We already talked about the SAIGA-9 PDW in caliber 9 Luger. In short, it’s the civilian version (therefore capable of semi-automatic fire only) of the Vityaz machine gun in 9x19 mm, in turn derived from the Bizon PP-19.
Before starting our field test, the SAIGA-9 underwent a brief inspection, aimed at verifying the condition of the gun but also to become familiar with its technical features. At that stage, we noticed some peculiarities. The first of these concerned the presence of a muzzle brake by the renowned Russian "Survival Corps" company. This choice is undoubtedly rewarding and represents a considerable improvement compared to the classic sports version of the SAIGA-9 with a 14.5” / 367 mm barrel, especially in operational terms. Also, the sights were modified with respect to the factory standard ones: the upper handguard was replaced with a MLSTD1913-type rail equipped component, that made it impossible to use iron sights.
On the dust cover, which is also rail-equipped, a VOMZ 1x20 optoelectronic device with a 20x12mm red dot window was mounted. In our opinion it was not the most appropriate choice because, being very low, it forces your head into an exaggerated position to aim. The quality of the optic, anyway, is excellent since the aiming dot is clearly visible in the field of view even with both eyes open. Another peculiarity concerns the cocking lever, modified by coupling it with an oversized cylindrical part. For the remainder, controls are very similar to the classic AK’s ones. We then verified the ergonomic functionality in order to identify a safe technique in all conditions of use, that is to say at the range as well as in any other environment, including combat.
Video of the field test of the SAIGA-9
SAIGA-9 caliber 9 Luger: its strength is ergonomics
In this context we were surprised by the overall intuitiveness of the SAIGA-9 controls, despite the age of the project. When unloading, the ambidextrous release lever on the front of the trigger guard is particularly ergonomic. The versatility of the gun/operator interface is also satisfying. The butt pad, although metal, does not cause discomfort to your face but it’s not adjustable.
The weak-hand grip offers different solutions and can be adapted to different shooting positions. Balance is good and weight, compared to initial expectations, is low.
The 9 Luger SAIGA-9 on the firing line
Right after, the fire session took place. We first checked the functionality of the trigger unit firing fifteen rounds as fast as possible. The lowest time obtained is 2.85 seconds. It’s because of well designed trigger geometries. Trigger pull is 88.9 oz / 2.52 kg and pre-travel, very clean and well distributed, and can be easily eliminated. Release is short and crisp. Trigger reset is very short.
The static shooting test then took place at various distances. We started by engaging silhouettes at 13 yd /12 m, at an accelerated rate, then shooting from support at 27 yd / 25 and 65 yd / 60 m. In the process the gun proved to be very satisfactory, with tight patterns: 1.5” / 4 cm at 25 m and 2.7” / 7 cm at 60 m. At 12 m the largest pattern was around 2” / 5 cm, reflecting the gun intuitiveness and versatility.
When shooting on the move, even with the use of covers, with magazine changes and jam-clearing, the gun proved to be excellent despite the need for adequate training to get familiarity with the controls. In this context the gun compactness and ergonomics eases movements and, when aiming, sight acquisition is immediate. The length of the safety instead makes it difficult for some to operate it but this component can be easily customized.
The simple but robust mechanics proved to be functional, facilitating the resolution of stoppages as in the case of magazine changes. Even in the most unusual positions the SAIGA-9 is always well balanced, handling is firm and very intuitive. The gun as a whole behaved admirably.
Alessio Carparelli has the task of offering an overall opinion on this gun: "Without any doubt, with this product SAIGA breaks into the SMG scene dedicated to the military and LE sector. A product that in addition to maintaining the main features of the Russian tradition, thanks to its low weight and ergonomics is a very balanced one. Trigger management is very smooth and well-balanced combined with a very reduced muzzle flip for this kind of gun. For those unfamiliar with this type of platform, loading and magazine changes can certainly be less intuitive, having to deal with a system that offers less room for aftermarket customization. Which is of low importance considering its exceptional qualities of ruggedness, solidity and versatility. This is a gun designed for combat and not for walking! "