Civet 12 Review, a shotgun by SDS Imports 
We’re not usually fans of pistol grips on shotguns, but the Civet 12’s AK-style slap reloads make a strong case for it.
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)
- Civet 12 Overview
- In the shop:In the field:Wrap up
There’s no need to worry about the magwell coming loose or wearing out
Even better, the Civet 12’s pump-action layout fixes the biggest problem with the Saiga 12’s reload procedure – the bolt hold-open (or lack thereof). Reloading a Saiga 12 is a finicky travesty of hand-swapping and gun-flopping because you have to hold the bolt open, against spring pressure, to easily seat the loaded magazine. We should note here that you cannot reload the Civet on a closed bolt - there’s a little lip on the bottom of the bolt body that catches the top shell and won’t let it seat. You could probably grind that lip down so the magazine will seat, but there's really not much point because the Civet 12 is just so dang easy to reload.
Since it's a pump-action, all you do is rack it back and leave it open – it requires no practice at all and you can even perform the whole operation with your weak hand while keeping the weapon at the ready. That’s AR-level ergonomics, and something no other box mag-fed shotgun can boast (that we know of).
**repost with better video— GunTweaks (@guntweaks) March 3, 2020
box mag-fed shotguns are cool@sdsimports Civet 12. It's a Remington 870 clone that takes Saiga 12 magazines. Chinese-made, but many of its internals are interchangeable with true 870 parts and it sure does reload quick...#guns pic.twitter.com/a9Rvx4q5QN
If you keep the shotgun at the firing position and reload like you need it, you’re looking at nearly AR15-level reload speeds.
The 870’s wider extractor notch doesn’t seem like a dealbreaker, either.
but they’re not that far apart – you could probably get it to work if you had to.
but some small parts and springs may still interchange.
However, there are a number of parts that do interchange freely with the 870, meaning that you can maintain and sustain your Civet 12 over the long term pretty easily using parts you order directly from Remington. Here is a list of parts that we know for sure interchange freely between a true 870 and the Civet 12, because we swapped them back and forth ourselves.
Freely interchanging parts:
- Buttstocks and forends
- Extractor, plunger, and spring
- Magazine tube (20 gauge)
- Magazine end cap (20 gauge)
Here’s a list of parts that we’re pretty sure interchange freely, but didn’t test ourselves because we didn’t want to unstake the screws on the bolt body or disassemble the fire control group.
(untested but probably) freely interchanging parts:
- Locking block
- Safety switch
- Some trigger parts
- Some pins and springs
Then there are parts that don’t interchange freely, but can probably be made to work with a little time spent hand-fitting:
Parts that interchange after fitting/modification:
- The magazine tube ring will need to be re-located by someone with a well-equipped machine shop or gunsmith’s bench. Other than that, fit looks good – we couldn’t fully install the barrel because the magazine tube ring wasn’t placed right, but we held the barrel in place by hand and cycled rounds successfully.
- Slide assembly
- Will not fully support the bolt body, but should be able to work.
- Some trigger parts
Then, there are parts that are completely unique to the Civet 12:
Parts that don’t interchange at all:
- Bolt body
- Firing pin, retainer, and spring
- Trigger pack
- Some trigger parts
- The trigger guard is solid steel, unlike the plastic trigger guard on a Remington 870.
- The extractor is milled, not MIM.
- A removable picatinny rail with an integral ghost ring sight is included, which bolts onto the pre-drilled and tapped receiver.
- The buttpad screw holes are threaded brass inserts, not just a wood screw biting into plastic like a synthetic-stocked 870.
- There are even little rubber plugs filling the gaps in the stock where the screwdriver tightened the buttpad in place, to give a smooth, clean appearance. Fat chance of seeing that on an 870 Express.
Measured pull weight is 6.8 pounds and it does the job – a standard pump-shotgun trigger like you’d find on any 870.
A fixed, non-adjustable front blade/dot is included, as well as a removable picatinny rail with an integral ghost ring sight, which is a nice value-add over a Remington 870, which doesn’t include a rail AND needs to be drilled and tapped to take one. The ghost ring rear on the Civet is pretty fragile, though – one or two hard drops and it’ll be unusable.
Magazines and Saiga-12 Compatibility:
The magazine release is sturdy steel so we don’t expect durability problems, and it’s long enough for the AK-style “slap” reload – fast, not that difficult, and fun as hell. Our Civet-12 came with a factory 5-round magazine, presumably Chinese in origin just like the Civet-12 itself, which proved to be dead reliable.
Also included were three clear 10-round magazines that are claimed to be made in the USA. However, the 10-round magazines were clearly made using the same (or very similar) equipment as the 5-round magazines – the texturing, feed lips, baseplate, and overall design are 100% identical to the 5-round magazines, except that the plastic is clear instead of black and the mags hold 10 rounds instead of 5. The 10-rounders also feel cheap – the spring rattles inside the magazine and the plastic feels slick and fragile. We found that only one of the three clear 10-rounders could be trusted to feed reliably.
We also ran Promag 10-round Saiga 12 magazines, and these turned up a FTF about once per magazine, usually on the last shell but not always – typical Promag (lack of) quality. We suspect that putting a stronger magazine spring in the Promags and the clear 10-rounders, such as the springs sold by Csspecs, would fix their issues, but in the end we decided not to throw good money after bad.
Of course, firepower only matters if the gun works. Fortunately, we’re happy to report that the Civet 12 does work, but there are asterisks. We know it doesn’t like Promag magazines, and that could be the fault of Promag, or it could be the fault of the gun. It doesn’t like Herter's 1 oz birdshot, and if it doesn’t like that ammo then there’s likely others it won’t eat, and so on. Furthermore, all of these intricacies could very easily be unique to our individual shotgun – your Civet 12 might eat Promags for lunch and smile.
So the Civet 12 can still be a butt-kicking, lead-spitting dragon of a shotgun, just be aware that dragon will only appear on range trip #3 or #4, after you’ve found the right ammo, the right magazine, maybe replaced the extractor, etc. That’s the point we’ve reached - we haven’t had a failure of any kind in a long time, and we kind of love the Civet 12 because of it. That said, don’t expect to hit the range immediately after unboxing and have completely smooth sailing.
Only one brand of birdshot, Herter’s, encountered extraction issues – the extractor just wasn’t wanting to grab onto the rim of the cartridge, and the slide had to be racked a half dozen times until the extractor bit. In a few cases even that wouldn’t work, and we had to tap the shell out with a cleaning rod.
We then put the exact same shells (not the same brand of shell, the actual exact same fired shells) into 870 and it ripped them out like a champ several times in a row. So, the fix for this on the Civet would likely be installing an upgraded extractor (the 870 had a Volquartsen EDM-cut extractor). Or, just avoid that particular type of ammo, because everything else extracted 100% flawlessly.
In a nutshell, reliable operation of the Civet 12 seems to be obtainable if you:
(A) purchase good magazines that the gun likes
(B) avoid ammo it doesn’t like
maybe (C) upgrade the extractor (as we’d do to any 870)
That said, it really didn’t like it – we had to tap the round out with a cleaning rod more than once.
then the Civet 12 probably just isn’t for you.