Protip: Saiga 12-Gauge Shotguns Suck

There’s a puff piece post at Ammoland dubbed “The Superiority of the Saiga Autoloading Shotgun” that sings the high praises of the Saiga 12-gauge autoloader. The gun is one of the more popular “alternate” designs for shotguns out there and the article touts the accuracy and reliability of the gun. But as someone who has owned a Saiga and has just seen the best competition shooters in the world try to run them in a competition, I call bullshit . . .

The Saiga shotgun is built roughly on the same design as an AK-47 – very roughly. Like, “I saw it on the internet and I think it works like this” rough. Some of the features are pretty close to the original design, but the gun had to be drastically modified to operate with shotgun shells.

The gas system, for example, uses a “gas puck” that functions much like the short stroke recoil design used in the M1 carbine from WWII instead of the direct gas operated piston system in the original design. And the bolt design uses a rotating shaft (keep your dirty comments to yourselves, gentlemen) but a stationary bolt face in order to properly chamber a round.

Other additions like a bolt hold-open feature are unique to the Saiga design entirely. These modifications have introduced a number of areas where serious malfunctions can occur. And more often than not, they happen at the most inopportune moments.

In addition to the…interesting…design, the build quality on Saigas is generally piss poor compared to other shotguns in the same or even lower price ranges (not even the Norinco 870 ripoff is as rough around the edges). I like to rip on Hi Point for being the benchmark of awfulness, but sometimes I think Izhmash could take a few pointers from HP QC. Besides the finish being incredibly rough (and therefore rather abrasive to the moving components of the gun) the original parts themselves seem flimsy. It just feels like they cranked these guns out without the polish that their line of rifles gets.

When I did my original review of the Saiga-12, a number of Saiga fanboys claimed the gun was fantastic – so long as you modified it. Personally, I’ve never considered a firearm that requires drastic modification of the basic components in order to function to be acceptable. But as the Crimson Trace Midnight 3-Gun match proved, even when the shooter has spent countless hours tuning and modding the thing to get it to run right, it doesn’t.

I asked around, and every single person I saw who was running a Saiga shotgun at the recent CT match had a major malfunction (“major” defined as taking 10 seconds or more to clear). One shooter’s shotgun even decided to disassemble itself in the middle of a stage, something that happened the day before at the practice range and was captured on film by yours truly (notice anything about that dust cover?).

Whatever speed bonus competitors gained by having detachable magazines was more than outweighed by the extra time needed to actually make the thing work. And before you say it was only the “bad” competitors that had malfs, I watched Jerry Miculek’s legendary Saiga shotgun have a meltdown in the middle of a stage that probably cost him a few positions on the leaderboard.

That’s the reason I ditched the Saiga shotgun when I did. I could see the writing on the wall — getting it “up to spec” was going to cost thousands of dollars and even then, the design was so inherently shitty that it probably was still going to malfunction on me. So instead of wasting money on the “upgrades” I bought a Mossberg 930 and haven’t looked back.

The lesson: caveat emptor. If you buy a Saiga shotgun, be aware that you’re buying a project gun that even the best shooters of our day have tried — and failed — to make work in a competition setting. One of my friends who’s a gunsmith has run through 10 different Saiga shotguns so far. Out of that bunch, he’s only been able to salvage one into a working firearm and even then it was with much sweat and tears on his part. Oh, and if it doesn’t run when the guns have been carefully maintained and fired in a controlled setting like a 3-gun competition, imagine how terrible they’d be in a life-or-death situation.

Yep, I’m totally sticking with the tube fed Mossberg 930. And I’ll sleep soundly.

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

106 Responses to Protip: Saiga 12-Gauge Shotguns Suck

  1. avatarspymyeyes says:

    Thanks for the review.

    These over priced range toys turned out to be bad news, and coming from russia that’s a shocker!

    Now that I can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on not buying a sega, could you guys please do an in-depth review of an AA-12?

    Based on the youtube video’s that I have got to see of people firing one of those, it looks really good to see a granny in a wheelchair hold onto that sucker and empty a drum full of buck into a pile of skids and have nothing left of it but twigs!

    • avatarjwm says:

      they had one of those aa-12 at a rental range in utah. thought about renting it but when the clerk handed it to me it felt clunky and clumsy. went with a silenced glock instead.

    • avatarSoupcan says:

      They dont sell those to the public asswipe. Join the Army and shoot the AA-12 to your hearts content.

      • avatarYurda Turk says:

        Actually the public can buy those weapons FLAME DELETED

        • avatarObeyance says:

          Actually, the designer of the firearm said that even he will never be able to own one. Its classified as a Destructive Device, just as the USAS12 is and while getting one is possible, you can only get a Demo Letter for them… Meaning, you are someone who shows the weapon to Military/LEO and allows them to receive a demonstration of it. You can not own one for shits and giggles.

          Also, to the guy that said join the military… No military or LEA in the world issues the AA12, or even the USAS12 for that matter. They are a nice toy, but impractical for the use they were designed for. The USAS even had a hard time being built as nobody wanted to make it… Finally DAEWOO picked up the contract and made some.

          This review of the Saiga12 should only be looked at as a personal opinion of the weapon, and only in the light as to be used as a Sport/Competition weapon. It is designed as a rugged, reliable COMBAT platform. It is not meant to shoot birdshot, and this is why out of the box it often FTE low brass birdshot. Change out the springs, replace the gas block with an aftermarket and you are good to go for most everything.

          As for competition shooting and the stress those people put on their guns, i cant say. I do not do competition shooting, but perhaps its all the extra bells and whistles they put on them that cause them to malfunction? The firearm seems to work just fine for me, and you can watch video after video of people doing full mag dumps of 20-30 round drums without a problem, in semi or even FULL auto.

          To each their own, i love my S12.

      • avatarJohn says:

        Yes the public can buy those you must jump through the hoop required and live in a place that allows it. You turd burglar.

    • avatarRaven Moon says:

      I guess everyone has it’s own thing for guns but I have owned a Saiga 12 for many years now and had 0 problems from it.I paid $499.00 for it and change a few things like stock,forend and muzzle brake all things that have nothing to do with the internal workings of the gun.I also have a Saiga 7.62X39 and made same changes with 0 problems. When I was in service we used M-16 and they locked up over heated and near end of war they had to change them to 3 rd burst,in short crap.The gas piston rifle is a great gun,it stays cleaner and cooler and yes they are easy to work on.As far as hand guns go Ruger all the way. I would have to agree with 1 post about High Point,”Junk,Crap,not worth owning” Everyone has there own taste so I think before you Buy,Try.

