had a few, over the years, try to blame me for a part that was broken when I opened the box.

It takes about the same per rifle to prepare for ship. Maybe a little less, because I have a system for packing. Basically, I Pay more for packing material to cut my labor time dramatically.

But I also photograph each rifle both for my own records and as a courtesy to the customer. 10-15 min each to photograph, edit, e-mail customer for payment, and THEN start boxing up. So I think it is fair to say that I have almost two hours of administrative time on every order. Which is why I have a minimum service charge of $125. If I open the box, you're on the hook for $125. I've had three customers this month change their minds on orders. They found a better receiver for the project, or a whole different set of parts to make the esoteric version (Dutch, Veny, etc.) "better" and I end up boxing everything up and sending back with no work performed. Eventually I'll figure out what to charge for administrative overhead, but since they've been with me for decades and dozens of builds, I want to be gentle. But it's still almost two hours work with no pay.

I usually do 60-65 hours a week. Mail order parts processing - usually 10 orders a day, 2 hours a day. Answering e-mail, maybe an hour a day.

Sometimes I have other responsibilities - maintenance and repair on the shop. I spent 4 hours last week disassembling, cleaning, and lubricating the lathe because I wanted to make my single point thread cutting 10% better. Oh, and it's a (today's dollars) $16,000 mill and $16,000 lathe ($7500 each in 1999), probably with the same amount in tooling. So if you ever wonder why it's $125 to drill a hole, it's not. It's $20 to a drill a hole. It's a $125 to drill it within .0005" of where you want it. And it's $125 to thread the barrel because the cutter is $60 (I to get three tips) the tool holder is $350 and the lathe is $16,000.

I've been "best guessing" 20 weeks. And most orders, I can turn in that time. But I have some that have been here over a year. Problem children. I have a G1 that shoots straight, kicks brass out nicely, and won't go into battery on the second round. Tried a different receiver, and same thing. All FN parts. I mess with it periodically, but the problem only manifests in live fire and even with a range on my own property, I only test fire ever 10 days or so. At some point, I need to do other jobs that are not problematic.

Another T48 ( original except for receiver) with similar issue. I'd love to send them back, refund any money paid and be done with them. It is ridiculous how upside down I am time-wise on them. But I have this ego that says I am going to figure out what the problem is! And the customer can have it returned as-is any time.

Yesterday I did ONE rifle. An factory SAR48 IMBEL machinegun that does not shoot straight. Spun the barrel between centers, it appears concentric and straight. It was over-timed a smidge, but not enough to explain the deviation. I went through everything on this gun, before deciding that maybe the slight overtiming was the problem, or maybe the lower is warped, which I can only check by exchanging lowers and multiple test-fires. On reassembly, I noted the gas tube wasn't straight. Put it on the lathe and it spun true. WTF? Turns out the internal threads of the gas block are offset. Could this be forcing the barrel out of straight when it heats up? I dunno, but new gas block. Which is a PITA. Then blast and park the barrel, which I haven't done yet. By the time I'm ready to test, I'll have 8 hours into it and still no idea if I'm the right track.

And then I felt so tired that I had to stop or I was going to make a mistake. (NEVER work power tools when tired.) I crashed hard. Most uncharacteristic.

Found I was running a slight fever - went to bed - slept 14 hours straight. Today I seem okay, but even gunsmiths don't work all day every day. I took a day off last week to say goodbye to four legged friend I'd had for 16 years. No, I wasn't in the mood to work when I got back from the vet. I did anyway. Not very efficiently. But I still did a couple more hours through the tears.

I spent 4 hours today making grip studs for L1A1 thumbhole lowers. It is much faster to do 30 at a time than to do one at a time as needed, but that's still a half-day no gun work.

4 hours spread over 2 days repairing a G1 stock. Because I thought I could and it was too nice a stock to not try.

4 hours on two guns stripping paint - century's black paint on aussie handguards and someone else's green paint on Brit handguards.

So when one thinks "it should only taker this much time" - yes. If everything goes perfectly, which it never does.

Like the IMBEL today - previous builder had both ground the back of the bolt and the receiver lug. Weld up and regrind a receiver lug - a little less than hour - before the build even starts. true the bolt only took 3 minutes. After 20 minutes of setup, truing the stones and getting the exact angle dialed in.

So on a good week, I can do 6 guns. On a normal week, maybe less. A FAL from receiving the box to shipping the box is 7-8 hours if nothing goes wrong.

So what I'm saying is that it is extremely difficult to predict how long a gun that isn't here yet, will be here if sent sometime in the next month.

I try to guestimate longer, so as to manage expectations. And I've been doing it 30 years, and have had many 6 month or longer periods where I just stopped taking new work. It's hard.

