Molot Vepr 12 – Saiga 12 alternative or upgrade?

Buy one on GunsAmerica: http://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=vepr%2012

Get the scoop on the AK pattern shotguns: http://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/5-ass-kicking-ak-shotguns/

Check out the VEPRs at Atlantic Firearms: https://www.atlanticfirearms.com/vepr-12-gauge-shotgun2

AK platform shotguns are nothing new. They have been around for over a decade. Traditionally these shotguns are imported into the United States. Being the land of the free and home of the brave, you would expect more from the guns being imported. Sadly the AK variant shotguns we have traditionally received are neutered, bastardized, and (in my opinion) destroyed before they ever make it into our hands. The industry refers to these abominations as “sporterized.” Think of it like this–some AK shotguns are built, reconfigured, imported, then rebuilt. The more people you have involved in the process, the more likely it is that you will see a screw-up.

They leave a lot to be desired in their import friendly form. Yet these guns have supplied a great base to build upon–if you have the time, talent, and/or money. But the soul of the gun is strong and the potential is there. What do you do if you want a gun, and not a summer project?

The gun isn't terribly heavy, but it is long.

The Vepr isn’t terribly heavy, but it is long.

VEPR

The Molot Vepr 12 isn’t like previous AK platform blasters. It hasn’t been neutered. It isn’t bastardized. In my considered opinion, the Vepr is better than the best Saiga 12 or other AK platform shotguns. It packs the same punch, but does it at a much more economical price point. These guns are ready to go out of the box–and in their original configuration.

Specifications and Features

  • 12 gauge – 2 ¾” or 3”
  • Self regulating gas system
  • 5 round box magazine
  • 18 inch Barrel
  • 38.5′ Overall
  • Fixed Tubular Stock
  • Railed top cover
  • Chrome lined barrel, chamber, receiver shaft and gas chamber
  • Last round bolt hold open
  • External threading for chokes
  • Adjustable front and rear sights
  • Rubber check pad/ riser
  • $799.00
Magazines come in various length--none of them hold enough for my tastes. A drum is in the works from SureFire.

Magazines come in various length–none of them hold enough for my tastes. A drum is in the works from SureFire.

The padded stock and cheek-rest are excellent additions.

The padded stock and cheek-rest are excellent additions.

Design

The Vepr 12 is very similar the standard Kalashnikov shotgun. It uses similar parts but works off of a stronger foundation. Built around an RPK receiver, these guns are more or less an AK on steroids. Beyond the thicker steel, these guns also sport other RPK inspirations–notable the handguard and rear sight; the rest is just classic AK design.

What sets the Vepr 12 above its competition are its 21st century features–things like its last round bolt hold open, competition inspired mag well and straight insert magazines. It also has a railed top cover and an auto adjusting gas system. These features make the gun ergonomic. They make the gun much more efficient. To have these features added to a stock AK platform shotgun could cost more than buying a Vepr 12 and a half.

Recoil from the Vepr is easy to handle, thanks in part to the gas system.

Recoil from the Vepr is easy to handle, thanks in part to the gas system.

Shooting the Vepr 12

Shooting the Vepr 12 is a lot like shooting any other semiautomatic shotgun. The recoil is tame. The controls are a bit stretched out and the ammunition never seems to last as long as you think it will. Unlike other autos, loading the Vepr has been greatly simplified.

It feeds from 5, 8, or even 12 round magazines. Reloading is very similar to other AK platform shotguns with the exception of two beautiful features found on the Vepr. Because of the last round bolt hold open and a magazine well, mag changes are fluid and effortless. There is no need for the awkward sequence of locking the bolt back, rocking in a magazine, and then releasing the bolt. It’s as easy as ejecting the empty magazine, inserting the fresh magazine, and pressing the bolt release.

Recoil in the Vepr is mild and, with out a doubt, manageable. The gun incorporates a few things to help manage recoil. A rubber recoil pad is molded onto the stock and there is a rubber check riser to help shield your face from the metal tube. All-in-all, the improvements help make what would be a questionably painful experience some what pleasant.

How well does it pattern?

Accuracy of smooth bore shotguns has never really been anything special. With standard or cylinder bore shotguns, all you can ask for is a decent pattern. The Vepr is no exception to this generalization. It produces a modest 8-inch pattern at 10 yards and a not so impressive 12 inch pattern at 20 yards. If you require tighter groups, or just want a slightly better pattern, it is threaded for chokes.

