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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. Thanks for the review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          To each their own, i love my S12.

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

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

    • Yep. Now over 8 years and over 6000 rounds through my shitty russian shotgun. Fewer issues than i can count on one hand. Excellent build quality on my example. Man! This gun is unreliable crap! Its only outperformed all of my friends’ ARs for reliability. Oh btw in my last comment i made a mistake. I accidently said they are built on rpk recievers. I was wrong. That was my vepr. The saiga 12 is built on the ak100 reciever. Whoopsy.

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

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

    • This review is crap. The saiga 12 is the only auto shotgun fielded by any special forces. The differences in the gun vs the ak47 are not that drastic its even built on an rpk reciever. The gas system changes make the gun LOT easier to clean, and short stroke keeps the action cleaner (i know this because ive owned one and shot it and cleaned it for years) there are big mods to the bolt, carrier, recoil spring, and topcover. None of these modify the gun for functionality, they are just focused around chambering a shotgun round.

      The reliability and similarity of this shotgun to an akm is apparant. The fit and finish of the gun is actually very good in comparison to most akms ive seen. 3 gunners tend to mod their guns like that hackjob that fell apart in the pic. There are plenty of examples of saiga 12s being used n competitions with no issues. MINE WORKS WORKS FLAWLESSLY.

      there are 3 drawbacks to the gun. the biggest being the 12 gauge round itself. when magazine fed, they will squash out of round due to the pressure of the mag spring on the plastic shells. If you store them loaded for a long time, sometimes a few will ftf. NEVER HAPPENS IN A FRESHLY LOADED MAG OR WITH MY MDARMS DRUM. Id be curious if brass cased shells would help. The hammer is also made of strangely soft steel. It holds up well, but there is some mushrooming of the material after several thousand hammer strikes. I dont like this, but a standard ak hammer is compatable after 3 min worth of grinding to fit the bho (which is an awesome mod which does not hurt reliability as claimed)

      The third drawback is the sporterized configuration which complicates the trigger assy. I shot the gun that way for 7 yrs before i converted the gun using akm parts i had laying around. It took me like an hour to do and even without spare parts i could get it done for LESS THAN $100. AND IF YOU HAVE A SPARE STOCK AND PG AND TRIGGER GROUP THAT PRICE DROPS TO LESS THAN 5 DOLLARS for two rivets!

      The writer of this article obviously never tested his gun and approached this endevour with alot of bias, and supported his OPINIONS by using a heavily modded gun as an example

      Nuts to you jackass. You have no experience with this firearm. And possibly not even with the akm in general.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  9. Let me get this straight…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Russkies know assualt rifles and the Italians know shotguns!

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

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

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

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

    • Christian,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          I am just throwing out some ideas.

        • Full brass hulls.

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

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

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

        • The SVD or romanian PSL is more commonly known as the dragunov

          7.62x54r fed from a detachable box mag with its rimmed cases. Single stack.

          But from an engineering standpoint internal and detachable box mags have only 1 differences One detaches, the other does not, other than that they are essentially the same thing. The internal mag is inherintly more reliable, because of the clearance neccessary to install a detachable mag can cause variations in the way the round is held in relation to the bolt carrier. Too high and the bolt jams on the mag, too low and the bolt doesnt strip a round from the mag and mars the case of the round. I ran into this problem in a big way using aftermarket mags for my CETME. Sorry guys, no good mag options for over 20 rnds. Take solace in the fact that the 20rnd alumn. Mags can be had for .99 cents! By far the cheapest anywhere, made by HK too.

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

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

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

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

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

  21. Nice review.

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

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

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

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

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

    • The gun is not a plinker, or a competition gun, it is designed to fire loads one would use to either defend onesself or to assault somebody. I.e. REAL not TARGET loading.

      That being said. Mine can shoot light target loads on the high gas setting all day. I guess thats a fluke? Or are all you naysayers ignorant as to how YOUR gun works? My advice is take what ppl have to say for what its worth. And for what its worth, id sooner invest in BULL SHIT. At least it makes good fertilizer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Also, saying the Saiga 12 is not reliable for home defense is misleading. Especially when the Mossberg 930 is applauded. Doesn’t take much of a search to find Mossberg failures (; which isn’t saying much, because it doesn’t take much of a search to find failures from just about any gun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Thanks TGFTBCO…. (were you in the Ohio Statue Marching Band, TBDBITL?)

      I just bought a 20 ga Saiga, I wanted something light both me and my wife could use with no problem of recoil etc. Thanks for the advice and encouragement.

      I first fired it last weekend, cycling problems, shell didn’t eject right. So instead of whining, I asked my local gunsmith, gave me great advice. As you said, good to tinker with.

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

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


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


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

    • Sounds like your friend has the older model show above. The Saiga 12s Exp-01 version 030 auto-gas with magwell are a much much better build. The early Saiga 12 are hit and miss.

