What do you get when you take the basic pattern, gas-operation and rotating bolt design of the Kalashnikov series of rifles, including the infamous AK-47, and transform it into a shotgun? The answer is the Saiga-12, one of the most popular semi-automatic shotgun platforms ever produced!
Designed by the legendary Michail Kalashnikov for Izhmash—today the Kalashnikov Concern—the Saiga-12 was used as a combat shotgun as the KSH while the twelve-gauge shotgun has also been marketed to consumers around the world. In Russia, the general public could purchase the shotgun if they held a “smoothbore-gun license,” and until 2014 the Saiga-12 was one of the most popular selling semi-automatic shotguns in the United States.
However, in response to the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13662, which blocked the importation of all Izhmash products, and that included the Saiga-12. The U.S. government’s sanctions against Russia show no sign of ending soon and that could have ended the opportunity to obtain one of the AK-styled shotguns.
Yet, Americans can in fact buy one (if they are fortunate to find it in stock)—with the key difference being that it wasn’t made by Kalashnikov Concern at the Izhmash factory in Russia but rather was produced in Florida.
Meet the Kalashnikov USA KS-12, a semi-automatic that since early 2017 has been made in America but based on the Saiga series.
This is because the American company is now privately owned and operated to manufacture Kalashnikov-style firearms for law enforcement, military and most importantly for most people in the commercial markets. The company was founded due to U.S. sanctions that banned Russian firearms for import, and while there is no actual connection between the two companies at this point other than the name, shooters can expect the rugged Kalashnikov design but American craftsmanship.
Truly it is the best of both worlds, and the KS-12 is a testament to that fact, so much so that it was among the top-selling semi-automatic shotguns in May according to data from the NRA’s American Rifleman.
The semi-auto shotgun retains the iconic look of the AK-series of rifles and accepts 2.75-inch and 3-inch shells from low brass to slugs thanks to the improved yet still innovative adjustable gas system. The shotgun also comes equipped with the classic AK style side-mounted optics rail, while a threaded barrel on the KS-12 means further allows shooters to install any muzzle break of their choice that fits. The KS-12 ships with one five-round magazine, while larger magazines and drums are also available.
While it may be a Kalashnikov the KS-12 is in fact as American as baseball and apple pie.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.