Saiga 12 Gauge Semi Automatic Shotgun
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Firearms fall into three categories. First come work guns, which protect your life or feed your family. Next are fun guns, which are fun to shoot or you can use for competitions. Then there are curiosities, which you own for no other reason than to say that you own one. Guns can fall into more than one category, but it’s rare. The Saiga 12, for me, falls squarely in the curiosity category, mainly because it was so godawful at doing anything else. Let’s take a couple minutes and examine my $500 mistake.

First a quick note: This rifle was reviewed in as close to “factory” condition as possible, making only the modifications necessary to make it run. I’ve gotten some criticism saying that the Saiga needs to be modified to work properly, but to me that’s like reviewing the DeLorian based off Doc Emmit Brown’s modified time-traveling version. We’ll happily review modified Saiga shotguns, but the base needs to stand on its own merit. Now on with the review…

I had just come back from the Tiger Valley Team 3-Gun match in Waco, Texas, where our team had our asses handed to us thanks to our lack of semi-auto shotguns (among other things) — a team running Saiga 12 shotguns wiped the floor with the competition. These guys, actually. Here’s a video of them running the absolute worst stage of the event. Keep in mind it was about 34 degrees, the ground was soaked, and it was extremely windy. Everyone was miserable, but it was the best misery of my life.

After we got back home and dried out we were looking around the local gun show for a nice cheap semi-auto 12 gauge when we spied a dealer with a pair of Saiga 12s sitting on his table with a $499 price tag on them. Brand new, never opened boxes. Paychecks fresh in our pockets we decided to relieve the dealer of his excess metallic gubbins and were the proud owners of new Saiga 12 shotguns.

On paper these things are ideal for 3-gun competitions. The magazine feeding system means that you don’t have to stand there and reload each round by hand into a tube — just slap a new magazine on and you’ve got 12 more tasty treats ready to go. The side accessory rail (for optics) and semi-automatic operation are just the icing on the cake.

In theory, the reliability of a Saiga 12 should be somewhere close to the AK-47 it’s modeled after. All the parts are there, and on the outside the gun looks like a standard AK. But on the inside the gun operates more like an M1 Carbine.

On an AK style rifle, the gas piston is directly pushed backwards by the expanding gases bled off from the barrel. There’s not a lot of moving parts involved, which is one of the reasons why it’s so reliable. On the Saiga 12, the expanding gases don’t push directly on the piston but rather on a “puck” near the front of the gas tube. The puck moves back rapidly, knocking the gas piston backwards and letting momentum do the rest. This system minimizes the loss of gas pressure, but it means the gas system isn’t quite as reliable as a standard AK.

We quickly realized that was going to be a problem.

The gun needed some TLC to get it running.

I was talking to SinistralRifleman (one of the badass dudes in that first video) a few months ago about the issues he was having with his Saigas, and he said that something along the lines of 3/4 of the Saiga shotguns he bought needed major work to get them to run reliably. Last I heard he was selling off some of his Saigas in favor of tube fed shotguns simply to have something that worked reliably.

Luckily all we needed to do was replace the major components of the gas system and the guns started running just fine. As an added bonus, since the new parts were Made in the USA the gun was now 922r compliant and legal to use with the larger capacity magazines.

When they run, the Saiga 12 is an okay shotgun. Like any AK pattern weapon it’s a little rough on the edges, both literally and figuratively. The trigger is square and rough to the touch, the action slides like oiled sandpaper, and the actual trigger pull feels gritty. The gun comes with iron sights (IRON SIGHTS!), but they’re so small that it’s hard to use. Adding insult to injury the sights are a good inch above the top of the bore, meaning that trying to hit anything closer than 25 yards is a bit of a challenge. The entire shooting experience in general is awful.

All of those things I could forgive if it worked as advertised, but in reality the gun was neither useful nor convenient.

Like the AK-47 the bolt doesn’t lock to the rear when the magazine is empty, meaning that the fastest way to reload is on a closed bolt, which is somewhat difficult. The tension on the spring in a loaded magazine pushes the shotgun rounds up forcefully enough to keep the magazine from seating properly. With the use of near excessive force the task can be accomplished, but in the middle of a competition and under the clock it gets very tricky.

The other option is to manually open the bolt and use the “bolt hold open” catch at the back of the receiver. This little silver protrusion works the same way the bolt hold open on an M1 Carbine works, except horrible. Normally a small spring in the receiver will move the bolt hold open catch out of the way once the forward pressure is released, thus allowing the bolt to move forward. I have fond memories of the time that that very spring slipped out in the middle of a stage, stranding me with an inoperable gun and targets still on the field. Even better was the fact that, since the bolt was stuck to the rear, there was no way to disassemble the gun and fix the spring. Three hours and some dental floss later I fixed it, but the shine was off the apple.

It was shortly before that, when racking the action, that my Saiga 12 took a nice chunk of flesh out of my hand.

Ignoring the mechanical issues, the gun wasn’t even good for the original purpose I purchased it. I wanted a nice, slick semi-auto for 3-gun shooting, but what I got was something that dumped me in the same division as all the other people who spent way too much money on their guns. “Outlaw Open” they called it, where every kind of speedloader and gimmick you can think of is allowed. I’m pretty sure even machine guns are cool. For someone who was just starting out it wasn’t the right place — the learning curve was way too steep. I needed to step back into Tac Optics and I’ve been happily in that division ever since.

I tried it in one “real” competition before giving up. Here’s a little gem from that day. Note how I’m having trouble with the elevation thanks to the raised iron sights (and ignore the bit where my half blind teammate runs smack into a table and DQs himself).

Here’s another video from that match showing the elevation issues a little more clearly. Note how I keep shooting above that last plate on the right — I was holding my irons center of mass instead of compensating for the high sight radius and short distance. I knew better, but the second that buzzer goes off sometimes your training goes right out the window. The important bits start at 1:42.

That reminds me of another complaint I had about this gun. Magazine retention was a bit of an issue, as the magazines were approximately six miles long. They didn’t fit in any of my magazine pouches and dropped out if I tried to use a pants pocket. I tried using some plastic belt clips a couple times, but even then moving around with those things was very uncomfortable. Very. Uncomfortable.

There was precisely one day where I was happy I bought this gun, and that was the day I sold it. I paid $500 for it brand new, and sold it for $1,000 at the height of the Saiga 12 scare (when the ATF was allegedly about to make them illegal). Other than that, in my experience Saiga 12 shotguns are about as useful as a solar powered flashlight; good in theory, but sucky in practice. It’s a design with promise, but in its factory configuration it wasn’t the gun for me.

Saiga 12 Gauge Semi-Automatic Shotgun Review

Man, I really did lose a lot of weight since last year… I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

SPECIFICATIONS: Saiga 12 Gauge Semi-Automatic Shotgun

Caliber: 12 Gauge
Barrel: 23″ threaded for a choke
Size: 45.1″ overall length
Weight: 7 lbs. 5 oz.
Operation: Semi-automatic short stroke recoil
Finish: Manganese Phosphate
Capacity: Ships with 1×4 round magazine
Price: $700 MSRP

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: * * * *
The sights take some getting used to, but once you’re dialed in it’s not that bad in terms of accuracy. Then again, it is a shotgun.

Ergonomics: *
The magazine release is awkward, the trigger position is a bit awkward as well, the safety is actively looking for ways to cut you, the stock feels flimsy, and loading in general takes some major adjustment to the normal manual of arms. Terrible. Just terrible.

Ergonomics Firing: * * *
The trigger sucks, the stock is uncomfortable, and the checkering is too aggressive to fire this for extended periods without some sort of gloves.

Reliability: * 
Heh. Hah! HAHA! That’s a good one. Yeah, no. If the failures were predictable (high round counts, crappy ammo, etc.) I would understand, but it seems to jam for no reason whatsoever and often at the most inopportune moments. That’s not just me saying it either, there’s a good number of people who have experienced the exact same issues. Plus that whole thing with the bolt hold open catch was annoying.

Customization: * *
There’s plenty of places that will turn your “sporting” Saiga 12 into whatever tactical monstrosity you can imagine (Red Jacket and Tromix immediately come to mind), but there’s not a lot you can do without some metal working tools. A Mossberg 930, for comparison, will let the shooter swap out just about everything on the gun with a punch and a screwdriver. Two star rating for any significant alteration needing a machine shop.

Overall Rating: * *
Avoid this like the plague. Even with the cash I got out of it as an investment I still wish someone had told me that before I bought mine. In terms of being a useful firearm it’s awful. But if you like it because it’s an interesting curiosity then more power to ya.

But if there’s one anecdote that sums up this gun perfectly it’s this: My buddy and I bought ours at the exact same time. We ran them for a while, then didn’t talk for a few months. The next time we saw each other we had sold our Saigas and bought “normal” semi-auto shotguns. We both came to the exact same conclusion about the same time with no input from each other. In my business that’s pretty close to something we call “independent verification.”

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  1. Thanks for the review. If you hadn’t already made money off the deal I’d send you a commission on the $700-$1000 you just saved me.