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

  51. I recently purchased a saiga 12 and couldn’t be more pleased. Right out of the box it cycled 100 rounds of low brass birdshot flawlessly with zero malfunctions. As far as it being “loosely”. Based on the ak47, it is actually based on the ak74 as it has a stamped steel received as opposed to the milled recieverof the 47. Also it is worth noting that the saiga 12 was designed by Kalashnikov himself…who better to adjust the ak platform to fire shotgun shells than its original creator. I have not encountered any of the issues others have brought up…sire the finish and fit are not comparable to that of a custom long range rifle they are more than adequate for the purpose behind the gun after all it was this “sloppy” fit which gave the ak platform its rugged reliability in less than ideal circumstances.

  52. I wouldn’t call is a sloppy fit. There are quality control issues but come on the gun is built in Russia. We have had 100’s of these guns roll through over the years and have seen a lot of mistakes. Pins missing that attach the barrel to the receiver, gas ports not drilled, holes in the gas block machined at an angle, canted gas blocks etc. Nothing that wasn’t an easy fix but still. Parts are not always interchangeable between guns either. You can’t assume one dust cover will fit another gun. There are length differences of up to .25 inches. Something you wouldn’t notice unless you had several guns apart to refinish. I’m I biased towards liking the s12? Of course I am, as they do help feed me. However we stand behind every gun that leaves the shop and if they were not reliable and didn’t run like we claim they would we would have been out of business a long time ago.

  53. Only two things needed to make a newly converted Saiga 12 reliable. DO NOT USE A MODIFIED TAPCO FIRE CONTROL GROUP. Tapco groups are not made for the s12 the larger bolt on an s12 required a bolt carrier that sits lower in the reciever and the hammer profile of the tapco group sits too damn high and drags on the bolt carrier slowing the action down or stopping it all together! Arsenal of Las Vegas sells a fire conversion ready fire control group based on the original Izmash hammer specs that will not create the excessive drag of the Tapco G2. Buy the Arsenal group for $7 more than the Crapco, drop it in, grease the rails and bolt carrier with ball hitch grease and run a 100 round box of federal bulk pack through the gun on highest gas setting. That is ALL thats needed to get it up and running, seriously!!!

    • If your doing your own build and not all that worried about part counts you can use the tapco trigger with the original russian hammer. This will accomplished the same thing as buying a modified system from anyone.

      • I tried my tapco trigger with the saiga hammer before ordering the Arsenal group and the hook engagement was unreliable and put the trigger in an odd position. I would stick to a complete FCG replacement. The other thing I realized with the modded Tapco group is that there was a point during trigger reset where the sear could slip and the hammer follow resulting in doubling.

  54. Oh and just a small note, a qualified gunsmith CAN machine a few thousands of an inch off the camming surface of a Tapco G2 hammer to make it function correctly BUT if he takes off too much the hammer can follow creating a serious problem! Better to buy the Arsenal group for $7 more. I spent a total of $130 above the cost of the gun (including the $28 dollar cost of the Tapco group I had to throw away when I figured out that it was the reason the gun was choking) To build a reliable converted Saiga twelve that my friends LOVE to shoot. Persistant stupidity of owners (and a lucrative aftermarket of shady builders and modders) seems to be the only hinderence to this platform!

  55. As far as the quality of factory builds regarding both the Saiga and Vepr guns one has to keep in mind that both the Izmash and Molot factories pretty much operate at a defecit and have to be State funded now. The Chinese and Bulgarians have basically kicked the livin crap outta the Russians in the global arms market and before the Russian government stepped back in there were periods where employees weren’t getting paid for months!

    I really like Arsenal built stuff because their factory was basically set up and trained by Bulgarians who probably make the best quality AK variants in the world now. Even their Izmash Legion line is QC’d by Arsenal employees.

  56. I have a Saiga 12 and out of the box its perfect with buckshot and slugs. So I disagree with the “sucks” comment in this article. It does what it was intended to do very well. Remember, these guns were not intended to fire low brass, thus is where we run into problems. I installed the CSS (Carolina) reliabilty kit, which has a reduced recoil spring, new puck and 6 position gas knob. On top of that I polished the the entire bolt, carrier and hammer, as well as removed some material in some key areas to reduce resistence. It works fine, no issues. If you shoot only high brass and slugs than the Saiga will work everytime, but if you want to switch it up, than you’ll have to tinker. There are many shops who have done a great job on customs which run flawlessly.

  57. I’ve come so close to buying a saiga countless times and after having a few Mossbergs and a couple aks i figured it was due time, go to the gunshop to find there importation has been banned missed the rush by one day. Been on the phone and online all day and was hoping this article on how they “suck” would help me feel better it has not…

  58. Sorry for the late post, but I have to say that clearly it’s hit or miss and you can’t write off the gun based on one blogger. I’m glad to see some more reasonable comments towards the bottom. Mine has eaten everything I load in it just fine, except for the first time I shot it, and that was only because I wanted to see if it would run as dirty as it was from the first owner.

