I have been using AK-based weapons for decades, including shotguns. My VEPR-12 remains a favorite, and I have owned more than a few Saigas over the years. While out-of-the-box AK-based shotguns can be a bit problematic, if tuned correctly they run well, shoot softly, and provide the advantage of a detachable box magazine design.
Detachable box magazine shotguns like these offer a lot of advantages. If you have the time to perfect the technique, more traditional tubular fed shotguns can be amazing, but just not easy for most people to master. Many see tubular magazines as training-intensive and limiting in both capacity and versatility. It’s one of the reasons many police agencies no longer issue shotguns, preferring the ease of operation an AR provides. Using a rifle-based shotgun can solve some of those issues. Employing one of the most proven and simple designs ever engineered, AK-based shotguns can be excellent home defense and tactical weapons.
Building around the AK has traditionally provided some stumbling blocks. Controls are less than left-hand friendly, safeties can be hard to reach and adding rails is costly and complicated. Most out-of-the-box guns are rudimentary, requiring substantial upgrades. Imported magazines are restricted in capacity, with aftermarket designs being less than optimal.
CHAMBERING: 12 ga., 2¾ inch
BARREL: 10 inches
OA LENGTH: 30 inches
WEIGHT: 6 pounds
STOCK: AR-style collapsible, folding
ACTION: Gas-operated, semi-auto
FINISH: Matte black
CAPACITY: Detachable box magazines and drums
Several companies have tried to address these issues, but short of what amounts to a custom build they can be difficult to deal with. High-dollar custom shotguns are great, with many dedicated to the 3-Gun gaming world. However, few are designed to be modular with the tactical user in mind.
Fostech has come up with an interesting design that seems to address these issues. Built in the USA, import restrictions don’t apply. Coupled with a number of upgrades designed around years of requests from users, the Origin -12 a refreshing change. Available in a standard length with an 18.5″ barrel, it can also be had as a short 10″-barreled shotgun.
Long & Short of It
One of the best design features of the Fostech Origin-12 is ease in changing barrels. Turning a standard AK shotgun into an SBS (Short Barreled Shotgun) ranges from inconvenient to monumentally difficult. Stick with a 14” barrel and it’s not too intensive. You may be able to polish some things up, change the gas piston and it can work. Get shorter and most require shortening the gas system and some serious tuning. Move down to a 10” barrel and you are generally limited to full bore, high-brass buckshot or slugs for consistent operation.
They work, but it turns a pretty soft-shooting shotgun into a shoulder-fired jackhammer. Training becomes costly and painful, and most end up languishing in a safe. It’s a ton of money to spend on a gun you will probably never use. Fostech’s unique design makes the process simple and painless and their gas system allows operation with lighter loads.
You can order the Origin as an SBS from Fostech with the usual transfer times to your dealer, then to you. You can also start with the standard version, complete the appropriate NFA paperwork and register your existing 18.5”. As a Title 2 manufacturer, it’s a simple matter of filling out a form for me.
Swapping out barrels takes a minute or two. Remove the barrel pin, slide off the long barrel and reverse the process. Done! No gunsmithing needed. No fitting; just makes sure it all lines up, perform a function check and head to the range! Since many 3-Gun competitions have restrictions on barrel length, it also allows you to switch back to the long barrel easily.
Starting with a basic AK-pattern shotgun design, Fostech built around it from the ground up. Employing a good amount of polymer, it is relatively lightweight. Modular, it consists of a receiver and separate hand guard and barrel assembly. The barrel, gas tube, gas block and hand guard are all part of one separate module. It comes with rails on the top, both sides, and bottom along with a flip-up front sight. Each barrel module can stay zeroed to the rear sight regardless of length.
Gas is adjusted using a ported gas plug allowing you to bleed off gas as needed with heavier loads. It is restricted to 2.75” shells, which keeps it a tad shorter and lighter. Using standard Saiga/Vepr threads, the barrel will accept flash hiders, muzzle brakes or standoffs for these guns. Fluted and constructed of high-strength steel, the barrel is light with an attractive look. Installation and removal is easy; just slide it over the op rod on the lower and lock it in place using the barrel pin. It makes cleaning a breeze.
Controls are ambidextrous and easily reachable with either hand. Ambidextrous safeties allow access with the thumb or first finger of either hand in any position. A forward non-reciprocating, left-side charging handle sits forward of the receiver. The top cover is high-strength polymer and includes a rail that mates up to the hand guard rail. The magazines are rock solid and built very strong, using polymer bodies and steel feed lips. Insertion is straight up and in, and they are available in 5-, 8- and 10-round capacities. Also available are 20- and 30-round drums.
