DIY Saiga 12, part 2 – Facilitating Mag Changes for Slug Changeovers

It’s been a couple of months since I posted about building up my DIY Saiga 12 and attending my first shotgun action match.  Since then I’ve had a chance to shoot it some more, and again at a match and I have modified my gun based on what I thought could be improved for use (primarily in competition).

One of the first things that I wanted to improve was speed and ease of magazine changes for slug changeovers.  Changing from shot to slug and back to shot using an AK-type shotgun is one of the greatest time sucks when on the clock.  To better accomplish that task I first wanted a mag coupler.  Having read on the internetz that a .308 MagCinch would also work for Saiga 12 mags, I bought one only to find that the ridges and bumps on the AGP magazines prevented proper contact of the mating surfaces which meant no matter how tightly they were joined, the magazines still had a fair amount of independent movement (i.e. ‘slop’).  Using a white crayon, I marked the MagCinch brackets where they needed to be relieved and then, carefully (with lots of trial fitting) used a Dremel tool to grind away where needed to allow solid contact.  This was a complete success and resulted in two magazines joined solidly.

.308 MagCinch on Saiga 12 mags from AGP. The staggered heights allows free access to the charging handle.

Now I keep shot loads in the right magazine and slugs in the left allowing me to change between the two as needed.  I was concerned that the recoil of a 12 gauge might cause rounds to dislodge on the open topped ‘jungle clipped’ magazine but that has turned out, thankfully, to not be the case.  For several hundred rounds now I have not had a single shell on the open mag dislodge or even move in the slightest for that matter.  However, changing between the two magazines still requires a particular technique.  Since S-12 magazines will not easily seat on an unmodified closed bolt, I also added a Tromix charging handle and a JT engineering extended magazine release which I thought would help with the method I use to more quickly change magazines.  That technique (the “Iraqi method”) can be seen in this video.

Proper combat technique or not, this method allows me to (1) fire a shot, (2) change my firing grip to grab the charging handle and pull it fully to the rear, clearing the chamber and holding the gun level against my shoulder, (3) reach up with my left hand to grab the magazines, (4) thumb the magazine release with my left hand to release the shot filled mag, (5) move the slug mag over two inches and lock it in place [and thereby not have to seat it on a closed bolt], and finally (6) release the charging handle to chamber a slug round and (7) reacquire a firing grip.  The knurled charging handle does help me perform this action with more control and comfort; the extended mag release does not.

Charging handle and mag release; magazine for shot loads

One of the reasons I chose JT’s single sided mag release was so that I could still use my left thumb for some mag changes and my trigger finger for others. Having my gun modified to allow loading on a closed bolt would largely eliminate having to do the manipulations above.  Another note regarding the extended mag release: It works well but I find that I have to shift my grip to use my index finger to release a magazine.  Maybe I need to look into an extended, extended magazine release.  Either way until I have the gun modded to load on a closed bolt, the extended release isn’t particularly useful because I’ll still have to use the “Iraqi reload” technique or lock the bolt back to load another magazine and both actions require two hands, negating the benefit of having an extended mag release.  However, the magazine coupler, the charging handle and the change in technique have significantly reduced the time I take to change from shot to slugs and back.

Charging handle and mag release; magazine for slug loads

Stay tuned for “DIY Saiga 12, Part 3 – Optics and Freakin’ Lasers!”

How To: Install a Mag Cinch (with Pictures)

Previously, I had not experimented with rifle magazines ‘jungle clipped’ together.  As my gunsmith said, “I’ve haven’t yet had to shoot anything more than 30 times”.  A quick search of the interwebs quickly found apocryphal stories of jungle clipped ammo where recoil caused the spare (non-seated) magazine to eject live rounds every time the gun fired, leaving the hapless shooter trying to reload with a mostly empty second mag.  Which I suppose could happen… maybe…

Still, it’s a gun accessory I wanted to investigate (and seemingly a popular one for all the versions available: Mag Cinch, Blackhawk?, Command Arms, Springer Precision, Mako Group, etc.)  Also, with the AR15 being the ‘Mr. Potato Head’ of firearms, isn’t it incumbent upon AR owners to try as many accessories as possible?