Slugs, on the other hand, are a more accurate option. Making hits on a human sized steel plate at 20 yards is easy. Moving out past 50 yards, the gun is still capable of producing solid and consistent hits.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics and AK platform anything don’t exactly jive. Purists like the AK the way it was originally produced, but everybody can agree that it is outdated. The Vepr attacks the design flaws and brings the gun up to date. Starting at the back, the gun sports a rubber butt pad as well as the 3 position padded check rest we talked about earlier. The last bit of added comfort is a finger-grooved plastic pistol grip.

The rest of the upgrades are focused on function. The Vepr has an upgraded safety lever that allows you to switch the gun off safe with out shifting your hand. It is a bit uncomfortable to use, but is very functional. The gun also has a ribbed handguard that ensures positive traction in all conditions. Remember this is still an AK platform shotgun. Any major upgrades would most likely require a major redesign of the platform.

Note the thumb ledge on the safety. This is a minor change that make operation much easier.

Note the thumb ledge on the safety. This is a minor change that make operation much easier.

The railed top-cover makes mounting optics easy, and they return to zero easy enough when the cover is closed.

The railed top-cover makes mounting optics easy, and they return to zero easy enough when the cover is closed.

Wrapping it up

In the end the Vepr 12 is a lot like other AK platform shotguns. Like 1911s and AR-15s, there’s no way around the obvious similarities within the genre. But where the others left off in function, the Vepr picks up. It is the best version of the weapon and truly beats its competition by a mile in value. It retails for less than the cost of a converted or upgraded Saiga shotgun. Molot got it right.

But let’s step back and consider the Vepr and how it compares to other tactical shotguns. Is there a benefit to the design–something that the typical auto-loading tactical shotgun doesn’t offer? I think so. It functions more like a rifle. If you aren’t accustomed to loading a magazine tube, but know how to load a rifle mag, this gun will feel much more intuitive. And it is fast. On top of that, you have unfailing reliability and the ease of maintenance that the AK platform is known for.

One last thing. I’m a realist. I’m not a fear monger. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Vepr’s future isn’t really clear. It’s not clear if these guns will be affected by future government sanctions (like the Saigas). The supply could dry up the next time the President picks up his pen. That’s what happens to kickass imported guns. If you’re on the fence about the Vepr 12, now may be a good time to pounce.

The Burris Fastfire series of red-dot optics is a great option for rapid target acquisition.

The Burris Fastfire series of red-dot optics is a great option for rapid target acquisition.

The optic itself is protected by a steel wrap that takes the majority of the abuse of everyday use.

The optic itself is protected by a steel wrap that takes the majority of the abuse of everyday use.

Read a review of the FastFire here: https://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/burris-fast-fire-iii/

My favorite feature of the FastFire III is the white line that points to the dot. There's no way to miss it. It is the best kind of racing stripe.

My favorite feature of the FastFire III is the white line that points to the dot. There’s no way to miss it. It is the best kind of racing stripe.

With a good optic zeroed, the Vepr is faster to the target, and more effective.

With a good optic zeroed, the Vepr is faster to the target, and more effective.

The long magazine holds more, but it requires a bit of practice. It is easy to see how it can limit range of motion.

The long magazine holds more, but it requires a bit of practice. It is easy to see how it can limit range of motion.

The guts should be familiar to the AK enthusiasts.

The guts should be familiar to the AK enthusiasts.

The safety is an AK safety--like it or not. But the thumb ledge helps keep your right hand on the grip.

The safety is an AK safety–like it or not. But the thumb ledge helps keep your right hand on the grip.

The 12 round mag from SGM Tactical is a beast.

The 12 round mag from SGM Tactical is a beast.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • joel sales December 16, 2016, 11:39 pm

    Wow this rifle looks scary. Two thumbs up!

  • L. B. Sambo December 14, 2015, 9:23 am

    These guys and the other guys making the Black Aces need to get together and start making these with short barrels and folding arm braces to meet the overall length requirement (see the Black Aces article in this issue). Now THAT is what we want!!!!!!!

  • loupgarous October 21, 2015, 8:41 pm

    Oh, baby. A crowd-pleaser. Basically the perfect gun for a country whose President considers mass violence in the streets an “understandable reaction” to failure to railroad a police officer on bogus charges of manslaughter while defending himself.

    Every American, regardless of tan, ought to own one of these and have the training to use it to calm rioters down.

  • David allen October 21, 2015, 11:46 am

    The vepr 12 is cool but the only thing different than the catamount furry II is the buttstock. I live mine and think it’s better than the sega. It has lock back and straight slide in mag along with adjustable gas valve. I think you should compare those two and tell me what you think.