And some do a piss-poor job of it ("it" being predicting future time requirements), and some have not learned when to say "no" and some just get overcome with unpredictable events and their productivity ends up much less than imagined. I'd say in my 30 + years as a gunsmith, the most important thing I ever learned was to say "no". And for my first decade, my ego wouldn't let me say no. So I got bogged down in interesting and exciting work, that was a major money-loser. Got me the Small Arms Review Gunsmith of the Year award, but I lost my ass on those jobs.

So without making excuses for myself or others, just understand there is a shit ton of stuff that goes into running a gunsmith service that isn't standing in front of the bench doing that one thing.
 
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MobileHiker

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I'm not making excuses for anyone, myself included. But some who do not do this shit for a living have an unrealistic view of what it is like to run a gunsmith operation.

I currently have 60 FALs in the shop. That's down from 90 earlier this year. There is enough paperwork to be accountable for what is physically here. I cannot keep track of what isn't here. So no, I don't have a list and contact someone when their "appointment" time is drawing near.

There are some days when I never make it into the shop. Depending on how a gun is packed for shipping, it might take me an hour per box to open it, hack away all the freaking duct tape and bubble wrap, inventory/inspect for any obvious issues, generate a work order, and log it in. I might get 6-8 on one day. So the whole freaking day, just logging stuff in. One mistake, I can lose my license.

It takes about the same per rifle to prepare for ship. Maybe a little less, because I have a system for packing. But I also photograph each rifle both for my own records and as a courtesy to the customer. 10-15 min each to photograph, edit, e-mail customer for payment, and THEN start boxing up. So I think it is fair to say I have two hours of administrative time on every order.

I usually do 60-65 hours a week. Mail order parts processing - usually 10 orders a day, 2 hours a day. Sometimes I have other responsibilities - maintenance and repair on the shop. Answering e-mail, maybe an hour a day.

I've been "best guessing" 20 weeks. And most orders, I can turn in that time. But I have some that have been here over a year. Problem children. I have a G1 that shoots straight, kicks brass out nicely, and won't go into battery on the second round. Tried a different receiver, and same thing. All FN parts. I mess with it periodically, but the problem only manifests in live fire and even with a range on my own property, I only test fire ever 10 days or so. At some point, I need to do other jobs that are not problematic.

Another T48 ( original except for receiver) with similar issue. I'd love to send them back, refund any money paid and be done with them. It is ridiculous how upside down I am time-wise on them. But I have this ego that says I am going to figure out what the problem is! And the customer can have it returned as-is any time.

Yesterday I did ONE rifle. An IMBEL that does not shoot straight. Spun the barrel between centers, it appears concentric and straight. It was overtimed a smidge, but not enough to explain the deviation. I went through everything on this gun, before deciding that maybe the slight overtiming is the problem, or maybe the lower is warped, which I can only check by exchanging lowers. On reassembly, I noted the gas tube wasn't straight. Put it on the lathe and it spun true. WTF? Turns out the internal threads of the gas block are offset. Could this be forcing the barrel out of straight when it heats up? I dunno, but new gas block. Which is a PITA. Then blast and park the barrel, which I haven't done yet. By the time I'm ready to test, I'll have 8 hours into it an no idea if I'm the right track.

And then I felt so tired that I had to stop or I was going to make a mistake. Like I crashed hard. Found I was running a slight fever - went to bed - slept 14 hours straight. Today I seem okay, but even gunsmiths don't work all day every day. I took a day off last week to say goodbye to four legged friend I'd had for 16 years. No, I wasn't in the mood to work when I got back from the vet. I did anyway. Not very efficiently.

I spent 4 hours today making grip studs for L1A1 thumbhole lowers. It is much faster to 30 at a time than to do one at a time as needed, but that's still a half-day no gun work.

4 hours spread over 2 days repairing a G1 stock. Because I thought I could and it was too nice a stock to not try.

4 hours on two guns stripping paint - century's black paint on aussie handguards and someone else's green paint on Brit handguards.

So when one thinks "it should only taker this much time" - yes. If everything goes perfectly, which it never does.

Like the IMBEL today - previous builder had both ground the back of the bolt and the receiver lug. Weld up and regrind a receiver lug - a little less than hour - before the build even starts. true the bolt only took 3 minutes. After 20 minutes of setup, truing the stones and getting the exact angle dialed in.

So on a good week, I can do 6 guns. On a normal week, maybe less. A FAL from receiving the box to shipping the box is 7-8 hours if nothing goes wrong.

So what I'm saying is that it is extremely difficult to predict how long a gun that isn't here yet, will be here if sent sometime in the next month.

