Saiga 12


Versions and Model Info

Images from various Russian sources and weapons expos.  It is interesting to note that apparently there is no "standardized" model, and every model seems to be employed in one form or another, both the old and newer magazine well-enabled models.



Features specific to the SWAT Model

This model is designated EXP-01-030 in the factory demo video:



Close-up features of the design improvements of what is commonly referred to as the "SWAT" model.  Hinged top cover, improved gas block with integral rail, and magazine feed well (see below).  The cover-mounted rail may be an optional component since the standard AK-style side mount rail is still present.



Improved Magazine Well

Observe that in the Demo pics above, the troops are using the "improved" version, which uses a magazine well.  Since a fully-loaded magazine requires excessive force to load, one must "slap home" the fully loaded magazine, and some bolt mods are warranted.  In a combat situation this extra effort could prove disastrous.  This new version uses the magazine well plus a magazine modified to work with it, similar to any other slide-in magazine well (such as an AR).  It looks like a normal magazine with the locking lugs reshaped for the well:


Location of the last-round bolt hold-open latch in the newest model.  This may be from a VEPR-12 which has the latch as standard.  A recent rumor indicates the shotguns will be shipped with this latch from the factory, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Close-ups of my recently acquired magwell.  The ramp on the front extends all the way to the feed ramp to keep the front of the magazine from hanging up on the receiver or trunion.  It requires milling of the receiver to fit, and the sides of the receiver magazine opening also need to be milled out to ensure a smooth fit.  The sides of the magwell extend up around the curve of the bottom of the receiver to close up the space.



Izhmash factory pistol grip and my US-buit copy (counts for 922 compliance).  Working on making more of these available... stay tuned: 



Various Components

Most accessories can be found from time to time on gunbroker or rusmilitary, and among other places such as forum classifieds.  Some parts from K-var can also be employed.


Standard "AKS" style:      The "SVD-S" style buttstock:    


Side-folding stock latch with standard AK-100 style latch for comparison:


Bolt Hold Open assembly made by a Saiga-12 forum member.  It relies on a tab that is added to the follower, which actuates the linkage arm after the last round is fed:


Bolt-on Front Sight Assemblies and Flash Hiders



Factory Paradox Slug Choke (rifled for slugs)


Aftermarket shot spreader - similar design to SPAS-12 shot spreader.  Possibly a converted SPAS spreader:

VEPR Bolt Hold-open

Bolt variations.  Note the bolt and bolt stem on the left has cuts presumably to lighten the weight of the bolt.  The sloped bolt stem may cause better feeding with some shells but this is only a guess.






US-built Magazines

These are the hot item right now.  An all-metal magazine is once again on the "coming soon" menu and hopefully this time the mfr will be able to get the project off the ground!

Magazines available on the current market:


10 round magazines available from the manufacturer ( and from other retail vendors.  No longer available from DPH.  Both black and smoke colored mags are now available, however I've only ever seen black mags advertised.

Cons are that the plastic seems to be subject to breakage at colder temperatures, which could be a concern for those in northern states.


I have a 10-rounder, range testing complete!  :)  It works really well.  "Gen 2" mags are now available. 

Cons are that the molds are slightly undersized and may require some fitting to work.  This is the main complaint people have on the mags.  Good news - I have developed a solution to this fitting issue; more on this later.

Stepson loves it! 

On mine, I needed to file a small amount of the plastic to get the magazine release to lock up.  Alternately, the magazine retainer tab on the back can be filed to get better lockup directly against the mag release.


Comparison of the feed lips to the factory 5-rounder.


There's a second floorplate tab that allows you to cut the magazine down to a 5-round size.  Presumably for hunting applications.



This is a newer offering and seems to be a good magazine.  Haven't tested this yet so I can only speculate on its performance based on "me too" feedback on the forums.





US-built Drums

These are approved for ownership and use by the ATF.  No special paperwork is required.  Note that the drum-fed shotguns that were declared Destructive Devices in the 80's were restricted based on the model.  So "yes" you can own a 20-round drum under Federal law.  Be sure to double-check non-free state/local regs to be sure.

