When I first got my Saiga 12, I took it in its pristine, unconverted form down to the range to get some shooting. The ranges that were available to me were 1) indoors and 2) only allowed slugs. Thus, I was to experience the Saiga 12 in its purest form: shooting high-powered slug loads.
This was unpleasant. The Saiga 12 doesn’t kick as badly as a pump-action shotgun, but it still does quite a number on your shoulder. I knew I needed something better when I converted it… and I think I found it.
Let’s discuss recoil. I owned a couple of Mosin Nagants, including the carbine M44. These fire a 7.62x54R cartridge, and a few clips out of the M44 will generally give me a rather sore shoulder in the morning. This is not a big deal for me, and I enjoyed shooting them anyways. I just want to make this clear up front so all of you understand my perspective on recoil.
I found the Saiga 12 to be pretty tough on my shoulder when firing those slugs. I wouldn’t classify it as absolutely horrible, but I was really feeling it after a couple magazines. Since I hadn’t done the conversion yet, I vowed to make sure I put some sort of recoil-reduction technology into it when I did.
The usual method for taming recoil is to use an Enidine shot shock. However, I wasn’t planning on cutting off the rear tang from my S12, so some other method would have to be used. After some research, I ran across the Mako Group’s recoil-compensating collapsible buttstock tube for AK-47 and their recoil-reducing M4/AR15 stock with cheek piece. These items were originally made by FAB Defense in Israel. They each have a spring inside to absorb energy and reduce felt recoil.
Reasoning that more recoil-reduction couldn’t hurt, I ordered both for my conversion. You can find them online for about $165 total.
Both the stock and the tube seemed quite sturdily constructed. Some people may not be big fans of the polymer construction of the tube, but it seemed tough enough to me.
I find the stock to be quite comfortable in the shoulder due to the curved back with rubber pad. The latch to adjust the stock’s position is backwards to the usual M4 collapsible stock’s orientation, but I didn’t find it much more difficult to adjust once I got the hang of it. It has a battery compartment behind the rubber pad for a pair of AAs, but I didn’t find it particularly intuitive to slide the rubber pad off – don’t expect to do any super-fast battery changes if you’re putting the batteries in this stock. It has the usual assortment of sling attachment points – I used a GG&G QD sling swivel in a QD point, and it held fine.
I did have a quibble with the cheek piece, in that the wheels for adjusting it seemed a bit too difficult to turn. Some oil might have fixed this, or perhaps it was intentionally designed this way? In any event, they did keep the cheek piece quite tight and in position – no simple task, given the heavy recoil of the shotgun. The other issue with the cheek piece is that it keeps the sling swivel from rotating freely… not a deal-breaker, but annoying.
When you mate the stock and the tube on the gun, you’ll notice that you can’t fully collapse the stock, and that to actually get full use of the recoil-reduction technology, you’ll need to set the stock in position 2 or 3. There’s a very small bit of play with the stock and tube, but it’s minimal compared to what you’ll really notice: your Saiga 12 is now very much like a pogo stick, due to the springs in the stock and tube. This bounce is not a big problem when it comes to normal handling of the gun.
The obvious question is, does this setup work to reduce perceived recoil? I shot off a few magazines and drums of slugs, and my shoulder is absolutely fine. I found that I could get off accurate follow-up shots almost as quickly as I could with my AR-15. I also had a new shooter try it, and he reported the same – the gun has kick, but the recoil-suppression works fine. No pain!
Perhaps most important of all, there was no apparent reduction in reliability when using slugs. I have not personally tested this gun with birdshot, but I did ship it off to a respected Saiga 12 smith for reliability testing and work, and he gave it up a thumbs-up with Federal bulk. And, to top it all off, my gun only has 2.5 ports – so if you’ve got a 3 or 4 port gun, you should be golden. I know that recoil-reduction technology has met with a lot of suspicion in terms of theoretical reliability issues, but I really saw no evidence of problems with it.
I do need to caveat, though: this setup is not a replacement for good shotgun stance. In order for it to work, you MUST have the stock firmly tucked into your shoulder, and have your body positioned correctly (leaning slightly forward). If you just let your body move with the shotgun’s recoil, the springs will never kick in to reduce recoil. In other words, if you already know how to shoot a shotgun effectively, this is going to help. It will not help bad shooters.
As mentioned previously, the cheek piece did its part just fine. The S12 used for this review has HK416 sights on a Chaos extended quad rail, and I had no difficulty using them. I still had some room left to go in raising the cheek piece, so I think AR-15-height sights would have been fine, too.
There are a few drawbacks to this setup, though. First: loading magazines was somewhat more difficult than before. I’m used to tucking the gun in against my shoulder and slapping the new magazine in. But when you’ve got springs that are compressing when tucking in, it’s much more of a balancing act. You will probably be wishing for that bolt-hold-open if you have this setup. That said, I could still do fast mag swaps with practice, even without a bolt hold open.
Second problem: it’s heavy. Once you’re used to the relatively svelte Magpul stocks, you really notice the weight of the GLShock. The tube is not too bad, albeit slightly more than you’d have with a Rifle Dynamics adapter and an aluminum buffer tube. I didn’t weigh them, but the effect is similar to putting a Magpul UBR on the back of your AR.
Third, and final problem: the moving bits of the setup prevent a tight cheekweld on the tube. You wind up resting your cheek on the stock or cheekpiece, which isn’t how some of us always shoot. I would go so far as to say that I wouldn’t use these items on a rifle as a result.
I was so impressed with this setup that I bought a GLShock stock and an Enidine Shot Shock tube for my Remington 870 shotgun. It performs even better in that format, and really tames the recoil that pump guns are known for.
In conclusion, if you don’t like recoil and can tolerate some extra weight, this is a great way to soften up your shotgun’s shooting. I would be surprised if the IDF or any other military made any great use of this stock or tube, though.
Disclaimer: parts of this review came from my review on Saiga-12.com. I have updated the content based on a few years of experience with the system.