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VEPR 12 - Vs SAIGA 12 - Vs SPAS 15

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#1 Joe Blasco

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 09:45 AM

VEPR 12 - Vs SAIGA 12 - Vs SPAS 15
or How to slice pizza with a hammer and a sickle


Weather had turned lousy and all the babies with the tight mini skirts had chosen to stay indoors with their mommies. No popichki in the street meant that Gun broker was destined to be my date for the evening but nothing exciting was there that night.

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Then my eye caught an auction for a SPAS 15 going for several thousand US $.
Governor Swartzeneger in the epic drama “Terminator” did enhance his acting skills with a SPAS 12 but what about SPAS 15 ? Carabinieri and the Guardia di Finanza do use this shotgun on duty and If SPAS 12 was bad then SPAS 15 would have to be really AWESOME. Contrary to the popular myth, SAIGA 12 and VEPR 12 are civilian weapons back home, how could they compete against a real world police shotgun such as SPAS 15 ?

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Following day, a ride to my local gun store managed by the cute duo of Taras and Bulba was compulsory. Their reception was as usual warm, like seeing the devil incarnated. Nope there was no SPAS 15 for sale and they never had one. In Moscow I had seen a SPAS a year ago, but nothing lately. Well if the Stooges couldn’t or wouldn’t help me, there is one guy in the world that can scrounge anything.
Good old Sal Corona… Sal is the type of guy that goes for groceries with two pistols tucked into his belt and one under his armpit just in case…

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Twenty minutes later, half a bottle of vodka, a long distance call and a rain check for seven hundred and sixty two cans of Russian pistachio, had completely paid off.
Yeah sure a SPAS 15 was mine for the asking, albeit with 200 rounds already fired.

Shooting Day

I decided to fire 80 Brenekke brand slugs from each weapon.
First was VEPR 12. It fired all 80 really sweet. Recoil was as usual, rough. This is not a weapon for florists. With a thundering roar all slugs would land on target some 50m farther. With the VOMZ scope targeting was a piece of cake. No malfunction. Everything worked smooth and easy.

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I didn’t find the ambidextrous safety on Vepr being of any serious value except for the looks it is really awkward to manipulate it on the left side. The rail under the barrel is very convenient as one can place a laser or flashlight and still have a comfortable grip in the hand guard.
To save time I will not cultivate further on VEPR if anybody gives a dam just read my previous presentation on the board.


Then came turn for Saiga 12. After holding VEPR, SAIGA 12 felt more cozy. I had with me a ZENIT scope but feeling tired and bored under the warm sun I used the open sights. After a couple of magazines I felt nostalgia for VEPR as considerably more time was needed to feed a new magazine into SAIGA, care had to be taken so that the protruding frontal projection of the magazine would be inserted in a vertical angle and then the whole of the magazine could be placed. VEPR magazines do not have the characteristically “tooth” projection of SAIGA. It’s not needed because the magazine is secured to the receiver with the help of the magazine well.

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Anyway SAIGA 12 performed as good as VEPR 12. This was no surprise as both weapons are very much alike.

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For both a rotating bolt is used which is a bit tricky to properly align and reinstall in reassembly of the weapon for a novice. Although very similar, the bolts are not identical. See the accompanying photos and pay attention.

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Gas pistons are similar also but gas piston in Vepr looks of a better quality and body is elongated. Piston head in VEPR is thicker than SAIGA.

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#2 Joe Blasco

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 10:02 AM

VEPR 12 - Vs SAIGA 12 - Vs SPAS 15
or How to slice pizza with a hammer and a sickle


When cleaning time came it was much more easier to perform this task on VEPR by simply lifting the dust cover up and access was provided to the inside of the receiver and gas cylinder. SAIGA with it’s side rail it’s harder to clean as access is limited from the top due to the presence of the scope. One really needs to take off the scope from the side rail and then reinstall it if any serious maintenance is to be made. Since AK receivers were not really designed for 12 gauge everything is a little bit crowded inside both weapons.

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Testing SPAS 15

Last came SPAS 15. Externally SPAS 15 looks like a futuristic laser rifle. This unrealistic image is exaggerated by the sissy light green finishing paint. Although large, thanks to aluminum receiver and plastic hand guards is not as heavy as it should have been. There are visible welding seams all over the receiver although in current production models finishing is a little bit better.

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The charging handle of SPAS 15 is located on top of the receiver like an UZI. Well if this imitation stopped here everything would have been great. However the designing team thought that an AR 15 type carrying handle would be cool also and welded one on top of the receiver.
That means that charging handle must be manipulated by only a finger, usually the middle as there is no space! This makes a really awkward cocking although setting the charging handle backwards requires minimal muscular force in this particular weapon. Another interesting point is that there is not one but two recoil springs situated not centrally but on the left and right side of the receiver.

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There are no rails of any kind nor any provisions for placing a scope but only the open sights.

To fire SPAS 15 a loaded magazine is inserted into the magazine well, charging handle is
pulled rearward with the middle or index finger, like playing a guitar and safety selector is placed to fire (F) position.
Recoil is moderate and the somewhat straight line designing of the weapon with the high sights greatly contributes to this.

