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Modified Saiga 12 function test
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The Saiga-12 is a 12-gauge combat shotgun available in a wide range of configurations, visually patterned after the Kalashnikov series of assault rifles. Like the Kalashnikov rifle variants, it is a rotating bolt, gas-operated gun that feeds from a box magazine. All Saiga-12 configurations are recognizable as Kalashnikov-pattern guns by the large lever-safety on the right side of the receiver, the optic mounting rail on the left side of the receiver and the large top-mounted dust cover held in place by the rear of the recoil spring assembly.
The looser clearances offered in an AK style design result in high reliability—an enormous boon on a semi-automatic shotgun, as this class of weapon had previously tended towards unreliability.
The Saiga-12 is manufactured by the arms division of Izhmash, in Russia. It was previously imported into the US by European American Armories, although their agreement expired in 2005 and Izhmash is now exporting through the Russian-American Armory Company. Izhmash also manufactures Saiga 20's and Saiga 410's in 20-gauge and .410 bore, as well as the Saiga semi-automatic hunting rifles in a number of centerfire calibers.
Modifications to the basic Kalashnikov platform
The Saiga-12 incorporates several features absent on the AK-47 and similar firearms.
Since shotgun shells are nearly twice as wide as 7.62x39 rifle cartridges, the extraction port in the side of the dust cover had to be increased in size. However, since the bolt had to remain the same length to fit inside the AK-47 sized receiver, the rear section of the bolt is covered by a sliding metal flap that rides on the recoil spring. This allows the gun to be sealed against dirt when the bolt is forward, but the compression of the recoil spring during firing moves the flap rearward to clear the extracted shells.
For the likely reason of simplifying production of Izhmash's other Kalashnikov-pattern guns, the Saiga-12 extractor does not rotate, but instead delegates the bolt-locking function to a caliber-neutral lug directly behind the bolt-face.
The Saiga-12 incorporates an adjustable two-position gas system, for the reason that firing high power loads such as slugs and buckshot generates so much force that the receiver will be damaged if the full power of the gas system is employed without some sort of recoil buffer. The problem is that making the gun durable with the higher power loads would make it useless with low-power loads such as bean-bags and flares since the gun would fail to cycle - becoming in essence a manual straight-pull action or producing a "stovepipe" malfunction.
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