  2. avatarChris Dumm says:

    I watched that filmed malfunction happen, although I didn’t notice it as quickly as Nick did. That shooter was running the most heavily-modded Saiga-12 I’ve ever seen in the flesh, and despite its $1300 probable cost it was a complete clunker. NONE of the Kalashnikov’s reliability virtues seem to apply to the Saiga shotguns.

    FWIW, Crimson Trace supplied a practice shotgun for the orientation stage, and it was a Remington 870.

  3. avatarimrambi says:

    How about a MKA 1919 from Firebird Precision: http://www.firebirdprecision.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=30&Itemid=39

    An AR Style Shotgun shot by a 3-gunner Patrick Kelley:

    • avatarmatt says:

      Jesus chirst, $140 for 10 round magazines? Too bad the stock guns dont use AR15 style stocks, and that shop wants $1400 to upgrade them.

  4. avatarTim says:

    Maybe it’s because I haven’t put enough rounds through one in a single sitting, but ever since I got the MD Arms aftermarket gas regulator I haven’t had any issues with my Saiga. When using the factory regulator it was awful at anything but buckshot or slugs, but afterwards it was fine.

  5. avatarJake L. says:

    I like my Saiga-.308 as an alternative–once modified–to many of the other .308 carbines out there, good accuracy and reliability.

    But sticking a moderately low-pressured, plastic hulled 18.5mm cartridge into a weapon known to tear brass apart always sounded like a terrible idea to me.

  6. avatarWilliam says:

    Thanks for the report….. it is, call ‘em like you see ‘em, reviews like this one that keep me totally loyal to this site. There are far too many websites with ‘reviews’ of pistols, shotguns, revolvers, and rifles, that might as well be written by the mfr.
    Good job, Nick!!

  7. avatarWiebelhaus says:

    Thanks for being honest with us, I wouldn’t have any other way of knowing without buying it, thanks dude.

  8. avatarJason says:

    Nick, I don’t need you raising the demand – and price – of tube-fed semi-auto shotguns. Most Saiga shooters won’t shoot them much. Let them have their fun so that you and I can enjoy running slim, elegant guns that are reliable, relatively light, and don’t have sharp sheet-metal edges at a reasonable price.

    • avatarSoupcan says:

      YES you’re right, Benelli’s are totally reasonably priced. Elegance is exactly what I think of when I see a pistol grip Mossberg….Elegance. Please stop typing man, your make my head hurt.

  9. avatarإبليس says:

    Saiga 12s are great…for decorating the used racks at gunshops. Well, that and screwing neophytes who see it and think “omg an AK shotgun!”

  10. avatarStephen says:

    Let me get this straight…

    -They don’t run right “out of the box”?
    -They require expensive upgrades from experts?
    -They still may or may not work after much time and money?
    -There are less expensive alternatives that work every time “out of the box”?

    I see… So basically Saiga is the 1911 of shotguns. Got it. Thanks!

    • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

      At my USPSA league I’ve seen at least one Glock and/or XD malfunction, every single week since March. Nothing works 100%.

      • avatarStephen says:

        Well, with that “logic”, go buy yourself a Saiga :-)

        • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

          You’re the one who started the platform discussion, something that has been beaten on so thoroughly that the horse’s children’s children are dead. Equating ALL 1911′s to a sh!tty Russian shotty is pure hyperbole, and not even in the same area code as “logic”. Either you have had one or two bad experiences with the platform and decided they all suck, or you’re a transplant from GlockTalk or the XD Forums. Either way, your argument is bad and you should feel bad.

      • avatarYurda Turk says:

        Wrong. My old Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman never fails….not even once…

    • avatar2Wheels says:

      I’ve never seen a 1911 that needed upgrades of any kind (other than good mags) to run out of the box, that’s a silly internet myth that won’t die.

      • avatarOddux says:

        It’s one of those things people buy to mod, then mod it until it fails, and blame the platform.

      • avatarAir Force TSgt says:

        Even the cheap RIA 1911 runs great for me with good mags.

      • avatarAPBTFan says:

        I have a Colt Combat Elite and a plain jane Taurus PT-1911 that have both run 100% with no mods. Picky 1911′s may have been common 20 or 30 years ago but today its a rare 1911 that won’t run like a raped ape out of the box.

    • avatarNano says:

      HA!! Win!

  11. avatarSean says:

    I only know one person who shoots 3 gun enough to have actually purchased one. He had a lot of problems, and spent a lot of money to keep it running. By the time he got it right, he had given up on it. Switched to a 1100, with the x-mag.

  12. avatarAZRon says:

    Competition like this will always bring out the faults of any weapon system. Seeing what’s reliable in these stressful events, especially if unmodified, is always a very good recommendation for a reliable HD weapon straight out of the box.

    My Mossberg pump won’t win me any trophys, but it performs 100% as issued.

  13. avatarmatt says:

    I still want to buy one just to put a slide fire stock on it.

  14. avatarThe Sleeper Has Awakened says:

    I Love my Saiga 7.62×39 AK, but would never trade my Benelli 12 GA for a Saiga 12 GA.

    The Russkies know assualt rifles and the Italians know shotguns!

  15. avatarDANN says:

    i skimmed over the comments and noticed a lot of folks saying the AA-12 would be better. not sure something that weighs in at 5.3kg (11.6845lbs) dry, meaning no magazine. and weighing 7.3kg (16.09375lbs)loaded with the 32 round drum is all that easy for average joe to use, let alone use in a competition.
    with all the AR style fanboys out there, im surprised more didnt speak up about the AR style shotguns out and about. a quick google search (im in arizona) came up with the MKA 1919 shotgun.
    others that could potentially be better than the saiga are the SPAS-15, H&K CAWS, USAS-12, etc. im pretty sure some gun nut could build something better in the secret mountain lair than a saiga.
    for me, ill stick with my 870. if im in a defense situation and i need more than the 6+1 it has, i shouldnt be staying and shooting back, i should be running away.
    ps-thoughts on the M-26 MASS?

