Meet the Saiga Family, by Brett G.

Your needs when the SHTF will vary greatly, yet some needs rank higher than others. Of course there will be many considerations at any point on your journey, in every circumstance, regardless of the cause (earthquake, flood, volcano, terrorist attack, storm, riots, etc). In any situation the considerations will certainly include a need for food, water, shelter, body armor and helmets, vehicles, fuel, heating, medical supplies, land for security and for growing future food, and such. There is no intention to downgrade the importance of those items – yet it is my intention to get you to think about some of the basics – one basic – very strategically.

When the SHTF, what will be the first concern? In a chaotic situation, other than prayer, in terms of your supplies where will you turn first? When you stop and really think through any nasty circumstance what is the one thing that you will really need? In chaos, beyond anything else other than the immediate need for air and water, you must have weapons for immediate protection and security (if not also for food or eventual barter).

As examples, look to the riots in Los Angeles in the early 1990s following the Rodney King case verdict. Look to happenings in New Orleans, Haiti or Chile recently. Look to the couple in the novel “Patriots” escaping from gangs and mobs in Chicago in the middle of the night. What would happen if there were a nuclear attack? A tsunami hits California? A chemical attack? An asteroid strikes the Earth? Or an EMP or solar flare takes out the power grids? What if a political figure were assassinated and a that triggered riots in every major city simultaneously? What if a powerful earthquake hit a major portion of the country affecting major cities? Most cities are not prepared for such challenges. Unrest can happen at nearly any time for nearly any reason – the one thing you can guarantee will happen is utter and ultimate chaos.

Look at September 11th, 2001. Every commercial airliner was grounded and uncertainty reigned – then the markets plummeted. In the southern United States, every grocery store sells out when there is a threat of a hurricane or snow.

The challenge for most folks is that “newbies” don’t have a clue where to start with weapons. As a simple explanation, like the variety of clubs in a golf bag for different types of types of shots at different distances, many different weapons exist for the multitude of circumstances. Remember, no weapon is perfect in every situation – which is the reason for short range handguns and shotguns, and medium to long range rifles.

With that being said, I think after you do some of your own investigations you will find this series of weapons that I am proposing to be superior in many ways, yet being practical, which makes this posting critical for discussion. I would like to introduce you to the Saiga family of weapons.

In all of my studies, there is no weapon family like the Saigas. Saigas may or may not be the most superior weapon in every scenario, however they have their niche. Your need obviously depends on your circumstances and your preferences. It is safe to say that the Saiga’s offer some unique capabilities that you may not have considered. These include: reliability, durability, functionality, practicality, special purpose, and affordability.

The Saiga is an off-shoot of the AK-47. It looks like the AK-47. In fact, they are mostly Russian made, by Izhmash, at least in parts origin. Although the part availability question, since they originate in Russia will come up, (and make sure to get what you need now!) overall these weapons are worth serious consideration.

The Saiga’s are known to be fairly reliable. (Reliability improves as you use the appropriate ammunition as specified.) Original Soviet Bloc AK-47s tend to be the most durable, common rifles and the Saigas are arguably not far behind. Of course for any purchase, you do your own research and make up your own mind.

One of the important considerations is that they come in a variety of calibers. For one, you can purchase the Saiga chambered in .223, which is one of the most common rounds in the US and around the world. Furthermore, the Saiga .308 is a variant of the AK-47 (7.62 mm x 39 mm) design, yet is shoots the common (in the US) .308 round. Importantly, the .308 packs a bigger punch than the .223 and large magazines exist for both rifles (up to 25 rounds that I have found). Even though the magazines aren’t cheap, (you can probably find them for about $45 – $55 per magazine) the remainder of the considerations for the Saigas are important.

The Saiga .223 and the .308 both come standard in a 16” and 22” barrel. Other lengths may exist, however these are the two most common. In comparison to the AR-15, the .223 Saiga is just slightly heavier. Of course if you want more maneuverability and quick sighting, then go for the shorter barrel. If you want more muzzle velocity and the benefit of the doubt when it comes to improved accuracy, then choose the longer barrel.

One recommendation, especially if money is not too much of a concern for you, is to have both the Saiga .223 with the 16” barrel and the .308 with the 22” barrel. Truthfully, either Saiga with the shorter 16” barrel would be great for quick combat movements. At that same time, perhaps you should consider a longer range set up.

