October 3, 2013

Saiga IZ-107 12 Gauge, $640

Gun Tests magazine tested four high-capacity 12-gauge shotguns in the November 2012 issue. Here’s an excerpt of that report, used with permission:

We are often asked what firearms we recommend for home defense, and based on the circumstances, we often say that a shotgun may be the best choice for a number of reasons: ease of operation, stopping power, and multi-shot capacity, to name three. Most shotgunners know that defense shotguns have long held 5, 6, 7, and 8 rounds, usually in tubular magazines under the barrel. But there are bigger-capacity shotguns out there, and we recently had a chance to test four of them. Our test guns were the Akdal Arms MKA 1919 3-inch 12 Gauge, $799; the Kel-Tec KSG 3-inch 12 Gauge, $1075; the Saiga IZ-107 12 Gauge, $640; and a Red Jacket Saiga RTS-SBS-12 Short-Barrel 12 Gauge, $1939.

Our older Saiga 12, still in very good shape, was manufactured at the Izhmash Factory in Russia and imported through EAA Corp. What we believe is an identical gun, the IZ-107 12 Gauge, $640, is available from K-Var Corp. of Las Vegas (K-Var.com, [702] 364-8880). Because it’s currently available, we listed K-Var’s model number throughout. So you can either look for a used gun like ours, or if you want a brand-new gun of this type, you know where to start. Designed as an all-purpose shotgun, this Saiga comes with a chrome-lined barrel which allows the use of many different types of ammunition, including steel. The Saiga 12 is capable of cycling both 23⁄4- and 3-inch magnum shells. As with all Saiga 12s, this shotgun is not designed to use low-pressure shells. Saiga 12 gauges now come standard with the bolt hold-open feature. This allows for a quicker change time between magazines. This shotgun was manufactured utilizing the Kalashnikov gas system. This gas system reduces felt recoil dramatically.

Because the Saigas are only supposed to use 1.25-ounce or heavier shotcharges, we fired them mostly with 12 gauge Winchester Super-X Game and Field Loads (23⁄4 inch #6 Lead, 11⁄4 ounce, 1330 fps), which we bought at Cheaper Than Dirt! for $16.51/25, #2-WNX126BX. Other CTD loads we used included Hornady Zombie Z-MAX 00 Buckshot rounds (23⁄4 inch, 8 pellets, 1600 fps, $10.29/10 #AMM-8212); and Fiocchi Exacta Aero Slugs (23⁄4 inch lead, 1 ounce, 1560 fps), which cost $7.91/10, #6-0309542. We also fired Remington Slugger 3-inch 1-ounce rifled slugs ($5.34/5 @ 1760 fps, currently out of stock); and Winchester Supreme Partition Gold 3-inch 385-grain sabot slugs SSP123 ($12.55/5 @ 2000 fps, also out of stock). Our plan was to shoot all four shotguns for function and to check features, then shoot groups with the slugs to compare their accuracy. However, the second part of that turned out not to be necessary because we had function trouble with the Akdal, KSG, and Red Jacket guns, making the Saiga the winner by default.

This is not the easiest-to-handle defense shotgun out there -- the KSG is much better at that. But the Kalashnikov-based semi-auto is a tank that fires shotshells. Sometimes, you want a tank.

Saiga IZ-107 12 Gauge, $640

The Saiga-12 is a Kalashnikov-pattern 12-gauge combat shotgun. Like the Kalashnikov rifle variants, it is a rotating bolt, gas-operated gun that feeds from a box magazine. Saiga-12s 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. As we noted earlier, our test shotgun was 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. Izhmash also manufactures Saiga 20 gauges and .410 bore shotguns, as well as the Saiga semi-automatic hunting rifles in a number of centerfire calibers.

NIB Saigas like ours were recently listed at GunAuction.com with “buy it now” prices of $600. Or if you prefer, you can order a test gun similar to, if not identical to, Saigas carried by K-Var Corp. with the model number and price listed above. Our test shotgun and several extra magazines came from Fountain Firearms in Houston, FountainFirearms.com.

The hard-plastic buttpad allows the Saiga stock to slip around in the shoulder socket.

Other similar models listed by K-Var include the IZ-108 (19-inch barrel, adjustable sight, $670), the IZ-109 (19-inch barrel, $640), and the IZ-122 (24-inch barrel, adjustable sight, $650). Most retail versions of the Saigas ship with one five-round Russian magazine, cleaning kit, cleaning brush, oil bottle, & Saiga adjustment tool.