  16. avatarchristian says:

    You know Nick, I find this to be a very irresponsible update on the Saiga. It’s been 10 months since your previous post about the Saiga, and instead of actually doing research you post a follow up of “I told you so’s” that only further the claim that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    I honestly felt like I was listening to some kid with his first glock bashing the 1911. I’m glad you’re getting out there Nick, shooting, competing, etc. Its good. But you have to realize, when you report opinions as fact its not only irresponsible, it shows you to be sophomoric.

    I’m not trying to flame you, I’m honestly just disappointed in your bias reporting. If you want an education on the system, how it works, what it needs, what helps the system for competition just ask. There’s many out there who can assist.

    • Christian,

      If you can point out any factual inaccuracies I would be glad to fix them. But the fact remains that I just saw the best shooters in the world attempt to use these shotguns in an extremely controlled environment, one where they had ample time to prepare and spent thousands on improvements and modifications, and yet the shotguns still failed to work. If the guys with near unlimited resources and access to the finest gunsmiths available still can’t make them run that seems like some pretty strong evidence.

      Shoot me an email — I would be glad to discuss this more with you and give you a chance to change my mind.

      • avatarchristian says:

        Just got back from the range. That’s fair Nick, I’ll send you an email tomorrow.

        • avatarchristian says:

          Nick, I can’t find your email. Could you provide it on here, or send it to me?

      • avatarfrankgon4 says:

        My experience with Saiga Shotguns is that they prefer hot rounds.
        Competition tends to shoot Light Loads. Saiga 12 gauge does not seem to cycle well with light loaded rounds and I am guessing that was the problem.
        I have never had a jam running full powered loads, but I was able to create feeding problems using light loads.
        I put 4 each of 12 round drum loads without one failure using slug rounds and double OO. Shooting light loaded bird shot and I began to have feeding issues within the 3rd round.

      • avatarCarolina Ike says:

        Hey Nick, I currently own the Mossberg 500 Persuader for home protection, but I wanna go play with my boys who fire semis. Understanding your dislike fof the saiga, is $1,250 a fair price

    • avatarStephen says:

      Christian,
      FLAME DELETED
      He just wrote his personal testimony of watching seasoned professionals who couldn’t get the crap to work. Geeeeez.
      You sound like some OFWG who won’t give a Glock a try.

    • avatarBuuurr says:

      I think he is dead on. Personally, I have ran 400+ shells of all types through my 930 mossberg (it’s the updated version) without stopping to clean it once. My shooting buddy was amazed when the thing finally had a failure to extract.

      The kid who shot often at the same range with us was barely able to get a full mag empty without having a malfunction on his saiga. It wasn’t modified too much or anything but it ran when it wanted is about all you could say about it.

  17. avatarAccur81 says:

    My friends Saiga works great! For at least 5-10 rounds. Once it jams, and you clear it, it’s good to go for at least another 5-10 rounds. More or less…

    I’ll stick with Benelli and Remington, but I’m also imprsssed with the Mossberg 930.

  18. avatarGyufygy says:

    I’m honestly surprised that more companies haven’t experimented with magazine-based shotguns by now. Is there an engineering difficulty with the design?

    • Rimmed shells make magazine geometry a challenge. Stacking plastic shells causes hull deformation over extended periods of being loaded.

      Also many are still afraid that detachable magazine fed shotguns will be ruled destructive devices. Anything with a bore over 0.5″ is a DD, except for shotguns with sporting purposes. Thus far 3-gun and other action shooting sports are not considered sporting purposes. I think companies have less to worry about them being made DDs automatically now with the long history of Saiga importation, and ATFs recent study on importability of shotguns; in which it was said a detachable magazine in and of itself is not unsporting.

      • avatarGyufygy says:

        Are there any 7.62x54R designs that use detachable mags to draw from, or were all those internal mag/small capacity weapons? Just trying to think of rimmed cartridges that I know of, but I suppose the size required for shells might throw things off.

        Collapsing shells makes sense. Why are shotgun shells seemingly only made of plastic? Too expensive to use brass/whatever for the entire length? (noobtastic questions from a noob)

        • avatarBuuurr says:

          I would say one of the reasons is the expense of metal shells. I would also say ( and I base this on nothing but my knowing my way around my 930) that recoil and extraction would then become an issue. I could see the metal shells causing more friction and wear and tear on the feed ramp and whatnot.

          The added weight would require more force to extract the shell and it being metal rather then slippery plastic would make jamming more likely.

          I would also hazard to say that the metal shells would require stronger recoil springs and other internals to ensure easy running. These would add to felt recoil and not be fun to use I would imagine.

          Lastly, what would they cap the shells with? Metal? I am sure that metal ends would cause deformation of the buck before it left the barrel.

          I am just throwing out some ideas.

        • avatarZM 1306 says:

          Full brass hulls.

          http://www.midwayusa.com/product/1657554245/magtech-shotshell-hulls-12-gauge-2-1-2-brass

          They were the original ammo for shotguns. Then came paper, then plastic. Paper hulls had moisture issues.

          Full brass hulls are mostly used by cowboy action people. It is the ammo Russia uses in their saigas. It is, from what i have read, usually caped with a piece of paper and glue/wax.

          I am looking into getting a batch. I want to be able to load a mag and let it sit without deformation issues. I also like that they can be reloaded much more than the paper or plastic so the increased cost should be worth it.

        • avatarAPBTFan says:

          Plastic plugs on my Russian copperwashed full metal hulls. Purchased in the late 80′s.

  19. I still have two Saiga-12s, and the only matches I use them at anymore are the Tiger Valley Team Match (guns are completely empty until in shooting positions), and Ironman (30-50 rounds of shotgun per stage) in Trooper Division. In these situations I feel they are an advantage. Fortunately when mine do malfunction I just have to rack the bolt to clear it; I’ve never had any death jams. I made it through Ironman 2011 with just two such malfunctions. This year I had a couple malfs due to springs wearing out in the magazines after 5-6 years of use. I don’t trust them, and I think they are junk but there is nothing else better available right now. The MK1919 isn’t there yet; I saw malfunctions with these at Ironman in June as well.

    The fact the guns require work to even make run now is ridiculous, and they aren’t worth what they sell for now given the problems many have. If you actually shoot them a lot they will beat themselves apart and metal parts will peen over. Earlier import guns were of better quality. An early import 24″ barrel model I have runs the best of any of the guns I’ve owned (9 total) without any work.