    The full trigger conversion only took me a couple hours despite being new to working on guns. I’m not even sure how many gas ports it has because I haven’t had occasion to check. It has been easy and fun to work on and customize, and I’m glad I bought it when I did.

    As far as the rounds deforming in the mags, I’ve left spare mags loaded for upwards of 6 months and they will still feed fine. You shouldn’t be letting your bedside gun sit unused that long anyway.

    • Rounds will not deform sitting in a spare mag. What will deform them is when you leave a full magazine loaded on a closed bolt. The pressure from a fully loaded spring will deform a plastic round sitting against the bolt.
      Russian shotgun shells have metal hulls that will not deform.

  59. Have to disagree. As a past owner of a mossberg 930spx, (which had been sent back to the factory several times for problems), I finally had enough and went the Saiga 12 route. It ran so-so right out of the box. After installing the carolina shooter supply “reliability kit” and upgraded gas puck it’s a night and day difference. Will cycle any light or heavy load I feed it with just a turn of the gas knob.
    The big problem with the Saiga 12’s I’ve noticed is finding the best magazine for your magwell. Some prefer agp, some SGM, and some pro mag. The factory saiga mags always run the best.

  60. i love my saiga. never had one problem with it from day one. took straight to range and dumped 200 shells without one hickup. no modifications, no cleaning, just took out of box and let loose. when i go to range i have to bring xtra shells cause everyone including the employees love shooting it. turns targets into confetti! i highly recommend getting one. i like sgm 12 rnd stick mags because u can load them so quick. all yea, only run cheapo walmart target loads too

  61. ive gone thru probably 3000 rnds without fieldstripping or deep cleaning my s12. that thing just goes man. only adjustment i had to make was filing down feedlips to promag 20 rnd drum to seat properly. u cannot help but to smile as u shoot the saiga. i enjoy this gun more than any other gun i own. do not listen to bullshit on this site and get one if u can. just make sure u oil it up and enjoy!

  62. wow I call bullshit on this post, it really irritates me when ass clowns(Nickholas Leghorn) write a bad review on a gun because in THERE OPINION they think it is crap. I own a saiga 12ga ZERO mods done to it, have shot over 600 round of anything and everything and you know what? I have had zero malfunction what so ever. It’s when idiots start tweeking there gun and adding crap to it malfunctions start. IMO operator error. Saiga 12ga great semi auto shotgun, but listen to the idiot who wrote this post and don’t buy a saiga so there wont be a high demand for them so prices can go down =p

      • Your absolutely right my apologies for the harsh response. We all love guns here so we are all family =p

    • Sorry but until the ban on imports is lifted or the company sells to a non banned owner prices for these guns won’t be coming down. Your right that the Saiga is one of the best semi auto shotguns for the money ever made.

      • Yup prices went stupid high after the ban ><, great semi auto indeed. I remember when the prices were 450-550 bucks now your looking around 1k

  63. This review is just ignorant. You are showing a COMBAT shotgun from Russia, the country that loathes the idea of modifying any gun, being modified to the extreme for a purpose it was never designed to fill. I love my Saiga 12 because I left it alone and use it for combat style shooting. I have no optics on it, no gas puck, factory spring and it runs Olin Corp 00 buckshot like a dream and I have videos to prove it. The problem you are having is you’re trying to use a hammer to do a scalpels job. You guys want something that will run light loads quickly, that isn’t the Saiga. If you want a shotgun that can blow in a door, shoot everything in the house, fall in a mud puddle and keep running then you want a Saiga. If you want to shoot birdshot at paper or steel targets in an open field while standing still then look elsewhere. Don’t be ignorant and say the Saiga isn’t a good tool because you used the wrong tool for the job.

    • Your Saiga was butchered before it was brought into this country. True it was designed to shoot high powered ammo. However the Russians never intended for the trigger to be in the ridiculous back of the receiver position with all that linkage crap attached. It was designed for the trigger to be up near the magazine catch. If you remove the plate on the bottom you will see the original hole for the trigger.
      With a few minor adjustments they can be made to shoot whatever you wish to put through them and be 100% reliable doing it. As they came from the factory they were pretty much 100% if all you ever shot were heavy loads. Many semi-auto shotguns have problems shooting low brass field and target loads, not just the Saiga.

  64. Hi I realize this is an older thread but I have to add my 2 cents…when I bought my saiga about 5 years ago I brought it home stock and put a few rounds through it and literally threw it across the yard !! I was furious I bought such a piece….after a few days of cool down time I decided to spend the money to convert my saiga ..and boy am I glad I did . I have approx over 10,000 rounds fired…love my saiga !!!

