The Saiga 12 is an assault shotgun.

The assault shotgun is a growing family of weapon systems that has many fearsome entries as law enforcement and the military have come to fully appreciate the unmatched superiority of the shotgun as a close quarters force multiplier. Gun manufacturers have begun to innovate to meet the demand.

Back in WWI, the German government issued a diplomatic protest against the United States for their use of shotguns in the trenches. In the hellscape of trench warfare, where dug in lines cowered in the mud and fired at each other across a killing field with withering machine gun fire, high powered bolt action rifles and tried to lob explosives into each others narrow ditches, the Americans developed a technique. A few would brave no man’s land at night, drop into the German trenches, and use the Winchester Model 1897 to eradicate the enemy soldiers. Pistols and the rifles were poor defense against a 12 gauge pump gun at such close ranges, and the deadly effectiveness of these sweeps, caused the Germans to officially protest. It was decided that the shotgun did not fall under the rule of war that states “It is especially forbidden to employ arms, projections, or materials calculated to cause unnecessary suffering." Apparently, it was decided that the suffering delivered from the mouth of a shotgun was necessary as far as Germans were concerned. The shotgun was something even Germans were afraid of. I love to imagine how they would have felt about the Saiga-12.

Introduced in the 1990’s, the Saiga-12 is a fine example of the Soviet Union’s dedication to the engineering principal;
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
For over 60 years the venerable Kalashnikov design has been used and re used and re vamped and re chambered into a dizzying array of rifles that share the same basic design and operating principals.

The Saiga 12 is essentially an AK-47 semi- automatic chambered in 12 gauge.

(If you don’t know what an AK-47 is, then I recommend you read the excellent node, and I don’t know, maybe watch the news, an action movie, or play a video game.)

Semi automatic shotguns commonly suffer from two major drawbacks: reliability and magazine capacity. The varied sizes and powers of 12 gauge ammunition available as well as the dirt and debris of the battlefield pose problems for the over engineered semi auto configurations, and the traditional tube magazine capacity (3-5) can only be expanded as far as the barrel is long (8).
The Saiga-12 suffers from neither of these limitations.
The AK rifle is famous for its incredible reliability, and this parentage has made the Saiga-12 one of the most successful semi-auto shotgun designs. The loose operating tolerances typical of the design allow for all sorts of real world factors such as dirt and water to be present without hampering the operation of this machine. The gas system of the Saiga-12 is adjustable so that high powered loads and low powered “less than lethal” rounds can both be employed without malfunction or damage to the shotgun. This shotgun does not utilize a tube magazine as does many of its counterparts, it is box fed like the AK. 3,5,8,10, and 12 round box magazines are available as well as 12 and 20 round drums. The 10 round box has nearly the same size profile as the 30 round “banana” mag of the AK. While 10 rounds may not sound like a lot, it is typically 2-5 rounds more than the longest standard tube mag, and the reload time is a bare fraction of the time needed to cram shells into a tube one after another. Each round of 00 buck shot is essentially 9 rounds of .38 special, making a 10 round mag more like 90. When that is taken into consideration, the Saiga-12 further distinguishes itself from the crowd. It will feed every available length and power of 12-gauge ammunition on the market.

In order to be imported to the US, the Saiga-12 must undergo modifications. The trigger group is moved slightly toward the rear, and a traditional style synthetic rifle butt is installed. Once here, and in compliance with 922(r) laws, there is a rich after market of goods made in the United States to transform your unassuming long gun into a terrifying engine of death. When re-configured with an adjustable stock, pistol grip, and accessory rail, this assault shotgun really begins to look and act the part. Many shops will further convert and customize the Saiga-12 by moving the trigger group forward where it belongs, upgrading the trigger and gas system, modifying the charging handle, bolt resurfacing and even shortening it to a restricted SBS short barreled shotgun configuration with an 8 inch barrel that requires a lengthy registration process and a $200 tax stamp to own.

This weapon is made in the Izhmash factory in Russia along side military AK manufacture. The Saiga line of rifles are made for export (though the S-12 is used by the Russian military) and available in .410, 20 gauge, .223, 5.45x39mm, 7.62x39mm, and .308 (7.62x51mm).

I have found this to be a pleasurable shotgun to operate, very pointable from the hip, and the gas operation uses sufficient amount of the recoil to cycle the action, making only the hardest hitting magnum loads a little uncomfortable to shoulder. I have never encountered a malfunction in the 300 or so rounds of varied types of ammunition I have run through it. AK magazine quick change techniques translate to this shotgun well. I have been able to place rifled slugs center of mass on a man sized silhouette consistently at 100 yards off the shoulder while standing. There is both an intoxicating feeling of power, and a sobering realization of the responsibility of holding something so capable of erasing several lives with such hideous ease.

I highly endorse this product and/or service.

For those of you who just require the facts:

  • Gas Operated
  • Rotating Bolt
  • Self loading
  • Detachable Box Magazine Fed
  • Smoothbore
  • Shotgun

  • It is encountered in a variety of weights, lengths, and capacities depending on variants, modifications, and equipment. If you simply must know, then I encourage you to look into it.

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