The Most Fragile Part of VEPR Shotguns

Recently, a Russian competition shooter released a video where he points out an issue concerning the VEPR shotguns. Well, considering the amount of rounds competition shooters put through their guns, this might not even be an issue for an average shooter. Anyway, looks like the VEPR shotgun part that is more likely to fail the first is the bolt head.

As you can see, the separate bolt head is attached to the bolt body via a cross pin. And the cutout for that pin leaves a very small amount of metal on that bolt head tail. That eventually leads to breakage of the part.

At the beginning of the video, you can see how Murphy’s law helps the bolt to break not at countless practice shooting sessions but during the actual competition. Also, this is the third time that the bolt head fails on this shooter’s gun. In all cases, it broke exactly the same way.

By reading this article, some people may think that Kalashnikov rifles are not that reliable as they are said to be. Well, first, all guns will eventually break at a certain point. Second, although being based on the Kalashnikov rifles (based on RPK in the case of VEPR shotguns), these shotguns have several parts different from the original AK design. As you might have guessed, the AK rifles don’t have that separate bolt head. It is something added during the development of these shotguns.

Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at


  • PK

    That’s just where it broke on one of my Saiga 12s, at less than 10,000 rounds. It happens, I just wish there were spare parts to be had.

    • JTW

      Looks like I will shoot my S12 less often then. I hope the USA made S12 will be interchangeable with parts that see most wear.

      • Reef Blastbody

        By all accounts, the KS-12 is a 1:1 clone of the Saiga 12. Have to see what Lone Star Arms finds when they start modding them for competitors here.

        Better question: are the VEPR-12 and Saiga-12 bolts interchangeable?

        • Flounder

          I believe the vepr bolts are seriously hideously beefier. I know that is true for 308 and 7.62x54r veprs when compared to a PSL or I believe a Saiga.

      • salty

        negative…. if you dont want to shoot it, i would think you should just sell it. or if its gonna become a safe queen, enjoy it till it breaks and then wait till the free market makes a replacement….then you can havea safe queen when its broken….no point in Golluming it, they too much fun to be relegated to the back of the safe

  • Vhyrus

    Time to buy some spare bolts…

  • BrandonAKsALot

    Let the panic bolt buying begin.

    • Hrachya H

      If the ban affects the parts too, it would actually be not a bad idea to get a couple of spare bolt heads!

  • Fin

    A new cottage industry for a US machine shop?

    • Some Rabbit

      Sounds like a plan, where can I get titanium rod stock? Considering the Rooskies have the titanium market cornered, why they no use to make bolt head in first place?

    • Seth Hill

      I was thinking offer a bolt that is like the AK bolt where it doesn’t have a separate bolt head.

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Does the bolt head in this design have to move/be floating like that? Or could a company come in and manufacturer solid one-piece bolts as an aftermarket upgrade?

  • RavishedBoy

    Oh, ‘cmon. a few points of welding and you’re good to go.

    • Michael Gallagher

      That is too much work, just a dab of JB weld and you good as new 🙂

      • Some Rabbit

        Grandpappy woulda’ just carved a new one out of hickory.

        • Ryfyle

          Not Elk Femur?

      • Seth Hill

        Duct tape?

  • Malthrak

    What sort of round count do you have to put in to see something like this?

    That said, looking at the pictures and my own Vepr bolt, I can see where it could happen, but ive never heard of such issues before today.

  • Gary Kirk

    Almost looks like bad heat treatment.. I have impact tools smaller, that have been pushed way beyond their intended purpose for years that haven’t failed like this..

  • gunsandrockets

    Did the .410 version have the same bolt design?

  • 10x25mm

    Textbook fatigue cracking emanating from the cross slot. Cracked bolt body appears to be through hardened, rather than carburized (which is normal U.S. bolt manufacturing practice to resist fatigue). Fatigue cracking was also a development issue in M1, M14, and AR Stoner rifle bolts as well. These parts are highly stressed and increasing their size (to reduce fatigue cracking) results in unacceptable increases in overall firearm size & weight, most specifically width.

    A higher strength steel alloy, carburizing, shot peening, and smoother surface finish would delay inception of such cracking, but that cross slot needs to be eliminated in the design to achieve a significant increase in durability. Shot peening followed by low temperature tempering can be performed on existing bolt bodies of current design/manufacture to extend their life; maybe double their life.

    • HSR47

      Another component of the failure is that the fit appears to be extremely sloppy. That would allow the part to move back and forth more on the pin, which would in turn allow it to flex more, and thus fail more quickly.

  • supergun

    The more I read about these tanks, I think I will stick to my Mossberg Black Water and Remingtons.