Lending Her Voice

Lee Armory’s Cassandra Harris brings a woman’s perspective to the AK community.
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In 2013, she thought guns were bad.

Particularly AKs. Now, it’s her favorite firearm. Still a young 39, Cassandra Harris has traveled quite the journey since entering the shooting sports industry six years ago. Her mindset about guns changed when she first began shooting. Harris started to understand why people felt so strongly about the Second Amendment and for her, it was an empowering moment. “Getting over the fear and looking at it as a tool to protect myself was the biggest change,” she explained. “It’s been life-changing.”

Lee Armory co-owner Cassandra Harris sits behind the counter holding her gun of choice, the ever-capable AK.

Being new to guns and to the shooting sports industry, Harris has learned a lot in a short time. Most importantly, she said, “If you want to be taken seriously, you have to be able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”

For someone who didn’t like guns only a few years ago, Harris’ role today is all the more impressive. She is now co-owner of Lee Armory, a company that builds AKs. Taking over the company last year with her cousin, 33-year-old Josh Leighton, she admits it’s been a learning process. But it’s one she’s embraced with gusto. She’s gone from not being “into” guns to manufacturing them, selling them and giving people the opportunity to become involved in the process of building one themselves. Her firearm of choice today? The humble yet capable AK.

Cassandra Harris with co-owner and cousin Josh Leighton working in the factory.

Why The AK?

Harris likes the AK platform and feels it’s one of the most misunderstood and underrated firearms in the United States. She feels most new users are unfamiliar with the platform’s design and she’s is out to change that perception. She likes it because it’s simple, easy and according to her, it works. It’s reliable and as she noted, “It doesn’t pick a fight with you.”

Teaming up with AKM manufacturer M+M Industries, Lee Armory is providing a cost-effective AKM-style rifle (the modernized variant of the AK first released in the late 1950s) by importing manufactured forged military production parts from the Romarm Factory in Cugir, Romania. This trend of importing brand-new parts kits and assembling rifles in the U.S. is becoming the new standard in AK manufacturing. Parts kits are built to military standard, imported and then assembled into complete legal semi-auto rifles on U.S. soil.

The RL-762 Sporter Hunter takes the traditional AK-pattern rifle and moves the trigger assembly back to correspond with a curved pistol-grip stock. Image: @Surplused_Arsenal

The Lee Armory AKM-style rifles are built from these brand-new AKM kits, with Cugir cold hammer forged and chrome-lined barrels. The forged trunnions and forged carriers are built on the same machinery as military AKs. The rifles are built on U.S.-made stamped receivers.

Of all the products Lee Armory offers, two lead the pack and they are having a hard time keeping them in stock; the Romanian Military Classic AKM and their recently introduced Sporter Hunter AK, both in 7.62x39mm. While the Military Classic is a traditional AKM-pattern rifle, the RL-762 Sporter Hunter AK rifle has no AK-style vertical pistol grip. With the Lee Armory enhanced receiver, the trigger is moved to the rear and a curved pistol-grip stock is added.

Build your own rifle. Lee Armory offers classes with quality instruction on how to build your own AK from a kit like this one shown here.

A DIY AK

Not only does Lee Armory build AK rifles in their factory in Phoenix, Arizona, they also offer classes on how to build one. The one- and two-day classes take the AK enthusiast from a box of parts to a finished rifle. Harris herself has learned how to build these guns and wants to share the experience.

When she built her first rifle, it was one of the most memorable moments in her life, she explained. “Being able to offer that service with the right equipment, the right tools and with the right instructors is important to me. I want people to understand that AKs are different than ARs and I want them to have a rifle that shoots well and is reliable,” she said.

An Important Voice

Cassandra Harris loves being a part of the shooting sports industry and it’s apparent when you meet her. Her enthusiasm and excitement for the AK platform and the shooting sports is infectious. For a woman with no prior background in guns who six years ago thought firearms were bad, she’s now one of the most vocal advocates for women shooters and for the AK platform.

Learn more at Lee Armory.