  20. avatarbill says:

    a few work out of the box some don’t and some really don’t. Mine works like a clock right from mother Russia which is good, because we had to use it to do the following to my buddies; open gas ports and lengthen the op-rod. yeah fun. now his works it will run 10 rd and drums. I guess it all comes down to how drunk the assembler was.
    Still push comes to shove and it is the 930 or better yet a Benelli all the way.

  21. avatarJeff says:

    I have an early EAA imported 20ga. Comparing it to current manufacture it seems better made. At the time i bought the 20 over the 12 because i was told the 20 was cIoser in design to the standard AK. I haven’t had any problems with it, but I have never subjected it to the rigors of three gun. Your story is not the first time I have heard of issues with the 12ga. I am wondering if the .410 and 20ga are more reliable.

  22. avatarAPBTFan says:

    I’m not a shotgunner but if the Saiga-12 is so bad why does Spetsnaz use it? Maybe they’re worked over for them? If so what is done?

  23. avatarFrodo says:

    Nice review.

    I will stick with my Mossberg 500s which have never failed to feed, eject, or fire.
    I own 3 of them. One for hunting, one for skeet, and one in case all hell breaks loose.

  24. avatarLevi B says:

    I base all my buying decisions on what someone else says he saw happen at a 3 gun match.

  25. avatarAirwolf says:

    I was really gald to read this because I had my heart set on a clip fed shotgun, I guess I will just stick with my Winchester and Remington. Thanks for the insight!

  26. avatarbontai Joe says:

    I have one magazine fed shotgun that always has been reliable, It’s a Marlin bolt action 12 ga. slug gun and with one shell in the chamber plus the 2 in the mag, capacity maxes out at 3. Probably not a good gun for 3 gun competition, eh? Thanks for the heads up on your observations of the Saiga.

  27. avatarfrankgon4 says:

    My Saiga 12 works great out of the box, but only with hot loads. It does not work well with soft shooting loads – the kind you see at competition. Hot loads and it runs like a champ. The only modification I have done is add a muzzle brake.
    My guess is that in competition they were running light loaded rounds for competition sake. I personally prefer hot loads.

  28. avatarThe CDR says:

    I have the Saiga 12 Tactical. Mine shoots great. Then again, I only use 00 Buckshot or slugs. These aren’t designed for target ammo. With that being said, the design of a Saiga was not intended as a civilian firearm. Some things are better left for the battlefield.

    These are far from beauty queens. Originally, they were a few hundred bucks. Now the price was risen several-fold. Guns like Benelli, Beretta, and Remington are better quality with reliability.

    These are “Fun guns”. Not my choice for home defense.

  29. avatarMDC says:

    I agree with The CDR.The 20 round drum mags,i would not use in self defense.I have great results shooting high velocity 00 or slug in 5 or 12 round mags.I have 2,one from 2008 which functions fine as pure stock.The other made in 2011,found only 3 port holes after taking off gas block.Simply drilled a 4th hole and widen very little remaining holes.Gun functions fine and even placed a DPH 6 setting plug in.Much improved.I would use these in self def situation and they are to me easy to clear and resume fire.A easy remedy is to take the block off,ck for howmany holes.Some came with 2,some 3 and some 4.There is a you tube vid with the breakdown on how to do this.Maybe a total of 1 hour tops.

    • avatarMDC says:

      In regards to last comment,sorry if im repeating what others im sure already know,just stateing what worked for me.

  30. avatarDavidio Flavio says:

    Sorry to bump this late in the game, but, I came across this and felt the need to respond, because this is some seriously, small penised, hate fest on the Saiga.

    First, if you can offer a substitute MAG fed solution to the Saiga, I am all ears, its obviously not the Akdal AR chud, nor the AA, or the now banned Daewoo, we are pretty much left with the Saiga as the only real player in the game.

    That said, you need to recognize the design and its limitations. It was never intended to shoot light loads, so, if they do, I consider it a bonus.

    Second, the magazines, if you stay with factory 5 and 8 round mags, you greatly lessen the chances of failures. Yes, they are expensive, and hard to get, but, with the death of the looming import ban, the path will stay open for importation.

    Remember, its our governments stupid laws, which have created this artificial scarcity, instead of hating on the Saiga, you should direct that hate at your elected officials.

    Third, US made high caps. Yes, the early ones had issues, and I find the 20′s, which I do own, hideous, oversized, overweight, boat anchors, that I will save for Zombie day. However the Promag 12 round drum, is so small, it changes the game for an efficient solution to capacity vs. size issue.

    And, using high brass slugs or buckshot, they have all worked fine in my older S12, which is well broken in.

    I did add a converted one, to my collection, and its far more finicky about low brass, and, from the factory, the front gas tube was installed crookedly which required me to remove, and reinstall into the proper orientation, a process which was more difficult looking, that difficult to do, and, now that I know how, I have added it to my services for customers.

    Should it have been correct, you are damn right, but, its not the first time I have had issues with a new gun, I have three Kel Tec 380′s, and a 32 all sitting in a box to go back to KT for failed to function triggers, and lets look long and hard at the issues with the KSG.

    Perhaps people with low firearms knowledge, and low lack of desire to step into a relatively new system, should stay away from the S12, as its STILL a work in progress, but, thats the great part, look at the companies who have developed solutions, US made mags, parts, etc, all to help grow the entire market. Everyone who owns a Saiga, in part creates demand for more stuff, and a better product from the factory, which has the same problems, as most post soviet, post communist ventures, they too, are a work in progress, returning to a capitalist system, and all.

    But, to out and out state that all Saigas are bad, and don’t work, is just plain crap, you don’t write off a system over a few failures, or, we would have never put men on the moon.

    Recognize the system for what it is, stay within the parameters it was designed for, and you greatly lessen any problems, kind of like running only FMJ in an unmodified GI .45.

    Too many of you COD kiddies expect your guns to work like they do in the video games, and thats not the case. Nor, is three gun competition the only place to judge a firearm system, kind of like using a NASCAR track to justify buying the new Chevy at your dealers, you are dealing with a completely different scenario than most people will ever see, or do.

    But, I do love the lessened demand, and drop in prices that have occurred from some of you being chased away from the system, as I said, some of you may not be a fit for the gun, not vice versa.