If you haven’t thought about a long range weapon, perhaps you would include a side rail or Picatinny rail and a good scope for the .308, which can be very effective for longer range shooting with significant knockdown power. The .308 round is very common for hunting and it is very common in many of the world’s militaries. One nice aspect of the Saiga is that they are made to handle the variations between the .308 Winchester and the 7.62 NATO case dimensions and pressures. (The variable ammunition factor is a vital consideration should ammunition become sparse in the times after TEOTWAWKI.) Make sure you consult your manufacturer’s guide for your specific weapon before selecting ammunition.

Normally, a nice long range option for hunting or sniping is the Remington 700 chambered in the .30-06 or .308 Winchester. For larger game, longer ranges, and hard targets like engine blocks, or light armor you can go with a Barret M82A1 semi-automatic in .50 BMG with a really good scope. Expect to pay $4 – $6 per round). The challenge with bigger caliber, highly precise rifles is that the prices reflect the quality. Many .50 caliber, bolt action rifles (like Barret and McMillian) are in the $2,500 range for a bolt action and around $8,000+ for the M82A1 semi-automatic with ten round magazine.

Even though the common and more affordable Remington 700s, for example, which are durable, accurate, and relatively inexpensive – about $600 in many cases (Dick Sporting Goods has a sale currently for $449 plus tax for the ADL version) – are incredible weapons, they are a still bolt action with a limited fixed internal magazine capacity (versus a semi-automatic weapon with larger, detachable magazines) which may have some limitations in a firefight. What if a good, inexpensive, larger caliber (.308) weapon were available in a semi-automatic? That is where the Saiga .308 is great to consider.

Importantly, if you are already thinking ahead, you can have .308 round for the Remington 700 and the same round for your Saiga .308 if you decide to have both – one for more long range shots and one for more “tactical” situations – even though the Saiga .308 is the “better, two in one, sniping and hunting” weapon. Even though the Saiga .308 may arguably not be as accurate as the 700 for long distance shooting, the Saiga .308 in good hands and with a good 4 – 12 x 40 scope can do the job. Overall all, having pair of weapons is a great idea, yet if you had to have just one, then perhaps consider the Saiga .308.

As you acquire multiple weapons, remember to use common calibers for all of your acquisitions since it will benefit you to be able to shoot the same, common round out of your multiple rifles. Then stockpile that size ammunition for future needs. Planning ahead and preparing is the name of the game, this is another reason for this post – the commonality yet versatility of the Saiga .308.

If it weren’t obvious for you at this point, all of the Saigas are semi automatic,. Therefore, you can punch out more rounds more quickly–one round with each pull of the trigger–than you could with a bolt action rifle because you don’t need to manipulate the bolt for each round. At least with the opportunity for extended magazines for the Saigas, you can shoot more times without touching the bolt action and thereby sending more rounds downrange, more quickly. Even though there are fantastic shooters with a bolt action rifle, in firefight you want to put as much lead accurately down field without extra steps if you can. The benefit with the Saigas is that if you can keep your eye on the target with larger magazines, you will win more battles. In dire times, aggressive action will save your life.

As a nice bonus, you have many options for adding additional features to the Saiga .223 and .308 which I will discuss in later in this article. Options are always nice and in difficult situations flexibility is paramount.

As you probably know, a shotgun is one of the best weapons for any home invasion or close quarter combat scenarios. The downside to most tactical shotguns is that the capacity of the weapon tends to hold from only 5 + 1 in the chamber round to 7 + 1 rounds typically for either the common Remington or Mossberg pump action weapons. Even though they are great weapons, they have some limitations. That’s only 8 shots! And that is on the higher end capacity shotguns that many preppers have. For serious situations involving a dozen attackers, wouldn’t you want more rounds? I don’t know about you, I would rather have one too many shells in the weapon than one too few! Also, for a mob of a ten people, how many rounds do you want? Do you only want six, and then have to reload in the midst of the fire fight?