    • Thanks for the review. Although I am not a 3 Gun Competitor which looks like great, i am also not an experienced firearms repairman either. I have seen videos of people running the 30 round drums flawlessly, what i had not heard in the videos is how much work they needed to run.

  2. Every Saiga-12 I’ve ever seen at the range or quarry has been plagued by unreliabity. The novelty of the design keeps attracting new buyers, but there are plenty of reliable alternatives out there.

    • I worked an all-shotgun stage at the Superstition Mountain Mystery Three Gun last year, and we RO’s had a “Will it puke?” side-match going on with all the Saiga shooters.

      The only person to run a Saiga our stage without a misfeed, jam or other gun-related incident was Top Shot season one winner Ian Harrison.

    • I bought a Saiga 12 ga several months ago and never had any malfunctions until last weekend shooting clays. The gun would not eject the empties from the receiver completely. I am a firm believer in plenty of lube on any gun that has a rough action. I removed the gas piston parts, cleaned them and applied plenty of grease lube to all parts. I noticed the adjustable outer plug was loose even when screwed completely in. I took the gun out and it functioned properly with factory target loads and my reloads. I wrapped Kleenex around the gas port thinking perhaps it was leaking some gas pressure. There was no leakage apparent on the tissue after firing 5 rounds. I am a firm believer that a liberal coat on gun grease lube on the piston and moving parts solved my problem. And yes, when I bought the gun the first thing I did was clean and lube all moving parts with gun grease. I will keep my Saiga until I get an outstanding offer.

  3. The Sons of Guns Crew seems to like these things, makes you wonder if Saiga is promoting them through the show. I’m not a huge fan of the AK mechanism to begin with, using it for delivering shotguns sounds like a bad idea.

    • My guess is because Red Jacket is a custom shop, and Nick already said you have to run it through a gunsmith to make it run smoothly – they probably do a lot of work to the gun before selling them.

      Nick – Congrats on the weight loss – how did you do it?

      • A combination of getting my fat ass on a treadmill and not eating Mexican every day for lunch. I’m still a big guy, but having to cut an extra hole in your belt to make it fit is a great feeling.

        Small changes, my friend. Small changes.

        And, in my opinion, if you take a power tool to a gun then it’s not the same firearm. Aftermarket parts are one thing, but it looks like they completely disassemble the things and rebuild them at RJ. Might as well have ordered a parts kit…

        • No disagreement – just weighing in on why RJ has adopted the Saiga – I don’t think Saiga is promoting, necessarily.

          GIVE UP MEXICAN? Oh man…

        • Nick, be careful with that leather punch. Buy a new belt as you drop the weight. Back when Phen-Fen was on the market I lost sixty pounds. Being cheap I kept hole punching. One day while at a park I stopped to tighten my belt to its newest hole. The end of my belt was so long it hung down from the bottom of my tee shirt. Happens that a 14 year old girl saw me and told her mom I had “flashed” her. Luck being what it is, one of the responding cops was a lesbian with attitude. At the police station I was “interviewed”. They showed the resulting tape to the mom. She called her daughter and asked her what color Mr. Pervert’s yang yang was. Fortunately I am a pale white guy who wears a dark brown belt. For the first time I understood how minority guys get screwed in this world. Ms. Officer Friendly was still arguing against my release as I was going out the door. If it was not for the mother insisting it was all a mistake I would still be in jail. Buy a shorter belt.

    • It’s probably because they modify everyone they shoot to actually be likable guns. “The Saiga shotgun is awesome, after you give us 1k to fix all the inherent problems” is what I assume they’re thinking.

  4. There’s a lot of fixes out there for the problems you describe. I don’t think there’s a single shotgun for $500-600 that’ll run the way you want it to for open. Just like any other gun, you have to work on it to make it fit your needs. Sights are easy to replace, hell you even mentioned the rail for an optic. And you’re not even using a magwell which would alleviate your loading problems. Also auto bolt hold opens exist. And you haven’t even restored it to pistol grip form yet.

    Reliability can be hit or miss with an S12, but if you didn’t know that going in you probably should have done your research. In general this “review” sounds like you were expecting it to run like a heavily worked gun out of the box which just isn’t realistic.

    • Yes, the gun runs better when you heavily modify it.

      But this review was about the gun in as close to factory condition as possible.

      Just like there’s a difference between an Armalite National Match M-15 and a standard Armalite M-15 despite them being essentially the same gun I make a distinction between a Saiga 12 and whatever rolls out of the Red Jacket workshop. Minor part replacement is one thing, but the second you break out the power tools the gun isn’t the same. I’ll happily give their version a shot (if I can get my hands on one) and assess it independently of my impressions of this gun, but that won’t change my opinion of this hunk of junk.

      For $500 I expect a gun that works somewhat reliably. Like my Mossy 930 SPX, which was the point of comparison for the ratings. That shotgun works all the time every time straight out of the box with very little maintenance. By comparison this thing is awful.

      • LOVE my 930SPX, I think it’s one of the real values out there in guns. For I outfitted mine with a heat shield and a bunch on 3 Gun Gear shell holders for about half the cost of a stock Benelli.

        And hey, if it’s good enough for Jerry Miculek

        And it’s reliable, too. After shooting everything I threw into it (reduced recoil slows, low-power buckshot, target and bird loads of every make and shot size), I actually had mine puke on me at a match last week, but I blame crappy ammo for the issues. Apparently, Winchester “Universal”, ain’t.

  5. I have one that needed about ten minutes of work with a dremel and then functioned flawlessly. I know uncouple of gus that have them and have also had zero problems. They can be very reliable but I cannot speak for their usefulness in competition. I will admit it is mostly a curiosity but I find it incredibly fun. Shooting clays is a blast and I’ve been able to get about 500-600 rounds of federal bulk birdshot through it before I even thought about cleaning it. It sucks that your experience with it was so negative.

  6. Yeah I get that they should run well out of the box, but its not that simple. Just due to US firearms laws they are not imported in their designed configuration.

  7. Just wondering but why are you calling Tromixes tactical monstrosities or comparing them to Red Jacket? If you look at their site, none of the Siagas there looks like anything i’ve seen on sons of guns. If anything, they help fix the problems you brought up, such as the gas system, sights, trigger, ergonomics, etc. I supposed there is the old projects page, with things like the Siamese .223 or Muzzleloader AR-15, but I doubt those were done for any reason other than because Tony had a lot of free time on his hands.

  8. All I’ve needed to do to make them reliable was slightly polish the rails and the bottom of the bolt. I only needed to do that to fire low brass birdshot Mine fired slugs & buckshot fine out of the box. I guess I’ve bee lucky.

  9. I like the Saiga, a lot. However, I’d never be caught dead running it in it’s neutered, import legal configuration or with 12-round magazines. The advantage of a box magazine fed shotgun isn’t that you can load more rounds than a tube fed shotgun, it’s that you can reload it much more rapidly. I think people forget this the first time they see some monstrous 12-round magazine.

    It’s also best to avoid most US-made mags if at all possible. Especially Promag. I would think that everyone would know to avoid anything made by Promag, but they’re still in business so people must be buying their crap. I have heard the AGP Arms magazines are pretty decent, but I haven’t had the chance to run them myself. I just stick to the 5-round Izhmash magazines.

    I run a Vltor receiver extension, Magpul CTR with .5″ cheek piece, Ultimak rail, Trijicon 3.5 MOA RMR, and a Magpul MIAD grip (requires an adapter). The trigger guard is from Carolina Shooter’s Supply. I’ve been thinking about buying an Ultimak AK railed forend and trying to fit it to the Saiga. I think that something like a Tango Down stubby vertical grip or the AFG from Magpul would work pretty well on it.

    A friend has his setup with a K-VAR Warsaw Pact length AK-103 style stock, a US PALM grip, and a Kobra EKP-8-02 optic.

    Both of us have Krebs safeties and Tromix charging handles. Both of us have cleaned up the gas system, which can be of greatly varying quality. It seems that the newer the shotgun, the lesser the quality in the gas system. They’ve been selling an awful lot of the things, they’re probably cutting corners in production.

    The moral of the story is, the Saiga just doesn’t work that well in it’s bastardized condition that you (usually) buy one it.

  10. I’ve had my Saiga for about seven years, and I don’t ever remember it having even one FTF. I take it to the range on a regular basis because the guys get a kick out of shooting it, and it’s really a fun gun. The only thing I didn’t like using it for was shooting at the clay targets, because it was tougher to get a bead on than my other shotguns.

  11. My first question is were you 922r complaint before you shoved that hicap mag in to the gun? If you weren’t then that could explain some of your problems. The gun was not designed to shoot the hicap mags from the factory, and if you didn’t raise the American parts count before using the hicap mag you were inviolation of the law.
    Most of the time converting the gun can solve the problems, replacing the trigger, and the rest of the fire control assembly makes the experince much better for te shooter. If you were using promag hicap mags then that would explain most of your problems. You should have used Surefire mags that would have solved most of your problems and would have given you that last round bolt hold open feature eveyone likes. Generally I have really only heard about these kinds of complaints from people using the promag hicap magazines.

    • Ah yes, 922r my old friend.