Locking open on the last round, the Origin-12 has a bolt release accessible using your strong hand. It allows you to run the shotgun using just your strong hand and never needing to come out of the “pocket.” Push the magazine release lever in front of the trigger guard and the magazines drop free. The Origin-12 uses a large ejection port cover that snaps open upon firing or when the charging handle is cycled. Snapping it closed keeps dirt and dust out of the action.
An AR-style stock slides over a buffer tube attached to a super strong folding mechanism. Using the standard stock, it folds flat on the left side of the shotgun, and the shotgun can be fired in this condition. Polymer flip up sights are included and co-witnessed my Shield red dot sight perfectly. Shield’s RDS is proving to be robust and easy to use for me, making it perfect for a shotgun.
Testing very short-barreled AK shotguns can be frustrating, if not painful. Most require full-length brass buckshot at 1,350 fps or more (mostly more), just to function consistently. They work and are great for duty applications, but not so much fun on the range.
The Origin-12 with the short 10” barrel was better than most. Attaching a King Armory KA1212 BR breaching brake was step one for me. It extends the barrel out a bit for safety, but more importantly it’s made of hardened steel. It’s not just a cosmetic attachment. The KA1212 provides excellent flash suppression and recoil reduction, and can even tighten some patterns. Using a square no-snag tooth design, it locks into doors for breaching without tearing up your gear. I have used this same muzzle device on numerous door breaches on a few other shotguns and it remains one of the strongest on the market.
Using light 1,150 fps loads with the gas at full-tilt, the SBR worked most of the time. Clean, oiled and pressed very tightly into the shoulder, it ran pretty consistently. Running dirty and with a loose shoulder, and it was less than reliable. Given most short-barreled AK shotguns won’t run this at all, it was a good start. Moving up to the 1,200 to 1,250 fps loads improved things. Keeping it tight to the shoulder, it ran most of the time, ejecting hulls a couple feet from the port. After a couple hundred rounds it would fail to eject on occasion.
It really liked the Federal LE127 9 pellet 00 buckshot, cycling no matter how fast the trigger was pressed. Patterning was tight and you could shoot it all day long without any shoulder tenderness. It’s the same ammunition my Benelli M4 likes as well as my Mossberg 955 and was developed specifically for semi-autos. It has worked in my standard guns, just not one with a 10” barrel. So, the Origin-12 is a winner there. It also ran the Hornady Critical Defense well. At 1,600 fps it was a bit stouter, but it ran well and patterned the best of all out of this short barrel, likely due to the Versa Tite wad.
Patterning was similar to most shotguns. Quality tactical buckshot holds the pellets in the wad for a short distance after leaving the barrel. It makes the barrel length less meaningful. My tightest pattern with the Hornady was 4.75 inches at 20 yards, keeping well within the preferred size of a “fist.” From 5 to 15 yards it produced just one large hole.
Fostech has done a great job on the controls. Accessing the safety from any ready position with either hand was easy. It was possible to operate it exactly the same as my AR rifles. They included an oversized charging handle on this one and it was really easy to access when needed. Since it does not reciprocate, it does not interfere.
I equipped the receiver rail with a Shield SIS (Switchable Interface Sight). Shield’s SIS has an auto adjust brightness meter that worked really well. Moving in and out of the shoot house, it dimmed as needed on entry very quickly. It can also be adjusted manually. You can switch between a 1 MOA dot alone, 1 dot and ring, 8 MOA dot, or 8 MOA and ring. There are other versions available including one with a 2 MOA dot and BDC. Cycling through was pretty easy, but I landed on the 1 MOA dot and ring and stayed there. My eyes pick up the ring very quickly while allowing me to keep the dot small just in case precision is needed without occluding the target. This was a fantastic combination for an entry shotgun.
Magazines insert straight in, locking into place. It took a bit more pressure, but they inserted when full on a closed bolt. If you are using marginal ammunition in terms of cycling, you will want to download one round. With the buckshot it worked great.
Short-barreled shotguns are great for tactical use, and the Fostech is excellent in this role. Not only can you use a red dot sight with ease, the supplied sights are usable by anyone used to an AR. The barrel module includes rails for easy attachment of lights or lasers. Made in America, none of the annoying 922r import restrictions apply. You can use the AR stock of your choice, making it possible to facilitate a good sling.
It really has all you need for an entry shotgun, and for a 10” barrel it is about as reliable as it gets. Pricing is about the same as a standard AK shotgun followed by tons of gunsmithing that may take months. Tactical shotguns are not for everyone, but for some, like me, they are a great choice. If that’s you, take a close look at the Fostech!
For more information, visit http://fostechoutdoors.com/.