  31. avatarRobert says:

    If Nick were simply trying to protect uninitiated buyers from a bad purchase, then I’d be the first to applaud his effort. But sadly, based upon his two posts on this subject, that doesn’t appear to be his motive. It’s obvious that he’s quick enough to see a passionate group of owners, and get great press out of them. Remember, in acting, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

    But what’s really sad is seeing someone reply that they won’t buy this firearm because of Nick’s comments. Really? One pseudo-review based upon a shooting situation most will never find themselves in and you decide not to buy? Perhaps that’s okay for you, but seems rather narrow minded to me. Of course there’s the more common reason for such a reply, and that’s to be buddies with Nick (see, I told you there is no bad publicity in acting).

    The real reason not to buy this shotgun is if you don’t enjoying tinkering. There’s nothing more fun than stripping this weapon in a matter of seconds, just to marvel at its simplicity; and, to ponder what to do next to make it ‘your’ gun. I’m not saying the firearm can’t be reliable out of the box with the correct ammo, but if you don’t like tinkering, then why bother? Of course, owning a mag fed shotgun could be answer enough!

    Also, saying the Saiga 12 is not reliable for home defense is misleading. Especially when the Mossberg 930 is applauded. Doesn’t take much of a search to find Mossberg failures (http://www.shotgunworld.com/bbs/viewtopic.php?f=58&t=292374); which isn’t saying much, because it doesn’t take much of a search to find failures from just about any gun.

    I’ll wager this; if a homeowner in suburban San Antonio posted “Protected by Saiga 12″ above their doorway, I’ll bet Nick wouldn’t gleefully rush the front door. If that homeowner is running the correct ammo, there wouldn’t be a functioning organ left in his body within 5 seconds. Shear firepower. That’s what the Saiga 12 was designed for and that’s what it’s all about. Although I’m not certain, I don’t believe 3-gun competition is big in Russia. However, I know for a fact that shredding anything you aim for is.

  32. avatarAlex says:

    As an unbiased owner of a fully modified Saiga-12 I have to agree with Nick on some points. However, in the end the Saiga 12 is one of the best shotguns to own if you are truly passionate about firearms and are not afraid to do the research.

    I set out to buy a semi-auto shotgun that was “all purpose.” I know I will never have a situation where I’m going to be in a war or zombie apocalypse but I wanted to buy a shotgun that can fit many roles. Funds for me were no object so I’m not justifying my purchase. The first gun I looked at was the Benelli M4. It was an amazing gun and I was pretty set on getting it. While researching a buddy of mine suggested the Saiga-12. So I did a lot of research. It took me a week to decide on the Saiga over the Benelli. Then it took me another 2 weeks to do the research on what parts I wanted to use to modify it.

    Nick is 100% right when it comes to UNMODIFIED Saiga’s. They are pretty crappy. However, in my research I could not get over the potential this gun can have IF modified correctly. Seriously what would you rather have? A semi-auto with amazing reliability, that holds 7 shells and then has to be hand loaded shell by shell or a semi-auto with amazing reliability, that holds 12 shells, can be reloaded in less than 2 seconds and costs significantly less(even when factoring in modification costs)?

    It was a no brainer for me. So flash forward 5 months and $1250 later I have an amazing shotgun for way less than the benelli. With the extensive research I did on the parts I ordered and the gunsmith I chose; the shotgun came out as a complete success. It has NEVER had a single malfunction, has less recoil then a typical shotgun and is very versatile. So if you’re a casual gun owner that wants something to function out of the box then this is not the shotgun for you. But if you consider yourself a true gun enthusiast that only wants the best; do your own research and you will see that this shotgun truly is a diamond in the rough

  33. avatarJoe says:

    I understand that I may come under harsh scrutiny by some of the brand/type loyal.
    I read the article and I came away with the understanding that it was supposed to be about a “BOX STOCK” saiga, for around $500. IF such a weapon costs a substantial amount than it should perform from the box to be reliable, with the exception of a break in period. And YES, the Saiga 12 is supposed to be able to shoot low brass loads. That is why it has an adjustable gas port. Small hole for high brass, big hole for low brass. Yes. There are Saiga 12s’ out there that run flawlesly, however these require some work. With the advertisement of such shotguns being the “AK of shotguns” it is NOT unreasonable to expect AK’esque reliability from a BOX STOCK shotgun, from said advertisement(s). Yes, anyone who wishes to purchase a firearm should do some research before purchase. However, with the internet being what it is, and particular people and companies being who they are, sometimes it’s a crapshoot with information, this current thread being a case-in-point to that. I feel that it would have been better for the manufacturer to divulge information about making a rough, out of the box shotgun run reliably. After all, EVERYONE, me included, LOVE the idea of having an AK SHOTGUN! However, I was quite displeased with several of the examples that I’ve fired.MODIFIED OR NOT.High dollar or plain-jane. NO. Putting a new, “Tacti-cool” stock on the firearm does NOTHING for reliability. THAT, along with the puck and “GOV approved”, no fun, low count magazimes are the only major components that need to be replaced to come in line with compliance to be shipped to the US. Or at least that’s what I’ve RESEARCHED online. There could very well be more that I did not find out about. But, then again, I honestly don’t have Hours upon hours a day to search the net. And the gunshops around my neighborhood are filled with nothing more than “used car salesmen”. I feel that it is a firearm with fantastic potential. However, the expectations were high because of advertisement. I don’t know if that makes sense to any of the brand/type loyalists. However, if you were to go on a date with a woman that claimed to give the BEST EVER B.J. than you’d have high expectations of receiving the BEST EVER, wouldn’t you? And, when she performed, if it wasn’t the BEST EVER than you’d feel a little let down, right? Well, my fellow firearm enthusiasts THAT is precisely the Saiga 12. That girl that advertised to be all that, and then some. BUT… out of the box, she needs some “training.” Which is O.K.. You MUST know that ALL firearms have their limitations. They’re ALL tools. Out of the box, I would NOT trust my life to a Saiga 12. However for plinking, hunting, general fun shooting I would shoot it in a heartbeat. NOW, if I DID wish to entrust it with my life than I would pony up the extra coin to make sure that it has NO hiccups. The only downside is, due to advertisement, When the time came to find out that I would need to dump an extra grand into an already pricy shotgun, I WOULD be PISSED. As I’ve stated earlier, if the manufacturer would add a small pamphlet with every new Saiga stating that there are a few simple things to modify to increase it’s performance potential than I’m certain that EVERY firearms enthusiast and general fun shooter would be ok with it. Moreover, I feel that it would increase respect for the manufacturer for their honesty in dealing with the red tape just to get their product into the U.S. Something along the lines of: “To the consumer of this product. Take notice that this is NOT the original format for this firearm, due to legality for importation. We hope you understand and are pleased that we have added a list of items or procedures that you may wish to have a certified gunsmith perform to your firearm to make it as reliable as it can be. We appreciate your patronage and hope you continue to allow us to provide you with a quality product.” I think that says it all. ;)

