5 Ass-kicking AK Shotguns

AK pattern shotguns have become very common on US soil. Building off the Kalashnikov’s legendary reliability,  these guns promised consumers speed, ergonomics, and capacity unlike any other shotgun before them. The catch is that these guns didn’t enter into the country in high-speed form. Our inscrutable system of laws and regulations prevent the import of some guns that are not meant for “sporting” purposes.

The Saiga 12, sporterized, is a humble shotgun, but effective.

The Saiga 12, sporterized, is a humble shotgun, but effective.

But we still import them. We convert them from cheesy import compliant configurations into tacticool combat shotguns. These conversions make them shorter, more reliable, and–most importantly–functionally ergonomic. The Saiga 12 remains (in many considered opinions) the best platform to build on. But new sanctions mean we can’t import those. So what’s still out there?

Saiga 12

Buy one on GunsAmerica: /Saiga 12

The Saiga 12 entered the market in the early 2000’s as a sporting shotgun. They were not incredibly reliable, they were far from ergonomic, but they were plentiful and inexpensive. As aftermarket support became available, the Saiga 12 became the project gun of America. At this time the Saiga 12 monopolized the market, they were the greatest and only magazine fed option for the semiautomatic shotgunner. And the kick ass. If you are even somewhat mechanically inclined, you can keep them running forever.

The reason why the gun inspires so many is because they're easy to modify into really effective shotguns.

The reason why the gun inspires so many is because they’re easy to modify into really effective shotguns.

In 2014 the gun more or less hit a brick wall when the Obama administration cut off supply with sanctions against Russia. If you want a Saiga now, you are limited to the stock that is already in the country. With a dwindling supply, they now bring a premium. In their unconverted state, they consist of a hunting style straight stock and forend and a short magazine. And the price you’ll pay for one seems like highway robbery to those who know what they had cost before.

What needs work on a Saiga? At a bare minimum, you need to retrofit the trigger system to a standard pistol grip configuration. On the high-end, this conversion consists of changing everything form the furniture, trigger, to the gas system.

If you’re a purist and want the real thing, the Saiga 12s can be found online for around $725 in their import configuration and right around $1000 for a converted one. They are still great options but have truly been priced out of the competition by lower cost, ready-to-go shotguns.

VEPR 12

Buy one on GunsAmerica: /VEPR 12

The VEPR 12 is the shotgun that took over where the Saiga 12s left off. Still keeping true to the Russian design, these guns are just about everything a converted Saiga 12 could ever want to be. And they’re unaffected by Obama’s sanctions–which only affected Izmash and Kalashnikov, and not Molot (a company that hadn’t been fully integrated into the larger umbrella of brands, which meant it was–perhaps accidentally–left off the sanction list). These shotguns have continued to be imported from Russia. The Molot Vepr 12 come standard with all the improvements of a converted Saiga plus much more; some of these features include pistol grips, folding stocks, auto adjusting gas regulators, upgraded magwells, last round bolt hold opens, and railed dust-covers. These are standard features of the Vepr 12, and truly set it apart from its Saiga 12 brother in value. Upgrades can be made, but-in my opinion-are unnecessary. These guns come from the factory ready to go.

The VEPR is still being imported.

The VEPR is still being imported.

Not only are you getting a superior weapon with all these factory features, but you are also getting it for less than the Saiga 12. These guns retail for between $800 – $900. Mechanically these weapons are very similar. Hell, they may even share a few of the same parts, but its very clear that the Saiga 12 is where the AK platform shotgun started and the VEPR is where it left off.

Catamount Fury

Buy one on GunsAmerica: /Catamount Fury

The Catamount Fury is another contender that has been trying to unseat the Saiga 12 since its import restriction. Manufactured in China and imported through Century Arms, these guns are hybrids of both import friendliness and user desired features. These guns come with railed top covers, adjustable gas systems, magazine wells, and last round bolt hold opens.

Odds are you own a Chinese phone. Why not own a Chinese shotgun?

Odds are you own a Chinese phone. Why not own a Chinese shotgun?

Though these features are great, these guns lack aftermarket support. Making one of these guns 922R compliant, or converting it to a standard pistol grip configuration is costly due to the lack of aftermarket parts. As time progresses I’m sure we will see more accessories for the Catamount as well as options for customization.

