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The Krebs Custom VEPR 12K Shotgun

By Christopher R. Bartocci

Over the last several years the industry has seen much on U.S. made AK47’s. Some companies actually assemble parts kits on American made stamped or milled receivers. Companies like Nodak Spud have designed and manufactured stamped receivers for fixed, underfolding as well as side folding stocks. Also, many of the parts kits come in with barrels that are shot out or no barrels at all due to ATF ruling and they are replaced by American made barrels. Other companies will take imported firearms such as the Saiga and Vepr and completely rework them. Of course 922(r) is a large consideration. An AK type rifle must have a certain amount of American made components to make them legally have the “objectionable” criteria set forth for importation go away- depending on the calculations and parts used, they must have 6 parts if stamped or 5 if it is a machined receiver. In other words if you want a pistol grip, folding stock, bayonet lug, etc… you must have the proper number of American parts. These American made parts are often pistol grip, piston, hammer, trigger, disconnector and muzzle device.

In the states, there is one company that stands above the rest. They make customized versions of the AK-family of weapons to include AKM, AKMS, AK-pistols and also shotguns. This company has fulfilled contracts for special operations forces for highly modified AK weapon systems. These calibers include 5.45x39mm, 5.56x45mm, 7.62x39mm as well as 12 gauge. This company is Krebs Custom out of Wauconda, Illinois. It would be safe to say that Marc Krebs works with AK’s like Picasso works with oils!

At first Marc Krebs started by doing “general gunsmithing.” After several years he shifted focus to specialize in building custom .45 1911 pistols. Even while working on these competition 45’s (which, according to Marc, were always pushing the edge of reliability); Marc always respected the AK platform, and saw its potential. About 20 years ago, he shifted his focus to the “AK platform.” Although a small shop, Krebs Custom can manufacture approximately 600 weapons per year.

The imported Saiga or Vepr rifles and shotguns are stripped to their barreled receivers and then “built out” and “blueprinted” from there. The trigger guards are removed, modified, and then re-installed in the proper position. The rest of the rifle is built according to the particular model they want to produce. They re-crown the barrels, straighten & align the sights, and eliminate any magazine problems (when necessary). For 922(r) compliance they usually install three US-made trigger parts, Tapco G-2 parts that they have re-machined to Krebs standards), use US-made forend furniture and buttstocks, and Krebs US-made AK-74-style muzzle brake. While being built, all of the sharp edges of the firearms are smoothed. After the firearms have been industrially tumbled, they are ready to be bead-blasted to bare metal. They are then carefully painted, using Krebs’ locally-made, industrial-grade, flat black synthetic alkyd paint. After being cured for 10 minutes, the parts are then baked for 30 minutes to harden the paint and “bond” it to the metal. Their most popular rifle configuration is their AK-103K which is a 7.62x39mm caliber rifle which has the outward appearance of an AK74. Although the 5.45x39mm caliber is very popular for Krebs (35%), the 7.62x39mm is by far more popular (65%). Krebs did do SAIGA shotguns when they were available as well. Krebs does have the capability and is licensed to do selective fire weapons for law enforcement and military applications. They do not export any rifles or parts outside the continental United States with exception of State Department orders as well as orders to APO’s or FPO’s.

This author has had the opportunity to review Krebs rifles in the past. In fact the last rifle reviewed was a Krebs AK74 classic chambered in 5.45x39mm. It had a rather stout price tag but after the review it wound up in my collection. The rifle was built on a Saiga reciever and looked flawless and shot excellent. In the last year or so, the Obama administration banned importations of semi-automatic firearms coming in from Kalashnikov Concern from Russia. That has put a hurting on Krebs Custom due to their flagship guns being made from Russian imported firearms. This time with the thanks of Krebs and Tumbleson Arms here in Texas this author was able to get a short barreled Molot VEPR 12 K 12 gauge shotgun. The Molot VEPR was manufactured by Molot-Oruzhie LTD in Vyatskie Polyany Russia Federation. The Molot VEPR shotgun was imported by WPA in Anaheim, California. The importation of Molot rifles and shotguns has been somewhat sporadic. Krebs has his own stamp and model number placed on it so it is manufactured by him and registered as an SBS (Short barreled Shotgun) Like we have come to expect from Krebs, the shotgun was in pristine condition. No scratches or machining marks. The shotgun was received with an 18 inch chrome plated bore, receiver shaft, gas chamber and chamber barrel. The choke tube is removable and other options are available. The muzzle is externally threaded unlike most shotguns. The action is almost identical to any other AK-platform weapon. The shotgun has the Molot self-regulating gas system. The base shotgun which Krebs modified has several other features found on no other AK-based shotgun. The dust cover itself is hinged like the AK74SU. This is always advantageous, one less part to lose. On top of the receiver cover is a Mil-Std-1913 rail for mounting optics. The pistol grip has three finger swells making it more comfortable than a standard AK-type pistol grip. The handguards are a heavy Molot polymer, black in color with ribs for an easy non-slip grip. This is definitely advantageous as well. Most recently this author tested an AK-type rifle which got so hot the finish began to bubble and come off the wood. The polymer handguards are impervious to the elements. They don’t swell with humidity or exposure to water and under normal conditions stay cooler and are less likely to burn than wood.