  34. avatarJesse says:

    i came here for tips about the drum magazine for the saiga but what i read on this article, saiga-12 shotguns suck, and the review of the saiga-12. disgusts me. not because these articles say that the saiga-12 sucks. but for the complete bias against them. there are no good speculations for the saiga in either article. it’s like saying fox displays news that is fair for liberals and conservatives. let me tell you my review for the saiga.

    i first saw the gun on a game. Battlefield: Bad Company 2. i loved the ways the gun performed in the game and how it looked. i immediately decided that i wanted one. so i searched it online and was disappointed with what i saw. the bare stock saiga-12 looked ugly. but i was persistent and i looked up the saiga in online forums and asked around about it with other gun enthusiasts. i knew about modifying guns so i fould the saiga in the real world that i saw in the game. it was a very heavily modded form and would be very expensive to buy. i was disappointed about the factory stock price at the time, $899. so i waited and waited but the price stayed the same. so i saved up my money. when i saved the $900 i went to buy the saiga. but prices had changed. they now costed $500. i bought the first one i could get my hands on.

    i was so excited about my purchase that i didn’t wait to clean my new buy before i fired some shells. 5 rounds were shot. clean action, no hangups, no jams, accurate. my hands shook as i took the mag out, reloaded it, and re-engaged the bolt. 5 more clean shots. i knew i made the best gun purchase in my life so far. i cleaned the saiga and went home. i instantly started researching ways to mod my gun online. i bought a 10 round mag as the starting point. but i hated the fixed stock, it had to go. so i looked at many different instructional videos online about how to put an ak stock and hand grip on the gun. i considered buying the parts and have a gunsmith do the work. but i felt that if i did the work, since i was familiar with all the tools, and other enthusiasts said that a good job was done then i would have the self-pride in doing a good job. without any mods i could kill a bird with number 8 bird shot at 50 yards and hit a target with slugs at 50 yards. all with stock iron sights.

    now based on these articles my gun is truly exceptional. not only that, my gun is a one in a centillion. or 1 in 10 to the 303 power. it’s clean manufacturing, accuracy, and reliability to cycle without jamming must be unheard of. in fact my gun must be a genetic abnormality to the rest of the saiga line and must be melted down to protect the rest of the herd.

    my gun has since improved in accuracy since i put a stock with a rubber butt pad and new foregrip with a verticle hand grip on it. i could also improve even further if i equip a muzzle break and some optics. i’m not a competition shooter so i can’t say that with a few mods to the saiga you can go out and leave other is your dust as you sweep competitions. i’ve been around and used guns since i was 10. i’m hunting smart not competition smart. and for the purpose of using the saiga for range and hunting reasons, it is among the best.

    now, i said i did some research and asked around about the saiga before i bought it. i found out that if you heavily modded the saiga it could have detrimental effects on the gun. the picture in the article about the failing dust cover is one aspect of over modding. the custom receiver is also a bad idea.

  35. avatarnolan says:

    I have no issues and have had zero failures after thousands of mixed rounds both before and after converting. This article was a waste of space…

  36. avatarbill south mills says:

    I purchased my s12 a month ago(had to have one and over paid) no mods yet but are in the mail. Ordered a adjustable choke flash hider and automatic gas plug. So far no problems after 200 low brass field loads by rem. I like to fan the trigger to check cycling capability. It emptied 12 round mag in a few secs no problems. A team guy came over and asked if it was full auto he was amazed at how fast it cycled. It is just as amazing to me what I have read here and how well mine works. I am glad I over paid for my s12 I love it. If the mods ordered mess it up I will throw them in the garbage.

  37. Now that I m reading this I’m not sure about buying a saiga 12 … instead I’m picking Winchester sx3 any comment on Winchester sx3?

  38. avatarDarith says:

    just got a vepr 12, light years better than the saiga 12.

  39. avatarShoot straight says:

    I purchased a saiga 12 and it would not run at all zero. I ordered the 6 position gas plug and still zero. I watched a video on drilling out the gas ports and did it. Loaded up and it shot one 10 rd mag flawlessly. Loaded again and it jamed every time. Load again flawless and so forth. Still wont fed off a 20 rd drum, I think because of upward force of drum spring. This is all with light load shells by the way. I researched the saiga 12 enough to know that I would need to do mods to shoot light loads before the purchase. I also did quad rails, adjustable stock with limb saver and pistol grip, sig sauer stop light fore grip, eotech 517, shark muzzle break, and the 6 position gas plug. I have enjoyed doing the work and mods, but this gun is unreliable. These guns are a pice of shit out of the box. The gas ports were completely closed off before I drilled them out. Why are these guns so poorly assembled? I just don’t know. It would not run buck shot in position 1 or 2 before the mods. I have been giving this gun every chance in the world to work and I want it to work but patients is wearing then at this point. And yes I have polished the running parts of the bolt. All of these things you SHOULD NOT NEED TO DO TO MAKE A NEW GUN SHOOT! I want this to be a high rd loaded with heavy buck loads for home defense gun, but I don’t know if it will ever get there. Bottom line if it jams your dead.

  40. avatarpooroldman says:

    I feel like I must leave a response. I bought a Saiga 12 about 2 months ago. I have only shot the cheapest ammo (Wal-mart federal value pack, Winchester cheap stuff, and others) and have yet to have one malfunction with this shotgun. After a rather lengthy day of shooting skeet with other “doubters” no one had anything negative to say about this shotgun. this is going up against Benelli, Mossburg, and Remington Shotguns. As a matter of fact they are all going to buy one now for self defense. I used the factory 5-round, 2-Promag 10 round mags, and Promag 20 round drum with no one single hiccup. I may be lucky but it is what it is. Keep in mind that this is without one single high brass round through it at any time.

