Our very own member US_Dragunov (the owner of Welcome to Red Dragun Weapons, LLC) was kind enough to show me the samples he has on hand of the -030 models that are coming soon.

In one word - WOW!

These things are really nice. I have to have one Unfortunately since I had not planned on the meeting I had not packed my camera along, so I have no close-up pics... I should be up his way again next month, and I'm bringing the camera next time The one I got to handle looks EXACTLY like the bottom one in this pic except he has an Aimpoint on it instead of a Kobra:

A few things of interest I noted:

- The last-round bolt stop works! The magazines are fitted to the gun from the factory, however he has noted no loss of function on any of the mags he has.

- The bolt stop appears to be a one-piece design that is essentially a new center support. You could come REAL CLOSE to making a copy of these by drilling a hole in the bottom of the receiver, but the factory model has a new center support. I wonder what the conversion parts "kit" that is being advertised as "coming soon" will include.

- The bolt stop relies on the new follower to work. Conversion of US-built mags will most likely require a new follower with the tab on the rear. I believe that the magazine BODIES should be able to use the new followers with a modification to the thick part at the top back area where the magazine forms a "ramp" that pushes the rounds forward slightly. On the factory mag, that "ramp" area is cut away so the follower tab can touch the bolt stop lever. Very clever design!

- If the mag body mod I have in mind does indeed work, the magazines will still work in a standard Saiga without the mag well. HOWEVER, to make standard US mags fit the magwell, you must sand away the front locking lug AND enough material around the "ribs" on the outside of the mag body that it will never work in a non-magwell Saiga again. Therefore, if you were to make the INTERNAL magazine body modifications ONLY, I believe they would be able to work with the non-magwell model Saiga-12 with the bolt stop (the one that K-Var is selling).

- You can insert a fully loaded 8-round factory magazine on a closed bolt. Magazine well rocks!

- The "self-regulating" gas piston is a very simple redesign. No springs, no extra parts. A new puck design, a new piston design, and a new design on the gas block. "Presto". In a nutshell, it is basically tooled to the low-pressure rounds (birdshot). The high pressure rounds obviously still work, and it appears the design is such that the high pressure rounds have the ability to bleed off the excess pressure so recoil is not so harsh. Didn't shoot it so can't say for certain.

- The rear sight block is bascially a '74 RSB cut of and welded to the gun. Simple, effective. I got a chuckle at the 1000-meter sight on a shotgun

- There are actually TWO different designs of top cover hinge. The "new" design with those arms that reach back, and the 2nd design that I have not seen before relies on the rear sight dovetail on the Saiga. That dovetail holds a hinge, and the top cover attaches to that hinge. Much more simple and cleaner looking, and works with the standard Saiga grips we all have on our current shotguns.

- This 2nd design removes the picatinny rail on the gas block and replaces it with the standard Saiga grips (doesn't work with the AK grips). To be honest, I really like the look and feel of the standard Saiga grip, and it looks like it could still use the aftermarket foregrips. I don't have access to any aftermarket foregrips, so I can only speculate. However the handguard on this 2nd model -030 is identicial to my current Saiga-12 handguard. I have no idea if this model will even be available as it was a sample.

- Speaking of samples, I also got to look at the wood model with the Dragunov style stock and foregrip. AMAZING quality on the wood! Laminated and finished with a very nice looking dark wood finish which appears on par with some bolt action stocks I've seen. VERY NICE marriage of wood and steel! If you like wood, you'll be impressed with these.

- It appears that the -030 model with conventional AK handguards will NOT be able to use aftermarket grips without modification... the handguard retainer is literally pressed into place, meaning the lower AK handguard permanently attached. So you'd better like black if you order this one! And if you look at the pictures on his website, yes, the handguard retainer has sling loops on both sides.

- The little lever that sticks into the trigger guard is now an AR-style bolt release! Pop in a new mag and push the lever up to let the bolt slide forward. AWESOME!

- I believe he said he can only import WITHOUT the folding stock, so I think the retail ones will be the the 'neutered' stock. Can't remember to be honest.

Overall, I must say I do believe the -030 model is worth it. I'll be honest, I've done the inventory on parts, and I don't think you could accurately build a complete -030 conversion without getting real close to the retail cost! And you would still have to custom-build some of the parts like the picatinny railed top cover, hinged RSB, etc.

FYI he IS accepting pre-orders on these right now.