SAS-12: Do You Always Get What You Pay For?
I’m always on the lookout for bargains, whether I can afford them at the time or not. It’s incredibly hard for me to turn down a smoking deal – so when I came across a curious little 12-gauge shotgun named the SAS-12 for a mere $140 I knew saying no was already a lost cause. A bit of research told me that these guns, originally or perhaps only previously known as Weidong products, have existed on the civilian market since the 2000s. They ranged anywhere from about $150 to $200 making them one of the absolute cheapest new production shotguns on the market in direct competition with typically $150 single shots of various manufacture and typically $200 pump guns such as the Maverick 88 or H&R Pardner Pump. The kicker, though? The SAS-12 isn’t a single shot. It isn’t even a pump action. Hell, it isn’t even a typically semiautomatic – it’s a semiautomatic 12-gauge shotgun that takes removable box mags.
Was this all too good to be true? A semiautomatic magazine fed shotgun for a fraction of the price of a Vepr, Saiga, or even the questionable Catamount Fury? I considered for a moment that they’ve been on the market for going on two decades and I’d never heard of them – surely this wasn’t a good sign. Ultimately, I threw caution to the wind hoping that these had simply stayed a diamond in the rough throughout the years. A few days later, the SAS-12 arrived at my local gun shop. Inspection would have to wait until later as they come more closely resembling a slug than a shotgun with as much cosmoline they’re packed in.
Finding the time later to take a closer look, the guns are fairly simple. A little rough around the edges in points (most notably the buttpad, you’d figure the part you press into your body wouldn’t have a sharp edge but that wasn’t the case) but sturdy nonetheless. The action is reminiscent of an M1 Garand – a piston located in the forend underneath the barrel which links to an op-rod that drives the action rearward. A result of this action type is a substantial amount of gas being vented inside the handguard, making each shot pretty smokey. Not necessarily a downside, but I found it to be a neat oddity.
This particular shotgun did not come with a choke adapter. A brief google tells me that older models did, but this one retains a fixed choke of approximately .69” which is right around a full choke to improved modified. The muzzle, on closer inspection, also seemed to have some odd tool markings with the finish removed in a circular pattern. Once again curious but inconsequential.
The magazines are a huge factor of what can make or break a gun and they’re no exception here. I can’t stress the following point enough: YOU WILL NOT FIND MORE MAGAZINES. They sometimes pop up on gunbroker but at around $50, at the very minimum 1/3 of the cost of the gun itself (with two magazines included mind you), they’re not worth pursuing. Okay, so you can’t get more. But it comes with two, and that’s plenty right? Yes and no. The two magazines that mine came with are three round magazines, meaning with one round preloaded in the chamber you’re looking at a total capacity of four rounds. That’s fine for a range toy or sporting gun, but as a defensive tool should you choose it for that purpose it’s inadequate. There’s a modification that can be made to the magazines however that can allow them to hold four rounds without any complications. Simply buzz off a quarter inch or two off of the bottom of the follower and it will have enough room to compress enough for an extra round. With that considered, five rounds on tap sounds quite a bit better.
So how do the magazines perform? I noticed that they would often have issues feeding if not fully pressed into the gun. The trouble is, they can be brought down just far enough while still locked in place for it to be an issue often leaving you with a tap-rack-bang situation. The four round modification didn’t give me any noticeable issues in cycling, but with the way it was acting up it’s hard to pin it down on any one component.
Recoil is exactly what you’d imagine it to be for a 12ga. Stout, but not unmanageable. If you take the edges off of your butt-pad it’s a non-issue.
On to the main point: How does it cycle?
At the end of the day this is the only thing that matters. The short answer is, not well. From what I’d read online the manufacturers suggest a break-in period with stronger loads, so I put about a box and a half of 00 buckshot through it (20-something rounds) to see if it smoothed out. It choked on the first few rounds, then began cycling more reliably, but ultimately still had the occasional stovepipe or jam every few rounds. You could argue that I didn’t put enough rounds through it to properly break it in, but I personally believe guns don’t or shouldn’t need a break in period to begin with. Next up was birdshot, which performed horribly. Surprisingly one or two rounds managed to cycle without telling me that it’s possible for this to be a great gun, but the vast majority failed. Keep in mind this was bottom of the barrel bulk target loads rather than expensive quality stuff so that’s a stipulation, but a proven shotgun like the Vepr 12 cycles it like a champ.
So in conclusion: Should you buy an SAS-12?
That all depends on what you want it for. For defensive purposes? With man-stopper rounds the SAS-12 fails often enough for me to say not in a million years. With the magazine modifications that bring your total round count up to nine rounds of 00 buck (or slugs, #4, etc) that would be fantastic if it had no issues cycling. Well, it has issues cycling.
For sporting purposes? Absolutely, if you only need one shot. If you need more than that you’re out of luck for birds and may or may not get a second chance for deer. Consider one for this purpose if you want to make it extra fair on your game of choice.
For a toy? This is the only thing I can legitimately suggest getting one for. I bought mine on a whim and for $140 I don’t regret it as something to play around with at the range, use as a project gun, or just laugh at.
As for the ultimate budget shotgun, this isn’t it. The Maverick 88 has been the gold standard of that category since its inception for a reason – they go for about $180 at Walmart so pick one of those up instead if you want something you can depend on.