    PS- The author of this article could use a good douching.

  41. avatarstitchy says:

    You people are comical!

  42. avatarJustin says:

    I have 2 Saiga 12′s and they work just fine for me. The only modification I’ve done on my saiga 12′s is install $100 reliability kits. Now I’m not an upidy compition shooter, queer gun snob like Nick Leghorn, but I’m ex infantry and I’ve put a lot of rounds down range. If any of you think that these Saiga’s are junk and unreliable for life and death situations or general shooting, then your just plain stupid and don’t have a clue about this gun.

  43. avatarJustin says:

    It also amazes me that the majority of Saiga 12 reviews and threads are very positive, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of negative reviews like this one. I don’t know if the reviewers and you commenters are smarter than everyone else, bias or just ignorant.

    At any rate, those of us that have the ability to operate our Saigas really enjoy them. I have no problem relying on my Saiga 12 to defend my home and family in any situation, and I know damn well it’s gonna fire.

  44. avatarKevin985 says:

    Yeah I completely agree. For example Guns & Ammo magazine gave the Saiga 12 a positive review and I’m pretty sure they know a lot more about weapons than the retards posting comments on this site. A lot of the brain dead comments on here are comical though.

  45. avatarSlagathor says:

    I dont know, I love my Saiga. Took me a total of 20 minutes to get it to eject and feed the Federal bulk crap from Wallys mart, havent tried anything less powered, maybe will try to find some lighter loads. And cost me a total of $0.00 to get it reliable…

    I dont shoot competition, but when we go to the range, it eats up 3 or 4 hundred rounds without issue.

  46. avatarBill says:

    Rounds left in magazine against bolt will deform end of round. Don’t leave mag’s in weapon for long periods of time. Shot shells vary widely in pressure too much for a single setting. I use a spring loaded regulator. It takes the work out of what pressure you are using. A mag well mod is probably needed. I use the rock n lock very easy and cheap. New mag wells are better. Russian weapons have better metal than Chinese but if peening is a problem on some parts they can be hardened with cherry red. You don’t want to be on the wrong end of my sega it works.

  47. avatarMark says:

    I don’t know why so many are having issues with thier saiga 12, I have an older 13 part modell I paid $279 bucks for new and have NEVER had a malfunction. It does however have a two position gas port adjustment that must be set for the rite load. I might also add that it has at least a thousand rounds through it and I use it in 3 gun comp. Mine is un modified except for hi cap mags. When I first started using it, my club tried to ban its type because I was kicking thier asses.

  48. avatarTonyjr724 says:

    I own a Saiga 12 and agree with the frustrations of many other owners. The gas system is flawed and should have not been put into production. I am considering an Orgins 12 because its the same platform re-engineered without the flaws of the Saiga. Magazine fed shotguns to me are a much better application then tube fed. I was looking at getting the Mossberg SPX 930, but decided on the Saiga because of all the Modifications you can do. Stock weapons are boring to me.

  49. avatarMilos says:

    Tell me about function and reliability…

    Russian shotguns Saiga/Molot rule the IPSC shotgun world.
    Hegemonic victories lead to changing the rules about hicap magazines…
    http://www.youtube.com/user/MaxroundsCOM
    http://www.youtube.com/user/Saigaholic

    It’s a russian lady. Take care about her at the beginning and she does not disappoint you…

  50. avatarRUDOLF OGG says:

    I am sorry that so many of you are Haverig trouble with your saga12 I have a 2009 legion USA still stock and it fires everything I put in it without a single problem I would trust my life with it. PS. All this talk about the 1911 being crape has not been my experience I own four and the only one that has ever given me any trouble is my para p14-45 which has a feeding issue but is the most accurate. 45 I have ever shot.

  51. Pingback: *Wanted* Still looking for a reasonably priced Saiga 12 - TrueStreetCars.com

  52. avatarThe guy forced to be captain obvious says:

    The saiga 12 is a very simple weapons platform that anyone can and should learn to perform their own maintenance and modifications to. The first thing people tend to do (myself included) is convert the firearm before really learning if it is even running reliably in it’s imported (gimped, butchered) state. I bought one of these beautiful shotguns about a year ago, and I will admit that I had nothing but problems with it out of the box. I only fired about 1 box of shells through it before converting it, and even then it was a single shot with low brass Federal Wal-Mart bulk pack ammo. It was a 24″ barrel shotgun and only had 2 gas ports. I sent it to a reputable local gunsmith and requested that he cut the barrel down to 18.5″. I knew that because the barrel was going to lose 5.5 inches, that it would most certainly need more gas to cycle those low brass, low recoil target loads. So I also requested that my local gunsmith drill 2 extra gas ports in the barrel, as I don’t have a decent drill. When I called him to pick it up, he told me that he couldn’t get it to cycle the low brass stuff reliably so I didn’t owe him anything. I told him not to worry about that because he had done what I requested and that reliability with low brass shells was not what I requested and I was certain that I could get it to cycle that stuff by myself. I realize that if you don’t have the right amount of gas to cycle the bolt carrier, that no amount of mods, or purchases were going to help. That’s why I had him drill the two extra ports. After the gas situation was remedied, I knew that it was just a matter of tuning and friction. So, I cycled the action by hand, and took note of where the friction and resistance to the bolt carrier was most prevalent. I tried just polishing the bolt, carrier, and receiver rails, and it did help, but still wouldn’t cycle low brass. So I did some research and re-profiled the bolt. The octagonal shaped under side of the bolt itself was rubbing against the magazine and the top round, so I figured this would be a good place to start. It helps load the magazine on a closed bolt as well. You have to be careful with this mod, because if you go too far, you can literally punch through the bolt head, and then you’re screwed unless you can get it welded. Anyway, this mod didn’t work. So I went back to the drawing board. I cycled the bolt by hand, once again taking a mental note as to where the bolt carrier was binding the most. 2 places were clearly giving unnecessary friction and resistance. The extractor, just before going into battery, and right as the bolt carrier passed over the hammer. I proceeded to re-profile the bolt carrier, removing material slowly, and checking often to ensure that the bolt carrier still had enough surface area contact to engage the hammer into the disconnect. Then I proceeded to take a dremel to the extractor spring to relieve the pressure on the extractor. The extractor spring was very, very stiff, so I just ground off about 1 and a half coils off of the spring to help it clear the extractor slot on the breach. Guess what. That didn’t work either. So I admit, I was starting to get a little pissed at this point. So back to the drawing board once again. Then it occurred to me, the hammer that ships with the conversion kit that I had purchased, was nothing more than a modified AK hammer. It just has a trimmed sleeve to allow the installation of the bolt hold open. It is really just an AK hammer. That’s usually going to be the biggest problem with most of the Saiga shotguns. People (including myself) convert them without realizing that the hammer is not made for that firearm. So after re-profiling that hammer, and polishing it, once again, checking very very often to make sure that the bolt carrier was still pushing the hammer far enough down to engage the disconnector, FUCKING BAM. she runs like a top. That huge fat fucking hammer that you just put in your saiga, You know the one I’m talking about, the one that was never really meant to be put in your shotgun. It is huge. It needs some tweaking. If you can use a couple pin punches, a hand file, and a dremel with a sanding wheel, and a polishing wheel, then you too can have a reliable shotgun. This article is quite biased and full of bull shit misinformation. It will not take “thousands of dollars” to tune, tweak, repair, or whatever. I understand that people don’t want to have to do any modifications to a stock, out of the box firearm. Problem is, people don’t realize that this is not a stock firearm if it’s imported into the U.S. It’s a gimped, sporterized version. It was never intended to look like that or perform like that. If you take your time and simply pay attention to your firearm and pay attention to the symptoms it exhibits, you can figure it out. You’ll have a better understanding of the firearm, and the ability to tweak, modify, repair, or what the hell ever you feel like doing to it. Check the gas system first, then go from there. It can only be a couple of things. Gas, (not cycling at all, short stroking), friction (short stroking, should be noticeable by hand cycling if it’s a friction issue). Be patient and don’t listen to gun snobs, who have no business writing articles about firearms that they have no knowledge of. They are simple to work on, and figure out. You can convert it yourself with simple hand tools, and you can make it reliable by yourself with simple hand tools. No need for a smith.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      For the love of God, paragraphs.

