I’m an AK guy, as anyone who has read my articles may surmise. The path of my firearm interests seems to have logically progressed from “old Russian guns” to “new(er) Russian guns”, and obviously AK pattern weapons are a large part of that latter group. Moving away from my usual focus on rifle-caliber guns, I decided I’d give a “Saiga 12” shotgun a try. Enter FIME Group’s SGL12-61.

For the uninitiated, the SGL12 series of firearms are semiautomatic, magazine-fed 12 gauge shotguns based on the Kalashnikov action used in the AK, AKM, AK-74, and all their derivatives. They fit under the broader colloquial definition of Saiga 12 or Saiga shotgun, which are terms commonly used in the firearms community to describe any AK pattern shotgun, though not necessarily always SGL12s.

Close up on the right side of the SGL12-61’s receiver. Note the additional metal flap behind the bolt near the end of the selector lever.

Though outwardly very similar to most rifle-caliber AKs and possessing a similar gas-operated, rotating bolt mechanism, the SGL12-61 specifically is physically distinct in a few notable ways. First, the shotgun’s ejection port is much larger (as is the bolt) than the typical rifle-caliber AK in order to effectively extract shotgun shells. Second, because the ejection port is so much larger than that of rifles, a metal flap has been installed on the recoil spring to keep the internals free of obstructions. Third, the conventional ramped rear sight and front sight near the muzzle are replaced with a fixed rear sight and bead above the gas tube. Finally, the tube that the gas piston is housed in opens on the muzzle end of the gun. This is also where the adjustable gas valve is located.

One of the most appealing aspects of the SGL12 series is that they are new production guns that come straight to the US from the original Izhmash AK factory in Izhevsk, Russia. Thus, they are the real deal, high quality Russian-made guns that a person seeking an excellent, non-parts kit gun, like myself, wants in their safe.

An even closer shot of the trigger guard, showing the bolt hold open button.

Following its importation to the US, the SGL12-61 is re-manufactured by the FIME Group to sport more conventional AK features and furniture. The shotgun comes with polymer US-made “military-style” furniture, including a non-folding Warsaw Pact length buttstock, pistol grip, and RPK-style one-piece handguard. Another welcome feature for safety and utility is a bolt hold open button located next to the trigger. It also sports a side-mounted Eastern Bloc scope rail, allowing easy use of optics and optic mounts.

I received my gun from K-Var, which at the time of this writing has ceased accepting orders due to the high volume of purchases in the past several weeks. Here are the specs for more details:

  • Caliber: 12 gauge, shoots 2-3/4-inch and 3-inch shells
  • Overall length: 38-1/2 inches
  • Barrel: 19 inches, chrome lined, smoothbore, threaded muzzle
  • Weight unloaded: 6.85 pounds
  • Furniture: US-made, black polymer
  • Shipped with five-round magazine

I’ve had several months to use the SGL12-61 in a variety of range trips and clay blasting escapades. I’ll break it down based on quality, reliability, price/value, and referability below.

Images by Edward Pierz

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