Gunsmith gives American twist to Russian-made AK-47s

One small gun shop owner in New Hampshire is bringing back the Kalashnikov rifle, customizing the legendary gun known as the AK-47 for well-heeled firearms enthusiasts.

Owen Martin, also known as "AK Jesus," converts the Russian-made assault rifles for civilian use in his Manchester shop, dismantling guns brought to him by customers and rebuilding them with better parts and to their custom specifications.

"We just take it, complete rebuild it and make it something better than it was before," Martin said.

Martin's company, Snake Hound Machine, is popular among gun enthusiasts looking for customization. Martin makes each gun one at a time  using high-grade materials.  He said custom rebuilds of guns such as the AR-15 is common, but for enthusiasts who want their own version of the gun Russian soldier Mikhail Kalashnikov introduced to the world in 1949, only a few craftsmen practice the trade.

"When it comes to the AK world it's a pretty small pool,” he said. “When you talk about guys that are well known for AKs, there's not a lot of us out there."


Snake Hound Machine’s guns can be used for both tactical and competition style shooting. Each job can take anywhere from two weeks to two months, depending on the level of customization. A fully-stocked, custom AK-47 from Martin's shop costs around $3,200.

Whether it's a basic conversion or full optimization, the possibilities are endless, and Martin also customizes Glocks, shotguns and other weapons.

"What we do is really custom, high-end, exotic looking things,” he said. “We start off with a concept and I'll find a way to create that like the Iron Man gun, the Robocop gun, we've got some stuff that's really, really intricate and flashy."

Martin says when it comes to his work he sticks to the basics.

"I like simplicity in design and engineering. And I like using old world craftsmanship to make new modern things. That's really what the heart of it is for me."

Martin is working on developing a custom AK-47 with a range of more than a mile, further than any AK-47 has fired before.

"I don't even know what the record is, but no one has even built an AK that can even get close to a mile" said Martin, "There aren't many guns that can hit a target close to a mile. We're going to build one.”