Our test shotgun was manufactured at the Izmash Legion Factory in Russia, utilizing the Kalashnikov gas system. This gas system reduces felt recoil and is capable of shooting in either single-shot operation, allowing use of all the gases to increase the velocity of the round, or in the standard semi-auto mode. It will shoot both 23⁄4-inch and 3-inch magnum shotshells, using an adjustable two-position gas system. Using the higher setting prevents high-power loads, such as slugs and buckshot, from damaging the receiver. The looser clearances offered in an AK design result in high reliability, which we saw in our testing. We had no function failures of any type with the Saiga, even though we used several different magazines with different capacities, including a massive drum magazine.

Though we loved the Saiga’s reliability, there are some nits to pick. The metalwork is rough and sharp, especially on the mount on the left side of the receiver. The lack of a rubber buttpad makes the stock slip around in the shoulder socket and does nothing to soften recoil.

The trigger pull isn’t overly heavy at 6.6 pounds, but it has about a half-inch of takeup before creeping toward release. The rear sight was crudely fashioned and was only drift-adjustable in a machined-in slot in the barrel. If we were buying new, we’d pick an adjustable sight version for just a few dollars more.

Our Team Said: Despite its flaws, the Saiga 12 gauge is a hoss that’s affordable. It accepts stick magazines up to 30 rounds that make it faster to fire and reload than the KSG, and it cycled with a 50-round drum magazine if it came down to fighting off a horde of zombies. It’s a lot of gun for the money, in our opinion.


Comments (6)

bee o bee: You must have gotten a bad bunch of magazines. I have around 8 30-round(and a bunch of 20-rounders) ProMags for my Mini-14 and haven't had any problems with any except 1(I dropped it then ran over it with a 4x4). They've had a LOT of rounds through them over 12 or so years. So far, as long as I keep them clean they work. Don't know who makes the OEM magazines for Ruger's Mini-14's but they need to take lessons from ProMag - have had to trash 5 factory mags that would not work no matter what I did. Sounds like ProMag has periodic QC problems.

Posted by: Tower gunner | January 26, 2015 10:28 PM    Report this comment

I would like to have seen the review of the KSG to know what its problems were. Also, how about a head-to-head with the UTAS UTS15.

Posted by: Jim in Houston | December 11, 2014 4:37 PM    Report this comment

Shoguns the best weapon(s) for home defense? NOT LIKELY!

1) Long guns, unless you practice with them, can be hard to manage in confined spaces, such as your home, and can more easily be taken from you or used to control you by an intruder, especially one who is bigger, stronger, faster.
2)Shotguns, especially 12 ga variety, recoil sharply.
3)Shotguns are VERY NOISY and emit a lot of gas along with the lead. Be prepared for permanent hearing damage as well as disorientation following discharge. It will set off your smoke alarms.
4)They discharge a number of fairly high velocity pellets and even using the FBI recommended #4 buck shot, cause a great deal of minute blood splatter (You don't know where this guy has been or who with do ya'?). Cleanup and exposure to the resulting bio-contamination WILL BE A PROBLEM.
5)If you miss, goodbye wallboard.

Posted by: mwp2634 | December 11, 2014 2:52 PM    Report this comment

> nmgene: This is just my 10 cents opinion. I too think ProMag magazines are junk. I bought one about a year ago for my Mini-14 that was advertised as being "100% TIG welded" and when I got it unwrapped it only took a quick cursory glance to see that it was nothing more than traditional spot welding that looked like whomever did it was stoned on meth and also drunk. Very sloppy workmanship. Never again!

Posted by: bee O bee | December 11, 2014 12:20 PM    Report this comment

I agree with your assessment of the Saiga line of shoulder arms. I have a Saiga 12 and a Saiga .308. Both are rugged and reliable, and they are quite reasonably priced..... Actually when I bought them, it was a few years back, so they were even less than what they are now. I haven't had any issues with the magazines, but I haven't put a whole lot of ammo through them either. They make very good "car guns" that can be carried around in the trunk without too much concern for the nicks and dings that they get.

Posted by: canovack | October 3, 2013 2:24 PM    Report this comment

I have a saiga in 223. It performs very well except with the junk promag magazines. A lot of the acceseries for aks and saigas are junk. I had to buy 2 different scope mounts. The first one I had to put almost .070 of shims under the rear to get it to get on paper. It was a mount with a lever to lock it on the side. The second one used 3 allen screws to hold it and works great. These are great guns and very reasonably priced.

Posted by: nmgene | October 3, 2013 1:40 PM    Report this comment

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