      I was fully in compliance with the law and using Surefire magazines. I can’t remember exactly what I replaced, but the choke, plug and puck plus the magazine components tipped me over the line I think.

      I used both Surefire and Promag magazines. I didn’t see a difference.

      • Thats odd to me when I had mine it ran flawlessly. After I converted and moved the trigger gaurd I never had any problems. I didn’t really have any problems before I did the conversion, except the crappy promags I was using. I got rid of those and picked up some Surefires and it ran like a top. I only sold mine becuase I needed the cash after the company I worked for went belly up. I wish I had mine, but now I am looking into the Akdal MKA-1919. I am a sucker for new products.

      • Don’t use US made magazines for anything other then fun. Spend the $125 bucks and buy Russian 8 round mags if you are competing for money or for self-defense. Or exhaustively test the magazines (and the gun) with the ammo you plan to shoot to verify it will work. But all S12s need work. Hell, it comes in the retarded “sporting” configuration. The first thing you should do, after you verify that it really functions running buck and slugs, is to fix that.

        The people who use and win with S12s in competition have either paid one of about 8 guys to mod their gun or are good enough to do themselves. If you thought you were getting a racegun for $500 you were wrong. Raceguns are never cheap. S12s don’t come from the factory in the electric blue or neon red that most of these guns run with, that alone is several hundred bucks.

  12. Maybe without the idiotic, illegal restrictions on imported guns, they could be brought into the country in a configuration that the factory originally intended.

    I have a Saiga-12. The bit of testing I did before I sent it off to get worked over and turned into a short barreled shotgun went just fine–fed and fired both target loads and high brass reliably. Admittedly it was a very small test as I sent it off almost immediately, but no problems is still no problems!

  13. Not waying in on any of the issues at all.

    I think the mounting Sons of Guns did with 3 shotguns on a revolving bracket was fun. I would love to shoot it and would smile the whole time.

    I don’t really appreciate the faux drama nor the short cuts the team takes on some projects. But about half of what they do is fun. No one needs a suppressed shotgun or grenade launcher, but why the hell not try it.

  14. Still, at the end of the day it’s a semi-auto shotgun. There are always going to be hiccups with semi-auto shotgun due the varying power levels of shotgun shells. The only semi-auto shotgun I’ve seen that was 100% reliable across a wide variety of loads was a Benelli M1 Super 90. I’ve been thinking about dropping $1,500 on one, but other guns just end being purchased instead.

    Of course, there can’t be a semi-auto/combat shotgun thread without bringing up the ultimate battle shotgun of all time, the HK Close Assault Weapon. It’s worth looking into, no, you cannot buy one.

  15. I understand the reasoning behind wanting to review it in as-received condition, but with all due regard, that’s not really fair to the Saiga since it was never designed to be run in that condition. That’s just something that they have to do to get them into this country, and once they are here it is up to us to put them right. I personally don’t want Izhmash spending any more effort making the crummy trigger better than it has to be, because the first thing I am going to do is convert to a standard AK trigger and throw the factory parts in the trash. No point in increasing the purchase price of the base unit to improve parts that belong in the garbage.

    And yeah, sometimes the quality can be a little variable. Thing is, even the worst of the Vodka Specials will almost always run okay on heavy loads of buck and slugs, which are analogous to the ammunition they have in Russia, which the shotgun is designed for. If you want to run US made light birdshot, you may (or may not) have to put a little extra gunsmithing into it. As for the bolt hold open, it’s an easy mod to make the spring not slip off like that, or just remove it entirely. If it isn’t there, it can’t fail, and loading on a closed bolt isn’t all that difficult once you get the technique down. It isn’t quite like the motion required for a regular AK and it takes a little practice.

    As to the US made magazines that everybody likes to use? They are crap. If you are going to complain about the unreliability or unwieldiness of an aftermarket magazine, perhaps it would be be more appropriate to do that in a review of said magazines than of the firearm that they were (poorly) designed to fit. I tried them too. I wasted $200 on magazines that didn’t work, and then I spent still more money buying Izhmash magazines that do work. So they only hold 5 rounds… Either get over it or grab your ankles and pony up for the factory 8 rounders. Or the MD-20 drum, which is is a US made magazine that actually works.

  16. A marginally talented person could get it to run the cheap ammo you wanted to use.
    However, right out of box they’re designed to run more powerful ammo than YOU CHOSE to use.

    If you want to make a racegun out of one, it just takes a little tweeking.
    All the info on how to do it can be found on the Saiga-12 forum.

    It’s not all that difficult to make them run very well with common hand tools, albeit, a machine shop does make it easier & produces more professional results.

    Good luck.


  17. Its exactly as Pauly says these guns were intended to run high brass ammo, albeit there were quality control issues in Russia in the past 08-09 but remember if your fun does not run properly your weapon is under warranty and it will be fixed.

    Also Saiga is not a brand it is a Model that is made by Izhmash in Russia.

    one more thing id look into the .922r compliance law because you are in violation of that law and if someone reports you to the ATF and you have all of them pictures and video of proof online you will be in big trouble.

  18. Hey, they aren’t for everyone, those of us who know how to use a dremel and simple hand-tools will continue to wipe the floor with you “tube-fed” guys… You DO know that the Saiga-12 was originally designed to run high-brass right? This would be like taking a rear-engine dragster and griping out the fact that it won’t start because you put 87 octane in it…

    • +1

      I just got mine and ran 2 3/4 #2 shot (2 boxes) over labor-day weekend.
      Not one problem, his must have been a “Friday” job.

      Now to convert it back to “normal”.

  19. Hey Nick….

    Since it’s such a turd, I’ll give you $400.00 for it.
    Not bad only losing 20% on a used gun that doesn’t run…
    You can find me on the Saiga 12 forum.

  20. This is easily the most uninformed review I’ve ever read on any website. If you need a ‘machine shop’ in order to make the Saiga 12 shotgun a viable weapon for competition or defense, then how do you explain the thousands of converted saiga owners that simply did the work in their garages (for me, it was my kitchen) with nothing more than a dremel, a couple of punches and literally less than 2 hours of work (30 minutes with some practice)?

    Anyone curious about S12’s should do a little more researching to find the facts than go off the garbage in this article.

    • Confucius believed that food was not fully prepared if the person eating it still needed to hack at it with a knife and fork. In much the same way, a gun that needs a dremmel and some “work” in order to function correctly should not be advertised as a finished firearm.

      Converted Saiga-12s are different firearms and will be reviewed as such.

      • Was Confucius correct? When you go to a restaurant and they serve you up a slab of steak, do you judge the preparation by whether or not it is diced up into bite-sized chunks for you? Would it be fair for a reviewer of that restaurant to complain that he had to pick up the whole steak with his fingers and take bites off it without cutting it, because he felt he shouldn’t have to use his knife and fork? Or would we just judge his expectations to be exceedingly rigid, high and unrealistic?

        It’s too bad you were premature in your examination of the S12 and sold it. While it wasn’t designed to fire the target rounds you were using, it could nonetheless have been made to function with them if you’d spent an hour or so with a dremel tool (no “machine shop” necessary, I fixed mine up from the comfort of my front porch). The S12 does have it’s problems, but most of those you mention in this review are of the type that are routinely avoided with a small amount of preventative maintenance.

      • But Nick, how did it run with slugs & buckshot on setting 1?

        The gun you bought is made to run higher powered Russian ammo than the cheap target stuff you CHOSE to use so you could get back on target quicker.
        They don’t even have the weak low brass that we in the US have in Europe.

        An S-12 racegun like the ones that your team gets spanked with was never the intention of Izmash when they made it.
        It was DESIGNED to run higher powered loads.

        It’s foolhardy to knock a platform when you’re choosing to use it for something it was not designed for.
        It’s like your complaining to a body shop that you have a hard time smoothing dents with a ball-peen hammer.
        Those who know what they’re talking about will just laugh at you.

        Granted if you had purchased a tuned Racegun from JT Engineering or R&R targets that was advertised to run the weak stuff & it didn’t, you would have something valid to complain about, however your failure to research what you needed in an S-12 led to your failure in competition.
        To put it simple, your failure in competition was your own fault for not researching what the guns were made for.

        The S-12 isn’t advertized as an out of the box racegun that’ll eat weak loads anywhere that I’ve seen & I’ll confidently venture to say that I’m just a touch more familiar with the platform than yourself being as I’m one of the smiths that help people turn their own guns into raceguns with several dozen great reviews citing much more empirical data than you provided in your “review”.

        I really don’t want to call a guy out, but brother, your argument is invalid.

        I’d expect someone who’s career is risk analysis to have researched a bit more so you knew what you were getting into rather than forming your expectations on hopes & dreams rather than well documented fact.


      • The gun wasnt designed to be shot the way you bought it, out of the box in the US. It was built to be ran out of the box in Russia. Thus your review is misleading and worthless, slamming Saiga’s as junk, no one runs them out of the box, especially for competition.

        Id be willing to bet the team running Saigas that mopped you up werent using out of the box guns.

