Dawn of the Red: Molot Vepr 12 Shotgun Review

Dawn of the Red: Molot Vepr 12 Shotgun Review
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The Molot Vepr 12 is a rugged beast of an autoloader that's ready for almost any task. Photo by Jeff Jones.

The Molot Vepr 12 shotgun is a rugged beast that's ready for almost any task it might come across.

The Vepr 12 manufactured at the Molot Oruzhie factory in Russia is a semi-automatic, box-fed magazine, 12-gauge shotgun that will rip, snort and tear through targets like a beast. There is nothing subtle about the Vepr 12. It was designed for self-defense, hunting, 3-Gun competitions, and any situation where you need to shoot and reload a 12-gauge shotgun fast. In this sense the Vepr speaks in volumes.

As of February of 2016 the FIME Group in Las Vegas has a long-term, exclusive agreement with Molot. But not so fast. Russian-imported semi-automatic shotguns in the U.S. are as rare as Cuban-made cigars. “FIME imports the Vepr 12 shotguns, then to pass 922r compliance,” said Harry Pakhanyan of the FIME Group, “some Russian components are replaced with U.S. parts to make it compliant.” That is why you can get a fully functional folding stock in lieu of a welded open, fixed stock like in the past. The Vepr shotgun is based on the RPK weapon design, which is a lightweight machine gun with similar characters as the AK-47. Basically, the RPK and Vepr are AKs on steroids with beefed up trunnion blocks and receivers. “The Vepr is one of the toughest and most rigid systems in use with militaries around the world, and the Vepr 12 for the U.S. commercial market is no different,” adds Pakhanyan.

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The Vepr 12 shares a similar safety as the AK. Photo by Jeff Jones

In a country where tube-fed semi-automatic shotguns are the norm, the Vepr 12 brings a new shotgun experience that translates into faster reloads, fast shooting, and compact firepower. The Vepr is equipped with a polymer box magazine about the size of an old VHS videotape. It is easy to load, durable—yes, I dropped the loaded magazine on cement with no issues—and unlike an AK, there is no need to rock-and-lock the magazine home. Just insert it like an AR magazine. An AK paddle-type magazine release dumps the empty magazine. The magazine well on the Vepr is polymer, so the polymer-to-polymer contact between the magazine and magwell is slick.

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The Vepr 12 uses a very nice folding stock. Photo by Jeff Jones.

One of the more outstanding features on the Vepr is the left-side folding tubular buttstock. It locks in place extended and when folded is rock-solid. No wiggle. No rattle. A small textured button on the side of the receiver allows a user to fold the stock and another small textured button on the rear of the receiver allows you to extend the stock. A small padded cheek piece can be adjusted for left- or right-handed shooters and the rubber recoil pad make this beast a please to shoot. A second is the spring-hinged top cover with an integrated Picatinny rail, which allows a user to mount a red dot optic. That excited the turkey hunter in me. A third feature, and one that separates the Vepr from an AK-47, is the bolt-hold-open feature which can be engaged via a manual button forward of the trigger guard or on the last round fired. A small button on the right side and rear of the trigger sends the bolt forward.

The finish on the Vepr is typical Natasha and Boris style: imported military-grade matte black that is all business and well executed. The handguard is a ribbed polymer that protects the user from heat from extensive shooting and offers a sure grip shooting bare handed or gloved. The pistol grip is ribbed rubber so any transmitted recoil through it is nil, and it allows a user to really grip the Vepr in rapid fire. Don’t get me wrong, stoke this beast with slugs and 3-inch turkey loads and you will feel the jolt; not so much pain, but pleasure. I ran through a few boxes of slugs just because I liked the way it shot and grouped and was not beaten down by excessive recoil. The Vepr 12 shotgun is a hefty piece of machinery. Weighing 9.5 pounds does help reduce felt recoil from high-velocity 12-gauge loads. When shouldering the Vepr, the ergonomics also help reduce recoil.

The Vepr 12 has AK-style sights; however, it also has a top rail if you want to mount a red dot or similar optic. Photo by Jeff Jones.

The 19-inch barrel is threaded and bored cylinder. Sights consist of an elevation-adjustable front sight and windage-adjustable rear. The trigger pull measured 9.1 pounds, but I was still able to group slugs so at least two out of three holes touched at 25 yards. The Vepr is also equipped with an ambidextrous safety lever, which works similar to an AK-47 safety selector.

I amassed a mixed lot of 2-3/4-inch 12-gauge ammo from tactical buckshot and slugs to light game and turkey loads. I also tried a few very light 12-gauge reloads just to see if the action would cycle and it didn’t, which was not a surprise since these types of loads choke most gas-operated semi-autos. The Vepr ran effortlessly and perfectly with all factory ammo I fed it, even Remington 1-ounce game loads with #6 shot. I used this load to shoot the Vepr from the hip with the stock folded at clay pigeons resting on a dirt berm at 25 yards. Clays smoked in the dirt. It was a lot of fun. Using tactical defense loads, the Vepr landed the payload center of mass, belching out empty shells through the massive ejection port. It chewed through everything.

Shooting the Vepr 12. Author photo.

At 25 yards Hornady Defense 00-Buck gave me the tightest pattern at 7 inches, and the Winchester load was 11 inches. Those are fight-stopping patterns. The turkey hunter in me even tried Winchester High Velocity turkey loads. I wasn’t expecting much with the cylinder bore choke and received a 25-inch pattern at 25 yards with #5 shot. More than likely a dead turkey. I cut my teeth hunting whitetails shooting slugs through bird guns, so I am a bit immune to the recoil. Three-shot groups at 25 yards averaged 3.5 inches. I suspect with a red dot optic that group would noticeably shrink. The Vepr was pleasantly accurate with slugs. Meat in the freezer.

Vepr 12 disassembly. Photo by Jeff Jones.

In operation, the Vepr feels a lot like an AK with the long stroke piston working the action. It comes up to your shoulder naturally and with the padded cheek piece gives you a nice cheek weld with tolerable recoil. It was fast on target with precise follow-ups. I would think a suitable muzzle brake would help reduce muzzle rise when shooting for speed. Magazine reloads were as easy as AR reloads, and because the bolt release is located near the trigger for a right-handed shooter, it was much faster to load than a traditional tube magazine shotgun. The bolt carrier operated smoothly.

Think Russian, think Molot Vepr 12, when pondering the need for a semi-automatic shotgun. This beast satisfies the shooter in all of us. For more information, visit fimegroup.com or call 702-215-3600.


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  1. As an owner, I can corroborate its awesomeness. I’ve replaced the top handguard with a “cheese grater” model and the bottom handguard with wood. I’ve also added a Vortex Venom and a flashlight. Tons of fun, reliable, and can spew an ungodly amount of lead as fast as you can pull the trigger, using ten or twelve round magazines.


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