I was surprised to see that TFB has never run a review of the Akdal Mka 1919 shotgun. After all, I’ve had one in my safe for over a year now, and they had been around in the US for years before that. But they’re not a gun in the limelight. Originating in Turkey means they don’t have the marketing or distribution you might expect from the big name European brands.
Mine was used in 3-Gun competition all last year, and after learning some lessons, I’ve started my second season using the Mka 1919 as my go-to sporting shotgun. This is the updated XN model, which is currently what you would be most likely to find on the shelf of your local gun store.
From a distance the Akdal looks like a classic M16A2 rifle, but this is actually a piston driven system that shares only aesthetics. The Akdal Mka 1919 weighs 6.5 lbs bare, has a 19.7 inch barrel, and comes threaded for chokes with 3 in the box. Five round magazines are the standard, with 10, 2, and even 23 shell variants available.
Before I start talking about how much I like this gun, lets kick it off with something I hate. The factory iron sights are horrible. Beyond bad. I’ve seen airsoft sights that were a marked improvement over these clamp on, needlessly high, pseudo-dovetail monstrosities. The good news? They can be removed in about 15 seconds. I encourage every owner to do so as fast as possible.
I opt for big dot optics instead of irons. Red dot sights with 6 MOA, 8 MOA, and full 12 MOA triangles have all had homes on my gun, and all fit the slug & shot role nicely.
It presents an alternative to the Saiga 12 box magazine fed shotgun. Living in Canada means that all Kalashnikovs and their “variants” are off limits for me. But the 1919’s pseudo-AR15 look means my license is good to go. It still retains that core desirability of rifle mechanics in a shotgun platform. Its magazines insert straight (rather than rock & lock like the Saiga) and its safety, bolt release, and magazine release all mimic the ergonomics of the AR-15. Add in a last round bolt hold open, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
I’ll freely admit this: I suck at loading conventional shotguns. Snatching four shells off a belt in a single stroke then feeding them into a tube is not something I do well. Add in some time stress and awkward shooting positions, and it’s embarrassing. By comparison, a magazine is something I’m used to indexing and loading. That’s a mechanic I’ve got thousands of repetitions with already. Some people will consider this using technology to skip over the hard work of building a skill set. That’s fair, that’s why we have to shoot in open.
Several US companies that have put time, money, and thought into improving the Mka 1919. You can do some pretty serious parts swaps to make the gun unrecognizable. Cut the polymer stock so you can fit your favorite Magpul CTR. Or buy a whole new aluminum lower that will accept Gucci parts from top to bottom. Replacing your polymer fore-end with a railed system is an easy upgrade, and you can even add a forward charging handle system. The top two are Firebird Precision and Tooth & Nail Armory.
I’m not keen to put hundreds of extra dollars and extra weight into a gun that works pretty darn well out of the box. It’s simple and good at doing one thing: burning up shells.
So far I’ve opted for only the most simple and economic of upgrades. I improved my reloads by modifying an Odin Works magazine release. I improved my reliability by installing a new spring under the bolt-hold-open ping pong paddle. A 60 cent rubber vacuum plug created an “enhanced charging handle” that works wonders.
Out of the box though, there can be some issues. Like the Saiga, the 1919 has a reputation for being temperamental. It is heavily magazine dependent, which I learned early on. Half of my initial magazines produced a “pseudo bolt hold open” malfunction where the bolt would lock halfway to the rear, seize up the bolt release, and require a rack of the charging handle to continue. A subtle widening of magazine feed-lips causes the follower to lift higher, which means the bolt hold open lifts higher, which means it actually engages on the surface it’s supposed to.
I had to widen the catch on my extended magazines to make sure they’d stay in the gun! The factory cut was too small, leading to a mag in the dirt after a pull of the trigger.
I also experienced one serious failure after my first 1600 rounds that required retiring the gun for the day. It seems that instead of a roll pin to retain the extractor, the Turks used a nail trimmed to length instead. One unlucky slug round shook the nail loose, causing it to catch in the chamber and preventing full rearward travel of the bolt. Of course this was during competition, so I essentially forced the bolt back so the safety officer could see that yes, that slug had left the barrel, and no, there wasn’t a live round in my chamber. Much to my shock (and possibly yours) the jammed and misshapen nail did not mar the barrel extension or the bolt, and cleanly dropped free when thoroughly disassembled. I’ve since replaced it with a proper rollpin.
Speaking of which, the 1919 can be a bit of a bear to break down. Separating your upper and lower requires you to have access to a hex driver at least 12 inches long to remove the bolt and plate that bind the upper and lower inside the polymer stock. Then, you have to watch how the two parts come apart, because the polymer feed lips of the lower sit between the bolt and the chamber. This definitely isn’t your quick-strip AR.
The piston and gas system sit underneath the hand-guard, and thread together quite tightly.
This might read like a laundry list of issues, but this is honestly my favorite shotgun, full stop. This isn’t a high end name brand, but it’s not Chinese crap either (trust me, I’ve shot lots of Norinco) The Mka needs some love, but it’s a solid concept that comes with a very attractive price tag. I don’t want my 3-Gun shotgun to set me back more than $1000. I’d rather put that money into good rifle ammo for matches.
I may have sounded bitter earlier, but I can see why shooters with box mag shotguns are forced into open class. Once in a while there will be a stage where the start condition is “shotgun unloaded on table.” There is a certain smug satisfaction to be found watching other competitors eat up seconds feeding the tube, while the Akdal only needs is fresh mag and the bolt racked. Plus with a proper ping pong paddle you can leave the action locked to the rear, so it’s a single movement to insert the magazine and slap the bolt release.
With a 19.7″ barrel, the 1919 is at a nice in between. It’s not pushing that extra-tactical side of wide patterning short barrels, but it’s not a front-heavy 22″ monstrosity either. The ability to use threaded chokes certainly lifts it above some other Canadian contenders that are generally fixed choke or cylinder bore.
I almost exclusively use Akdal’s modified choke over the cylinder bore or full choke options included in the box. If you’re looking for a wider selection, apparently the Winchoke threads will also fit the 1919. Plus there’s a handful of tactical breaching chokes available that double as brakes.
With optics and a full magazine I’m right around 7.5 lbs, and for a lightweight gun the recoil is surprisingly tame. I would attribute some of that to the action of the piston, but the stock and buttpad do a decent job too. I’d almost forgotten that shotguns could be uncomfortable until I recently put slugs through a pump-action again and missed the effectiveness of the 1919.
With an MSRP of $650 the 1919 isn’t going to empty your pocket book the way a Saiga or top notch Benelli can. If you want to start swapping part and components you can still reach that $2000 mark, but that’s a lot of additions. I will concede that I spent an additional $250 on magazines in order to make sure I don’t run dry during a days shooting. Two ten round sticks (tragically pinned in Canada) and a half a dozen of the 5 round standards.
The gun continues to evolve, with EAA releasing the 1919 Match. The MKA is a shotgun platform that deserves wider recognition for emulating the AR-15s ergonomics without pigeonholing itself into actual AR-15 gas systems, sizing and parts.
For the Canadian Readers: Despite highlighting how this is not an AR-15 in the article, the RCMP only seems to read my pieces for amusement rather than practical knowledge. The Akdal Mka 1919 is bizarrely listed in the Canadian Firearms Reference Table as an AR-15 variant. As a result, it is restricted, which means it has to be registered with the government and can’t be used for fun things like duck and goose hunting without asking politely first. The 1919 shares no parts with the AR-15.