March 2016

In Search of the Best 12 Gauge

We liked a Russian-made Saiga-12 we tested a few years ago, but they’ve escalated in price to the point that we went looking for alternatives. We’d pass on two Chinese-made variations.

For those who are not in restricted states, magazine-fed shotguns can quickly switch from sporting uses to home defense and competition with some minor adjustments. In the November 2012 issue, we test-fired four high-capacity products with an eye mainly toward effective home defense, which is often done with shotguns that hold 5, 6, 7, and 8 rounds, usually in tubular magazines under the barrel. But there are bigger-capacity shotguns out there, so in the March 2016 issue we examined the Akdal Arms MKA 1919 3-Inch 12 Gauge, a Red Jacket Saiga RTS-SBS-12 Short-Barrel 12 Gauge, the Kel-Tec KSG 3-Inch 12 Gauge, and the Saiga IZ-107 12 Gauge.

Kalashnikov Saiga shotgun

This is the Russian-made Saiga tested in the November 2012 issue. It performed flawlessly, and even though it has gone up in price, we’d choose it ahead of the Chinese-made shotguns.

Outcomes: The Akdal MKA 1919 was a gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun that was created by a Turkish company called Akdal Arms. The 1919 was designed to look and feel like the AR-15 rifle. It suffered quite a few malfuctions during our test, and we weren’t sure what fixes would be needed to make it cycle reliably. The Red Jacket Saiga RTS-SBS-12 Short-Barrel 12 gauge was pricey and didn’t function worth a hoot during our testing of these shotguns.

Century Arms Fury shotgun

Here’s what we got tired of dealing with. The Fury, shown here with a failure to feed, and Fury II shotguns were constantly malfunctioning, though the Fury wasn’t as bad as the II. We used both high-brass shells and low-brass shells and changed the gas settings, all to no avail.

Century Arms Fury II shotgun

Fury II with a failure to eject.

The KSG (Kel-Tec Shot Gun) was a bullpup pump shotgun whose short overall length tallowed for greater maneuverability, making it suitable for close-quarters combat. The KSG weighed a shade over 7 pounds and measured only 26.1 inches in length. The internal dual tube magazines held an impressive 14 rounds of 12 gauge 2 3⁄4-inch shells (seven per tube) or 12 3-inch rounds (six per tube). Because different types of loads can be placed on either side, the shooter can switch between tubes depending on his needs. There are many good fighting shotguns on the market, but no others are quite as handy and possess as much firepower as the Kel-Tec KSG, we found.

Another recommended shotgun from that test, and our favorite, was an older Saiga 12, graded as in Very Good used shape. It 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, is available from K-Var Corp. of Las Vegas ( Designed as an all-purpose shotgun, the Saiga comes with a chrome-lined barrel, which allows the use of many different types of ammunition, including steel. This shotgun was manufactured utilizing the Kalashnikov gas system, which reduced felt recoil dramatically over the KSG pumpgun. The Saiga shotgun was capable of cycling both 2 3⁄4- 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 a bolt hold-open feature, which allows for quicker magazine changes.

Since our last test, market availability for the Saiga 12 has tightened, making these shotguns difficult to come by and rather expensive — prices average around $1300 for an Izhmash-branded Saiga. We wanted to see how a Saiga-style shotgun, but made in China at less than half the price, would hold up to the real thing, so we acquired Catamount Fury and Fury II shotguns and put them through similar tests as the Izhmash Saiga. Here’s what we found:

Century Arms Catamount Fury SG1874-N 3-inch 12 Gauge, ~$400


Century Arms Catamount Fury SG1874-N

Century Arms Catamount Fury II SG1875-N 3-inch 12 Gauge, ~$575


Century Arms Catamount Fury II SG1875-N

The Fury SG1874-N appeared more like the standard Izhmash Saiga we tested a few years ago. We hoped it would perform like the Izhmash, but it didn’t. It was plagued by malfunctions. The Fury II SG1875-N tactically styled version was worse.

