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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!”

Saiga 12 DIY project complete [w/ notes and pics]

I’ve had a Saiga 12 for a well over a year now but hadn’t gotten around to doing the trigger group/pistol grip conversion.   After reading Linoge’s posts about his recent acquisition: Vera (and my correct guess as to its identity thus allowing him to share it with the world), my interest to see the project through was rekindled.  I ordered parts from Carolina Shooters Supply and used the Saiga 12 forum discount code to get 5% off.   Props must be given to CSS; the parts were ordered in the late afternoon on a Friday and were shipped the same day.  CSS also has helpful videos on how to go about the procedure once the parts are in hand.

This was not the first S-12 conversion I have performed.  The first was for a buddy whose girlfriend asked me what gun-thing she should get for his birthday last year.  I told her about the kits and told her I would perform the surgery so she could surprise him.  Upon receiving it, he of course instantly realized she was a keeper and married her.  Of course, having his gun to practice on helped and my conversion was easier and faster.  I also learned in between that I wanted a AR stock adapter for mine.  My buddy’s kit came with a K-Var polymer stock with a steel buttplate.  Being the sort to perform my due diligence before turning over the gun to said buddy, I ‘function tested’ it with 50 rounds of high brass birdshot.  [Warning: incoming exaggeration] The sensation of doing so can accurately be replicated by placing a can of Spam again your shoulder, lid towards you, and having someone repeatedly smack it with a sledgehammer.  Also learned from the first build was that while I like the Ergo grips on my AR’s, the Ergo AK grip placed my hand too low and thus my finger too low on the trigger to be comfortable.

My friend’s Saiga 12 that I got to practice on

For my build I used the CSS trigger guard and trigger kit with a Hogue AK grip, a CAA AK aluminum stock adapter and Magpul MOE stock.  Addtionally I added the V-plug from MD Arms for gas port regulation.  Just for additional CDI factor, I added a DPH Phantom Flash Enhancer.  Funny thing, the muzzle device didn’t look that big on the webpage…

Phantom Flash Enhancer for Saiga 12

The major lesson learned this go around (and what really helped speed the project) was learning how to properly use a cobalt drill bit.  A small thing yes, but important: Go slow.  Don’t get anxious once the bit starts biting into the steel and go full throttle.  You will burn the bit causing it to lose its temper (literally) and it won’t cut ever again.  There, four dollars and time saved.

I’m also glad I got the Hogue grip.  It did require fitting in order to be placed forward enough to seat the attachment screw, but comfort and hand placement is much improved compared to the Ergo AK grip.  The CAA stock adapter required judicious amounts of filing and fitting to attach mostly due to the head of rearmost triggerguard screw.

So how did it turn out?  Have a gander.

mostly converted at this point; did you know a MASH clip fit the hole in the tang nicely?

Completed S12 DIY project ready for testing

With everything finally fitted and secured with locktite, I ventured out for a function test yesterday with 25 rounds of Winchester Super Speed birdshot and 30 rounds of Winchester Super X buckshot (2 3/4″ 9 pellet OO buck).  After getting the gas port set, it ran like a top using 10 round magazines from AGP.  Next outing I might try a drum from MD Arms.  My shoulder has convinced me to add an extended recoil pad too.  I’m interested to see how well the MOE stock holds up to repeated use and I’m also considering adding some sort of top rail (any recommendations?) with a Primary Arms micro RDS.

Best of all, as I was cleaning up another shooter came over to mention that the range is having an Action Shotgun match Sunday morning!  Guess where I’ll be.  What better way to build my own familiarity and competence with the platform and test its reliability than to run it in a match?  All in all, even though it’s not nearly as cool as Linoge’s, I am quite happy with my Saiga 12 and am looking forward to more fun with it.

FCC notice: Nothing comes for free and certainly not all the stuff I bought to complete this project.