I’m not a what you would call a “shotgun guy” but when an opportunity presented itself to try out an AK-style 12-gauge shotgun, I jumped at the chance. Semi-auto AK-style shotguns are hardly new, but not too long ago a ban was placed on the importation of Russian sporting firearms that cut off the supply of Siaga and Vepr 12-gauge shotguns into the United States. Since no more were coming in, that left a hole in the market that you could drive a Trabant through, one that Legacy Sports International (LSI) had taken notice of.
The RS-S1 Shotgun
Like many things, the RS-S1’s story isn’t a straight line as the shotgun is actually a licensed copy of the Saiga 030 manufactured by Armsan in Turkey. It’s been sold under the Armsan banner for a couple of years and is being imported by Legacy Sports International under the Citadel brand. It’s based around the same receiver as the Saiga, upsized to handle the 12 gauge shotgun shells, but maintains many of the same controls and features as any AK-pattern rifle. If you’ve ever used an AK, then this shotgun will still feel very familiar to you when you pick it up.
Recognizing that optics are a modern-day fact of life, the RS-S1 comes with a Picatinny scope rail mounted directly to the top cover with four screws. This allows for more conventional mounting of red dots and low power optics while still being able to maintain a reasonable cheek weld with the stock.
Underneath the hinged top cover, the guts are decidedly AK-like, it has a long-stroke gas piston operating system with a rotating bolt. This similarity to AK-pattern rifles means that the RS-S1 is easy to field strip and maintain without much trouble.
The 20” barrel is chambered for up to 3” shells and is threaded for Benelli/Beretta Mobilchoke shotgun chokes. This compatibility is great in my opinion because you won’t have to worry about finding the right shotgun choke with a weird thread pitch or any of that. You can get the same Beretta chokes as everyone else and easily configure the shotgun to the task at hand.
The one-piece stock on the RS-S1 is classified as a thumbhole stock for import reasons, but I found it to be pretty comfortable and ergonomic during my range sessions. The polymer handguards were also comfortable and looked pretty good but they did not do much to mitigate heat after prolonged shooting. They didn’t get “catch on fire hot”, however, a pair of gloves might not be a bad idea.
I’d read some anecdotal reports from previous users that had noticed loose handguards on the RS-S1 so it was something I wanted to keep an eye on. Luckily that wasn’t my experience at all. The fit was pretty snug from day one. That being said, if you don’t like them there are plenty of aftermarket options to choose from thanks to its compatibility with VEPR-12 parts.
Load and Make Ready
The shotgun ships with two polymer 5-round magazines that are reinforced with steel feed lips.
This is where I feel I should bring up 922r compliance as it pertains to parts and magazine capacities. Now, imported semi-auto rifles and shotguns aren’t my forte so I encourage you to research this regulation yourself. Legacy Sports has this regulation at the bottom of their RS-S1 page that I linked below. My basic understanding is that you need to swap out a certain number of parts for US-made parts before you can use things like higher capacity magazines and folding stocks.
Unlike an AK-47 magazine though, when you go to insert an RS-S1 mag into the shotgun they go straight in more like an AR-pattern mag. I can tell you though that if you try to load a full 5 rounder with the bolt closed, it’s probably not going to happen. I found the best way to do it is to lock the bolt back by pressing the small button that’s just in front of the trigger guard and then insert the magazine until you hear it click. The bolt can then be released by either pulling back on the charging handle slightly or pressing the bolt release tab just above the grip on the right side.
When I’m doing range testing, I try to have an assortment of ammunition available, so I brought a good selection of birdshot, buckshot, and 1 oz slugs along for the trip. This represented a good cross-section of the commonly available ammo that you can get from most any sporting goods store. I wish I could say that the RS-S1 devoured it all without issue, however, I had considerable issues with the Winchester and Estate Cartridge birdshot that I had with me that day. This was, of course, hugely disconcerting given that #7 ½ and #8 birdshot are like the 55 gr. FMJ of the shotgun world and if it can’t run birdshot then we’ve got problems.
