One of the more widely-known Russian-made shotguns – alongside the Saiga 12 by Izhmash – is the VEPR 12 (pronounced vepper), manufactured by Molot Firearms. It is a 12-gauge, semi-auto, mag-fed shotgun, similar to the Soviet RPK light machine gun, but with more “meat” on it.

Shotguns, boys and girls… say what you want about the proliferation of rifles and EDC handguns – some situations still call for a solid 12 gauge. I think we each have our own idea as to what those situations might be, obviously. It could be a competitive event, a misty morning hunt, fun at the range, or a cure for something – or someone – that goes bump in the night.

VEPR 12 Background

Molot Firearms, which produces the VEPR 12, is officially titled “Vyatskie Polyany Machine-Building Plant Molot”. It is a Russian company which was established in 1940, and is a subsidiary of Rostec, which deals in defense and high-tech within the Russian Federation. The VEPR 12 has been in production since 2003.

Molot is known for its shotguns and rifles, but it is also famous for manufacturing and supplying the Red Army with the PPSH-41 submachine gun, during WWII. There were approximately 6,000,000 of those units built. Though Molot was not the only one manufacturing them at the time, I think it produced the bulk of them.

Fun fact: in the 1950s, Molot manufactured a Vespa-esque scooter, and it continued to remain in production until the 1970s. Imagine wielding a heavy-duty shotgun while riding on a Vespa. Very Eastern Europe, don’t you think?

Nowadays, the company is dealing with some messy bankruptcy proceedings. For the time being, production of firearms seems to be stalled.

VEPR 12 Lux Shotgun
VEPR 12 Lux Edition

There is no telling where exactly this will go, but even if Molot was back on its feet today, you would not be able to purchase a brand new VEPR 12 if you are in the U.S.

In 2017, Molot was added to the list of banned Russian and Ukranian imports, due to ongoing sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department. Until the ban went into effect, Molot weapons were being imported by the US-based Firearms Importer Manufacturer Exporter (FIME group), operating out of Las Vegas.

VEPR 12 Specs

The VEPR 12 is essentially modeled after the RPK. As such, it is a shotgun which may be useful in hunting, 3-gun, and home/self-defense. I want to stress the word “may”, because there are probably better options for each of those categories.

There are several variants of the VEPR 12, and here are the specs for its short-barreled model:

  • Model: VEPR 12 Short-Barreled Shotgun (SBS)
  • Action: Magazine-fed, semi-automatic
  • Caliber: 12 gauge, 3” chamber
  • Length: 34”
  • Barrel length: 12”
  • Weight: 9.3 lbs
  • Capacity: 5 or 8 (Standard) and higher (extended)
  • MSRP: $1,699 ( The other variants carry a MSRP of $1,199)
VEPR 12
VEPR 12 Shotgun

The VEPR 12 comes with Picatinny railing on top of its dust cover, and there is also the option of adding some rail on the bottom part of the hand guard. Fixed or folding stock options are available. The barrel can be fitted with a suppressor.

Because this weapon’s mechanism utilizes a self-regulated (read: non-adjustable) gas system, it is more receptive towards different types of 12 gauge ammo.

Sure, there will be rounds which will cycle more successfully and consecutively than others, but in general this thing can fire a multitude of shells with little to no issues. Just be mindful of the fact that the VEPR was not made for lighter loads (though it may still cycle them).

Dissident VEPR 12
Dissident Arms VEPR 12

There is only so much you can ask from a weapon, and I feel one cannot expect this shotgun to perform under conditions for which it was not designed in the first place. Although, you could argue that for the hefty price you pay, perhaps it should be able to fire every single thing you put in.

Another thing to consider is the length of the barrel. If it is a longer barrel, it is probably less prone to issues, and therefore there is an increased chance of the shotgun cycling properly.

More often than not, it is the shorter barrels which will cause trouble or be finicky about the type of ammo they accept.

A nice touch which Molot added to this model is the ‘open bolt on last round’ feature. Not every AK-ish weapon possess this quality, and it certainly is handy. Combined with the fact that the magazines are inserted in a fashion resembling that of an AR-15, it makes reloading that much easier and more intuitive.

VEPR 12 Accessories

As with any firearm, some accessories are more useful or needed than others. Popular aftermarket products for the VEPR 12 include a bi-pod, stocks (folding/collapsible), butt pad, cheek rest, foregrip, chokes, magwell, and more. Also, there is the wide world of red dots, beads, and scopes.

Are you going to need any of these? It’s a judgement call.

Remember that this weapon is already on the heavy side. These AK-platform designs are usually not too light, but what you get in return for the weight is increased durability and high versatility – two attributes which may prove to be crucial for you.