ACTION Semi-auto, gas operated piston; adjustable pressure settings 
OVERALL LENGTH (Fury) 42.75 in. 
OVERALL LENGTH (Fury II) 41.25 in. 
MAX WIDTH 2.5 in. 
WEIGHT UNLOADED (Fury) 8.8 lbs. 
WEIGHT LOADED (Fury, 5-round) 9.8 lbs. 
WEIGHT UNLOADED (Fury II) 8.6 lbs. 
WEIGHT LOADED (Fury II, 5-round) 9.6 lbs. 
BARREL 20.125 in. long; internal thread 
MAGAZINE Detachable box, 5- or 10-round  
DUST COVER Stamped steel with picatinny top rail 
RECEIVER Stamped steel, black anodized 
BUTTSTOCK Polymer, rifle style grip 
BUTTSTOCK (Fury II) Polymer skeleton, pistol grip 
LENGTH OF PULL 14.25 in. 
LENGTH OF PULL (Fury II) 12.5 in. 
SIGHTS Fixed rifle style 
ACCESSORIES Cleaning kit 
WARRANTY 1 year limited 
TELEPHONE (800) 527-1252 
MADE IN Zwiang Machinery Co., China
IMPORTED BY Century Arms, Delray Beach, FL 


Century Arms Fury magazine

The Fury magazines use a traditional AK-style rolling lock, distinguished by the ledge on the magazine (arrows).

The Saiga 12 is a Kalashnikov-pattern 12 gauge imported as a sporting 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. Our 2012 test shotgun was manufactured at the Izmash Legion Factory in Russia.

Century Arms Fury magazine

The Fury II uses an AR-style straight lock. Neither takes the same magazines as the Saiga.

The Fury and Fury II are Chinese-manufactured Saiga-style 12-gauge shotguns imported by Century Arms, the Fury II being the more tactical-style upgraded model. So, in essence, what we had was one gun with two option packages.

The obvious differences between the two Chinese models are almost the only differences. The buttstock and the magazine well are the only major differences, but those variations affect weight, length of pull and overall length, and the ergonomics for fit and feel. The size advantage goes to the tactically outfitted Fury II; it’s 1.5 inches shorter and weighs in 0.2 pounds lighter than the rifle-stocked Fury.

The addition of the magazine well also means that they use different magazines, the Fury being a more traditional AK-style rolling lock and the Fury II being an AR-style straight lock. Neither takes the same magazines as the Saiga, which means our 50-round drum wasn’t part of the function tests.

Saiga IZ-107 12 Gauge, $640

Gun Tests grade: B+

Saiga IZ-107 12 Gauge

The Kalashnikov-based semi-auto is a tank that fires shotshells.

ACTION TYPE Gas-operated, semi-auto
PITCH 3.5 in.
WEIGHT (LOADED 2.75 in.) 9.1 lbs.
CAPACITY (2.75/3) 10+1
CHAMBER SIZE 2.75, 3 in.
CHOKE External threads
SIGHTS Fixed rear V. front post
ACTION Matte magnanese phosphated steel
BARREL Matte magnanese phosphated steel
BUTTSTOCK Polymer, no buttpad
FOREARM 8.5 in. long, checkered polymer
TELEPHONE (702) 364-8880
MADE IN Russia

A Closer Look

Saiga IZ-107 12 Gauge

The Saiga 12 is a Kalashnikov-pattern 12-gauge combat shotgun. 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 receiver.

As we noted about the Saiga in 2012, there were some substantial nits to pick on the gun. The metalwork was rough and sometimes sharp, especially on the mount on the left side of the receiver. The lack of a rubber buttpad made the stock slip around in the shoulder socket and did nothing to soften recoil. The trigger pull wasn’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 probably pick an adjustable sight version for just a few dollars more.

Kalashnikov gun

Looser clearances offered in an AK design result in high reliability, which we saw in our testing. We had no function failures with the Saiga, even though we used several different magazines, including an Alliance Armament AA12G30 30-round aluminum drum.

dust cover and mounting rail

The Saigas are also distinguished by 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 general look and feel of the machining on the two Chinese shotguns was worse, in our view. Aside from the etching on the receiver, the machining on the Fury II’s bolt carrier showed clearly filed down areas in a few places, while the Fury in the same spots was clean and sharp. This minor difference may have increased the number of failures in the Fury II.