      • Nick,
        My Saiga functioned flawlessly out of the box using 0,and 00 buck. it would not cycle some target loads I had laying around. the adjustments to the gas port 1-2 and all in between allows you to reliably shoot most loads, as long as they have enough gas pressure to cycle the action. this gun was not designed for low brass wimpy loads, though some will cycle fine. I think you should look at what you were feeding this Rifle, as you erroneously called it, rather than jumping to conclusions, and blaming the gun. Maybe you should consider that you yourself, may be partly at fault ,since you’re a newbie to firearms obviously. No self respecting gun owner, would EVER call a shotgun, a rifle.

        • Dude, please, let it go. He said “rifle” one time when he was referring to the shotgun, and I’d bet next month’s rent that he is perfectly aware of the distinction, and it shouldn’t be taken as a sign of ignorance. Would it make you feel better if that one usage was edited to say “shotgun” or “gun” or “firearm?”

          There are now 103 comments on this post, and you are 14 of them. You’re arguing (or agreeing) with people who haven’t been here in 6-18 months. It’s time to go outside and play or something, for real.

  21. I really hope no one makes any decisions on buying or not buying based on this article. You really should do some research on the gun youre using before doing a write up. No informed Saiga owner would compete with a Saiga 12 before converting it. Google “saiga 12 conversion” so you can follow me properly. But of course you didnt put up that much effort before writing this utter ignorant bull, so I dont expect you will now.

  22. I recommend learning how to properly use the gun prior to writing a review on it. Please visit for help on how to properly use the gun and load on a closed bolt. It is about technique, not force. I would think someone writing for a website designed to help people would know something as simple as this.

    Also, doing some research prior to purchasing would help you in regards to problems you had. As others have said, the gun is designed much differently than how you were trying to use it. I think a pump or other tube fed gun would be better suited for someone not willing to give their firearm the time it needs.

  23. So you bought a gun for 500 dollers, while the people at the competition probably had their Saiga’s pimped out, and theirs cost up to 2500 dollers?

  24. Wow. Glad I bought mine before I read this dribble. Would have been pissed to not purchase something so badass because of something reported by a person who doesnt have a clue about the platform.

    Why do you think you got your ass handed to you by a team with Saigas?

  25. This review is a joke. I really hope you don’t get paid for your reviews, because my 12 year old son just converted a saiga 12 and only has 900 dollars total in the gun.

  26. First i want to say plain and simple, this is a great gun. I read your article, and you said this gun was un reliable. simply not true, i have several rifles and shotguns, this gun might be the most reliable. As far as the action feeling like sandpaper, that would also be a false statement very smooth. Also about the jamming, every gun is different and you have to learn your weapon and you will know what ammo works good, not just try one kind of ammo and if it jams base it off that. oh yeah forgot to mention i havn’t had one problem or complaint with my saiga, nor does it look like any of your readers have

  27. Sorry Nick… I think you missed the boat. First, I would never bother shooting the Saiga in its stock sport configuration. It really should be converted back to how it was intended to be used (pistols grips, FCG moved forward, etc).It’s true that the tolerances are very “Russian” and some tweaks might need to be made to it to get it in tip top operational shape.Often times the gas ports need to be opened up a bit if you want the cheap/light ammo to cycle properly.That being said, I had a gunsmith do the conversion. I put several hundred rounds through it and took it back to him for some minor tweaking. Since then… it’s a total pleasure to shoot.I think you gave up too soon and didn’t do enough research.

  28. I don’t know what I can really express that knowledgeable saiga 12 owners haven’t already…my actual experience presented in real time *male walks into gun shop eyes a FN five-seven then remembers he’s 20 years of age ponders “battle rifle” or shotgun displeased by the large variety of 5.56 carbines he picks up a converted saiga 12 !THUMP! his blood spikes with adrenalin..bewildered by the shear elation that consumes him.. FROM A SHOTGUN!..never had he thought… he shivers.. he grins.. ear to ear mind you .. gripping the beautiful pistol grip slapping the foldable butt stock in and out charging.. and mystically finding the small bolt lock it’s Loovvee* now I was shown the stock unconverted saiga’s(the POS you were in such a hurry to purchase due to the greed and prospect of standing a chance in your next gun competition) present at this store for about 1 /2.5 the price and I knew I could convert 1 myself but when beauty’s fragrance consumes you..your understanding of a weapon system far out shines someone just trying to get a leg up in a tournament…I <3 my saiga

    • Hey Rexx,
      Of course you can convert your Saiga yourself. I did mine in a couple hours, for about $280.00 in parts. get a copy of Shotgun news, and you’ll find all kinds of parts for Saiga shotguns. I used Tapco parts on mine. I didn’t convert mine because of functioning problems. The gun was fine straight from the box. I just wanted a folding stock, and pistol grip. I bought the Tapco stock first, then got the trigger relocating parts set, and pistol grip. I have since then, replaced the forearm, and added a door breeching muzzle extension and a sling. I use the 12 round magazines, and only load 10 rounds, to make them easy to insert. I’m not a gunsmith, I don’t need to be with those parts sets. I did my conversion, in 2007, so I assume Tapco, is still in business. If not, there are other manufacturers out there who make these parts.

  29. Thanks for the review. I really do not want to buy a gun that I have to then spend a ton of money on to make it work right. I would rather buy something like a Benelli M2 or M3 and rock from day one as is. But then the Benelli is the most common shotgun in the US military for a reason.

    • benelli is not used by the US military it’s mossberg. michael I don’t know where you get your information but trust me it’s a mossberg 500 that the US military uses as it’s standard shotgun. The M500 is said shotgun. benelli did the m2 or m3 is what they call there shotgun. the military uses the m500 made by mossberg. it’s a pump action shotgun.

      • Actually you are both wrong. The Benelli M4 is a recent addition to the USMC. The Mossberg 590-A1 is what the US Army uses. By far the Mossberg 590-A1 is the most common pump-action shotgun in current use by the US military. The Benelli M4 is by default the most common semi-auto shotgun used by the USMC. If im correct the Mossberg 500 was used during Veitnam and through the Cold War, only to be phased out by the better 590-A1. And as far a the Saiga goes, i seemed to notice a trend from the upset owners on this thread. seems to me they are so defensive because of the money they had to put into a weapon just to get it in “working condition”. And before you go bashing me on that statment, i am fully aware of the miles of red-tape our government has put on the Saiga line of weapons. Im also aware that the angry saiga owners would probably sware by their weapons. (only after proper modification no doubt). That being said, id rather have a 590-A1 over a fully modified saiga any day of the week. why do you ask? its actually due to several great reasons… First, when i by a weapon the only ugrades that i should have to do it, are guide-rod/recoil spring (pistols) and Tritium Sights. Perhaps some stock/ammo saddle options for a shotty. And second, To Hell with Russia. and wile im at FU** China…

        • That’s funny. I remember working as a small arms repairman in the mid 1980’s while in the Army and the Marines were using Remington 870’s and the US Army was using Winchester 1100’s.

    • Not sure where your get your info from. But the military is using the benelli m4 and the Remington 870’s sorry to blow up your I’m so angry behind a keyboard bit but your wrong pal. Also I agree with this guy why buy I shotgun for 700 bucks then not be able to shoot it for what it is until I bring it somewhere to spend more money on it to shoot correctly!!!!! That just doesn’t make sense! AT ALLLL!!!!!! If you buy a gun brand new and have to upgrade immediately to work IT’S JUNK!!!!!!!!!!!!! My m4 out of the box 20,000 rounds without a jam. Well worth the money!!!

  30. The best thing I can compare an S-12 to is a pinewood derby car. If you want to race the block of wood “as is” you can, but that’s not the point, and certainly not any fun. All the fun takes place in the shop, carving, honing, and customizing a boring block of wood into a cub scout version of a Delorean, or Batmobile, or whatever. And that’s the point. In fact with just a dremel tool you can make an S-12 an entirely different animal, albeit an animal with the smoothest internals you’ve ever seen.

    My S-12 was my first gun, and I have to say, I was very disappointed that I couldn’t take all my firearms into the “chop shop” to make them all they could be. The path less traveled has many rewards, and the sky is the limit with configurations and abilities (not to mention dependability).

  31. Yah, this is a terribly written article; you NEVER even shoot a gun, much less buy one and compete with it, without first doing research on it. Before I bought my Saiga I scoured the Saiga-12 forum for half a month. After that I bought one and had it converted to include only parts that fit me perfectly.
    Even on regular pump shotguns you’ll have to get shell pouches, heat shields, better stocks, tritium beads, slings, shell saddles, and you’ll have to practice on tactical speed loading based on the specific model.

  32. I have owned guns for years. The only thing i want them to do is work when i call on it. Then again a gun is only as good as the person that takes care of it and the amo that is shot through it,no big secret. I will say this about the 12 gauge….long range shot
    remington 1100………pump shotgun have something to hide behind……….saiga ……if you want total destruction of a fairly close target. I would use them all in these applications.

      • Gebby, if you’re going to troll through here, responding to people who left comments EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO, that’s fine. But keep ’em on topic, and hold the insults. It’s unnecessary.