If you accept these guns in their factory configuration, you begin to appreciate them for the low cost option they are. Retailing for around $650, the Catamounts are good to go out of the box. Are they superior to guns like the Saiga 12 and the Vepr 12? No, but if you are faced with a budget the Catamount furry is more than capable.

Kalashnikov US109T

http://www.kalashnikov-usa.com/firearms/tactical-shotgun-us109t

The Kalashnikov US109T may just be the gun that America has been waiting for. It is a USA produced Saiga 12 clone built from the ground up as a combat shotgun. It sports features like a pinned muzzle break that brings the barrel length to 18.5 inches, an enlarged gas port and gas block, vented front handguard, and a 6 position collapsible buttstock. Staying true to its Saiga 12 lineage, the US109T is a shotgun built to the specs of its Russian counterpart. It utilizes all of the aftermarket accessories already established in the market and isn’t restricted by 922R compliance, as it isn’t an import.

We have one of these coming in this week, so we'll have a full review of it shortly.

We have one of these coming in this week, so we’ll have a full review of it shortly.

The actual retail price on the US109T is not yet set, but is promised to be competitive with other AK platform shotguns, so we are expecting them to retail for under $1000. They are set to ship this month and are sure to become instant favorites with the AK platform shotgun community.

Alternate Caliber AK platform Shotguns 20 and 410 Gauge

Buy one on GunsAmerica: /Saiga 20

Buy one on GunsAmerica: /Saiga 410

AK platform shotguns are known for there high capacity and 12 gauge bore. At the time this article was written, there was no current production or import of anything but 12 gauge AK platform shotguns, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any available. For the years that the Saiga 12 was imported, its less popular (but equally as impressive) 20 gauge and 410 counterparts were also in production.

The 12 gauge Saiga commands a high price. But the other calibers are just as good, and easier on the shoulder.

The 12 gauge Saiga commands a high price. But the other calibers are just as good, and easier on the shoulder.

They are still available on the secondhand market. The 20 gauge sells for around $800 and the 410 sells for around $600. Either of these guns make the perfect compromise for someone looking for the maximum functionality and reliability offered by the AK platform shotguns but who is sensitive to the brutal recoil of 12 gauge.

All in all, the AK shotguns aren’t going anywhere. These guns are blazing fast and great options if you are looking for something more than a traditional auto-loading shotgun. They have an edge over traditional semi-automatic shotguns thanks to their removable magazines, and once they are broken in they are much more reliable than a traditional autoloader. You have to accept the unorthodox controls, extra weight, and slower manual of arms-but the trade off is more than worth it.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Aaron March 22, 2017, 10:24 pm

    I wanted to rrad this article however, I had to stop reading once the author said plenty full instead of plentiful.

  • David McCall August 12, 2016, 8:41 am

    would anyone know where I could buy mags or drums for my molot 12 ga. AK

    • Ken in SoCal December 23, 2016, 10:30 pm

      Buy 8 round steel VEPR 12 Ga mags at Csspecs, My 8 round mag holds 9 rounds. FYI

  • ejharb October 4, 2015, 5:33 pm

    Nobody yet mentioned that you must select your ammo carefully. Hulls that are soft will deform under magazine preasure and cause feed way stoppages. This goes double for those who leave magazines fully loaded for long duration. Pinch the loaded round and if it flattens easy save it for other guns.

    • MikeD December 12, 2015, 12:23 am

      The comment about shell deformation is one of those over blow things on the Internet. Yes, If you leave a mag in the gun against a closed bolt you will eventually get deformation on the top round. The shell under neath don’t though… Lock your bolt to the rear and for storage and the problem goes away. I have yet to see the slightest deformation of shells in a magazine stored loaded in this fashion or stored out of the gun… I have just a touch of experience in the matter being the owner of MD Arms…

      On a side note… Glad to see you got your FFL, Anthony! Nice build!

      • evlutionz LLC January 1, 2016, 11:46 am

        Mike,
        I appreciate the kind words. I have had my FFL for a while and do a good job of laying low 😉 On your MD-20 drums, they have been the toughest, most reliable mags I have encountered for the Saiga 12. I look forward to your future offerings. I’m sure they will be just as great.