And as another point, have you actually tried to quickly reload your shotgun? How does that work for you? I don’t know about you, but when I make the effort under calm circumstances I might be able to get six rounds back into the shotgun tube in about ten seconds. And how many times like I do you stumble and drop one as you quickly push it into the tube? In a crisis, how quickly can you reload? The point is, how quickly can you really reload a “normal shotgun” putting one shell into the magazine tube at a time? It might take longer than you really want. In a tough situation, tactically you are limited by your weapon’s capacity and your reloading capabilities.

Fortunately, there is the Saiga 12. This weapon was designed for tough situations like this. The Saiga 12 is a 12 gauge shotgun that is potent weapon. It is basically the AK-47 frame with larger magazines, yet you shoot 12 gauge shotgun shells. It doesn’t get much better than that. By the way, Saiga also makes the Saiga 20 and Saiga .410 – which are 20 and .410 gauges respectively.

Several box magazine sizes are available. Magazine sizes are 5, 8, 10, and 12 rounds. 12 round magazines makes 12 + 1 round in the weapon to start. That is nearly twice the capacity of the Mossberg or Remington.

Also, think about this factor, you can more quickly put more rounds back into the weapon when you reload. You may take five seconds to reload just like with a “normal shotgun”, however when you reload, you are putting 12 rounds back into the weapon as opposed to only six to eight, with others. You also didn’t have to reload as early in the fight because you had the 13 rounds total to start with. That’s 25 rounds with a 5 second changeover. The alternative is 25 rounds with having to stop and reload one round in the tube at a time, 25 times for a total of 25, precious moments that seem like a lifetime, in the middle of a firefight. Fortunately, somebody was really thinking and designed an intelligent and practical weapon with the right mindset.

Of course the argument is that a pump action is more reliable than the semi-automatic action of the Saiga 12 and I would agree in theory. The Saiga has an adjustable gas tube where you can ensure more gas is diverted to eject the spent shell from the chamber. They have really thought of about everything, including the ability to utilize a wide variety lengths and a multitude of loads in the shotgun shells in the same magazine. Regardless of the pump reliability versus the semi-automatic argument, you can easily punch out 24 rounds from two magazines in less than 10 seconds! Saigas rarely jam.

If you are serious about protecting your loved ones and your property, you will find that 20 and 30 round drums are also available for the Saiga 12. That’s a total potential of 30 shotgun shells delivered at a target in less than 8 seconds! Using 00 buck shot in 3 inch shells, that’s equivalent to 450 round bullets of .32 caliber. That’s a hailstorm of lead. If you want to win a firefight in a short range battle, the Saiga 12 with a 30 round drum is the right strategy.

There are a few considerations for these drums for you to remember. Of course, these larger drums take up a considerable amount of space due to their design. You may need to do some planning if you intend on humping around a couple of spare drums, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad set up for one (or perhaps two) thirty round drums and to back them up with a half dozen so, twelve round magazines which can be carried more easily, with their more linear design. (They are a only slightly curved magazine).

Also, the drums are expensive. You can look to spend about $300 per drum which may be cost prohibitive for many folks. (Of course you could consider, which may be a better strategy, to buy 6 to 9 twelve round magazines for a total of 72 to 108 round capacity, compared to buying just one 30 round drum for the same investment.) When it comes to the price you need to make your own decisions. [JWR Adds: Thankfully, MD Arms recently dropped the price of their 20 round drums to less than $175. I suspect that the 30 round drums will soon come down in price, as well, with economies of scale.]

When you purchase, the magazine or drum quality needs to be taken into consideration as well. Do your homework since there are at least two companies that make the drums. (And a half dozen that make the box magazines.) Plan ahead for a potential future situation when the silly anti-gunners decide to put another unconstitutional ban on weapons and higher capacity magazines. Stockpile enough magazines! Another consideration other than simply having the magazines available for your own defense is that the magazines will jump in price if there is another ban.

One nice benefit of a 12 gauge shotgun is the variety of ammunition. Of course shotgun shells are fairly easy to load for your own ammunition preference – buck and ball is an option. Always thoroughly test your ammunition. In the magazine for maximum effectiveness, you may alternate (slugs for stopping power) and #4 buck (.24 inch diameter), 00 buck (.33 inch diameter) and 000 buck (.36 inch diameter) rounds.

One consideration is that you can use different colors for your magazines or use a label maker for certain arrangements of your ammunition. Whatever system you choose, you will be able to quickly distinguish what you have and what you are using depending on the types of situations and shots that you may encounter.