  33. Converting is fun. Yes. But a product should work out of the box too. Maybe it should be called the saiga base/kit sold seperately, or maybe they should call it a pine wood derby gun?????? unbelieveable

    • Carpenter, you probably don’t have an S-12 so your probably not familiar with the nature of it. In order for it to be allowed into the US the S-12 is neutered to “sporting configuration”. This is sort of like putting the wheels on a Ford Explorer on a Corvette. Will it work in the stock configuration? No question, mine worked flawlessly, and I would imagine the most problems with the stock firearm are due to user error.

      Converting an S-12 is nothing like putting add-ons on your AR, you shouldn’t think of it that way. When we convert an S-12 we’re actually transforming it back to the animal it was designed to be… and then some.

      • Exactly. To say the “as imported” configuration is the “stock” configuration betrays an ignorance of the true as-designed configuration. The Saiga 12 is a “12ga AK-47”. We don’t convert it into something new. We convert it back to what it was originally before the silly import restrictions.

        As far as reliability, it’s a Kalashnikov. Everybody I know who has one (several) have no reliability issues, period. Mine functions flawlessly with any ammo I feed it from powder-puff target loads to bone-crushing 3″ magnums.

        I’m surprised that you had malfunctions, but I can say with assurance that your problems were the exception, and would certainly have been curable.

  34. I don’t know what the problem is besides incorrect expectations from Nick. The 24″ bbl. Saiga IZ-107 I purchased worked well out of the box. I added a poly-choke and light, replaced the gas knob and forearm, and now it performs even better under differing circumstances. I use it for trap, plinking, and hunting.

    • Despite what they tell you on TV, shows,like guns and ammo TV, DON’T use the light. It only makes you an easy target. As soon as you turn it on, the bad guy has a target to shoot at, but you have to find the bad guy with that light, BEFORE you fire. using a shotgun gives you the advantage. Fire the first shot in the direction of the bad guy, the flash from your muzzle, will light up the area long enough to locate him, follow immediately with a second, and third shot in that direction. Instant guts, and brains on the wall, and they won’t be yours.

  35. christian?… I ( had) 3 saigas and have 4 ARs all Colts. Ill take my Benelli any day over the saiga, Its cheap plastic shotgun shooting for the beginner with no money. The ghetto gun store in my area carries only those. Thanks for the lesson and the new acronyms. interesting.

    • No one cares how many Colt AR’s you have, the only reason they have the original design is because they bought it from Armalite for military contracts. And Christian only used 3 acronyms: “US,” “AR,” and “S-12.” I’m glad to hear you now know what all of those are now.

      • Thanks for the support Jake, but I learned when it comes to arguments on the internet you’re better off not wasting your time (even among our gun community). And Mr. Carpenter seems to be someone who doesn’t learn quickly… having owned 3 Saigas before realizing it was a “cheap plastic shotgun” that “does not work” for “beginners who are in the ghetto”. Most people would only make that mistake once, however Mr. Carpenter has a different kind of “discernment”.

        • I only have one Saiga 12, had it since 2006, never a problem. Even out of the box, it worked well. There are always dummies like Carpie out there. Know it all’s, who in reality, know nothing at all.

    • Idiots like you that are trying to act like gun snobs, are the reason it will be easy to have legislation passed revoking everyone’s 2nd Amendment rights. Douches like you keep in-fighting going in firearms circles, when we should stay united. No one gives two shits about your gay ass over rated colts. You talk about acronyms when all you do is name drop.

  36. I have a Saiga 12…I have not done a thing to it. When I first got it right out of the box didn’t have one single fail to feed. I saw the videos above and saw the fail to feeds, and obviously can’t say anything about that, but with mine it works flawlessly no matter what ammo I put through it. As for how much I shoot, let me say this, I don’t have to pack the car and go to the range. My range is right out my back door so I shoot alot.

  37. FLAME DELETED Within an hour of purchasing mine I was at the range burning through shells whith no problems. Only thing I found with my is shooting low brass it would sometimes not eject the shell, but that was before doing the conversion. The Saiga is built on the AK frame which is one of the most dependable and most rugged frames ever designed, why do you think the AK47 was in production for so long as a military standard. I have a few more mods in plan for mine but first I will be purchasing a drum, actually will be getting it this weekend. The author talks like a modded gun is tabbo! Very few of my firearms are still in their stock form, whats the fun of leaving one stock? The author says the checkering is to aggresive and hurts his hands! Toughen up dude! Not everyone has tender hands and has to wear gloves. All I can say is before you decide not to buy a Saiga FLAME DELETED find someone who has one and give it a try, talk to them, do some research on your own. FLAME DELETED

    • What’s this “FLAME DELETED” crap? Some of my comments had that on them too. I guess maybe the morons get the last word?

      • You seem to be new here. The site rules are simple. Don’t flame the site, the authors, or the other commenters. Beyond that, say what you will. Disagree with the review all you want, but there’s no call to be insulting.

    • Read down through comments, I did skip over quite a few, I’ve had my Saiga for two years and coverted to tapco grip with collapsible stock. I do have feed issues like in first video with hi and low brass, just wondering what mods are done to minimize issue , thanks for any info you can give me

  38. I can’t believe this article. Someone who has so many problems with a Saiga 12 has no business owning or shooting a gun. This article reminds me of the poorly paid actors on infomercials that struggle to use everyday products. The Saiga 12 is one of my favorite shotguns. I have had 3 Saiga 12’s in various configurations (as well as many other shotguns) from stock to fully customized and the only problem with any of them was an occasional FTE using crappy Winchester target loads. Many of my friends have Saiga 12’s and none of them has had any problems. The author obviously has very womanly hands to have a chunk of flesh taking off and getting hurt by the checkering of all things. I prefer one of my Benellis but the Saiga is a badass fun to work on gun that has been nothing but reliable for me. Not bad for $500. The people who knock it for sometimes needing some adjustments out of the box are the kind of people who have no knowledge of guns and no mechanical abilities. They have girly hands like the author. They’ve probably never even cleaned a gun and just pay to have a gunsmith do it.

    • Right you are Patriot!! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Also, I too, had problems getting Winchester AA loads to eject reliably, but then they’re not made for this. I think they’re fine for what they are designed for. that’s why most shooters, at trap shooting events, and sporting clays events, prefer the low recoil of the AA loads. I wouldn’t call them “crappy”. The Saiga action needs a little more gas pressure, to function reliably.

  39. You can usually tell the weakness of a position by the vitriol in which it is defended. Why not respect Nick’s opinion? We all have opinions. Some believe Saigas are cheap pieces of junk, period. Seems that others like them. Neither will ever agree. He didn’t like the gun. That seems to have hurt some feelings. Get over it.

    • Without comment regarding the veracity of either position, those defending the S-12’s reputation certainly have good cause to voice their opinions. Consider my anecdote: I know dozens of people who LOVE the Ruger 10/22, but mine was a POS and now I wouldn’t take one even as a gift; Ruger’s Mini-14 is a different story.

      I’ve had 3 Glocks that I ran as-manufactured-and-boxed and they each performed flawlessly; the model 17 was my first, and I could drill tacks with it at any distance the 9mm loads would reach. I sold it after running half a case through it, to a guy that was with me when I bought it and that had himself shot a few boxes through it; he gave me nearly 30 percent more than I had paid for it.

      I upgraded to the model 20 (10mm), and could hardly hit the wall of a barn from inside with that gun — but it wasn’t the gun’s fault. IMHO, it needed a longer barrel and compensatory porting; I was using hot loads and no matter what stance I used, it seemed to jump around in my hands too much for me to consider it safe in a shooting situation that could include potentially collateral innocents.

      That gun (IIRC, the s/n: UW775) was stolen from my car in Jackson, MS; I replaced it with a model 22 (.40S&W) that gave me the OSS numbers I wanted. Before it was stolen, I used the model 20 to save my life from injury by a guy threatening to kill me (& who had me at a tactical disadvantage), so even if my “range time” experience with it imho sucked, I have a positive feeling about the gun.

      I bought a used Springfield Armory M1A (.308Win,7.62×51) that had been glass-bedded by SA, with all the paperwork, original box, seven 20-rds steel mags, flash hider, walnut/parkerized — for $800 out-the-door. It was amazing!

      I got a case of 147-gr USA “ball” ammo for cheap ($120-or-so) that actually turned out to be incredibly consistent, and the ball bullets were actually BTFMJ as opposed to plain FMJ; typical results were 20 shots while standing in (well) under 30 seconds at range > 75 yards with open “iron” sights, into a ragged hole that a quarter-dollar US coin would completely cover.

      Fifteen years ago, I didn’t believe firearms prices would become as insane as they are today: I actually thought the $1200 I got for the M1A after owning it for 6 months was a decent return on my money (the sale was threatened by a guy I think was a shill for the buyer, but I had botched the initial meet and presentation, but the buyer later having said he’d have gone to $2400. OUCH!)

      Now, imagine the only voice at the table is that of the nay-saying shill (perhaps working for the buyer, perhaps motivated by a “save-the-world, anti-gun vegetarian” agenda or just plain insane): what does that do to the value of the items on the table?

      I realize it cuts both ways: there are liars on both sides, crazy people in each corner — and buyers looking for the truth turn often, if somewhat naively (or stupidly) to forums such as this.

