Low prices on the Saiga 16" 7.62X39 AK start at Champion Firearms- Named for the Saiga Antelope, the Saiga series of rifles are based on the AK-47 weapon system designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov. The Saiga platform was developed for shooters who wanted the reliability of an AK pattern rifle in a non-military package. Originally designed in the 1970s, the first rifles were chambered for 5.45X39. The Saiga semi-automatic rifles are made by Izmash (Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant, founded in 1807), who also manufactures the original Russian AK-47 military and SVD sniper rifles-- imported into the United States by Russian American Armory.
The Saiga rifles are a so-called "sporting" version of the AK-47 rifle, and are marketed for hunting and civilian use. Converted Saigas are notable for their "pedigree" among Kalashnikov collectors and enthusiasts. Value is given to the weapon based on the fact that it is made from brand-new parts, as opposed to many commercially available AK pattern rifles, which are commonly built using an American-made receiver completed with surplus or retired parts kits from the rifles of the former Soviet Bloc. As a result, fit and finish on Saigas tends to fall into a higher category than the "de-milled" rifles of Romanian or Polish origin.
Saigas are also considered a "true" Kalashnikov, since they are made legally (without design license violations) in the same Russian Izmash factory where Mikhail Kalashnikov works. This is a unique feature of the Saiga, since Izmash states that the vast majority of Kalashnikov-pattern rifles made in the world today are illegal copies produced without a license.
The Saiga uses the same type of system that the AK-47 rifle uses: a gas piston. The piston is driven by the force of the gases after a round is discharged, and it keeps powder residue and carbon from gumming up the action of the Saiga. The AK-47 rifle is more reliable than other semiautomatic rifles because of this feat of engineering. All Saiga rifles have a hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel, which influences the Saiga's accuracy and reliability by making the inside of the barrel more resilient to corrosion and enabling the rifle to withstand more rounds to be fired through of the barrel.