I’m not a fan of the AK pattern 12 gauge semi-auto shotguns. I reviewed the original Saiga 12 back in 2011; I was not pleased. Last year Kalashnikov Concern released a version of the same firearm called the Kalashnikov KS-12 which fixed some of my complaints. But it still didn’t reliably cycle common ammunition. Lone Star Arms thinks they have fixed all the issues with their Performance Tuned KS-12 . . .
To save myself from early onset carpal tunnel syndrome I’m going to assume you know about the KS-12 shotgun (review here) and talk about the changes Lone Star made to improve it.
Lone Star adds a rather large muzzle brake to the KS-12’s barrel. For shooting high brass ammo and slugs the muzzle brake makes all the sense in the world, reducing some of the shotgun’s significant recoil. Your range buddies may not enjoy it; the brake deflects some of the KS-12’s gas to the side and straight into nearby faces. Unless you’re planning to stick a suppressor on the front the brake is a highly desirable option.
Further up the barrel we find one of the gun’s major improvements: the gas system.
According to LSA the firearm has been “refined, honed, and tuned” for peak performance with all types of ammunition. According to folks at the factory they polished the internal components to make it work a little bit better but I can’t tell from the outside since they use the same adjustable gas plug as the original version. Nevertheless the proof is in the shooting. Which I’ll get to in a moment . . .
The standard KS-12 has a polymer handguard. The LSA version sports a nifty quad rail configuration.
The set-up provides some extra space between your hand and the barrel, preventing paw roasting when the barrel heats up. Which it no doubt will.
The rails also create sufficient space for every rail-compatible toy you have sitting on your shelf. As many KS-12 buyers are likely to lean towards lights, lasers and mini-Keurig machines, I’m putting that one in the “win” column.
What I really appreciated about the gun: the full length rail system along the top.
Some versions of improved Saiga firearms have either a Picatinny rail mounted directly on the dust cover or lazily make use of the Russian accessory rail on the left side of the firearm (removed in this version of the gun). LSA’s take has two parts, a hinged full length Picatinny rail and a dust cover that slots on underneath.
LSA’s mod works. There’s a set of HK iron sights along the top that co-witness with a flat-mounted red dot. If you prefer to just use the dot it’s nicely placed in your line of sight.
I appreciate not having to worry about re-zeroing my gun after each cleaning; the hinge keeps everything in line. I was a little concerned about the dust cover underneath, but as long as you slot it on first and then close the hinged portion it’s easy as pie to install and remove.
On the inside things are all shiny. LSA slathered the bolt carrier in chrome, and pimped-out the trigger assembly. I’m sure that reduces the fouling, improves reliability and makes cleaning easier, but I did have to take a second and ask myself “this is a combat shotgun, right?” It’s kind of like putting a big reflective sign on your stealth fighter.
For good measure, LSA altered the bolt. Possibly as a result of the “two is one and one is none” school of thinking there are now two charging handles coming off the bolt carrier; one in the regular location with a larger knurled knob on it and a second smaller version on the back side. To get everything working right LSA needed to slice out a section of the dust cover. That kind of defeats part of the whole reason it exists, but whatever . . .
The KS-12’s modded dual charging handles are another welcome addition. A right handed shooter can work the gun with their non-dominant hand while keeping the dominant hand on the fire controls. Just the way Chris Costa (his name be praised) says it should be.
I’d appreciate the set-up a little more if the other charging handle had the same larger knob on it. Using it as-is hurts a little bit, since all the force of working the action is focused on a very small footprint on my palm.
On the back of the shotgun LSA’s lopped off the traditional stock and fitted an AR buffer tube and Magpul stock. Not bad at all.
The bolt hold open, not so much.
If you look near the trigger on the right hand side of the LSA KS-12 you’ll notice a small bump. That’s the push button enabling the bolt hold open feature. From an operational standpoint it works like the bolt hold open feature on an M1 Carbine.
The original Saiga 12 shotgun was dinged for the bolt hold open function. It would engage at inopportune moments, such as when the shooter was trying to empty their magazine as quickly as possible. That’s bad if you’re showing off to your friends, in the middle of a competition shooting stage, or engaging in a life-or-death defensive gun use.
Kalashnikov USA removed this function when they introduced the KS-12. A bolt hold open isn’t something that you’d expect on an AK pattern firearm, and the added reliability issues were too high a price to pay for the minor convenience factor.
LSA retrofitted their modified KS-12 with the bolt hold open. While I didn’t notice any resulting reliability issues, there it is. Again.
LSA touts their modded shotgun as a super-low-recoil shooter, minimizing the felt recoil on the shooter’s shoulder, maximizing the rate of fire. Unfortunately, the tuned KS-12 doesn’t particularly like lower recoil ammunition.
Truth be told, I tested the shotgun with everything I could find. Feeding the KS-12 slugs and buckshot everything works as advertised. It generated appreciably less recoil than with my traditional semi-auto shotguns. When I sashayed over to the skeet range and loaded the LSA KS-12 with target ammunition the shotgun cycled lighter loads — but not with 100 percent reliability.
As you’d expect for a $3,623.50 firearm — whose base model runs around $900 — LSA has done a whole lot of high-quality work modifying the KS-12. If you want/need to put a ton of rounds on target quickly and comfortably the LSA modded shotgun is an excellent choice. Our test gun may need some further tweaking, but as is, it didn’t cycle lighter loads with enough reliability to make it a competition shooter’s dream-come-true.
Caliber: 12 Gauge
Price: $3,623.50 (as tested)
RATINGS (Out of Five Stars)
Ratings are relative to other similar firearms. Final score does not reflect the “average” of the categories but instead the overall feelings of the reviewer.
Accuracy: * * * * *
I’m happy. The full length Picatinny rail on the top is definitely an improvement.
Ergonomics: * * * *
The front quad rail setup is a little bulky, but overall the ergonomics have been improved. Much easier to shoulder, and definitely easier to adjust for each shooter.
Reliability: * * *
Get the right ammo and the gun will function. I also don’t like the bolt hold open tab, I’ve been disappointed in the past by that part on my Saiga 12 and I’d prefer to not have to go through that again.
Customization: * * * *
I added a star for the ridiculous amount of rail real estate, but took it right back off again. All the customization has been done already and some of the modifications mean that standard parts will no longer work.
Overall Rating: * * *
It’s definitely better than the original Kalashnikov KS-12, but the price for quality is plenty steep. (Items can be ordered a la carte. The LSA version still has issues with lighter loads, but there are some great features. This is a gun designed for one specific job and does it well. Just don’t expect your race horse to be very good at math.