  • Mikial October 21, 2015, 12:02 am

    Nice gun.
    I like the way the mag inserts straight in with the bolt hold open. My Saiga is a bit more complicated to deal with, but I’m still very happy with it. It resides in a mattress mount rack on my side of the bed with a 12 round mag filled with 00 and a mounted light. It has always been 100% reliable and I trust it with my life at night. We keep our bedroom door locked and reinforced at night and anyone trying to get in would be in for a very unpleasant surprise . . . but they wouldn’t be surprised for long.

  • SG October 20, 2015, 11:37 am

    Saga barrel threads and Vepr threads are the same. Just make sure you use a barrel jam nut and if you plan on shooting a lot at on time [50 ot 100] rounds use a Locktite thread locker that is removable in case you want to replace what is on the end of the barrel.

  • JC October 19, 2015, 9:45 pm

    Oddly enough, my VEPR came with a folding stock. Although it has been welded open, it’s nothing that a couple minutes with a dremel couldn’t remedy (although such a modification would technically be illegal). As for a railed upper, check out Carolina Shooters Supply. They have more VEPR parts in stock than anywhere else I have found. They seem to be good people too, which is a rare bonus in today’s world of get-rich-quick gun dealers. As for finding a VEPR priced right, check out Atlantic Firearms. They are selling them for $799, plus you get 100 rounds of Wolf ammo thrown in for free (well, free, less shipping).

    http://www.carolinashooterssupply.com/

    • Dave K. October 20, 2015, 12:36 pm

      You only have to swap out a part or two, then you can legally return it to folding configuration, although, the only thing that’s really good for is transportation. The only thing driving me a little nuts is how hard it is to get that damn pin out for the magazine release. I have a steel magazine well and extended release that look like they might just have to sit around until I get a gunsmith to take a shot at it. Also, compare prices from http://4range.com before buying accessories. Sometimes they have better prices, and as a bonus, your Russian parts come padded in wadded up Russian newspaper. Classic Firearms is where I bought mine ($799), but a couple of months later they were selling for $699! Still feel like I got a good deal. Have fun. Dave

  • Mahatma Muhjesbude October 19, 2015, 11:50 am

    Okay, we’re getting there with a good CQB semi-auto 12GA. But still not quite there yet. Especially with a minimum price tag between 900 – 1700 bucks. I wonder why one of these U.S.gun makers doesn’t get escape from their mental prisons and get off the anal AK retentiveness and start over and just ‘re-invent’ the semiauto shotgun for specific purpose short home defense style battles. Something like they did with that large drummed NFA one they had many years ago that i really liked. Or maybe a bullpup with a compact 15 round drum. I did a mock up in foam a while back of this and it was very handy and comfortable as the drum would only be about 6 inches in diameter and fits comfortable over your chest when shouldered?

    • Bob October 20, 2015, 8:19 am

      I purchased the UTS-15, and its great for home defense with a 15 rd capacity and the double round chambers located on both sides of the barrel enables you to load different types of rounds and access them with the use of a selector switch, one chamber loaded with 00 buck and the other with slugs or whatever you like, has a threaded barrel for a choke, I have a door breacher choke on mine, you can also purchase the light and laser which are mounted inside the weapon, If you want to get away from the AK platform style, or pay out the nose for the bull pup design by Kel-tec (KSG). I have shot many different rounds from non-lethal to behive through mine and never had any problem, the only thing I dont like is the release is mounted under the butt stock, other than that, its a fine weapon, can be purchased in black or different kinds of a camo finish for around 800, Alantic firearms were great to deal with and has a great warranty. Hope this helps, have a great one.

      • Ken October 21, 2015, 3:59 am

        sounds a bit overkill for home defense.

      • Jesse October 21, 2015, 8:39 pm

        There is no such thing as overkill if you break into my home. You are more than likely going out in a body bag.

  • DistalRadius October 19, 2015, 11:36 am

    This version is still neutered however, by omission of the folding stock and railed gas block like the original Saiga-12 030. The price point is comparatively fair however, given that unrestored IZ-109s are commanding a similar price, the choice is pretty clear to a potential buyer of Kalashnikov-style shotguns. Also, last I heard, Molot is/was owned by Kalashnikov Concern is therefore subject to the same import sanctions as the Saiga brand.

    They do make for a pretty sweet SBS.

  • Scotty Gunn October 19, 2015, 9:13 am

    Better yet, get a tax stamp and short barrel that thing!

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