      No matter how much effort the writers and editors invest in presenting what they honestly believe is the objective truth, the opinion expressed in the article is definitively partisan, and the language of that article is purposefully chosen to maximize its apparent credibility to its targeted audience (and recognizing that a lot of unsophisticated or accidental others will get swept along with the “true believers”).

      Therefore, the only reasonable hope the reader has towards discovering what — if any — of the presented information is applicable to his or her intended or expected situation or use of a reviewed firearm is in the adversarial presentation of opinions by others claiming familiarity (on whatever basis) with either the same item or a sample representative of the item reviewed.

      The reader then reviews those opinions, judges the credibility of those opinions and weighs the comments with or against the ideas and judgments expressed in the article — and walks away, hopefully having elected the decision ultimately in his or her best interest.

      The problem for most folks is the Saiga-v-Browning-v-Mossberg-v-Remington argument has consequences far more dire than has the Ford-v-GMC-v-Ram-v-Nissan argument, and strident idiots are as able as anyone else to passionately bicker.

  40. The Saiga 12 is a fine weapon if it’s not put into the hands of
    these Fudds. Improper technique on reloads, a total lack of
    understanding on the use of cover, and the timed shooting games
    like these make this article laughable. Haha he even complains that
    the checkering hurts his hands. Not to mention this weapon was not
    even restored back to proper military fashion.

  41. I love saiga 12s. I wasnt going to return it to the original pistol grip style, but like he said in the article my bolt hold open got stuck inside the reciever. It was the most frustrating thing. Had to take the axis pins out becuase my carrier would not budge. So after everything was apart i went ahead and converted it back to pistol grip form. Left the stupid bho out, that was the only thing that made my saiga 12 unreliable. Amazing gun. Will have it till i die.
    never buy promags. Ftfeed all the time

    • Load only 9 rounds, they feed good it also helps to put 4 or 5 drops of liquid dish detergent in the mag, and work it with a long piece of wood that is slightly smaller than the mag opening. this will lubricate the follower, and will last a long time.

  42. My S-12 is “Out-of-the-box”
    Runs great, for what I have used it for (after I finally understood the gas system).

    The most ruff-use situation I have put it through is clay shooting at “Back Forty” in northern Indiana. 125 rounds of 12g #7&8 shot I think I tried 5rds of #6 shot but I stuck with my ammo mostly. I only had two failures to feed and if I didn’t fiddle around all I had to do was rack for a new round.

    25rds were on the “wobble trap” and I was just getting used to it, I find the sight system easy to use. 100rds were on ten different stations. I hit 50/100 without any choke and first time shooting in that style. It was, at the time, COMPLETELY “out of the box” and I was only using the supplied factory mag.

    My Saiga-12

    – 09′ manufacture date
    – 19” Barrel
    – 3 gas ports

  43. This might just be the most ignorant review of any firearm I’ve ever seen. Hey dude, if you want an AR-15 go and buy one, if you want a Russian made rifle then it my not be the “shine” on the apple you’re looking for. I’ll be happy to give you $500 for your mistake. For about $40 more I can fix every “problem” you found you ignoramus.

  44. What’s a novice doing writing about firearms? I’ve experienced the exact opposite of this article with mine. It worked good right out of the box and even better after Tac47 set it up for work. Too bad a novice has the ability to turn off thousands of people that could have benefited from the saiga in their three gun, at work and even hunting.

    How do you get 922 compliant with a gas system? Are you just stupid or illegal?


  45. A half hour on the internet prior to purchasing a Saiga could have given this baffoon a general idea of what to expect when attempting to shoot the WRONG AMMO. This shotgun is designed for high brass, something which all of them shoot, right out of the box. I bought a low brass kit, a puck, a gas plug and a spring for $40. Mine shoots anything I put through it. I had never owned a rifle much less a shotgun much less a semi-automatic shotgun and I was able to install this stuff in 10 minutes with no tools other than my hands. Yeah its rough and gritty, yeah its basic and clunky. Its not an AR-15 or MP5 but then again this d-bag already knew that as this article is intended to be inflammatory. The S12 is perfect for people who like to improve their shooting platform and trick them out, its like a hot rod. I’m sure the writer knew that too. Perhaps the reviewer should try gardening or bird watching and review those activities instead….at least then he would have less of a chance in espousing his ignorance so succinctly….

  46. Honestly you need to research a gun before you buy it. Saiga 12’s are built for police and military use primarily and as such, the factory setting is designed for high brass (slugs & buckshot). There is a separate setting for bird shot that is adjustable on a stock factory direct imported Saiga (requires a screw driver to adjust). The user manual explains this about 3 pages in.

  47. is the place to get your neutered russian wolfhound its balls back.
    Saiga 12’s do not suit “sporting purposes” so they cannot be imported, instead they chop off its balls and send us the piece of crap you purchased for $500.
    In the process of making the gun 922r compliant most owners drill a few holes, move the trigger forward, add pistol grip/buttstock and possibly a front handguard if they didn’t replace enough internal parts for compliance. A saiga 12 has 14 parts and you must replace 5 of them to make the gun legal in terms of using high cap magazines.
    Even if you did replace the parts you mentioned in the article you are still not yet 922r compliant and your use of high cap mags is illegal as others have already pointed out.
    I’m kind of offended by this review knowing that a potential future 3 gunner may purchase a benelli m4 and miss out on an amazing life experience. The reason Saiga owners seem so attached to their weapon is due to the bonding that occurs during the conversion, they actually feel as if they had a hand in creating it themselves, because they did.
    You can make these weapon systems run exactly the way you want them too with a little tlc, there are numerous aftermarket parts available, it’s literally the mr. potato head of shotguns.
    The benelli’s reload will ruin a new shooter in competition, it usually takes a few years to be able to grip four shells at a time and feed them properly under stress without dropping them.
    You can also purchase a properly converted Saiga 12 for less than the cost of a benelli from many distributors. Your saiga 12 review is a FAIL

  48. All other things aside, the writer is the type person who would sell what he believes to be an unreliable weapon which he advises others to avoid like a plague for twice what he paid for it. So not only are you clueless about Saigas, your character is such that you’d gladly pass on what you believe to be a piece of junk for a tidy profit.

  49. I purchased my Saiga 12 after asking a retired Navy Seal friend of mine what the best weapon was for many against one self defense. He didn’t even pause before answering. He had just purchased one and we worked on them together. I just added enough external stuff for 922 and didn’t change anything inside. I have fired low brass 8 shot for years with no problem. I have hunted pheasant, ducks, geese, dear, and the assorted neighborhood pests. I have used red dot and stock sights. I used it at Front Sight and stood next to two guys using Benelli M4’s. I could stay right with them through most of the drills – I had $600 into mine, they had about $2400.

    They finally got interested when we were doing night fire. The task was to put as many rounds on a metal plate as we could. I fired 10, then as everyone else was starting to reload, I broke the silence with ten rounds of buckshot on target in under 5 seconds. The sound and flashes of sparks off the target said enough. In real combat, not 3 gun games, the ability to throw that much lead over and over again is a real plus.

    It is cheap, it rattles, it is made of roughly machined and pressed metal, but it does the job it was designed to do.

  50. I guess that I lucked out and purchased the good 1/4 of Saiga’s then, because I have owned mine for over two years. I shoot it about two times a month and I have not run into any serious issues. Straight from the box, whether shooting bird shots/slugs/buckshot it shot well. I dont even bother ever adjusting that gas valve. The only modification/addition that I did was added a rubber recoil pad; which was great because It gives the stock added length. I personally perfer the 12 round drum mags because it feel it is the best round capacity and compactness of all the mags. 20 round drum is way to bulky, I am not short yet I find myselt awkwardly trying to reach around this drum. It is one of my favorite guns at this point. and whenever I take it to the range it always win alot of fans.


    • mine is the same way but it jams every forth or fifth shell. do i have to worry about the pieces that are missing ? can i file the rough edges down or do i send it back for repair?

  52. i’m sorry you have had trouble. I have 2 Saiga’s, a 19 and 24 inch barrel. i shoot the hell out of them and have never had a jam in over 5 years. to me they are the most awesome weapon for the money. i’ll put mine up against any other shotgun. i can empty 100 rd drum in no time. i have never had a jam.

  53. I have one that I converted myself with a Tromix Do-It-Yourself kits. I had not fired it in the Orginal set-up as I have intended to covert it from the get-go. The only tool you really need is a drill (a vice wouldn’t hurt). Anywho, I’m happy to report that I’ve had zero problems with it. My round count is about 500 (a mix of buck, birdshot and slugs.)

  54. Wow, you should have done your homework before you had taken the test. You don’t get much of any kind of firearm for $500.

