|Place of origin||Russia|
Saiga IZ-109 Sporter
|Weight||3.6 kg (7 lb 15 oz) (Saiga-12,
3.5 kg (7 lb 11 oz) (Saiga-12K, Saiga-12S EXP-01)
|Length||1,145 mm (3 ft 9.1 in) (Saiga-12)
1,060 mm (3 ft 6 in) stock extended / 820 mm (2 ft 8 in) stock folded (Saiga-12S)
910 mm (3 ft 0 in) stock extended / 670 mm (2 ft 2 in) stock folded (Saiga-12K, Saiga-12S EXP-01)
|Barrel length||580 mm (1 ft 11 in) (Saiga-12,
430 mm (1 ft 5 in) (Saiga-12K, Saiga-12S EXP-01)
|Height||190 mm (7.5 in)|
|Action||Gas-operated, rotating bolt|
|Feed system||2, 5, 8, and 10-round detachable box magazine, 20-round detachable drum, for example MAXROUNDS magazine|
The Saiga-12 is a Kalashnikov-pattern 12 gauge combat shotgun available in a wide range of configurations. Like the Kalashnikov rifle variants, it is a rotating bolt, gas-operated gun that feeds from a box magazine. All Saiga-12 configurations are recognizable as Kalashnikov-pattern guns by the large lever-safety on the right side of the receiver, the optic mounting rail on the left side of the receiver and the large top-mounted dust cover held in place by the rear of the recoil spring assembly.
The looser clearances offered in an AK style design result in high reliability—an enormous boon on a semi-automatic shotgun, as this class of weapon had previously tended towards unreliability. The gun is also readily affordable and easy to maintain, made almost entirely from sheet-metal stampings.
The Saiga-12 is manufactured by the arms division of Izhmash, in Russia. It was previously imported into the US by European American Armories, although their agreement expired in 2005 and Izhmash is now exporting through the Russian-American Armory Company.
The Saiga-12 incorporates several interesting features absent on the AK-47 and similar guns.
Since shotgun shells are nearly twice as wide as 7.62x39 rifle cartridges, the extraction hole in the side of the dust cover had to be increased in size. However, since the bolt had to remain the same length to fit inside the AK-47 sized receiver, the rear part of the bolt is covered by a sliding metal flap that rides on the recoil spring. This allows the gun to be sealed against dirt when the bolt is forward, but the compression of the recoil spring during firing moves the flap rearward to clear the extracted shells.
For the likely reason of simplifying production of Izhmash's other Kalashnikov-pattern guns, the Saiga-12 extractor does not rotate, but instead delegates the bolt-locking function to a caliber-neutral lug directly behind the bolt-face.
The Saiga-12 incorporates an adjustable two-position gas system, for the reason that firing high power loads such as slugs and buckshot generates so much force that the receiver will be damaged if the full power of the gas system is employed without some sort of recoil buffer. The problem is that making the gun durable with the higher power loads would make it useless with low-power loads such as bean-bags and flares since the gun would fail to cycle - becoming in essence a manual straight-pull action or producing "stovepipe" malfunction.
Due to the shape and size of the 12 gauge round, the Saiga-12 has some unusual quirks. As originally designed with conical rifle rounds, the AK-47 can be loaded and then charged by cycling the action. The Saiga-12, however, is difficult to load unless the bolt is held in the rearward position whilst the magazine is inserted - the front edge of the shell hits the bottom of the bolt face, and the magazine will fail to seat properly. This adds about half a second to magazine changes. Nevertheless, with a bit of practice, inserting a loaded magazine into the Saiga-12 on a closed bolt is possible. Some newer Saiga-12s include a bolt hold-open catch to help with this problem.
Another problem stems from the fact that shotgun rounds are naturally more flexible than rifle rounds. When a loaded magazine is left inside the weapon for more than a few days, the top round of ammunition tends to become deformed from having the magazine spring squeeze it against the closed bolt. This can cause a failure to feed if a loaded magazine is left in the weapon for an extended period of time.
The Saiga-12 is manufactured in several different configurations ranging from more traditionally looking hunting models to military-style models utilizing furniture of AK or even SVD. But all these versions are available for purchase by civilians in Russia. Civilian barrel lengths are 17 and 23 inches. 23" version comes with traditional rifle stock or with AK-style separate pistol grip and folding stock (version S for "skladnaya", "folding"). 17" version (K for "korotkaya", "short") has AK-style pistol grip and folding stock and special safety, preventing operation with stock folded (due to Russian gun laws, it's not allowed to own a weapon able to fire while being less than 800 mm long). "Taktika" versions with 23" or 17" barrel feature various AK, SVD or original "Legion" furniture (handguards, folding and non-folding stocks) and AK-style open sight with high post and tangent rear. Optional screw-in chokes are available. Standard AK rail for optics may be mounted on the left side of the receiver. Five or eight round magazines are available and may be used on all 12 gauge models.
Recently there has been made a newly configured version of the Saiga 12. Called the Saiga Taktika mod 040, it features an extended magazine well, last round bolt hold open (recently produced very rarely and replaced with manual bolt hold), hinged dust cover with Picatinny rail for mounting optics, picatinny rail gas block, and a newly designed 8-round magazine (not interchangeable with other Saiga-12 models).
This new design seems to address every issue the Saiga 12 has when it comes to function and flexible configuration. Gone is the traditional AK "rock and lock" mag system and with it the difficulties associated with mag insertion using 12 gauge shells. Now mag insertion is just straight up into the magazine well (similar to an AR-15) and can be done with only one hand. The hinged dustcover with picatinny rail makes mounting optics simpler, and also closer to the bore axis. The gas-block rail system allows for the addition of combat lights and vertical foregrips. Last round bolt hold open gives the user instant feedback that the weapon is empty and allows for a quicker mag change.
Though it does not have the select (automatic) fire capabilities of an actual assault rifle (and indeed is not even a rifle), the Saiga is classified by California and other gun-restrictive areas as an "assault weapon", as it is a semiautomatic shotgun with the ability to accept a detachable magazine. However, if a magazine lock that only allows the magazine to be removed by use of a tool is installed, it is no longer classified as an assault weapon, as its previously detachable magazine is then rendered a fixed magazine. CA PC 12276.1.