The Mag Cinch by Buffer Tech isn’t the original jungle clip (I believe that title belongs to duct tape) but they do have an innovative, simple and yet solid method of securing the mags.  Reading the instructions left me with a fair understanding of how to attach them but there weren’t any pics (not even at Buffer Tech’s website), something my right brain appreciates.  Another search of the world wide tubes did not reveal an instructable-type pictorial, which sounded like a waiting blog entry to me.  Thus I present to you: “How to Install a Mag Cinch”

I purchased the model for 30 round AR15 magazines.  It comes with two cinches that each look like this:

A single Mag Cinch; 2 come per pkg for a 30rd mag

A single Mag Cinch; 2 come per pkg for a 30rd mag

Note #1: The final step of securing the Mag Cinch involves trimming off the excess nylon webbing so getting it right the first time is in your best interests.  Buffer Tech sells replacement straps for $1.25

Note #2: About the first thing thing I realized when trying to take the pictures of the process was that black brackets with black webbing on a black magazine don’t show detail very well.  However, I found a solution…

Nylon Webbing from Fabric Store: $1.29 per yard

Nylon Webbing from Fabric Store: $1.29 per yard

Yes, it’s Toxic Green nylon webbing from a local fabric store.  I bought a yard and cut it in half with a hot knife (Box knife heated by propane torch) to prevent fraying.  Using a leather punch, I made a hole in the center of each half and Ta-Dah! –> replacement straps.  The selection at the fabric store allows for a wide range of choices like: tan, purple, florescent pink, black, safety orange, blue camo, rainbow (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or even Ted Nugent-approved zebra stripes.

Re-assembled with photo friendly straps

Re-assembled with photo friendly straps

Let’s Begin.  Here are the instructions from Buffer Tech [mostly verbatim with some added commentary]:

WARNING!  Important: read instructions carefully before attempting to install. Test completed assembly in unloaded firearm to insure proper clearance prior to use.

1) Adjust screw out fully, screw should be [sic] barely engage threads.

2) Place Mag Cinch unit around magazines, making sure that the large part of assembly is on the front of the magazines.  Stagger magazines so that the right one is about 1.5 inches lower than the left.  This cinch will sit at the bottom edge of the left magazine.

Position of first cinch

Position of first cinch, amount of offset may vary

3) Pull ends of webbing tight.  Use needle nose pliers to twist ends tight.  It is critical that webbing is tightly holding magazines prior to step 4.

Tighten w/ pliers; do 2x each strap, from top & bottom

Tighten w/ pliers; do 2x each strap, from top & bottom

4) Tighten screw until Mag Cinch is holding magazines snugly.

5) Repeat steps 1 – 4 with second Mag Cinch.  Adjust this unit so that it sets atop the first unit.

6) Insert magazine assembly into unloaded firearm and adjust fit to suit your needs.  Make sure you can operate charging handle, ejection port cover, safeties and other operation features.

[*This is a must; the recommended 1.5 inch offset was too much for my setup and would have impinged on the knurled screw for my Holo Sight]

Cleck clearance on the left

Last chance: Check clearance on the left

...and on the right

...and on the right

7) Tighten both screws until the magazine is firmly held in place by the webbing.

Tighten firmly

Tighten firmly

8 ) After you are sure that the unit is adjusted, cut off excess webbing.  Exposed webbing can be sealed with a lighter or match.  [*Or use hot knife to cut and seal the ends at the same time; you might want to put a piece of cardboard over the strapping that you don't want to cut to protect it during this step.]

Trim and seal with blade

Trim and seal with blade

Afterward it should look like this:

Finished installation

Finished installation

Conclusions:

1) The Mag Cinch holds the magazines very securely.  There is no movement at all. If forced, I almost think that the mags would give way before the cinch would.

2) The overall result is fairly large – not something that is conducive to putting in a magazine pouch.  Methods of comfortably slinging the firearm with cinched mags are reduced due to the bulk.

3) While I haven’t had the chance yet to shoot with the cinched mags to see if the ‘spare mag’ ejects live rounds during recoil (unlikely), using the MagPul P-Mag dust cover on the left magazine would certainly prevent that from happening.

4) From a practical standpoint, I’m not completely sold on ‘jungle clipping’ mags unless using them in a war zone or for action matches (3 Gun, etc.). However, if your particular storage requirements dictate having an unloaded rifle the Mag Cinch might offer a solution.  In that case, you could leave the right side magazine empty yet seated in the rifle’s mag well but also have a full magazine less than an inch away, ready to go.  I admit this defies most logic [After all, who wants an empty mag on a fighting gun?] but may allow greater readiness in situations where such policies / laws exist.

5) I need a better camera and light box setup

6) I’m pretty sure that my ‘Cinched magazines won’t be lost for lack of visibility or be confused with anyone else’s.

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