One of the reasons I read The Truth About Firearms blog is because they don't appear to pull the punches when reviewing firearms. So, here is what they said recently about the Saiga shotgun:
The Saiga shotgun is built roughly on the same design as an AK-47 – very roughly. Like, “I saw it on the internet and I think it works like this” rough. Some of the features are pretty close to the original design, but the gun had to be drastically modified to operate with shotgun shells.C'mon. Tell me how you really feel.
The gas system, for example, uses a “gas puck” that functions much like the short stroke recoil design used in the M1 carbine from WWII instead of the direct gas operated piston system in the original design. And the bolt design uses a rotating shaft ... but a stationary bolt face in order to properly chamber a round.
Other additions like a bolt hold-open feature are unique to the Saiga design entirely. These modifications have introduced a number of areas where serious malfunctions can occur. And more often than not, they happen at the most inopportune moments.
In addition ... the build quality on Saigas is generally piss poor compared to other shotguns in the same or even lower price ranges (not even the Norinco 870 ripoff is as rough around the edges). ... Besides the finish being incredibly rough (and therefore rather abrasive to the moving components of the gun) the original parts themselves seem flimsy. It just feels like they cranked these guns out without the polish that their line of rifles gets.
... I asked around, and every single person I saw who was running a Saiga shotgun at the recent CT match had a major malfunction (“major” defined as taking 10 seconds or more to clear). One shooter’s shotgun even decided to disassemble itself in the middle of a stage, something that happened the day before at the practice range and was captured on film by yours truly (notice anything about that dust cover?).
Whatever speed bonus competitors gained by having detachable magazines was more than outweighed by the extra time needed to actually make the thing work. And before you say it was only the “bad” competitors that had malfs, I watched Jerry Miculek’s legendary Saiga shotgun have a meltdown in the middle of a stage that probably cost him a few positions on the leaderboard.
That’s the reason I ditched the Saiga shotgun when I did. I could see the writing on the wall — getting it “up to spec” was going to cost thousands of dollars and even then, the design was so inherently shitty that it probably was still going to malfunction on me. So instead of wasting money on the “upgrades” I bought a Mossberg 930 and haven’t looked back. The lesson: caveat emptor. If you buy a Saiga shotgun, be aware that you’re buying a project gun that even the best shooters of our day have tried — and failed — to make work in a competition setting.