When Dad and I started getting more into 3-gun shooting we started to look for a replacement for our old Benelli/H&K M1 Super 90. It’s a fine gun, but because it’s recoil operated it kicks more than most shotguns. This isn’t very good for competitive shooting, but it’s so bad that after a 24 round all-shotgun stage Dad (who’s had more concussions than he can remember) is dizzy. It doesn’t help when a stage requires slugs, either, or he darn near tears his thumbnail off loading it one…shell…at…a…time.
If you don’t want to load the shotgun one shell at a time, you have to use speedloaders, which put you in the Open division. In “Open” 3-gun anything goes except full auto, handguns must be 9mm or higher caliber, pistol mags have to be under 170mm long and shotguns must be 20 gauge or above and may only hold 10 rounds plus one in the chamber.
Jerry Miculek’s Open division Benelli 12 gauge with an extended 10 round tube, Arredondo speedloader guide, custom barrel porting and Jpoint red dot.
Our Benelli is legal in the Tactical Optics division where no optical sights, recoil compensators, or speedloaders are allowed for the shotgun which may only hold 8 rounds. No optics or compensators are allowed for the handgun and the magazines must be under 140mm long. Rifles are not limited on capacity or magazine length, no bipods are allowed, compensators or flash hiders up to 1”x3” are allowed, as is one optic.
Dad wanted to move from Tactical Optics division to Open, because of the shotgun. The only problem with that was the speedloaders.
Shotgun speedloaders for conventional tube-fed shotguns are tubes with a pusher rod going through them. The shells go inside the tubes, the pusher rod goes on the back end, the tube is lined up with the shotgun’s loading gate and the shooter pushes the pusher rod pushing the shells into the shotgun. The problem with that is that the speedloader has to be lined up at the right angle to the loading gate or you’ll spit your shells out on the ground. A speedloader guide is a necessity and even then it’s not always a sure thing. Add to that the fact that the speedloaders only hold four shells each and cost $60.00 each and that to me seems like a losing combination.
ArmsTec “TecLoaders”, AKA “Chuckle Sticks”.
Or we could get a Saiga.
Imagine the ugliest antelope you can think of, and that’s a Saiga:
Or imagine the most legendary assault rifle in the world:
Then make a shotgun out of it.
It’s an Evil Black Shotgun based on the infamous Avtomat Kalashnikova, or AK, series of rifles, it’s mechanically the same, a piston-driven action with loose tolerances giving it reliability. The shotgun isn’t as reliable as the rifle because it’s designed to run with ”high-brass” loads instead of the lower recoil stuff at wal-mart. #6 shot is the lightest load that will eject reliably, but 7.5 shot won’t eject at all. That’s not good, since it’s the cheapest ammo available, so I’ll add a “low brass reliability kit” consisting of a lighter recoil spring, and a four position gas knob that lets just the right amount of gas to cycle the bolt so it won’t recoil as much but still be reliable. It also includes a stainless “gas puck” that’ll run cleaner than the factory one and won’t slide back and forth in the gas tube.
Other than being a 12 gauge it’s identical to the original AK-47 except that the gas block has two settings, one for extremely high-brass loads such as buckshot and slugs, the other for high-brass birdshot. Additionally the ejection port had to be longer than the bolt to use the AK receiver, so a sliding flap was added to the bolt to keep dust out. It feeds from a magazine instead of a tube, so it’s much faster to reload.
The Saiga is a great shotgun, but it needs a little more to be perfect for 3-gun.
The factory magazine only holds 5 rounds, but 10 and 12 rounders are available all over the place. The ones I got are made by Surefire Gun Mags, or SGM. The capacity limit for 3-gun is 10 rounds plus one in the chamber, but 10 rounders supposedly don’t function well in the Saiga, so I got some 12 rounders and short-load them. They’re also made of a clear polycarbonate, so I can tell if I’m using slugs or birdshot, and how much is left in the mag. I put some R&R racing belt clips on them so I don’t have to bother with a pouch.
Awfully long magazine though it only holds 12 rounds. Too bad the 12 gauge shells have rims so they can’t be double-stacked like an AR or AK mag.
The rim of the 12 gauge compared to the recessed rim of the .223
Note how much wider the 12 gauge is than the .223
The controls are exactly the same as the original AK, which was designed to be produced en-masse, not to be ergonomic or accurate. The safety is on the right side and is really tight. I might put an R&R AR-style safety on the right side, but if not I’ll definitely loosen that up. I might also repaint the receiver with scratch-resistant AlumaHyde II or DuraCoat.
The safety is so tight it actually scratches the receiver.
The magazine release is ”ambidextrous” in that it is equally hard to reach with either hand. The magazines ”rock” in and out of the receiver, unlike an AR-15 mag that slides straight into the receiver. Unlike the AK, the Saiga is extremely difficult to load on a closed bolt due to the fact that the shells stick out of the magazine much more than loaded AK rifle mags. The bolt doesn’t lock back like an AR-15, either, so it takes a lot of practice to reload.
Loaded AK47 magazines with the rounds fairly enclosed.
5 round Saiga 12 magazine loaded with a dummy round. The shell sticking out jams against the bolt when it’s “rocked” in, requiring a lot of force to seat the mag.
The gun runs empty.
I push the magazine release with my thumb and slide my thumb off into the magazine, pushing it out of the gun.
I jam a new mag in at an angle so it will fit in the magwell…
and rock it into the magwell so that both the front and rear lugs on the magazine lock into the gun.
It’s easier to load the Saiga on an open bolt, but it’s much slower. Compare it to Jack Travers’ reloads with the magwell:
Lots of shooters don’t mind “rocking” the magazine in, but it seems too hard to me. So I have a JT engineering competition magwell coming in the mail. The magwell allows mags to be inserted straight in like an AR. The downside is that high-capacity drum magazines won’t work and normal mags have to be modified, but the magwell is easily removable.
Saiga magwell with an extended magazine release and enhanced safety
Another difference between the Saiga and the AK that you may have noticed is the stock. There’s no pistol grip! That’s because the Saiga is made in Russia and is imported into the U.S.
Factory Saiga 12 not available in the U.S.
Federal import law 922r prohibits “assault weapons” from being imported. An “assault weapon” is rifle or shotgun with a collapsible or folding stock and a pistol grip. Rifles may not be able to take high capacity mags of more than 10 rounds. So instead of a separate pistol grip and stock, the manufacturer put a more “sporting” stock on, and moved the trigger group back. That makes it kind of awkward to shoot, so most Saiga owners either send their gun off to gunsmith to do a “Conversion Package” where they move the trigger group back forward, install an AR style stock and pistol grip, and a new trigger. Since an “assault weapon” is only considered ”imported” if fewer than 10 foreign made parts are in the gun, you have to buy a complete forend/trigger group/stock/pistol grip assembly, and they all have to be made in the U.S.A. or you’ll pay a big fine and maybe serve jail time.
I’ll add the magwell and Low brass reliability kit when they get here, and over time get the parts for a Conversion Package and do that. I may also add a red-dot sight of some kind after a bit of shooting.
Additionally I’ve added a JT compensator to further reduce recoil. The comp has “breaching teeth” to make it look intimidating, so now our Saiga looks like this…
Saiga 12 with a JT comp and SGM 10-rounder. Backdrop is a “Peace” Snuggie, the perfect gift for those that love to stay warm but still have unrestricted movement during zombie hunts.
JT breacher brake, for when hippies need to breach doors and reduce recoil.
Hopefully, when I’m done with the Saiga, it should look a little bit like this: