Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saiga Pistol-Grip Conversion - S-12 Shotgun

I actually finished the conversion more than a month ago, but I didn’t get around to taking pictures until last weekend. The write-up is not 100% finished yet, but it’s been a week since I’ve had anything to post here, so. . .

  • Russian American Armory Saiga-12 12-Gauge Shotgun with 19” Barrel
  • Saiga Internal Stock Adapter (I think it was Al’s Custom that made it, but it doesn’t say on my receipt, or the bag it came in, and the part is no longer on the Mississippi Auto Arms site)
  • ACE Pig-Nose AR-15 Stock Adapter
  • Tromix DIY Trigger Guard (With Built-In Pistol Grip Mount)
  • Tapco M4 Carbine-Type 6-Position Stock
  • ProMag M4 Stock Recoil Pad
  • Interarms AK-47 Pistol Grip (Borrowed from another rifle that didn’t need it as a U.S. made part)
  • Interarms Grip Screw
  • Tapco G2 Single-Hook Trigger Kit (Trigger, Hammer, Disconnector)
  • Tapco Trigger and Hammer Pin Retainer
  • 10 Pound 1911 Recoil Spring (For Light Birdshot Loads - Replaces Front Recoil Spring)
Tools Used:
  • Drill
  • Assorted Drill Bits
  • Center Punch
  • Hammer
  • Dremel Rotary Tool
  • Dremel Carbide Cutting Bit (Part Number 9901)
  • Dremel Router Bit
  • Dremel Reinforced Cut-Off Wheel
  • Grandfather’s Vise
  • SAE Allen Key Set
  • Phillips and Flat-head Screwdriver
  • Temporary (blue) thread locker
  • Needle-Nose Pliers
  • Needle-Nose Vise Grips
  • Tweezers
  • Pin Punch Set
  • Coarse File
  • Kart Recoil Lug File (Any Square Needle File W/Safe Edge Will Do)

This is the only gun that I've ever named. I call it Sid, becuase I think it's probably the most Visious thing I own. Nothing, short of a belt-fed machinegun, can remove or destroy flesh and bone quite like a load of buckshot, and this sucker can load up to 13 rounds of buck, and fire them as fast as you can pull the trigger. If you've got the cash, you can pick up a 20 round drum magazine for these Saiga shotguns. When the magazine runs empty, rock-and-lock another one in and cycle the bolt and you're ready to go again.

922r Compliance
The Saiga rifles and shotguns come with funky hollow plastic sporting stocks. For these stocks to work at all, the trigger is moved back from the position it would normally be with a pistol-gripped AK-47. The square hole and slot for a normal AK-type trigger is still there, but it's covered by a piece of sheet metal riveted into place on the bottom of the receiver. This sporting conversion is done to comply with an import ban. Although the company in Russia makes Saiga rifles and shotguns in the normal AK pistol-grip style, they are non-sporting under the language of the U.S. import ban.

But wait! There's a catch! The ATF allows for conversion from sporting configuration, to the pistol grip configuration, as long as 10 or less of the parts they've listed are imported. When you add these domestically-made parts, the firearm changes from an imported gun, to a U.S.-made gun. Yes, it sounds kinda dumb, but don’t knock it! It’s kind of a nice loophole to have in a ban.

In my case, changing out the hammer, disconnector, and hammer make the shotgun a legal domestic firearm if I use American-made magazines. Add a U.S.-made pistol grip and stock, and I can use any magazine.

I had originally planned to buy one of the stock adapters with the mount for a pistol grip, so I wouldn't have to do the full-bore pistol grip conversion. That would have required more expensive U.S.-made conversion parts. Handguards run about $60, and the gas pucks are around $40. It's actually cheaper to do a proper conversion, if you can drill out the 3 rivets that hold the cover on the bottom of the receiver. You end up with a shorter shotgun and a better trigger in the end anyway. The stock Saiga trigger pull is really heavy. The Tapco G2 trigger is much better, better than many AR triggers even. I would have ended up doing the conversion properly eventually, and would have been stuck with used parts that no one really wants.

I think I managed to do the conversion without buying any tools. I used a Black & Decker hand drill that I bought from Wal-Mart a few years ago for something like $25. I did chew into the receiver some, drilling out the rivets, but the trigger guard and button-head screws covered up those little sins. The rivets didn't give me too much trouble. Cheap DrillMaster bits seem to have worked fine.

Tricky Bits
The first issue was drilling out the trigger pin rivets. Damn things will spin on you, and the drill bit doesn't do it's job. This is where the needle-nose vise grips come in. You need something to hold the pin/rivet in place as you drill.

The stock adapter required a lot of modification, even though it's made for the Saigas. The first issue I noticed was the lack of a slot for the key of the AR-15 stock adapter to seat in. I put the adapter under the drill press, and cut some holes, and then used the trusty Dremel to make the holes into a slot. I also had to notch the internal stock adapter to clear the FCG pin retaining wire. When all that was done, it got lightly sanded, and given a coat of Krylon Black BBQ paint. I’m actually not quite done with that; the receiver cover scrapes away a little more paint off the top-rear block every time I put it back together. I’ll have to cut down that ridge when I get the Ace folder mechanism and repaint.

The hardest part of the conversion was getting the lower put back together with the bolt hold open (BHO) lever. I wrestled with the springs to get the trigger and hammer pins in, then I installed the stock, putting threadlocker on the screws. THEN, I pushed on the hammer pin, discovering that the pin retaining wire wasn't working properly. With the stock adapter holding the retaining wire in place, I had to take it all apart, and start all over.

I don’t know how the Russians get damn things together. Getting the parts in under spring pressure without the safety in place is frustrating. They must have assembled it with the safety, because the BHO lever blocks off the slot in the side of the receiver otherwise, and then you can’t get the safety in. Notching the BHO lever to allow inserting the safety doesn’t seem to hurt, so that’s what I did. This is where the Dremel Carbide Cutter bit comes in. But don’t put away the Dremel and bit yet, with the pistol grip conversion, you’ll find that your trigger finger (or maybe thumb for lefties) is making contact with the protruding button end of the BHO lever. You may want to trim that BHO button down about a quarter inch.

I got the conversion done over the course of one weekend while catching up on TV. I would probably have gotten it done in a matter of hours if I hadn't been running up and down the stairs, going from the basement to the couch and back again and again. I didn’t have a spare AK grip at the time, so I modified an old FAL grip to work (in true WECSOG fashion), which added about a half hour to the conversion process. Then I got a Romanian AK-47 parts kit (for another build), which freed up a proper AK-47 pistol grip, but I had to cut the grip screw down to work with the Tromix Trigger Guard.

Saiga 12 Magazines

The Russian American Armory 5-round magazine that came with the shotgun is similar in size to a 30-round AR-15 magazine. So far, this seems to be the most reliable magazine that I've used in this shotgun so far. This is what I keep loaded with Federal LE 2 3/4" 00-Buck shells, until I can get some 3" buckshot shells.

The 8-round Surefire magazine is similar in size to a 30-round AK-47 magazine. The Surefire 8-round is what is shown in the pictures of my shotgun at the start of this article. Surefire mags are American-made and count as 3 compliance parts - magazine tube, follower, and base plate. I have had a few 2 3/4" shells hang up on the top of the barrel extension. No problem with 3" rounds yet, because the front end of the shell sits forward of the rear end of the barrel extension, and there's no way for the longer rounds to get caught there. I guess I should take a picture, so that you can understand what I'm talking about.

Size Comparo Shot. From left to right:
  • 12-round Surefire Saiga 12 magazine in bag
  • 10-round Promag Saiga 12 magazine
  • 8-round Surefire Saiga 12 magazine
  • 5-round RAA Saiga 12 5-round magazine
  • 30-round AK-47 magazine
  • 30-round AK-74 magazine, 5.45x39mm
  • 30-round MagPul PMag AR-15 magazine
Related Links:
Saiga .223 Conversion – Not quite the same, but gives a good pictorial step-by-step walk through.

How to reinstall the BHO

BHO mod so you can get the safety back in

Making FCG pin-retaining wire from Saiga pin-retainer spring

Mississippi Auto Arms – Where I got most of the conversion parts and Surefire mags.


Paul said...

How do you get your beastie to shoot birdshot? My saiga digests most buckshot and slugs, but I cant dial it down/up enough to get it to shoot birdshot.


Suburban said...

It may depend on how many port holes are drilled in your barrel. They vary from 2 to 4.

I've been replacing the front recoil spring with a 10 pound 1911 recoil spring.

There's also an accessory gas plug that allows more gas to get to the piston.