Side view of Saiga 12 shotgun with charging handle and converted cover installed.

Adding a Left Hand Charging Handle on a Saiga Shotgun or AK47

Making small changes to a firearm is a rewarding experience. Whether to make the weapon easier to operate, more efficient or altering something to personalize and make it look cooler, it is an exciting project.

I had wanted a left side charging handle installed on my Saiga 12 gauge shotgun for some time. Having a left hand handle would allow the weapon to be charged without switching hands and would look cooler too. The Shotgun could be held with the right hand, ready to fire while the left hand chambered a round making so much more sense than the original factory build.

I had priced some of the online gun smiths and found prices to weld a charging handle and cut the cover starting around $250 and upwards of $350 depending on how much the particular gun smith thought of himself. I realize a business owner has to stay in business by charging money and the more money a customer will pay the better the business is.  I once worked at a jewelry store that started charging $30 to install a watch battery when everyone else in town was charging between $5 and $7. The battery was the same, the service was the same but the overall investment was not the same for the customer. The store claimed the batteries were “longer lasting and better than other batteries” AND claimed “the Gold Smith was so much better trained” to explain why a 50 cent battery would cost $30 instead of $5. One thing is certain…if someone has “Smith” after their name as a title (not as a last name) the service offered is going to cost you a whole lot more.

If you are building a gun from the ground up, want some kind of internal barrel work done or just don’t feel comfortable in your abilities completing a task by all means go to a gun smith but for installing a left hand charging handle the do it yourself approach is much more rewarding and economical.

The first step was to chose a handle. I over analyzed the choosing part but finally settled on an Over-sized Benelli Tactical Shotgun handle.

 

Notice the Heavy Knurling and Rounded edges.....
Notice the Heavy Knurling and Rounded edges…..

 

The retracting bolt handle issued with the popular Benelli M1 Super 90, M2, M3 and M4 fighting shotguns is difficult to grasp during the high anxiety associated with a gunfight. Failure to retract the bolt handle completely could lead to a catastrophic malfunction that is potentially fatal. To prevent this, our engineering staff has designed one of the most practical Benelli shotgun accessories on the market. It is an oversized, knurled, rotatingBenelli Tactical Charging Handle for the Benelli law enforcement series shotguns. Just remove the small factory retracting handle and replace it with our superior Benelli M1 charging handle or M4 charging handle.

Benelli Tactical Charging Handle Specifications:

  • Important: The M4 Charging Handle is specifically manufactured for the Benelli M4 shotgun.
  • Material: These Benelli tactical accessories are made from 4140 ordnance steel, heat-treated to Rockwell 45 C hardness.
  • Finish: a non-reflective matte black, mil-spec manganese phosphate finish.
  • Weight: 1.0 oz.
  • Warranty: Lifetime.
  • Made in America By Men And Women Proud To Be Americans.

Benelli charging handle website $26

The ad says it can relieve anxiety…I need that. It can prevent a catastrophic malfunction that could be fatal..need that too. They have engineers that build it with ordinance steel..has to be good. Law enforcement uses it, made in America not by lazy people but by PROUD men AND PROUD women all with a lifetime warranty!!!  I think putting an American made part that is meant for an Italian firearm on a Russian built shotgun is somehow poetic. 

****tip: If you want one that is not too expensive go on EBAY there is a huge selection and you pay much less than at the website. I paid around $15 for mine. 

The handle is shortened and ground so it will be slightly angled to the rear of the shotgun. This is a little more ergonomic than at 90 degrees. A local welding shop did the weld for $50 and did the job a gun smith would have been happy to do for several hundred more. 

I put the internals back in and measured where I wanted the cut to be. On my Saiga the measurement is 5/16 of an inch high by 5 1/2″ long. This measurement will depend on your AK or Saiga and where the handle is welded. Once the measurement was made I taped the dust cover to act as a guide and protect the rest. See below:

 

I had previously purchased a Carbon steel metal cutting bit for the Dremel tool. When the time came to cut I decided that cutting a bigger chunk out of the metal would make more sense than grinding the metal down to dust so I used the edge of the grinding/sanding wheel as a cutter instead of the carbon steel attachment. Maybe I will use that in the future. Below is an image of the cutting attachments and the piece of metal cut out of the dust cover (I have seen clear pictures of bigfoot and Loch Ness monster but such is life sometimes.

 

On left: Dremel high carbon metal cutter. On right: cutting/sanding wheel. Below: piece of Saiga dust cover
On left: Dremel high carbon metal cutter. On right: cutting/sanding wheel. Below: piece of Saiga dust cover

 

I used the edge of the cutting wheel to cut a smaller piece of metal than was needed. The key to the success of this was going slow and taking the metal off a little at a time. If you do this measure multiple times, wear goggles when using a cutting tool and be careful of any sharp edges. If you can weld or have a friend that can weld you will have little problem customizing your AK or Saiga shotgun.

Thanks much for reading and feel free to comment. Questions or concerns contact me a techdadz@yahoo.com

Benelli Oversized CHarging handle welded to Saiga Shotgun

a few scratches can be easilly remedied with some low gloss high temp paint.
a few scratches can be easilly remedied with some low gloss high temp paint.