Well, Molot finally got through all the US legal import related red tape and their VEPR 12's are on American shores and in American's hands. The gun arrived dripping with some sort of preserving lubricant in a cardboard box with 1 factory 5 round magazine (higher cap mags from SGM are on the way). I unboxed it yesterday, cleaned/lubricated it, and started putting rounds through it. So, far I've got 250 rounds of various ammo (#4 buck, #1 buck, 00 buck, slugs, and some low brass range ammo) with 0 failures of any kind. Here's some of the features of the gun along with what I've found...
Pros: -100% reliable thus far -Hinged dust cover with a 1913 rail. I mounted a red dot and opened/closed it repeatedly and it held zero -The action is extremely smooth; much more than any Saiga 12 I've ever shot -Original Molot polymer grip. Much more comfortable than many AK factory grips out there -Molot self-regulating gas system. This one's key to the 'why is this better than a Saiga 12?' question. Izhmash has a version of this system but reliability reports are still hit or miss with the low brass ammo -Original Molot competition magazine well. Allows for fast reloads eliminating the need for rocking and locking the mags -Molot factory AK adjustable rear sight. This is essentially a beefed up RPK rear sight -Molot original AK enhanced safety lever. It allows for easy disengagement of the safety when shouldering the gun -Cost. The gun is available many places for $1000. Considering what it costs to buy a Saiga 12 and convert it to this configuration that's not too bad -Factory chrome lined barrel, chamber, receiver shaft and gas chamber -Factory threaded barrel. Treads are the same as the Saiga 12 so there are lots of brakes/flash hiders available -The fit/finish are superb. It's as nice, if not nicer, than any AK platform gun I've ever seen -Machined bolt assembly, gas blocks etc. As far as I know there is no MIM on this gun at all. Every part feels very solid
Cons: -Bolt hold open feature doesn't function on the gun 100% of the time (see video below for a better explanation) -The safety was so tight from the factory that it was almost unusable. I fixed it with a little filing but just beware you may need to adjust it a bit
Here's a video review where I test out the gas system, do some shooting with slugs from 100m, disassemble/assemble the gun, and discuss some or the features of the shotgun:
I think you may be right. Rumor has it that VEPR will be importing a bunch of non-slant cut rifles soon as well which will have front ends that are easier to convert as well. If so, I may be snatching up one of those as well.
...-Cost. The gun is available many places for $1000. Considering what it costs to buy a Saiga 12 and convert it to this configuration that's not too bad...
That's what I am hearing as well. The Saiga-12 is an extremely reliable tactical shotgun if it is converted accordingly (I have one and it's rock-solid *only after the conversion*). Key to it as you mention though as well as from various other reviews is that the VEPR 12 is "tactical-ready" out-of-the-box. Interesting in that the Saiga (tactical model) and VEPR are similarly priced.