Equipping for disaster

Review: Izhmash/Russian American Armory Saiga 12 Tactical

By Blaise Uriarte

The Basics:

The Saiga 12 was originally designed at Izhmash with input from Mikhail Kalashnikov to be a semi-automatic sporting shotgun. It is a piston operated gun based off the basic Kalashnikov design, with a rotating bolt and feeding from a detachable box magazine. It does differ from the standard design by utilizing an adjustable gas port.

They are currently not imported into the US due to an executive order signed last summer, but when they were imported it was in the sporting configuration with a standard Monte Carlo style stock. Guns in this configuration are typically converted by the importer or individual gunsmiths. The conversion involves moving the trigger group forward, and adding the vertical pistol grip.

This model has a Fab defense collapsible stock, UTG quad rail fore-end, Tapco pistol grip 12 round box magazine and an inexpensive BSA red-dot sight.

The Ammo

This firearm is chambered to handle up to 3 inch magnum shells. This test featured Winchester Military 2 ¾ inch 9 pellet buckshot loads, and Remington Slugger 1 oz 2 ¾ inch loads. The most important aspect of a shotgun is the versatility of loads. The user can fire a range of shot sizes, or slugs or basically whatever fits in the bore. The shotgun is an amazing tool in the right hands, and can also be a huge force multiplier in tactical situations or for self-defense. 12 gauge loads are also the most common nationwide, making ammo easy to get, but at an average price of a dollar a round it is not the cheapest gun to shoot.

The Range Test

saiga 12range

After dialing in and cleaning the gas system, this gun ran beautifully without any hiccups. Recoil was within comfortable limits with the butt pad and shock absorber built into the stock. Muzzle rise is pretty substantial, but with practice and proper technique accurate rapid fire is possible.

It shot relatively well patterning nicely at 7 and 10 yards. All of the shot stayed in the silhouette, which is ideal. Going any further and I would recommend altering the choke on the weapon. Shooters must bear in mind that understanding patterns is key to utilizing the shotgun to its maximum effectiveness.

saiga 12 target

The Pluses

This shotgun is a pretty interesting piece of equipment. I had a blast shooting it (pun intended). It is reliable as long as the gas ports are clean, it can run almost any load with the proper setting on the gas ports, and it patterns well with no choke. Additionally the quad rail ads versatility to the operator and the barrel is threaded to accept chokes or muzzle devices. The detachable magazine also makes reloads efficient.

The Minuses

This gun is heavy and bulky, but that is the price you pay for maximum firepower. The main downside to this gun in my opinion is the gas ports clog up relatively quickly. Plastic and carbon fouling can quickly cause issues with reliability. A strict cleaning regiment must be followed with this type of gun.


All and all I feel this is a decent weapon to arm yourself with against the undead. With a high capacity magazine one could rapidly mow down an entire hoard. You also have the versatility of different ammo types. But you have to know your weapon and keep it maintained. This gun requires maintenance, and will hiccup on you if you do not do so. With that in mind, it is not difficult to keep it running. As always stay vigilant and be prepared.

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