General Kalashnikov’s Shotgun

This AK-style 12 Gauge Is Gaining A Following Among 3-Gun Shooters And Predator Hunters

Morphing rifles into shotguns is a curious business. The classic example was the German conversion of the Mauser 98 into Geha-branded, 16-gauge sporters between-the-wars. The end result was a pretty nice looking bolt-action shotgun if a bolt-action shotgun appealed to you. The action, more than any other element of these designs, make rifle-to-shotgun transformations so intriguing.

Recently, there have been two, rather interesting, contemporary adaptations. The Russian arms factory of Izhmash has developed .410, 20- and 12-gauge models based on the AK-47 action, which go by the name of “Saiga” while Eksen Arms in Istanbul, Turkey, has fielded the AR-15-looking Akdal MKA 1919 in 12 gauge. Both brands speak well for their genealogy with the Saiga being a faithful adaptation of the AK-47 mechanism while the MKA 1919 resembles an AR in cosmetics only.
I’ve not had an opportunity to work with the new MKA 1919, but the Saiga has been around for a few years, and I’ve had some experience with it.

The Russian maker, Izhmash, the Izhevsk Machine Engineering Plant, was established in 1807 by the decree of Tsar Alexander I. Izhevsk is located approximately 683 miles east of Moscow. Because it has been the small arms manufacturing center for Russia, the city of Izhevsk was a “closed city” until 1992, when, with the break-up of the USSR, travel restrictions were lifted and Izhmash was transformed into a diversified “Open Joint Stock Company” that also manufactures under the brand name “Baikal.” The Izhmash plant still produces 85 percent of Russia’s small arms, but the “Open Joint Stock Company” is also now producing automobiles, motorcycles, machinery and variety of consumer products.

In an effort to diversify its small arms business and to appeal to the civilian market, Izhmash developed their AK-47 based “Saiga” line of sporting rifles and shotguns. Naming their new line after the odd-looking, Roman-nosed, endangered antelope of the Russian steppes has always puzzled me, but then again, we tack the names of birds and mammals on American made firearms willy-nilly as well.

The most popular of the Saiga shotguns is the 12-gauge, which handles 2-3/4″ and 3″ shells. It has seen a dramatic rise in popularity with the advent of 3-gun matches and a growing public awareness for self-defense preparedness. It is not only popular because of its AK-47 reputation of rugged reliability, but being fed with box magazines, it’s quick to reload as well as having a fast cycling rate. Moreover, it’s an affordable semi-automatic, priced today below $600.

On the sporting side of the ledger, the Saiga is a fun gun for informal clay pigeon shoots. While not exactly designed as a handy upland game gun, it does just fine for static types of hunts, such as predator calling and the pursuit of doves, waterfowl, and turkeys, or as a slug gun when hunting from a stand.

The Saiga pictured here is a 12-gauge with a 19″ barrel, a 41″ overall length and, with an empty 5-shot magazine, weighs exactly 7-1/2 pounds on my Sunbeam scale. This popular version is being marketed by Century International Arms.
By Holt Bodinson

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