Ergonomics of the shotguns were a point of contention between our testers, because some liked the tactical pistol-grip-style stock of the Fury II, and some did not. The backstrap on the pistol grip measured a short 2.2 inches, and some of our testers had a hard time finding a comfortable grip around this cross between a thumbhole and pistol-grip-style stock. The test team also commented that the shorter length of pull on the Fury II made it slightly better for home defense, but that element made it considerably worse for most sporting uses, where we found both shot about a foot low.

The metalwork was rough and sharp in spots.

The Fury won the ergonomics battle with its sibling purely because none of the testers didn’t like it. It was neutral enough to take the victory over the disputed Fury II’s layout.

At the Range

The looser clearances offered in an AK design result in high reliability, which we saw in our testing of the Saiga 12. We had no function failures of any type with the Saiga, even though we used several different magazines with different capacities, including the drum magazine.

Some testers preferred the skeletonized buttstock of the Fury II, bottom, and some did not. Those who didn’t had a hard time finding a comfortable grip around this cross between a thumbhole and pistol-grip-style stock.

Saiga stock’s checkered grip.

After 150 rounds through each, we think we figured out why the Chinese versions are called Fury: That’s the emotion we felt while clearing the failures we encountered with these firearms and remembering that we had to open the bolt to load a magazine, because they didn’t lock open on an empty magazine.

922r compliant Catamount Fury II Shotgun SG3015-N

This is the new 922r compliant Catamount Fury II Shotgun SG3015-N with a 10-round magazine.


922r compliant Catamount Fury II Shotgun rifle-stocked

The similar SG3014-N is the rifle-stocked version.

Our test loads for the Chinese guns were Remington 00 Buckshot and Remington SureShot Heavy Dove Loads, fired with the appropriate gas settings. Once we began shooting the shotguns, the basic Fury scored higher for a few functional reasons and ergonomics. Functionally, we had fewer issues with the Fury, although there were still plenty of failures to feed that bent up the front of the shells. But we had no failures to eject and no issues loading the magazines with the Fury. Also, on the Fury, the bolt lock/release worked.

With these magazine-fed shotguns, capacity is what you’re after. If your self-defense problem requires more than ten 12-gauge shells, then you’re in a heap of trouble.

The Fury II had roughly the same number of failures to feed as did the Fury, but it also had plenty of failures to eject as well. The bolt lock on the Fury II worked fine, but the bolt release on ours did not function. The lever, which moves up and down when the bolt is locked back or released manually, would not release the bolt on its own. If the bolt lock-open became an issue, it would call for an additional full-letter downgrade because, unlike the Izhmash, the bolt had to be open for the shooter to load a magazine.

We also had a few issues with the Fury II magazines themselves. Being all plastic, the metal bottom on the shotshell would occasionally catch on the ramp and the shells would become jammed in place in the magazine and not feed to the top.

The magazine well on the Fury II also differentiates the two Chinese shotguns.

Our Team Said:
The Izhmash remains the clear favorite as a high-capacity shotgun, and these two replica attempts weren’t close to it. Since we received our Fury models, Century now has a 922r-compliant 10-round magazine and two more chokes for the barrel that ship with the current Fury II models, so perhaps some of the function issues have been resolved in the newer versions. If it were our money, we would still hold out for a Izhmash that takes the standard Saiga magazines and runs like what we have come to expect from this reliable design.

Written and photographed by Austin Miller, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.

Comments (2)

Can't really disagree with the aforementioned review/tests in that I have experienced much the same behavior and or performance. The Vepr 12 would be a shotgun I would love to see you guys review as well. Just renewed GT Magazine for my third year going now and can honestly say it's better now than ever. God Bless.

Posted by: PT-92 | March 5, 2016 10:20 PM    Report this comment

I NEVER buy a gun without first reading your archived reports. As I long standing subscriber, and with this being my first ever post, I thank you for staying the course and being unbiased, not accepting advertising to sway your results. Your March issue search for the best 12 gauge, with the focus on semi-auto and home defense; I wish you had included the famous Mossberg "Jungle Gun", M9200-A1. I first saw this on an old TV show called, "Guns and Gears". I HAD to have one. The problem is that owners do not easily give up this out of production shotgun. Two years of searching I finally scored. 100% of my friends who unload this rapid firing, never jamming, shotgun with a choate tube extension, always reply with "I have to have one" complete with big eyes and an ear to ear smile.
Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Deepwoods | February 25, 2016 5:24 PM    Report this comment

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