While firing in semi mode every couple of mags a spent shell case would not eject and weapon would jam. Bear in mind that this is supposed to be a police shotgun.
I guess that while on duty one can negotiate a cease fire with the adversary, do some finger work inside the receiver and disengage the trapped empty casing. If all else fails one can continue the gunfight by changing the operating mode from “AUTO” to “PUMP”. This is accomplished by pressing the large button on top of the hand guard and moving it a little bit backwards. By this action operating mode is changed and the words “PUMP” are revealed. To reverse one does exactly the opposite, press the button but move handguard towards muzzle.

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Upon firing the last shot, bolt remains in the open position and the safety selector located on the side of the trigger guard is automatically settled to safety (forward position) . To change mag I had to press the magazine latch and put a loaded mag in the well. Then once more I had to place the safety selector to Fire (F) position (backwards towards the pistol grip) and again cock, but this time only a litlle bit backwards, the charging handle and release it. Bolt would return to closed position but weapon would not fire if pistol grip safety is not squeezed.
If the weapon would not jam so often in AUTO mode and if the magazines would be easier to load it would be fun to shoot as the recoil is moderate for a 12 gauge. To the credit of the manufacturer range is not some 50m as written in some web sites but with slugs at least double that.

SPAS 15 is field striped by punching the push pin located under the “Franchi Spas 15” logo and taking out the trigger assembly. One thing common with the AK’s which I hate is that barrel cannot be separated from the receiver body without some serious gunsmithing.

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On the Russian colleagues side SAIGA and VEPR mags are almost identical. The main difference is that since for Vepr there is a mag well the forward projection is unnecessary. Saiga mags can be used for Vepr provided that the forward projection is filed off. Construction material is different and Saiga’s looks more durable. Since Vepr’s mag well ejects the spent mag there is a little lead weight added on the bottom of the mag to add some weight.
Now under careful observation on the Russian mags, the usual piece of metal in the back side not only reinforces the magazine but with it’s carefully chosen dimensions, secures that the rim of the new shell inserted into the magazine will not be obstructed upon insertion by the metal contour of the brass base. This is because the brass base in a plastic shell will somewhat protrude some tenths of a mm from the plastic body.

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Unfortunately Spas 15 magazine did not have this designing providence and while trying to feed new shells inside the mag body many times their rims would conflict with the protruding ending of the brass base of the shell resting in bottom.
Magazine capacity is limited to six rounds and size of the mag box is a little bit bigger than a SAIGA 5 round. Although myself a metal magazine advocate with regret I have to say that SAIGA mags looked much better construction quality than Spas 15.

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Whoever designed SPAS 15 tried to put all the eggs into one basket. In terms of reliability less is better. SPAS is an intriguing weapon and really a collectors item but if I was an Italian cop I would pack as many spare magazines for my Beretta pistol and pray. To be fair on the manufacturer maybe with another brand of ammo, gun behaves flawlessly.

Commies now days take the customer more seriously. There were many complaints about VEPR’s finishing they took care of that problem. Although the shortcomings of SPAS 15 are well known factory plays deaf. Take for instance the notorious charging-carrying handle conflict it doesn’t take an Einstein to fix this, however for over a decade no decision is taken.
Anyway it is rather obvious that the hammer and the sickle sliced the pizza.
Russian revolution leaves only one question: VEPR - SAIGA which one to choose?
Certainly both! They are all around guns great for hunting, self-defense and target shooting. But if I had just one pick, I would have taken VEPR for the quick magazine changes and the RPK receiver. Lastly if any of you is still craving for a SPAS 15 and feels challenging that job making license plates, do I have a deal for ya!

Edited by Joe Blasco, 20 May 2008 - 03:14 PM.

#3 saiga12fan


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Posted 20 May 2008 - 10:27 AM

Great write up. :super:
Glock 21/23, DE .50, Walther P22, TEC-22, Bersa .380, .22 PENGUN, Bushmaster, SKS, Mosin Nagant, SAR-1, AKS-47S, AKS-74U, Marlin .22, Tromix Saiga-12. All Shooters Biatch! -FRANKY.J.-

#4 lelandEOD


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Posted 20 May 2008 - 10:31 AM

Thank you very much for the excellent writeup!
I'm very jealous!

I enjoyed the read.

#5 Vultite



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Posted 20 May 2008 - 02:32 PM

you SOB!! hehehe, good job, I'd like a molot gun, but chances of getting one are less then >< big
People shouldn't be afraid of their government, the government should be afraid of their people.

#6 DistalRadius


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Posted 20 May 2008 - 03:23 PM

Great writup, nice to have a good "head-to-head" of the major semi-auto shotguns.
Thanks a ton.

"Nope; these days if you don't have a linkless cam that tilts the breech end of the barrel downwards and locks it to the ejection port and a machined slide with a single locking lug that forms the front of the firing chamber riding on a one-piece polymer frame with interchangeable backstraps and a striker-fired assisted DAO trigger mechanism, nobody will take you seriously." -LoudClankingSound

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