It all comes down to the intended use.

VEPR 12 SBS
Molot VEPR 12 SBS

Keep in mind that because of the ban which is in place, there is a chance that accessories geared towards the VEPR will become more scarce over time, not unlike the weapon itself.

If you want an accessory that was designed and built for a VEPR 12 shotgun, you should probably get a move on.

Accessories which fit the model can still be found online, but I wouldn’t know about local gun shops because of the ban.

VEPR 12 Magazine

The standard factory mags are of the 5- or 8-round variety, and aftermarket magazines can go as high as 12. After that you have the drum options, which we will get into next.

Now, if you plan on using this shotgun strictly for home defense, you may find that you do not need more than 5 rounds. Nevertheless, there are those people will always want a higher capacity magazine, no matter what.

Understandable.

Preparedness is key, and I get it: you’d rather have more than less.

Remember to check your local and federal rulebooks, people. You don’t want to end up with the Feds all up in your business, simply because you forgot to equip yourself with a proper magazine. Not worth the hassle, not by a long shot!

Quick note: Saiga 12 magazines will usually work with a VEPR 12, but VEPR 12 magazines will NOT work with a Saiga 12. FYI.

VEPR 12 Drum

Speaking from a purely practical point of view, what on earth would you need a 25-round drum for? Well, for one thing, it looks like a lot of fun. There are definitely other reasons which I am overlooking, but the enjoyment factor is nothing to sneeze at.

I know from my limited experience with drum mags that firing many rounds consecutively can be all kinds of fun, and also highly therapeutic!

VEPR 12 Drum
VEPR 12 Drum Mag

Take all your aggression out on those targets, I say.

SGM Tactical offer a 25-round drum for the VEPR 12, MSRP $99. Reviews of this drum, and SGM at large, have been kind of “iffy”.

Other manufacturers offer 20-round drums for the Saiga 12, which should also work with the VEPR 12. Make sure that’s still the case before purchasing, though.

VEPR 12 Muzzle Brake

Shotguns and muzzle brakes are a match made in firearm heaven. The ability to reduce recoil allows you to get back on target quickly, and more accurately place those follow-up shots.

With a 12-gauge like this – and with many other shotguns, for that matter – a muzzle brake is definitely useful. It comes down to price, really, since just about everyone agrees that recoil management may be a necessity for some shooters.

The price for a VEPR-fitting muzzle brake is something between $45-150 or so. Not all brakes are created equally, so some of them are not fit for use with slugs. The manufacturer will usually specify whether or not that is the case.

Also, muzzle brakes for the VEPR 12 will usually also fit the Saiga 12, and vice versa, but as they say “buyer, beware”.

Some of the more popular brakes out on the market are:

At the time of writing this review, some of these are out of stock (online, anyway). The price of VEPR 12 accessories will undoubtedly shift in accordance with the legal status of the weapon and its prevalence, so posting specific MSRPs is not too practical.

Conclusion

This shotgun works, and it works well.

However, it is not for beginners (for lack of a better term). I say that not to sound all high and mighty, but simply because it is not your ordinary, everyday shotgun. It looks like an AK variant, it has controls similar to an AK, and it has the bulk and feel of an AK.

It may not fit a person who is new to shotguns, because in some ways it is not your typical shotgun, despite its 12-gauge 3” chamber.

Like I said before – I personally feel there are better options out there than the VEPR. Better hunting, target, or competition shotguns.

But again, it all depends on your intended use. Also, you cannot ignore the price, which will probably keep climbing due to the weapon’s scarcity in the U.S., and its possible end-of-production in general.

That right there is something to think about, since the prices may skyrocket over time.

It’s a fine shotgun, don’t get me wrong, but it is not worth any and every price you may see attached to it.

That said – if the price is no object, and if you fancy it (obviously), there is no reason not to own one. You get quality materials, fine Russian craftsmanship, and possibly a soon-to-be “vintage” status!

Fun fact #2: VEPR is actually not an abbreviation of anything. It simply means “wild boar” in Russian/Ukranian. The more you know

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

Let us know what you think in the comments section!

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4 Comments

  1. This gun has been the all time worst investment of any gun I’ve ever bought. And contacting the company? Good luck. Buyer beware

    1. Thanks for sharing your personal experience. We really appreciate it. Sorry to hear that it didn’t go well.

  2. Are these actually rare? I purchased a Fixed metal buttstock Vepr 12-01 but am now under the impression they are much more available than I thought.

    Thanks,

    1. Hi Jeff, thanks for reaching out. It’s hard to say exactly how available they are, especially depending on which state you live in. However, it’s also safe to say that they are not common but also not so rare.

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