      • Paul Meadows October 14, 2016, 10:16 am

        I love my MD-20. I’m thinking of buying a VEPR 12 down the road. Any plans on making drums for those and also are you still making the gas plugs for the Saiga 12? Thanks

      • Dennis May 12, 2017, 4:40 pm

        My next door neighbor brought a AK-47, 12ga. Back from nam with him I was thinking about buying it. It’s the smoothest and most accurate shotgun I have ever fired. What is the going price on the actual AK-47 12ga they used in nam?

    • ejharb October 20, 2016, 6:07 am

      Came back to this after a long time and I see your comment.it’s been long enough I can say that during a confrontation I managed to reach my saiga and attempted to charge it,the guy coming at me had a sigma 9mm.how do i know? Because he dropped it when he saw was I was trying to stop him with and took off.
      I still have the sigma it’s put away for rough times but the saiga? I sold it for a 870,if I had needed it I’d be dead.
      You have a nice day and I hope if you need the weapon you have that it will work for you.

  • GunFun ZS September 8, 2015, 12:49 am

    Uncredited photo credit (c) Anthony Hitch, AKA Evolutions LLC.

  • evlutionz LLC September 7, 2015, 11:11 pm

    Please credit Anthony Hitch, evlutionz LLC for my Saiga 12 SBS pic shown above. Much appreciated. I was pleased to see it here. You have great taste.

  • evlutionz LLC September 7, 2015, 10:07 pm

    If anyone is wondering who built that gorgeous 6.5″ Saiga 12 SBS shown above it was me, Anthony Hitch. My shop is evlutionz LLC and I am an 07FFL/02SOT. I can be found on youtube as evlblkwpnz channel and evlutionz LLC channel. Please direct all work inquiries to evlutionz@comcast.net.
    Best Regards,
    evl….

  • Robt.C.Wiltgen September 1, 2015, 9:23 am

    It sure beats a 45Colt1911A under the Pillow.I like this Carolina Shooters place I see it on the Comp. I must make it a plase to shop ,at the store thou. I do have abt 6 or 7 thousand rounds mcl’s ammo.Mostly shotguns and I have 7 or 8 custom Mauser action rifle’s.I am not into pistols.I was looking for a nice o/u 410.28,20 shot gun something with a good name.I thought that would my last gun until I spotted your informative article Thanx RobtC.Wiltgen Ret Lt.USN

  • Mikial August 27, 2015, 10:51 pm

    I bought my Saiga 12 a few years ago new for $550. I added a couple of Hi-Cap mags and a light, and it is the gun that is in the rack that fits alongside the mattress at the side of my bed at night. Loaded with a 12 round mag of 00 Buck, I am confident that anyone coming into our home at night won’t be walking out again.

    I take it to the range to shoot (they will only let me shoot slugs) and it works like a champ. It kicks those empty casings out with enthusiasm and it’s fun to see the other shooter’s reaction.

    I love this shotgun!

  • budzo August 24, 2015, 8:44 am

    The Saiga 12, sporterized, has it’s trigger set mounted rearward compared to the The Kalashnikov US109T, making it difficult if not impossible to mount a folding stock on it unless you can find the right adapter to extend the receiver so to speak to allow for the pistol grip to be installed. Are there how to articles on moving the trigger forward to allow a p grip to be installed or is it a simple fix, or have I missed finding the needed right parts..

    • AK August 24, 2015, 4:34 pm

      Carolina Shooters supply is a good place to start. Theyve got some good videos too.

  • Jay August 24, 2015, 6:57 am

    Most of these shotguns, each comes with there own set of drawbacks for the american public. I like the fact that they are all easily modified,videos and after market parts are catching up for those who like to tinker and build them up into thier own style. This falls in line with why so many like the AK47s easily modified and parts availability. The article doesn’t mention the Catamount FuryII which is the latest version of the Fury. The main difference being the addition of a mag well. These can use a modified VEPR 12 round magazine and work well if you do a little spring modification. Most of these will not cycle the cheapo shotgun ammo, that which is around 1200fps and a lot of us buy at Wally world for plinking in the sun but can be modified to do so! If you do venture into this style shotgun Do Your Research and then buy, you’ll be glad you did! To each their own!

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