I set all of the birdshot aside and broke out some Winchester and Remington brand 2 3/4″ 00 Buck, as well as a couple of Winchester Forster slugs to continue the day. The common rule of thumb when shooting 00 buck is that the pattern will spread about 1″ per yard of distance from the target. My goal here was to keep a majority of the pellets within the 12″ X 24″ BC zone of an IPSC target since that more or less represented the vitals of a bad guy. Unsurprisingly, at 7 yards a full magazine of 00 buck went into a pattern about 7″ in diameter right in the center of mass. I repeated this at the 12 and 22-yard lines to see how it patterned.
As far as defensive shotguns go, using commonly available 00 buck, I don’t think those results are too bad at all.
After the issues that I had at the range, I reached out to Legacy Sports for some guidance and I was informed that the factory recommends ammunition with a muzzle velocity of at least 1,250 fps. I looked back at the boxes of birdshot from the first trip and the velocities were listed at 1200 fps, so that explains that. It’s unfortunate that this information wasn’t provided anywhere in the manufacturer’s literature as it would have saved me quite the headache on the first range trip. That being said, a quick run to Walmart yielded some 2 3/4″ #7 1/2 and #8 birdshot that scooted along at about 1300 fps.
It was like night and day during the next trip, this higher velocity birdshot was just the ticket that the RS-S1 needed to be running like a sewing machine. I had zero issues with Winchester AA Super Sport Sporting Clays and Remington Premier Nitro Sporting Clays ammo as I went through mag after mag. Those two options aren’t as cheap per shell as the 100 count value packs but it’s still not bad at about $7-$8 per box, so plenty cheap enough for some range fun.
Since I wasn’t fighting all of the feeding issues, I felt like I was finally able to have fun with the shotgun and wring it out some. I ran through mock stages blasting down steel falling plates at close range then immediately turning and hitting static plates farther downrange. Clay pigeons were likewise unsafe in the midst of the RS-S1 and the remains of numerous clays adorned the berm. Evidence that wherever I put the red dot from my Aimpoint, I could be sure that’s where a load of pellets was heading, which is always a good feeling.
I put a little over 200 rounds through the RS-S1 and in that time I made some observations about the shotgun that might help those looking to buy it. The first one was that when I received the shotgun it felt very stiff, which isn’t out of the norm for a new gun. Luckily, after many boxes of the shells and flipping the safety on and off multiple times, everything has loosened up pretty good as it is breaking in.
The other thing that I noticed while shooting the shotgun is that the recoil wasn’t that harsh, even across the multiple types of ammo. At no point did I feel like I had just punished myself after going through 25 rounds of 00 Buck in just minutes. If I had to equate it to anything, I’d say that the recoil is similar to shooting a semi-auto .308 battle rifle.
Now, after all of the rounds down range and hearing the horror stories about the poor quality of Turkish made guns I wanted to see how well the components held up. I took the gun apart, cleaned it up and took a good look at the gas plug, carrier, and bolt looking for anything that looked untoward like cracks or gouges. Besides a shiny spot on the bolt face from contacting the bolt stop and the typical wear marks from operation, everything looked to be in excellent shape.
The Citadel RS-S1 brings a lot to the table for a semi-automatic shotgun in being detachable box magazine-fed, optics ready, and pretty comfortable ergonomically. At its heart, I think this is a fun, range ready shotgun that can be pretty easily configured for multiple uses by just swapping out ammo and/or a choke tube. Attach a light to the 6 o’clock rail, load up some 00 buckshot, and it’s a capable self-defense shotgun. Swap in a different choke, use some higher capacity magazines and get ready to slay some targets at a 3-gun match. I didn’t think I’d be as impressed as I am by a shotgun imported from Turkey but with a street price around $600 it’s not a bad deal in my opinion.