Should be available now.  20 round drum magazine.  Very similar to the USAS-12 magazine in design.  Recent reviews indicate "they just work". 


20 round drums available from:  This is the non-metallic synthetic drum that does not require any fitting/timing to work. 

Latest update (Early 2010) - MDArms has made a significant price drop in this product now that Promag has announced their planned production of a 20-round drum.  Hooray capitalism.



Note:  There is another aftermarket drum that is metallic. This drum requires fitting and "timing" to a specific shotgun.  This is a rather limiting design since it "mates" the drum to a specific shotgun, not to mention the fact that the drum design exposes rounds to the environment and potential dust/debris contamination... I have no further information on that drum and would not recommend such an item.  Seems useful only for 3-gun competitions where dirt etc. is not a concern.





Conversion and Build Info


Template for folding stock components - Note the template is not 100% correct, but it does work.  The dimensions for the forward latch should be compared against the actual parts before making the final cut.  I found the dimensions to be too high (too close to the trunion) and too far forward.  We had to extend the notch back about 1/16-1/8" further.  It could have been a little farther down. Measuring from a riveted-in piece assumes all rivets to be identical, which I think is the problem. It really needs to be measured from a straight-edge set along the top of the receiver.


My build

 - "YACS" - Yet Another Converted Saiga - not much to say, really.  It is a 12-gauge AK...

I added a magazine quick-release paddle from Red Star Arms.  The extension is a simple piece of 1/8" metal spot welded on to facilitate "normal" magazine changes even with the aftermarket paddle.  I intend to add a folding stock, muzzle brake, and bolt release.



Other Conversions

An earlier conversion project that uses an Ace folding buttstock.   Note the simplicity with which the trigger guard can be attached on a Saiga-12.


Chibajoe's bullpup conversion using the K-Var stock set:

A home-built magazine well from NZ.  Built from 16 gauge sheet steel, and flared at the bottom.

Another one from Russia: 

A commercial bullpup conversion "kushnapup":

A very good conversion using some hard to find (and expensive!) components:




Parts Count

I obtained a copy of the ATF letter originally posted on the now-defunct Soupbowl Enterprises page that specifically states that a Saiga shotgun has 13 countable parts for 922r purposes.  A copy of this letter and brief discussion is found on my Parts Count Legal Page

"But why not 15" parts?  Further discussion at Gunco suggests the parts count was extrapolated from the factory parts breakdown.  Therefore the deviation from the "classic" parts definition that has been observed.

In the letter, the following 13 parts are listed for a default out-of-the-box Saiga shotgun config (part numbers from letter are denoted:

  1. 1, Frame
  2. 2, Barrel
  3. 6, Bolt
  4. 7, Bolt Carrier
  5. 9, Gas Piston
  6. 11, Trigger
  7. 12, Hammer
  8. 14, Disconnector
  9. 15, Buttstock
  10. 17, Forearm
  11. 18, Magazine Body
  12. 19, Floorplate
  13. 20, Follower

My conversion plans include a pistol grip and muzzle attachment, meaning the final parts count for my build will equal 15 parts.  Since I intend to exclusively make use of US-built magazines (3 parts), the final tally will require two additional US-built parts.   I may add additional US parts to have the flexibility of using the factory 5-round Saiga magazines for hunting, etc.  I have built a muzzle brake on the lathe.

A US-built piston is available from both Hotbarrel and also Tromix.  Definition of a piston vs. tappet vs. operating rod is moot at this point.  Note that the identification of the exact part has not been clarified by the ATF, so future updates may require revision of this part for 922r purposes. 

The standard AK conversion parts (pistol grip, internal parts, etc.) are able to be interchanged to assist with 922r "less than 10 imported parts" compliance.

DPH also sells a CNC-manufactured US-built forearm with integral tri-rail which seems perfectly suited for "tactical" builds.


The MOLOT corp's VEPR-12 is intended to be a direct competitor for the Saiga-12.  Note the magwell comes standard, as does the bolt lock (aka last-round bolt hold open).  Many of the "SWAT" model features are standard.