In September I got invited to Inter Ordnance (I.O. Inc.) for a factory tour and press release. Never having been on one of these I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Arriving at the airport with David Fortier from Outdoor Sportsman Group and Neal Shera of Big 3 East Media, we were met by a very pretty company rep. in a Mercedes van. Then we headed to the factory where everyone was meeting up for a meet and greet hobnob social dinner. It was very well done with a Cuban themed supper and self-serve drink bar. About 10am-ish the vans were loaded up for a trip back to the rooms at the Hilton for the evening. So far I was rather impressed with this new venture.
The next morning after being awakened to electronic wolf howls, via the alarm on my phone I figured a hearty breakfast was in order. The one at the Hilton wasn’t bad as things go. Then another load up of the vans to head back to I.O., I was rather looking forward to the presentation to see what and how I.O. is planning on improving their quality control, AK trunnions and products/rifles in general.
During the presentation I learned they had hired a new engineer who was going through their line and procedures. They were adding new equipment, and changing how they run quality control. This is a good start. The big step will be to beef up areas of the trunnion and test, test, test. To find weaknesses then fix those. This is always a continuing project for any product. So far they have identified several points in the trunnion to fix and are working on the quality control issues.
From what I understand American-made commercial AKs are generally considered sub-par compared to their Russian/Polish counterparts. The best ones are built out of correctly dimension parts which meet or exceed the original specifications. When the AK was designed accuracy was a second to functioning all the time in the worst conditions, while being run by a poorly trained peasant from the backwater bergs of the Communist Empire.
The problems come in when we decided that as Americans we can make anything better. The American shooter wants a MOA capable AK but don’t wish to take a second mortgage to buy it. Inter Ordnance was one such company to try to grasp beyond the low hanging fruit. At the presentation we learned that after the move to Florida to expand the skilled labor base, they had engineering and quality control issues. Not long ago the engineering issue was corrected, by sacking the sub-standard engineering team, and the line is getting reworked. The quality control issues are being addressed and corrected. While making the line more efficient and setting up new machines to have as much made in-house as possible to eliminate parts shortages is part of the plan.
The second biggest step is making barrels in house. Their new barrel machine drills four barrels every fifteen minutes. As this is being done previously drilled barrels were being turned to true center, then button rifled. This is all part of their drive to improve their rifles.
Inter Ordnance is implementing new techniques including Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI) for testing their trunnions to check for cracks. There are other changes coming to improve the trunnions in the next few months.
After touring the plant and watching rifles being assembled, where I am sure the group of us did nothing to make their job easier on this day, we went to the range with various models of AK and ARs. A good supply of magazines that were loaded with lacquered steel case 7.62x39mm and brass case 5.56x45mm ammo were ready to feed both types of rifles. I started off with a under-fold stock model and it fired a mag without a hitch, as did all of the other rifles. When the other writers were firing as the AKs heated up there was one failure to eject and two failures to go into battery that could easily be attributed to the ammo.
Among the ARs I heard of two failures to eject after the rifles heated up but didn’t see them nor did I experience any issues. As I understand this is more common with the lacquered case ammo. All of the rifles shot great and appeared to have a consistent accuracy. I think that Inter Ordnance is working very hard to get an American made AK that will stand with the original and be even more accurate. I will say I.O. Inc.’s new polymer magazines tended to fit very tight in the magazine wells. During one of the redesigns I believe that can be corrected easily enough.
After shooting up our supply of ammunition for the AKs and ARs we loaded back up for a trip back to the hotel to get ready for a catered supper on the beach. I can say that was some of the best food I have had in a long while. The rest of the evening was spent talking shop and getting to know other people in the industry.
All in all what I got from the factory tour is they know they have problems with their AKs and are doing something to fix them. If the path they are now on doesn’t hit a cliff then I think that their product will improve.