One of the unique VEPR characteristics is the Molot competition magazine well. The magazine well hangs down similar to that of an M16. It guides the magazine into the well, and prevents tilting of the magazine sideways. Like any other AK, you have to have the lug on the front of the magazine engage with the lug on the receiver and the magazine is cammed rearward until the magazine catch engages the rear lug on the magazine. The magazine latch itself is significantly longer than that of any standard AK-type rifle. The shotgun comes from Molot with a 5 round magazine. The shotgun sent by Krebs had an SGM Tactical 12 shot magazine. This is a very high quality magazine. Dwarfs Tactical also offers a 25 round drum magazine for this shotgun!

The receiver itself holds some very interesting enhancements over the Saiga series AK-type shotguns. The receiver has an RPK style look to it. It is reinforced. The VEPR has a bolt lock open mechanism. On the last shot the follower engages the bolt catch locking the bolt to the rear. This is a really good idea since this shotgun is extremely difficult to load on a closed bolt. Once you replace the magazine, the shooter merely pushes upward on the lever and the bolt closes. The lever is conveniently located just in front of the pistol grip and easily actuated with the shooter’s trigger finger. The second really interesting feature was the ambidextrous safety. On the left side of the receiver there is a lever similar to that of a Galil that enables a left handed shooter to engage the safety with ease. On the right side, the safety lever is extended to the rear so it may be manipulated without removing your hand from the pistol grip.

The front sights are typical AK. The rear sight is actually an RPK-style which is adjustable for windage as well as elevation. Obviously the trajectory of the 12 gauge shotgun slug is different from the 7.62x39mm cartridge so the shooter would have to experiment with where the sight would be adjusted to compensate for the heavy and slow 1 oz slug. The front sight is typical AK front sight post.

Krebs modified the stock to be fully functional. It was a fixed stock as received. The stock folds to the left side and does not interfere with the ambidextrous safety. There is a buttpad to assist with recoil as well. Just like the AKS74, there is a sling swivel located on the right side of the stock at the edge by the receiver. The other is the typical AK location on the left side near the gas block. Also on the stock is a cheek riser that can be rotated to the left or right side.

Disassembly was identical to any other AK-type rifle. While ensuring the firearm is not loaded, push inward on the action spring guide and lift the receiver cover (rotate) until it is straight up. Push inward on the spring guide, lift up and pull the recoil spring assembly out of the receiver. Retract the bolt carrier group and lift out of the firearm. Unlock the bolt, rotating counter clock wise and remove the bolt from the carrier. To remove the gas tube/top handguard lift upward on the top handguard release lever and lift the top handguard off of the receiver.

Krebs made some modifications to this basic shotgun to make it their own. First, as previously stated they changed the stock from fixed to folding. The barrel was shortened to 12.5 inches and the muzzle rethreaded to accept a choke tube. The threads on the shotgun are the same as any Saiga shotgun. The gas system was modified to accept heavy 12 gauge loads using the shorter barrel. The gas system is set up for higher power loads. If the customer wishes to use lighter more inexpensive loads the shooter should purchase a full choke. The safety was tuned and smoothed out to make it more ergonomic and easier to manipulate. The shotgun was industrial tumbled (deburred) and “dehorned” (sharp edges removed) for fast and painless operation. The last step in assembly is to degrease and to refinish all parts with a proprietary Krebs Custom flat black, baked-on synthetic alkyd KrebsCoat finish.

The shotgun sent for demo has a 12.5 inch barrel with a weight of 8.4 pounds without a magazine. The overall length of the shotgun with the stock closed is 22 inches and with the stock extended 32.5 inches. The width with the stock extended is 1.50 inches and with the stock folded is 3 inches. The trigger pull broke right at 4.25 pounds. The shotgun was smooth and the trigger slick.

The shotgun was tested with a variety of ammunition. Starting with Buckshot, both Remington and Winchester 2 3/4 inch OO Buck shot were fired. Both of them cycled reliably but were not potent enough to lock the bolt to the rear. For slugs there were Hornady Light Magnum 1oz slug and Federal TruBall rifled slugs. These all cycled perfectly and locked the bolt to the rear. The recoil was notable with the short barrel shotgun. The slugs were shot at 25 yards and all clover-leafed. Overall nearly 100 rounds were fired from the shotgun. All were the same magazine. The bolt hold open was really a benefit. Normally one would have to have to hold the bolt to the rear to load this type of AK-based shotgun. The open bolt made insertion of the magazine quick and easy.

It is always a blast to get hold of one of Marc Kreb’s firearms. They take a basic warhorse and turn it into a mechanically beautiful piece of work.It reminds me of a relative who could take a basic frozen store bought pizza that looked terrible, spice it up and make you think it came out of an old brick oven at a mom and pop pizza joint. With a price tag of $1,999.00 this is not your entry level low cost shotgun. Someone who will appreciate the craftsmanship and quality of a Krebs firearm will feel honored to have one in their collection.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N10 (December 2016)
and was posted online on October 21, 2016

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