November 2012

High-Cap 12 Gauges: Saiga And Kel-Tec Rule RJF and Akdal

The AK-style Saiga smoothbore ran without pause. The KSG bullpup also persevered. We had significant function problems with a high-end Red Jacket Saiga and the AR-style M1919.

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.

The KSG’s popularity has grown exponentially since it was announced in 2011, part of which is driven by its inclusion in “shooter” video games, including the most recent Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and it is rumored to be returning for Call Of Duty: Black Ops II. The KSG is a bullpup pump shotgun whose short overall length of only 26.1 inches allows for greater maneuverability and makes it suitable for close-quarters combat.

The Akdal MKA 1919 is a gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun that was created by a Turkish company called Akdal Arms. The 1919 is designed to look and feel like the AR-15 rifle. The gun comes stock with a polymer AR-style fixed front sight and polymer carry handle that has a built-in flip sight. Both the front and rear sights can be removed if you like to customize your guns and add your own optics. The upper receiver is made of an aluminum alloy, and has a Picatinny rail that runs along the top. The lower half of the gun is a single polymer piece that is both the grip and a fixed stock that has a rubber buttpad already built in.

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 (, [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.

Our fourth gun, the Red Jacket Saiga, was the most expensive by far and was the worst performer, our testers said. They simply couldn’t make the gun work very well. This was a loaner gun from our home test facility, Tactical Firearms in Katy, Texas (, who had bought the RJS in both compensated and suppressed forms. The Tactical Firearms staff called it the “Red Junket” instead of the Red Jacket Saiga because they could rarely fire more than a couple of shells before the action locked up in several different ways, which we describe below.

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.

We describe the problems we had in fuller detail below.

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