Remember, slugs are best for down range, longer distance shooting – up to 200 yards with substantial knockdown power. Buckshot is for increased opportunities to hit your target. The trick is to still have a large enough mass behind each hit; that is the purpose of the larger pellets. Make sure when you choose your ammunition that you decide to balance your purchasing for a variety of scenarios. Your best “middle of the road” buckshot round is arguably the 00 buck – each pellet is about .33 inches in diameter and the average 3 inch shell will hold around 15 pellets.

On a different note as a consideration, make sure you consider Federal gun laws. According to the US laws, with recently-imported guns, you must have a certain quantity of parts that are made in the US. Make sure that you always have a sufficient number of Sec. 922(r) Compliant Parts to adhere to the current laws. (Do a web search on “Sec. 922(r) Compliant Pats Count”, for details.)

One of the perks of the Saiga family, somewhat like the AR family, is that there are many options for these weapons if you do your homework. Many accessories are available including rails for scopes including red dot scopes, adjustable stocks with pistol grips, muzzle brakes and flash hiders, and for the really serious “prepper” even a bayonet lug for that dreaded worst case.

As suggested, one consideration is to put choke tubes on the threaded end of the barrel for a tighter shot pattern. As you may know, the benefit of having a choke is to keep your pattern a little tighter to extend the effective range and functioning of this weapon with bird or buckshot. Just make sure you get what you need exactly for your weapon. Just make sure that you remove the choke and replace it with a “cylinder bore” tube when you shoot a slug, as appropriate. (If you neglect to do so, you could blow up your weapon! Always check the technical details to know which set up will be best for your needs.)You can also use the threaded end for a muzzle brake or flash hider.

Many great accessories and parts for your Saigas can be found at Dinzagarms. If you are looking for alternative muzzle attachments, front sights, tools to work on your Saiga, rails and other items, this is a great resource. Additionally, I negotiated a perk for my fellow SurvivalBlog readers. When you buy from this web site and enter the coupon code “SURVIVALBLOG”, you will receive a 5% discount.

An important factor is your sights. With the Saiga 12 shotgun you are probably better use a holo sights, with iron sights as a backup. Of course, carry spare batteries and choose a scope that makes the most sense for you. Red dot scopes are a great idea and they are ideal for quick target acquisition. You can find some good ones at relatively inexpensively if you get a rail for your weapon. One red dot scope that I like is the Leeper Golden Image.

Of course having good backup iron sights is important. What if your batteries run out, you experience an EMP, or if your sight gets damaged in battle? Use the Boy Scout motto: Always Be Prepared!

When you think about the possibilities of carrying and firing the weapon, flexibility and ease of transportation are vital. One of the best ways to do this is not just with the shoulder strap to allow the weapon to be slung over your back, rather use a single point tactical sling. This carrier harness comes in a few styles and can be found through on-line companies like Midwest USA.

As far as the tactical harness is concerned, you need to have an easy point by which to attach the harness clip to the weapon. One of your best solutions is with TAPCO collapsible/adjustable stock which will allow your weapon to seat nicely in your hands at the best position and with a “clip on” point where the stock connects to the weapon. You have to specifically look for the single (right or left handed) metal loop, or a double loop set up exists.

In regards to adjustable stocks, one of the benefits is comfort, flexibility, and easier use. You can do a search for these stocks since they are nearly everywhere including,, or again, Midwest USA. Also remember, one of the best reasons to have the collapsible stock, other than for comfort, is that the adjustable stocks are ideal for closer combat scenarios including shooting around corners. Simply, an adjustable stock is a great consideration as it is easier to handle a shorter weapon for such tight engagements. Regarding your Saiga configuration conversion, you will find this link helpful. If you become a Saiga connoisseur, check out the Saiga Forum.

Transportation of your Saiga gear will present some new challenges. The unique, long magazines and drums for the Saiga weapons need to be carried somehow. One great resource for carrying options is The Vest Guy. You may find others, perhaps even a tactical back pack.

Perhaps you have yet to consider how to function at night. Of course if you have a red dot scope, your needs are covered. What happens if you simply run out of batteries? Night sights are available and probably a good idea if your variation is compatible. As one source, try for some basic information. MD Arms has many options for Saigas. As another great resource, they have pistol grips and drums, plus many other set ups.