  55. My Saiga 12 works just fine. After I had it over a year, I added a Tapco trigger kit, pistol grip, and folding stock. Who the hell needs an optical sight on a scattergun? Actually, who would want an optical sight on any gun, if it is going to be used for home defense combat? I had military small arms training, and the only military guys, during Vietnam, who had scopes, were snipers. The guys overseas now have scopes, and have to be careful not to knock it out of line. When you’re in combat, running, jumping, falling, rolling, etc, who wants to be worried about a damn scope getting off target, when your life depends on that gun’s accuracy? Load 9 rounds in a 10 round magazine, and the magazine goes in with no problem. The adjustable gas port takes care of feeding problems I’ve fired every thing in mine, and the only ammo I had problems with, that couldn’t be adjusted out with the gas port adjustment, was AA, and other low brass, light target loads, for trap. This gun was NOT designed for trap shooting. I have dropped my Saiga in the mud, and fired it with no problems. I believe every one who complains about the performance of their Saiga, is trying to use it for something it was not designed for. I have mine for home defense. I’ll put my Saiga up against anything but a hand grenade, or nuclear device and come out on top. While most guys are shining their tac light around, looking for me, I’ll be aiming at that stupid light, and splattering their guts on my living room wall. Those with tube fed shotguns, will be frantically trying to reload, and I’ll have another 9 rounds at the ready in less than a second. If it’s only one guy, he won’t need to reload, after my first shot. You can all say what you like about the Saiga, but I love mine, and wouldn’t trade it for a hundred other guns of my choice. I can take out 9 bad guys in about 7 seconds, and less than a second later, take out 9 more. If there are more bad guys, than I have loaded magazines for, I have a .45 XD for backup. That’s all I need. anyone care to try invading my home? I didn’t think so.

    • My gun shot EVERYTHING I put it in above #8 and larger. All of it. I replaced the gas plug and puck and it shot it all, not failures to feed or eject. I have since polished the internals chromelike and converted it which only made it shoot faster and smoother. I enjoyed working on my Saiga. I had no experience with anything other than pistols and had never in my life worked on or modified any gun. My gun plain awesome with very little effort….

  56. He actually spent his $500 on this wonderful gun and had no intentions of making or using it like it was supposed to be used. Hilarious.

    I hope his other reviews are not like this.

    Spending 10 minutes on researching this gun would be enough to tell you don’t use light loads in it and that should tell you don’t take it to a competition and cry about how it functioned.

  57. There will always be people who pay to have their oil changed. There will always be people who pay to have every simple medial job done in their lives with little to no thought about the task at hand. If you need to pay someone to modify or fix a Saiga 12, then you have no business changing out the stock on a fudd gun. These are simple guns. Very easy to make reliable.
    I admit that you do have to modify these out of the box, and as sad and irritating as that is, these guns are imported in a manner that was never ever going to work. Testing these firearms in the “close to stock as possible” configuration was setting you up for failure. Sure some of these will run fine in their “sporterized” (butchered) state. That however is no where near “stock”. Stock would be in it’s original state with the FCG moved forward and a pistol grip, not the fudd style grip.
    As far as 3 gunners, and putting words in these articles like “Protip” (laughable), that has nothing to do with whether or not those people possess the basic firearms knowledge to get something as simple as a Saiga 12 to run reliably. Basic firearms knowledge is all one needs to make these things do anything that your Mossberg 930 SPX or any other tube fed shot gun will, and so much more, and at a much cheaper price point than most other semi-auto shotguns.
    If you own a dremel and can use a sanding drum, rubber abrasive wheel, and some jeweler’s rouge on a felt wheel, you can make this firearm truly reliable and butter smooth. Do not let people tell you that it will take thousands of dollars and a gunsmith to get it to cycle even the low brass stuff reliably. All you need to do is make sure the gas system is correct. Check the port holes in the barrel, then make sure the gas block isn’t partially covering those holes. Once the gas system is squared away, all you have to do is hand cycle the thing to find any unnecessary friction that could be robbing your action of the necessary momentum to travel fully rearward, and then strip off another round and go fully into battery. It’s usually the big ass hammer.
    When you convert them and put that Tapco hammer in the shotgun, you are basically just putting a modified AKM hammer into your shotgun. That means that your newly installed hammer was meant for a rifle that has a much smaller bolt, and bolt carrier profile. I found out by trial and error. After polishing the bolt, carrier, receiver rails, and then re-profiling them as well. Checking constantly to make sure that the carrier was still capable of engaging the hammer into the disconnector.
    Just when I was starting to get pissed, I hand cycled the weapon again, noticing that when I pulled the charging handle back, and then released it, that the only place where I was seeing an extreme amount of friction and resistance, even after doing all that I had already done, was the huge Tapco hammer.
    If you do the same thing with your Saiga, you’ll notice where the friction is. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not a hard or expensive fix. I just had to completely reshape my new Tapco hammer. I used a micrometer and took a small amount of metal off the hammer face, and then softened the angles on the hammer. Once again, testing the whole time, to ensure the disconnector was engaging when the carrier passed over it.
    I ended up having to hand fit my hammer to my carrier, and all the other re-profiling and polishing I did was just icing on the cake. It just took a little research and a dremel with a sanding drum, abrasive buffs, and some jeweler’s rouge on a felt wheel to get mine sorted. All you have to do is stop and think how the firearm would have worked if it was actually Russian stock. Not this butchered crap we get here.
    To anyone willing to ignore the stupidity, laziness, and utter bias of this article and the people who commented on it. You can have a truly reliable shotgun. All you need is basic knowledge of firearms and a dremel. Do not let these people keep you from buying one and doing some work yourself. Like I said, they are extremely simple firearms and very easy to work on.
    If you decide to buy one, don’t do like I did, and don’t just go converting it without shooting it first. The original hammer that is in the shotgun will be at least a little smaller than the Tapco hammer that ships with most of the conversion kits. Fire it in that configuration first and see if it has enough gas to cycle. Then check for friction by slowly charging the weapon by hand.
    If you decide to convert it. Then do it yourself. All you need is a cold chisel, a drill and some bits, and some flat black engine paint and some basic hand tools. There are instructional videos online to help you, and they are very straightforward and easy for even a novice to comprehend. If you do you’ll have better understanding of how the firearm works, and you’ll be able to repair or modify the firearm in any way you like in the future, without the need for a gunsmith.
    I’m no gunsmith, but I am a firearms collector and enthusiast. I figured it out, and so can every single person who buys one, with a little patience and some know how. I truly do understand why people dislike having to modify a “stock” shotgun to get it to cycle reliably, but as I said before, the configuration you get it in, is nowhere near stock. It was an afterthought just to get it imported into the country. To those of you who know, you just know, and you’ll have a super badass shotgun, that’s as reliable as any other semi-auto shotgun out there. To those of you that don’t, just read my whole post. I wish I could have stumbled upon a post like this when I first bought mine. Maybe I would have had mine running more reliably a whole lot quicker.
    Good luck, happy shooting, and stay safe.

  58. ok FIRST the saiga is a COMBAT shotgun, its meant be used with buckshot and slugs by soldiers and Russian spetznatz. so its gas system its set up for and designed for that, PERIOD. but we ahem “portly”
    americans want everything we buy at a bargain to be a Cadillac! well gratz! you got a Cadillac! ” correct an overpriced POS that made you feel important till you found out how it was REALLY made. just like a real Cadillac!)

    HOWEVER. there isn’t much really that needs to be done to a saiga to make them run right certainly not 1000$ of work

    step 1 remove gasblock and open up the gasports a bit with a no 52 drill
    step 2 turn down one end of the gas puck to the diameter of the gas piston to a depth of about 1/4 inch.
    step 3 stop buying your compettion ammo off of walmarts bargain rack.

    THATS IT! WOW that’s 1000$ bucks worth of work to you? can I do your gunsmithing from now on?
    and BTW if youd used the WORLDS LARGEST SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE , ya know the inets? you could have learned all this in advance and even found out MOST of the work is done for you by buying about 100$ worth of aftermarket products.

    now im curious how your a competition shooter and yet expected stock un modded weapons to be suitable? the classes you claim to compete in don’t seem like factory box stock classes..

    TBH what I see is a guy who got his bum handed to him by guys with tools he’d never seen so he figured it was the MACHINES that beat him and not the men so just bought what they had.

    the reason guys with tuned saigas can be so awesome is cause they TUNED them first. they were the better man, by being the smarter more hardworking man.

    if you want “review” a “stock” saiga. go to Russia and try a “stock” one not the bastardized crap or gun laws make us get. why oh why do you think there is such a market to UN-civilize them? what ruined them was the retarded 922 laws we have its not the design

    seriously in your heart of hearts you think the Spetznatz carries crap that jams and wont hit anything?

    BTW my saiga prints 3 inch groups with slugs at 50 meters but then I know how to aim and adjust my sights etc etc
    and the ONLY ammo my gun wont feed well is crappy fiocchi ammo and crappy walmart bargain ammo

    and I DARESAY there are MILLIONS of competition guns great and small that have a much smaller tolerance for anything but “pet” or “handloaded” ammo.

    I don’t care you don’t like the siaga or that your disappointed in it. but don’t let your ignorance cloud your reviews if you want to be taken seriously..

    • Actually I dont think even all thats necessary. If there isnt a gas problem then leave the ports alone, add a new puck and gas plug and then see where you need to go.

  59. LoL! I converted my Saiga12, added the gasplug upgrade and it works flawlessly. Perhaps you’re better suited for Call of Duty?


