Review: Cheetah 12 – A Stand In For The Vepr12 And Saiga 12

Thanks to US Sanctions against the importation of MOLOT and Kalashnikov Concern aka Izhmash means no new Saiga 12s or Vepr12s are coming into the country.  Want to get a Vepr12 or Saiga12 but not at overly inflated prices? Check out the SDS Imports Cheetah 12. It retails for only $499

Cheetah 12 Features

SDS imports has a magazine-fed 12 gauge shotgun that is similar to a Saiga12. It uses Saiga12 magazines and is gas piston driven like a Saiga12. There are a few differences though. The charging handle is on the left hand side and the Cheetah 12 has an ambidextrous safety like an AR15.

SDS imports Cheetah 12 ambidextrous safety.
The SDS Imports Cheetah 12 ambidextrous safety.

The left-side charging handle is actually a fantastic option. Tricked-out race gun Vepr12 shotguns have left side charging handles because, in competition, speed is just as important as accuracy.  Obviously, you can now rack the Cheetah 12 without having to reach over or under like a traditional AK-style firearm. Another nice feature is the gap between the dust cover and the receiver. If there is a malfunction you can see it with your left eye.SDS Imports Cheetah 12 left-side charging handle and dust cover.

It is fast and easy. You can skip rolling the gun over and looking into the ejection port.

Here is a comparison between a Cheetah 12 and Vepr12 bolt.

Cheetah 12 vs Vepr12 bolt comparison

The Cheetah12 doesn’t have traditional rear AK sights. Instead, it has a longer sight radius with an adjustable rear peep sight and forward fiber optic sight mounted on top of the gas block.

For added stability, the rear locking tab has two spikes that lock into two holes in the rear of the dust cover. You can see it in the photo near the lower right-hand corner.

Cheetah 12 sights

The rear of the receiver has a riveted block that is threaded for AR-15 buffer tubes. 

The Cheetah12 comes with a faux buffer and a fixed stock.
The Cheetah12 comes with a faux buffer and a fixed stock.

The length of pull on the factory stock was a little too long for my liking. So I removed the stock and buffer. I replaced it with a real buffer tube and Magpul MOE Fixed stock.

Be careful removing the faux buffer. The endplate sling loop is keyed to the buffer and receiver block. You need to loosen the castle nut and pull the sling plate away from the back of the receiver then the whole buffer tube can be unscrewed. If you don’t. this is what happens.

Cheetah 12 buffer removed
The threads of the receiver are steel so they were not harmed.
Cheetah 12 AK-style mag-fed shotgun with Molot GK02 muzzle brake and Magpul OEM fixed stock.
At the end of the barrel, the Cheetah12 is threaded for muzzle devices like the Saiga12. I installed a Molot GK02 muzzle brake from Legion USA.

Feeding The Cheetah 12

I tested the Cheetah 12 with my friends Vadim and Brian. Both of them are ardent fans of the Vepr12 for 3Gun applications. So they were particularly interested in seeing what potential the Cheetah12 has. The gas block has a four-position knob to adjust the gas settings. From no gas to wide open. You can dial in the right port setting for your ammo. It ate everything we fed it.


A post shared by Vadim Berezanskiy (@vepr12allday) onJul 25, 2017 at 9:34pm PDT


A post shared by Nick Chen (@solscud007) onJul 25, 2017 at 9:53pm PDT

The only issue we had was using the two SGM Tactical 10 rd magazines I had with me. Vadim told me to use four 15mm deep sockets and shove them into the SGM magazines. Then boil water and dip the mags into the water (feed lips first) for about 90 seconds. Then take them out and run them under cold water. Sand the outside of the feed lips so they fit into the Cheetah 12.

Brian and I tested it again and got mixed results. It ran fine for me but had a hiccup for Brian. It could also be the ammo. We were using Federal shells from those 100rd packs you get at Walmart.

Modifying the Cheetah 12

As you can see the Cheetah 12 has been modified further. Brian has been working with Vadim and 4Range to modify Magpul Zhukov handguards onto Vepr12 shotguns. After seeing Brian’s prototype, I told him to make it work for the Cheetah 12. In actuality, it was easier to adapt the modified Zhukov handguard and make it fit the Cheetah 12. 

Cheetah 12 handguard
All we had to do was make a tab that fits the front of the receiver for the Zhukov chassis to bolt onto. The Cheetah 12 gas-block is threaded for a sling stud. We utilized that threaded hole for the front of the chassis.

Here is the Zhukov handguard on the Cheetah12. The ergonomics on the Zhukov are far better than the factory handguard. Plus you have the additional bonus of using MLOK accessories so now you can add a light or laser if you felt inclined. 

Cheetah12 with Magpul Zhukov handguard
The Zhukov handguard is also longer than the factory handguard so it allows more real estate to reach out and control the barrel.

One problem I had with the Cheetah12 was that the front fiber optic sight fell off after a few rounds of test firing. 

Cheetah12 gas block drilled for rail mount
Rather than try and get the fiber optic front sight back on, I had my machinist friend Keith drill and tap the gas block to mount a rail over the gas tube.

For a $500 shotgun, the Cheetah 12 impressed me a lot.

With the factory 5 round magazine it eats anything I fed it. From the cheapest bulk birdshot to buckshot and slugs. Higher-capacity magazines were a little hit or miss and sometimes needed a little fine-tuning to get them to feed reliably. I would like to try Black Aces Tactical magazines as those are Saiga 12 compatible.

The most crucial thing I would recommend for a factory Cheetah12 is to change out the stock and add a rail for an optic. The Cheetah 12 has some real potential and it just needs a little 3rd party support to really make it a contender and push the Vepr12 and Saiga 12 off their respective pedestals.

Nicholas Chen is a firearm aficionado. Growing up in California, He learned about firearms and hunted with his father growing up in Southern California. Once he moved out to Pennsylvania and then spent a few years in New York State, he learned to truly appreciate firearms and the second amendment. It was in New York State where he became a USPSA competitive shooter and learned about 3Gun. He is an avid fan of running and gunning. Nicholas is a fan of pretty much anything that shoots although the slicked-up race guns are what interests him the most. Having spent time with FFLs and other friends with NFA items he has begun his collection of NFA items and has learned that everything should be suppressed and full auto where possible and legal.

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