I try to guestimate longer, so as to manage expectations. And I've been doing it 30 years, and have had many 6 month or longer periods where I just stopped taking new work. It's hard.

And some do a piss-poor job of it, and some have not learned when to say "no" and some just get overcome with unpredicted events and their productivity ends up much less than imagined.

So without making excuses for myself or others, just understand there is a shit ton of stuff that goes into running a gunsmith service that isn't standing in front of the bench doing that one thing.
Well said man. Ive got a rifle in your hands, and I walked into it knowing it'd be a long-wait time, but thats the trade-off with sending your gun to someone renowned for their craftmanship.

I think some folks just have a hard time understanding that trade-off. We are all so used to convience in everything now that people dont realize a brick & mortor operation is never going to be able to work in the speed society is accustom to with services like Amazon, etc.
 
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gunplumber

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for kicks, this has been some of the "not efficient production gunsmithing" stuff. And no, in 30 years, I've never seen a off-set threaded factory gas block.

Kindof proud of the G1 stock repair, although I'd have to charge $500 if I was bidding by the hour and not on my ego. Instead, it is included in the flat rate build price. And offset time-wise by the next build that goes without a hitch.

IMG_0257.JPG IMG_0260.JPG wood-stock-repair-g1-03.jpg wood-stock-repair-g1-02.jpg

l1a1-grip-stud-01.jpg
 

meltblown

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I was thinking over the past month about similar experiences with building FALs and how it would be a money losing proposition for me when running into a problem child. I've spent several hours on and IMBEL/IMBEL that today will be the 3rd trip to the range. Timing was off about 2 degrees. Fixed that and still not happy because of excessive dispersion. Tac-40 sent me his crown tool and was able to get the chamfer back on the muzzle. Had to take the combo device off with a 1/2 breaker bar and torch chucked up in the receiver wrench.

What I am noticing about kits of late is they are leftovers. The BC that came with the kit rubbed the side of the rails and wouldn't go into battery. I had another matching BCG that I exchanged. Interesting though that the other BC will slide fine into a LMT receiver.
 

peter-paul

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Have you been in contact with the gunsmith since this thread started?
I have been, based on the input of this thread.

We have both come to a further understanding based on his most recent input.

I’ll continue to wait, and we’ve mutually decided a timeframe, past which, the item will be considered “seriously delayed.”
 

Flypaper

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I have been, based on the input of this thread.

We have both come to a further understanding based on his most recent input.

I’ll continue to wait, and we’ve mutually decided a timeframe, past which, the item will be considered “seriously delayed.”
Sometimes you have to wait for Quality. You can be angry as heck while you’re waiting, but once it shows up you will feel whole again.
I know a member on here that makes spurs, he has a three-year wait period, which quite frankly blew me away when I first heard that…. It all goes back to Quality.
 

peter-paul

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Sometimes you have to wait for Quality. You can be angry as heck while you’re waiting, but once it shows up you will feel whole again.
I know a member on here that makes spurs, he has a three-year wait period, which quite frankly blew me away when I first heard that…. It all goes back to Quality.
I totally agree. I haven’t been angry, I just wanted to get people’s perspectives on what is reasonable, especially in relation to the initial statements made by the builder.
 

FUUN063

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The other side of the coin is to simply learn how to build your own if you don't want to wait. That's me. Kinda impatient when I get one part of a whole rifle. It's simply gotta be built that night, even if in my underwear holding a flashlight waiting for my mercury vapor shop lights to come on! I just bought a pair of NZ handguards in the MP and they arrived.........................................ugh.


Leland
 

Andy the Aussie

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Some people are assuming that it's a "FAL" being built, reading the OP's initial thread I do not believe it is the case, quality welding indicates to me it is requiring a cut receiver to be remanufactured. That is next level for most all in the garage with a wrench and hammer.
 

Abominog

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Some people are assuming that it's a "FAL" being built, reading the OP's initial thread I do not believe it is the case, quality welding indicates to me it is requiring a cut receiver to be remanufactured. That is next level for most all in the garage with a wrench and hammer.
Well mg34 and mg42 are brutal. Ten times more hours than an FAL, and another 20 plus hours to work out the bugs. I could see that taking years.
 

brunop

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Realistically, how long does it take to build an FAL? I've spun one together in little more than an hour, including barrel timing and headspacing. If someone was paying to have it refinished, how long does it take to actually blast and repark a FAL?
Larry
Good point, but the OP said specifically is is not an FAL.
 

M Ram

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About to send 2 kits to get built next week ,, a PE57 and AR70/90 .. both are time consuming builds ! Will see how that goes ,, got less than a month time frame on both together to be done .. we’ll see how that goes..
 

gunplumber

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Realistically, how long does it take to build an FAL? I've spun one together in little more than an hour, including barrel timing and headspacing. If someone was paying to have it refinished, how long does it take to actually blast and repark a FAL?
I'm really good, having done it for 30 years.