  61. I’m gonna sue your ass….. I damn near had a heart attack laughing at your video clip of people disabling themselves. Thanks a mil for the footage, I’ll be spinning back to it many times over. Oh, thanks for saving me some big bucks as I was on the brink of purchasing one of those contraptions. I’d like your input on my two original choices… the rem 870 & Mossberg 500/590.

    only now can I get up off the floor from the laugh session…. better than sex I’d almost say

  62. I realize this review is 3 years old but this guy is an idiot. First he spends $500 on a whim when a Google search could have easily prepared him for what to expect. That said, he is an idiot for spending his money on ANY firearm before researching it. I own a Saiga and I am here to tell you I know very little about gunsmithing, mine shot low grade birdshot out of the box no adjustments of any kind, especially the “major” kind this guy is referring to. Second, a middle schooler could take this thing apart and make it shoot better. An adjustable replacement gas plug (that unscrews) that costs $20 will make this thing shoot anything. So yeah Mr. “Cry Me a RIver its not an AR”, the Saiga isnt made to be but its doesnt suck either and it is ridiculously fun to shoot and a hit every where I go to shoot. Why dont you stick to revolvers and pump shotguns…..theyre not too complicated for you.

  63. I find this review pretty funny… I guess I too got the only Saiga that works well… first thing I did was went to Walmart and bought a mix of the cheapest ammo they were selling and then bought another one of those 25$ 100 rd boxes… now I mixed that ammo up loaded it (I am talking 3inch to 2 3/4) into my 8rd AGP mags (why 8rds you ask… well I don’t want to look like that guy in the first picture at the top of the page) and began firing… well stove pipe (after every 2, maybe 3 shots) after stove pipe I made it into my 2nd maybe 3rd mag…. well *&%* I didn’t even think to oil it, so I threw on some CLP and this shotgun ate every thing I threw at it, flawlessly about 150rds…. flllaaawwwwleeeessssllllyyy!!! been shooting it ever since and never had a single problem… you do a decent write up, but it’s just a shame that some people actually were turned off from reading it. 🙁

    Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
    Ratings are relative to the reviewer only and not at the firearm. Final score does not reflect the “average” of the categories but instead the overall feelings of the reviewer.

    Accuracy: *
    Maybe I have the only reliable Saiga out there… but I doubt it…

    Reliability: *
    Hmmm… highly unlikely…

    Customization: * * * *
    Very cute, and worth the extra stars for being so descriptive with your words in your fairy tale.

    Overall Rating: *
    Seems pretty biased and a waste of my time and yet I read it and now I am responding, I don’t know why either … I guess I just hope someone out there doesn’t just read your review and cling to every word you utter. I haven’t read your other reviews and now I don’t plan on it… but I hope they are more accurate then this one. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  64. In my opinion the Saiga 12 is the best shotgun in the world. I have 2 Saiga 12 that I do a very high volume of shooting with. I use two saiga’s and rotate them to let the barrels cool. I am able to quickly rotate shooters with the preloaded detachable magazines. I shot about 1,200 rounds through them just this past weekend. The two guns have easily done 50,000 rounds between them over the last 3 years. I clean them twice a year as a matter of policy, but not necessary. Any jams are usually defective ammo or user error.

    I bought the guns unmodified and used them for the first two years that way. I had them modified after 2 years in order to bring the balance point further back and make them easier for smaller people to shoot.

    I shoot Walmart 12 gauge birdshot ammo 100 % of the time with these guns.

    I do not like my Saiga 410 too much as a practical matter for new shooters. I bought this gun as a low recoil alternative but new shooter tend to let the gun move too much when it fires and that jams the guns. That gun is prone to feeding jams due to the ammo. Some ammo works better then others and the gun is more likely to jam if the shooter does not hold it firmly in their shoulder. The 410 shells sometimes tend to crush when they try to feed. 410 shells are softer then 12 gauge and tend to lose their shape more easy. The only problem I have had with the saiga 410 is a broken extractor which I blame on the high frequency of jams due to ammo or user error.

  65. my saiga came straight out of box, oiled it, went straight to range and let off 100 rnds of walmart low brass target loads wit not one problem.ive gone thru thousands of rounds. low, high brass,etc. and not one issue. this gun is awesome.those who choose not to purchase one because of what this guy wrote are making a huge mistake. no gun brings me joy like the saiga. when i go to range i have to bring extra shells because everyone including employees want to shoot it. after letting off 20 shells in matter of seconds all other shotguns feel boring.i have never turned gas plug. just keep it well oiled and it runs like a beast. my biggest issue is paying for all the shells i burn thru. sgm 12 rounders work great too.u cant help but smile after turning targets into confetti with s12.

  66. I read TTAG faithfully and load it up at least a few times per day – it’s one of two gun sites I love and trust without question. .. However, this is perhaps the worst review and piece of “gun journalism” I have ever read.

    My story with this topic is that I bought my father a Saiga-12 for Christmas 2012 … I had come into a little cash, and wanted to give my father a combat shotgun for his personal defense use. He, as a retired cop who relied on Glock for life and duty, was only interested in a semiautomatic shotgun. I showed him a Saiga-12 at a gunshop the first of November 2012 and how it was an AK-47, but only a shotgun … ( I had previously given him an AK-variant for his 60th Bday.) … and that not only it was an autoloading shotgun, but it took detachable magazines … “wait …. like a Glock ??! ” When I saw the lightbulb go off and the smile on his face, I was actually surprised he didn’t buy it himself on the spot… So I went back the next day and bought it … due to the Obama re-election fervor, it went from $700 to $800 overnight, ,because the store had so much business it felt justified (They apparently sold 5 of them the night I was there.)

    I received a bone-stock, NJ -legal Saiga 12 with the 5 round magazine an 19″ bbl. I followed the procedure I follow faithfully for all my new guns, including the 4 combat shotguns I have (In addition to this, a M930SPX, Remington 870 Tactical Magpul Police, and a Benelli SuperNova Tactical) .. after Christmas, I cleaned the firearm thoroughly , then we went to the range. I put at least one full 25 -rd box of 00 Buck through it, then 100rd value pack of Federal 7 1/2 game loads. Took it home, broke it down and cleaned it thoroughly, and took it back the next day. Another 25 rds of full power 00 Buck, and between 100 and 200 rds of Federal 7, 7 1/2, and 8-shot “birdshot” game loads. Cleaned it up again it was ready to go.

    Since that day, since THE FIRST DAY, I have not had one SINGLE malfunction. Complete and total reliability. And we shoot the Federal 7 1/2 and 8 shot value packs by the 100s, and it handles them fine. I have never modified the gun, played with the gas settings nor “opened up the ports” or anything… Nothing modified or changed at all. And it has been amazing.

    I have since added a SGM Saber Boss muzzle device, a SGM quad-rail forend, Magpul foregrip, a Viridian X5L-RS green laser and tactical light w/ remote switch, and slip-on LimbSaver recoil pad. The gun is utterly awesome. Puts my other shotguns to shame when it comes to accuracy and reliability, as it has never had one problem nor done anything but hit the bullseye each time, every time. I no longer live in NJ and hope to further upgrade it with a full “conversion” package to give it a pistol grip and stock and therefore wield it to it’s full potential. But this hit piece of an article could not be further from the truth in my experience. Sounds to me like a 3-gunner with a keyboard and a place to put his articles is mad that the Saiga-12 is a combat shotgun that isn’t a Benelli Super Sport Vinci Black Eagle Ethos II …. because that is not what it’s designed for. it’s designed for Spetznas use and combat/defense applications and it excels in this role.

    If you want to eat Lobster you can enjoy your White Burgundy … and your left-bank Bordeaux with your cracked pepper porterhouse steak. However, that doesn’t mean Westvleteren 12 is a bad beverage because it’s “beer” .. it’s one of the finest beers in the world, it just requires understanding and discernment all its own.

  67. I know this is an old thread, and no one is likely to read this, but having just got back from the range with my SaIga, ALL i Can say is that it worked flawlessly. Nuff said.

  68. Too bad these Saiga 12 are getting such a bad review.
    I have a Saiga 308 that runs like a champ. I used it as my deer rifle and it worked splendidly.

  69. Everything you said about the quality of manufacture, well that’s actually true. The mags are indeed a pain to swap. But, I’m not about to let my favorite shotgun be badmouthed. It didn’t run right cuz you clearly didn’t read the manual. It has 2 settings. TWO. One for high power shells(buckshot, slugs), and one for low power shells(bean bags, flares). This is to protect the receiver. You’re clearly shooting on the HIGH setting. Mine is factory except for the grip mod, and it’s never once failed. Don’t blame the weapon cuz you don’t know how to use it.

  70. Opinions are like butt holes, everyone has one. I don’t think I have ever purchase a gun that didn’t need something to make it better. Your average gun is average and the Saiga 12 is no different. I heard someone say, the HK91 was built to be reliable. It kicks like a mule, if you want a thoroughbred, spend the money. HK and other manufactures know this and will get a piece of the upgrade pie. So Nick, stick to reviewing shoes or jock straps, because you don’t know a lot about guns.


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