Kalashnikov KS-12 Shotgun: Shooting Impressions

Mike Rogers of Lone Star Arms writes:

After range testing the Kalashnikov USA KS-12 over the weekend, I’m still impressed. It ran beautifully with high pressure ammo, and didn’t cycle low pressure shells. But that’s not surprising. It is, after all, a very well made US version of a Russian Izhmash Saiga 12.

Bottom line, if you don’t want to spend more to upgrade the KS-12, you’ll be shooting high brass. If you want it to perform with less expensive lower pressure stuff, it will need exactly the same type of work as its Russian twin.

Out of the box it’s clear that the KS-12 is not a race gun (although it certainly has the potential to be). Like the Russian originals, they’re meant to be basic and versatile. The model I ordered comes with a branded Kalashnikov USA Saiga 12 type 5-round magazine.

Because I have already successfully shoved every Saiga 12 mag within reach into the gun, I know for a fact that the Kalashnikov USA gun takes Saiga 12 factory mags, SGM Saiga 12 magazines, Promag 12-round drums, and MD Arms 20-round drums just like a Russian factory gun. The mags used for range testing (with the exception of the K-USA factory 5-round mag) were the same SGM Saiga 8-round mags I use regularly to test Saigas.

I ordered the KS-12 online and paid $805 delivered to my doorstep from a national retailer. That seems like fair price for a quality AK platform gun that comes with both a US and Russian pedigree, competes head-to-head on price with similarly equipped Russian made guns, and comes in at  about $200 less than the $1,000 average that brand new (and even used) Russian IZ-109s are going for at the time of this writing.

Aside from the fact that the notch on the safety is a bit too far forward for efficient use as a bolt hold open, I really haven’t found anything that I don’t like about this gun. If Russian Saigas are ever imported again, the Izveshk factory is going to have to step up its game. Kalashnikov USA really seems to have gotten it right the first time, and in doing so has raised the bar.


NOTE: TTAG will be testing both the stock KS-12 and Lone Star Arms’ breathed-upon version. Watch this space.


  1. avatar gjbdjjchnh says:

    where the F are the pictures?

  2. avatar No one of consequence says:

    Pity it doesn’t​ cycle the lower pressure loads right out of the box. That makes it quite a bit less attractive.

    On another note, I didn’t realize there was a range so close to ABQ airport. Will need to check that out next time I get over to the big city…

    1. avatar Vhyrus says:

      Get a VEPR 12. Mine cycles everything and I can count the jams on one hand. Make sure to clean it after shooting bird shot. The gas port is large enough to suck pellets up into the piston area and grind them into lead paste.

      1. avatar Excedrine says:

        Molot went out of business and the company with all its assets is set to be auctioned off as a single lot.

        1. avatar Vhyrus says:

          Better move fast then. There are still plenty for sale.

      2. avatar No one of consequence says:

        Tempting; but I’m not that much of a shotgunner. Yet, at any rate…

  3. avatar saigaimposter says:

    My unmodified saiga runs the cheapest walmart birdshot loads all day. I gaurantee this gun is not on the same level as a saiga. Also, i thought the company making this shotgun has no relation to russia. Just using the name.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      You got pretty lucky then. I have a Saiga 12 now and I’ve had many in the past. They’ve never cycled well with anything other than full power buckshot.

  4. avatar jwm says:

    The big selling point of a shotgun is the versatility. Any shotgun that only reliably shoots one type of ammo without mods fails that most important of criterion.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      I think one could make the same argument about a revolver vs. a semi-auto. At some point you’re sacrificing autoloading and magazine capacity for load options.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        In my usage a handgun is for 2 things, really. recreation and self defense. I can carry my j frame and one of my autoloaders for either purpose at the same time.

        My shotguns are for protection, recreation and hunting. I need more general purpose from my shotguns.

  5. avatar Trump the 2A Lord and Savior says:

    Just a free advertisement for Mike Rodgers who’s business depends on modified saigas and their ilk.

    Basically saying, great platform – buy it and I will make it awesome.

    Farago has played Rodger’s stooge, for reasons unknown, ever since the public outing as such when the article was posted to go above and beyond in disparaging evlblkwpns.

  6. avatar Emfourty Gasmask says:

    I wish these could be used for more things than just being a range toy, honestly. Then magazines deforming the shells is a real problem with these.

  7. avatar samuraichatter says:

    I am thinking you could get these things to shoot birdshot. Saigas are known for having a heck of a break in period. These things might just need a lot of shooting, cleaning, and lube.

  8. avatar Mike Rogers says:

    “Saigas are known for having a heck of a break in period. These things might just need a lot of shooting, cleaning, and lube.”

    This ^ is true. Saigas hit their sweet spot at around 1,000 rounds, and I suspect the same will be true for the Kalashnikov USA KS-12. Would not expect this gun to cycle the stuff on the lower end of the test ammo without mods, but after 250 rounds or so (basically a case) of high powered ammo, I think the Winchester AA 1350 FPS target loads might cycle, and after a case or two of that, the Federal 1290 FPS would be well worth a try.

    Note : About one in twenty NIB Saigas will cycle 1290 FPS Federal 2 3/4″ birdshot right out of the box, and the same is true for Vepr 12s. If you have one of these, cherish it.

    1. avatar Saltydecimator says:

      Um, no, they reach their sweet spot when you feed em more gas or trade em for a vepr.

      These are gas operated guns. Russia doesn’t and apparently K USA doesn’t typically suppply enough gas to the piston to operate the lower pressure rounds. This is Russian shotguns 101, no Amount of “breaking in” is gonna fix an under gassed gun.

      Saiga 12 forum is your friend for real advice.

      As far as this thing, meeeeeeeeeeeeh. When they actually design it and tune it to run the cheap stuff like most everyone is gonna feed it, I’ll consider one. Until then, I’ll bore my own gas holes as necessary and keep it Russian

      1. avatar Tommy Gun says:

        Saiga 12 forum? These days its about like the Vepr forum. Dead, dead, dead. Most of the really knowledgeable guys like Mike, Tony Rumore, and Jim Lambert don’t post technical advice there anymore due to poor forum moderation and the vicious resident trolls, who apparently jump the fence now and then and end up here.

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