IF NOTHING GOES WRONG (and inexperienced people often don't know when something is wrong)

From a bin of parts on my bench.

Build - 40-45 minutes to strip and barrel and headspace. Includes lathe turning (on that $15,000 lathe and hundreds more in tooling) the shoulder, or using the shims I custom make at many hours additional work - but I can do 50 at a time). Oh, and the barreling tooling that I made or had made at additional cost and time, but fortunately were done right so have lasted me many years)

Clean - 1-2 hours in the ultrasonic cleaner (if you don't want oil in your blaster). That Crest Rifle-size ultrasonic cleaner was $7500 15 years ago and worth every penny.

Blast - You cannot blast grease away. It's like trying to blast clay. Oh, and blasting media (I use #80 Al02 at $60/bag ). Change every 3 weeks. After emptying the $3000 industrial vacuum so you don't inhale the shit. In the $4500 blaster cabinet with $1000 in customizing with LED lights and $15/sheet glass (lasts 10 hours) and three $150 vibrators, which last 6 months. Infrastructure helps effciency and I'd rather spend $100 in parts than $100 labor. Because parts don't call in sick.

1 hour to blast (take me sometimes 45 minutes, most people an hour and a half, because I know what corners can be cut) And it depends whether the original finish was paint or park. And whose paint. IMBEL paint blasts off a heck of a lot faster than 3 layers of UK stoving lacquer. And it depends on how big your compressor is, what CFMs you're producing, etc. My 7.5 HP $3500 compressor can run at high PSI all day long on it's cycle. When I was using box store compressors, I couldn't blast for 5 hours straight without overheating the aluminum cylinders. Certain guns I know will be a nightmare (Original Droganovs) so I break out the nasty Chem Dip Carb cleaner and do the initial paint strip outside, and everything still stinks for a week.

Blasting tips? I used to have a good souce. Now I'm stuck with $15+ per tip, which lasts 2-3 hours.

So all those Gd kits? Yeah, that barrel section makes 4 x 2" blasting tips, even if it takes 10 minute each to turn them down to 1/2" to fit in the gun.

Park - 45 minutes to get the tank to 185F temp, and then only about 15 minutes to park. And 15 minutes to blow everything bone dry. If you have the right heating element or burners, which are not cost effective for the hobbiest. Yeah, way back when I'd heat on the stove and then pour into a 4" ABS pipe. Can do. But not efficient. With the setup I have now, I can park 6-8 rifles in 2 hours easy peasy.

Paint. I am Edward Scissorhands with paint. It's what I am really a master at doing. Not being arrogant, I really am that good. No runs, no drips, no errors. Perfect the first time. Because I have 30 years of fucking it up every way since Sunday to become that good. And I have my paint custom mixed to my exact specifications and then I alter it based on ambient temperatures and humidity in my 10,000 CFM paint booth (so I don't need a respirator).

Takes me 40-50 minutes to paint a FAL. StGs take the longest, L1A1s the shortest. So the 1 hour cure is the part that slows me down. I do two rifles, one in the oven, one on deck, and then I watch reels on Youtube for 10-15 minutes while waiting for the oven to catch up. Do one more. Repeat. 6-7 rifles a day.

Reassembly - an hour each if I don't discover a problem at the last minute, such as a bad DSA ejector block that binds the BHO and now I have to redo the barreled receiver to change out the e-block and FUCK DSA"s shit quality control.

Testfire - 15 minutes to load up the ATV and drive to the far end of my farm to spend 10 minutes proofing at my 25 meter range. Beats the hell out driving 2 hours round trip to the public range, and waiting 45 minutes for my turn, shooting 3 rifles and then sitting with my thumb up my ass for 30 minutes for other lethargic octogenarians to change their targets. Before I can test the next three. So we're back to 10 hours allocated for a FAL assemble and refinish black over park.

Document and pack Discussed this previously. Allocate 2 hours per rifle for unpack, document, log in, repack, document, log out.

But from the original post, we're not talking about a FAL. When I was doing 1919s, and AR-70s, and what not, I didn't have enough of them over a long enough period of time, to really dial in the amount of time it took.

But from anectdotal evidence, I'd rather do an AK than an HK. If I screw something up on a FAL, I literally "unscrew it". If I fuck up an AK, I have to drill out rivets. Which sucks, but it isn't "hard". If I fuck up an HK, I have to cut welds. Cutting welds sucks. If I ever run low on FAL stuff to do, I'll take Galils again, 'cause they are freaking easy compared to HKs.
 
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