    • avatarMarx says:

      It’s true…that big stupid hammer in the “g2″ FCG and the others that don’t fit are often the problem. I buy my FCGs from Dinzag Arms or Arsenal….which are profiled and fitted for each specific Saiga model rifle/shotgun.

      • avatarMilos says:

        We are using Tapco G2 – single hook as basis for trigger group modifications. And the result is about smooth 1.5lb pull. Sometimes less due requests but you should change the spring for interrupt.

  53. avatarMarx says:

    I have 2 Saiga-12s and both run great. NO mods, except for Russian skeleton stock replacement and hand-adjustable gas knobs. Factory FCGs and lame factory triggers, they still run fine. You don’t necessarily need to “work on them” to get them to run well, some just require a little break in with high brass ammo. Both of mine ran high brass 100% for about the first 100 rounds for the recommended break in….and BOTH now run walmart bulk pack birdshot 100% and have silky smooth actions. I have the 20rd MD Arms drums which also run GREAT. You need to have the same knowledge of the platform as one does to optimally run an AR, or a AK-rifle. There are some that because of poor quality control, left the factory with misaligned gas ports. Regardless Cadiz Gun Works does all warranty work on saigas and will fix your gun for free if it malfunctions….before you try to “fix” it with BS bandaid mods

  54. avatarrich says:

    i just want to throw it out there that based on the article i just read you can definetely conclude that some peopkle just say what they want based on an opinion and what someone else has told or even showed them. the problems with the saiga shotguns all stem from the same problem……gas ports! i guarantee if your saiga is not functioning properly that you need to drill out the correct number/size of the gas ports and your problems will be fixed. example: saiga 12-4 gas ports. saiga 410-3 gas ports. saiga 20 guage-2 gas ports…..examine your gas ports and make sure they are completely drilled out then come back and dog the saiga!

  55. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLovVj7k6LM

    I like the Saiga 12. Admittedly, they do need work to fire the cheap bulk pack ammo that most people want to use in them. When you take a few steps back and look at what it is capable of and what it can be, there isn’t much out there that legitimately compares to it. This is a 6.5″ Saiga 12 using 20 round drums and cheap ammo that the average Saiga 12 would easily choke on. All of the springs are unaltered factory springs and the puck and regulator are factory, aside from the regulator being slightly modified to have two extra settings. I have never seen a tube fed shotgun this short that will hold 20 rounds or load and fire this quickly.

    evl….

  56. avatarcpoc says:

    What About The sagia 410

  57. I’ve got enjoyable with, cause I came across what precisely I’d been trying to find. You might have was over my own some time extensive search for! Our god Appreciate it dude. Employ a good working day. L8rs

  58. avatarRB says:

    Article seems dead-on accurate. Just took my buddy’s Saiga to the range and it was a jam-o-matic. Very rough feeling gun- no smoothness at all when you pull the bolt back, in fact very gritty feeling. He had cleaned it prior to us getting out there. I volunteered to go though it as I have a lot more experience. Took her apart and, well, no wonder it is unreliable. Very cheaply made, no AK type piston as I had envisioned, just plain weak and does not exactly inspire confidence… I seriously doubt it would hold up to a steady diet of buckshot. Might be a nice toy with a little work, but would never, EVER trust it in home defense.

  59. avatarDNS says:

    The guns that come into the country are a crippled mess. They will all shoot hi-brass ammo out of the box. Converting one to shoot low brass is not hard or expensive. We sell only converted guns and guarantee them to shoot anything out of the box. It’s not rocket science to do a conversion and you can do it yourself for less than $150. That includes a 12 round drum or box mag, new trigger, and new stock.
    The tapco trigger needs a few modifications to work in the s-12. The right leg of the hammer needs to be shortened, the big bump on the front of the hammer has to be ground off, and a small amount needs to be taken off the hammer face. Just make it the same thickness as the factory hammer or if it’s your gun just use the factory hammer with the tapco trigger. The reason you need to remove metal from the face is the tapco trigger sits higher than the factory trigger and causes excessive drag.
    Finally you will probably need to remove the gas block and enlarge the gas ports by a few thousands. This will give you a gun that will run any ammo you want to run. Take a look at the saiga-12.com website for many tips and step by step instructions.

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