As you may know, the barrel of your weapon will get hot as you shoot enough times. I never thought about it until I learned the hard way. The amount of heat generated really startled me in my younger years. It was an accident, yet a lesson well learned, therefore, consider hand guards and other variations that double as rails where you can attach options like lasers and flash lights. As a side note, only use these at the exact moment you are going to fire, otherwise you are giving away your position. For other options such as hand guards, check out web sites like DPH Arms.

Some folks are shy about recoil. In addition to a recoil pad, you may want to consider a muzzle brake because they can reduce the recoil by up to 30%. With the Saiga 12 you can easily unscrew the threading at the end of the barrel and quickly affix a brake in a matter of a minute, and many options are available. Good brakes can be found at Carolina Shooter’s Supply. One of the best muzzle brakes on the market is the competition brake which comes in two forms – #2 and #1 for door breaching, which is great for close quarters because of the pointed end. Another option for the Saiga 12 is the Tromix Shark Brake. It works as a muzzle brake, flash hider, and door breaching tool. For other accessories, you can visit Tick Bite Supply.

Specifically for the Saiga .223, you can find 30 round magazines for reasonable prices if you look. Here is one example of a normally $39.95 magazine that is being sold right now for $28.95 by Mississippi Auto Arms. For Saiga .308 25 round magazines, Mississippi Auto Arms has them for $39.95 per magazine. (That’s about $5 to $15 less than most sellers of this magazine.)

For the Saiga 12, here is a ten round magazine for $37.95 for places (such as California) where magazine capacity may be limited to ten rounds. The price offered here is considerably less than the normal retail of $49.95.

If you keep your eyes open, you will find some great deals for your Saiga needs. Here is some information, modified from a recently received e-mail detailed for purchasing a weapon. 1.) Saiga 12 gauge with 19 inch barrel IZ-109 @ $489 + shipping 2.) Saiga 12 gauge with 24 inch barrel IZ-107 @ $489 + shipping 3.) Saiga 7.62×39 rifle with 16.3 inch barrel IZ-132 @ $299.99 + shipping 4.) Saiga .223 rifle with 16.3 inch barrel IZ-114 @ 299.99 + shipping 5.) Saiga .308 rifle IZ-137 @ $489.99 + shipping 6.) $100 off any converted Saiga 12 gauge shotgun. (This example is Mississippi Auto Arms, Inc.) You will have to confirm these deals with Mississippi Auto Arms, however these are some stellar deals if you are serious about picking a Saiga (or several) while you have a chance. Can you imagine picking up three Saigas for the price of one Bushmaster AR-15?

Joe’s gun shop in Coal City, Illinois earlier this year was selling Saiga 12, 12 round magazines for $35. Also, he had the Saiga 12shotgun for $449 (plus tax, cash price) – of course you would have to work out the interstate details with him or find someone in your area. Joe’s phone number is( 815) 370-8002.

For the performance of the Saiga 12, you can watch free videos on You Tube all day long. Other than the prototype AA12 (the automatic shotgun that was developed for the US military, but never adopted), you will see why the Spetsnaz were marginally favored with this weapon compared to the Green Berets in computer simulated, combat scenarios on the Deadliest Warrior show:

Lastly, one key benefit of the Saigas is the “bang for the buck.” Many Saigas can be acquired for little money compared to other similar weapons. I have recently seen the Saiga .308 for as low as $479 (plus tax), the Saiga .223 for $335 (plus tax) and the Saiga 12 for $449 (plus tax). Again, talk with Joe in Coal City, Illinois. All of these are prices for “new in box” guns. Compared to the lowest I have seen the base model Mossberg 500 for $330 from Dick’s Sporting Goods, $449 for a tactical shotgun with magazines of 12+ rounds is pretty amazing. You do your own research of course. For an idea of what is on the market, see:

Check your laws before you purchase any weapon. Hopefully with the McDonald v. Chicago case regarding the gun ban in Chicago now being argued in the Supreme Court, the 2nd Amendment will be applied to laws within the 50 states.

As you plan ahead, maybe considering stockpiling these weapons, parts, and accessories. If things do get bad in the future, you will want these weapons as your disposal. Ultimately, the Saigas are very robust weapons and they will serve you, your family, and friends for many years to come.