  65. Wow so many bad things about the saiga obviously this guy has had very little time with the Saiga or had none at all. Straight out of the box my saiga has fired over 3000 rounds 2 3/4 and 3 inch. Guess what? I had one jam that was easily fixed by pulling the bolt back kept going like a champ. The best shotgun ive ever owned. This review should only be taken as a opinion none the less.

  66. Real old post but the Saigas do have problems but u got to know what to look for. Just like buying a ak make sure everything’s straight and make sure the gas ports are showing. He must not of done to much research.. And I must say mine loves to do drum dumps with #8 1200fps. And thanks for complaint because I did the conversion myself and polished hammer and bolt. And 100% reliable with anything u put in it. No gas regulator or replacement puck. So the world best shooters and there gun smith couldn’t figure this out? But a tree climber for NE Ohio did. Dang, I must be a genius.THANKS!!

  67. You claim to be a firearms expert, so I would expect you to understand the pertinence of the need to upgrade this weapon out of the box. Since it comes from Russia this weapon requires importation in sporting configuration. I guess your need to complain about upgrading it stems from you lack of vision. You will never realize the pure unbridled raw power of a Saiga 12 with a Bumpski stock coupled with 30rd Wraithmaker drum. I’ll put Magdalena war machine up against any outdated overpriced shotgun you have.

    • About 7 or 8 years ago I first saw a modified saiga 12 which started my research. I learned the stock sporting configuration was junk. I searched a bunch of forums and pulled together all the information on how to convert it properly. I then found the top recommended gunsmith in our area. I purchased all the mods I wanted and took the stock gun, my box of parts, and some very specific directions found on Internet forums to the gunsmith shop. He put it together for me and I put some rounds through it.

      In short order a couple of adjustments needed to be made. I did more internet research and took the info back to the gunsmith. He made the tweaks and it has been 100% reliable all this time until about a month ago.

      I remember one of the tweaks that needed to be made was opening up the gas ports. I assumed they were clogged after years of use so I took it back to the smith for a deep cleaning.

      Just got the gun back today. Gunsmith said the ports were definitely clogged. He cleaned the ports and piston and it’s back in business.

      It’s just my experience, and it’s my gunsmith (which I’m sure makes a difference) but this gun absolutely can be reliable for long periods of time. I’ve put a lot of rounds through this over the years and accept that it may need a tune up every 7 years.

  68. Saiga-12 shotguns have problems with reliability. I often participate in practical shooting matches and see how Saiga-12 and Vepr-12 owners suffer from many problems.

  69. I hate to practice thread necromancy, but this post and many of the comments are just too bothersome.
    Semi auto shotguns are all inherently problematic when using light , cheap, or soft/inconsistent plastic shelled loads. It’s no different than condemning any sort of fine precision made firearm you prefer as unreliable junk because out of the box it won’t reliably cycle some absurd extra low recoil steel cased hollow point frangible nonsense rounds that weigh 40% as much as typical target ammo for your caliber.
    Shotshells were originally designed for use in break action firearms. It’s a marvel of engineering just to cycle high quality buck/slugs in a box magazine design.
    If you’re a cheap ass, and only willing to buy the bottom tier low recoil clay/birdshot, don’t get a semi auto shotgun. If you just really want to use garbage ammo in your saiga, you’ll need to leave the bolt locked back while in storage to wear down the tension a bit over time, or clip the first couple coils off the recoil spring. Some well placed polishing efforts will go a long way also. It’s not that big of a deal.
    An adjustable gas port does wonders, but why would you seriously consider the guns reliability with garbage ammo that’s not suitable for defense or hunting as a deal breaker when assessing it as practical weapon? I personally wouldn’t go to a giant unwieldy semi auto shotgun of any kind as my first choice for defensive situations, but is anybody really claiming the gun to be the best option for every possible scenario, and planning to choose it as the only firearm they own, or the one that’s next to your nightstand for the dreaded bump in the night duty, instead of locked away in the safe?
    12ga ammo’s unparalleled adaptability is what makes new firearm designs based on the saiga appealing through load choices ranging from the innovative fin stabilized sabots, or the unmatched in conventional firearm chamberings, less lethal options to the somewhat absurd $200-300 taser rounds, or slugs that expand into 5 slugs attached by cables in a 10’ diameter “net”… so why would you buy one and demand it be custom tuned for something like bulk discount clay shooting ammo?

  70. I’ve owned one for yrs–dont run lo brass; use 5rnd mags(2taped together ),had bad performance w higher rnd mags. I use 00 buck and slugs and have never had an issue. real problem is these quick draw 3 gunner fucks who are so fuking hi tech they couldnt shoot a live moving target– unless maybe a buzzer or little ding told em to– writer shut the fuk up and get some experience– if your buddy had 10 and they were all crap why the fuck would you keep buying them–

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