Can the KS-12 American Saiga clone hold a candle to the Russian original?
What’s a KS-12?
- 12-Gauge Semi-Auto AK-Style Shotgun
- Based on Russian Saiga-12
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Adjustable Gas
- Four Variants
AK shotguns have been popular with both civilians and law enforcement since the introduction of the Saiga-12 in 1997. But sanctions placed on Russian companies in 2014 and 2017 ended any further importation of their firearms into the U.S. Considering that 12-gauge AKs may be the best design for modern combat shotguns, it's no surprise the demand for them didn’t disappear along with the supply. Almost immediately following the 2014 Saiga ban, Kalashnikov USA was formed to try and fill the void left by Izhmash and Molot. Their first project was the KS-12.
Once the exclusive importer of Saiga shotguns and rifles known as RWC Group, the company reformed as Kalashnikov USA once importing Russian-made weapons ceased to be an option. They had a slow start setting up production but were finally able to get their first guns out the door in 2017.
They have no officially known relationship with the Russian company, Kalashnikov Concern, but KUSA’s guns are supposedly built using original Russian data packages. Those who have extensive hands-on experience with both Izhmash-produced and KUSA-produced AK shotguns claim that the biggest difference between them is KUSA’s generally higher quality control.
One would expect their fit and finish to be higher than on Russian guns, considering the difference in scale of production. Kalashnikov Concern is a former Soviet state-run arsenal, Izhevsk, and still produces guns for the Russian military, Russian civilian market, and export. Kalashnikov USA is a lemonade stand in comparison. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Being a smaller operation gives the opportunity for higher levels of quality control, and so far that seems to be true of KUSA’s guns.
Their low production numbers are also their biggest bottleneck to success, however. KUSA simply doesn’t produce enough guns to make them a serious competitor in the AK market. If they ever manage to ramp up production while retaining their excellent quality control, it would be a winning combination.
This is the standard version of Kalashnikov USA’s Saiga-12. It is based on the later Saiga import that had a standard, fixed-stock AK configuration rather than the earlier sporter models or the later folding stock models. It is nearly identical to its Russian counterpart, with the biggest difference being the omission of the manual bolt hold open (BHO) device. This can cause problems when attempting to load a full magazine on a closed bolt, which is why the Saigas had them in the first place.
The KS-12 includes a Russian-pattern side scope rail, a threaded muzzle with thread protector, and ships with a 5-round magazine. All KS-12 variants are compatible with original Russian magazines as well, but those are rarer and more expensive than KUSA’s new production mags.
Like the Saiga-12, the KS-12 has a two-position adjustable gas regulator. The settings are designed to reliably cycle low-power practice shells as well as full-power defensive loads. They are both chambered for 2 ¾-inch and 3-inch shells.
KS-12T & KS-12TSFS
These are the tactical configurations of the KS-12 and are almost identical besides the furniture. The KS-12T has a tri-rail handguard, an ergonomic pistol grip, and a collapsible AR-style buttstock. It also ships with a flash hider and a 10-round magazine. The KS-12TSFS is only different in price and its ability to fold the stock as well. Both the standard T and TSFS models are available with black or FDE furniture.
This KS-12 variant isn’t technically a shotgun or a pistol, but a short-barreled firearm. That makes the Komrad the only way to get a factory short-barreled AK shotgun without paying for a $200 government permission slip. This version also comes with the tactical grip and handguard, as well as a vertical foregrip and SB Tactical brace.
For those in the market for an AK shotgun, you will have to determine whether KUSA’s offerings satisfy your needs. On one hand, they are at least of equal build-quality as original Saigas, they don’t need to be imported, and they’re cheaper new than Saigas are used. On the other hand, KUSA guns are still sometimes hard to find, have also gone up in price, and lack a BHO device.
Both the Saiga-12 and KS-12 are good AK shotgun options, but don’t forget there are also Veprs that will be nicer, and non-Russian imports that will be cheaper. Even with sanctions on Russian arms imports, 12-gauge AKs in America continue to be a solid shotgun option.
For more on Kalashnikov USA, please visit kalashnikov-usa.com.
More On AK And AR Shotguns
- Are AK Shotguns The Best Modern Combat 12-Gauge?
- The Russian Izhmash Saiga-12 AK Shotgun
- The Russian Molot Vepr-12 AK Shotgun
- The Escort DF12 AR-Style Shotgun
Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and we'll send your print-at-home target pack right away. Just enter your email address below.