Since the Obama administration’s de facto ban on Russian imports, AK pattern shotguns have been popping up from various manufacturers worldwide. The Citadel RSS1 is one of many, but it’s found a way to stand out. It’s impressive how well the simplistic AK design scales up to accommodate various calibers, and AK-based shotguns have always been insanely fun guns.

Simple and robust (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The RSS1 is seemingly a typical AK-based shotgun. It has a long-stroke gas piston, a 20-inch barrel, it feeds from box magazines, and generally reeks of AKness. The chamber and magazines will accommodate shells up to 3 inches. The gun is rather long at 40 inches overall and it fits just perfectly in a 5.11 AR-15 case.

What sets the RSS1 apart is that they didn’t just settle for your average AK design scaled up to accommodate 12 gauge shells. The ergonomics are improved quite a bit through some simple additions to the controls.

The Citadel RSS1 Shotgun Deep Dive

First, the magazine doesn’t rock in like a standard AK. The big mag well on the RSS1 allows you to slam a magazine home more like an AR. That tends to be more accommodating when it comes to big 12 gauge box magazines.

Straight in load and massive magazine release
(Travis Pike for TTAG)

Slamming one home in the midst of reloading is a bit easier to do than rocking one in. The lever to release the magazine, located behind the magazine well, is still AK-like, but massive and very easy to engage and reach. It’s appropriately beefed up for the bigger magazines.

Excellent safety for an AK (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The RSS1 has a last round bolt hold-open device, and that’s not a common AK feature. It’s a pleasant surprise here. The only way to release the bolt is to tug the charging handle, but it’s still faster than your normal AK reload. This is super handy because loading a full magazine on a closed bolt requires some force.

Bolt locks to the rear (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Next, the safety lever is huge and has an added tab about halfway up to allow the safety to be quickly switched off with the swipe of a thumb. You do not need to break your grip with your firing hand to turn the safety off. That’s a huge improvement ergonomically.

Lastly, the railed dust cover is a nice touch, and best of all, it’s a hinged design that’s very rigid. I have no doubts it will hold zero with your red dot of choice. The beefy scope rail is a nice touch for the modern red dot world we live in.

It’s all AK (Travis Pike for TTAG)

There is an added pic rail, but it is placed a good deal down the road, just in front of the fore grip. Mounting a light would require a long reach or a taped pressure switch.


Most of the downsides are related to our ridiculous import laws. The first is you only get 5-round magazines., but they are VEPR compatible. I’m not a big AK shotgun expert, but I do know VEPR magazines are robust, and are available in various capacities (including a 25-round drum). The second downside is the silly thumbhole stock. It’s lame, but it’s still comfortable and ergonomic. The LOP is 14 inches, which some may find a little on the long side.

Stupid import laws (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Range Time

The bad news is the gun feels over-gassed. The good news is the gun is over-gassed. The good part of being over gassed is that the gun will eat everything you put through it. This includes cheap sporting loads, reduced recoil buckshot, and every crappy lead chunking load I have on hand. The gun doesn’t seem to mind. It really did eat every round I could pump through it.

This is a fast cycling beast (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Overgassing, though, isn’t great for a soft recoil impulse. The RSS1 recoil is better than a pump-action shotgun, but nowhere near as soft as my Benelli M4. Holy hell, there is some serious trigger slap to the gun. It gives you a good pop. I rarely wear gloves to shoot, but I made an exception here.

Patterning was okay with normal 00 Buck. The gun has a modified cylinder bore, so it didn’t work great with Flitecontrol. I found the sights to be set a little on the low side. Sadly I don’t have an AK sight adjustment tool, so I Kentucky windaged it. It’s a shotgun, so even when you miss a little, you don’t miss a lot.

My gorilla like size makes the LOP look shorter, buts its a full 14 inches (Travis Pike for TTAG)

AK sights on a shotgun feel like a bit much and make the gun handle more like a rifle than a shotgun. A red dot is a better option here and allows for fast, more reactive shooting than rifle sights. The Citadel RSS1’s irons are teeny tiny too, and shotguns work better with something more eye-catching.

One thing I adored was how fast-cycling the RSS1 is. The gun barely moves as you squeeze the trigger as fast as you possibly can. The fast-cycling design is outstanding and addictive for fast mag dumps. I almost got to the point where I could fire all five rounds before the first shell the dirt. Almost.

Buckshot pattern at 10 yards (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The polymer handguards do an amazing job of mitigating heat, better than most AK wood handguards. I never noticed how hot the gun was getting until I brushed the barrel by accident. It’s a fun gun if you want to go for a high volume shooting day.

Unload, Show Clear

The RSS1 is a fun shooting shotgun, but then again, most shotguns are to me. The RSS1 is reliable, packs a punch, and cycles like a wild animal. It’s a neat gun, and the VEPR compatibility really opens up your magazine options.

If you have a Saiga craving, the RSS1 could very well satisfy it.

Specifications: Citadel RSS1 Shotgun

Caliber: 12 Gauge 3-inch chamber
Barrel Length: 20 inches
Overall Length: 40 inches
Weight: 8 pounds
Capacity: 5 rounds
MSRP: $799

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics * * *
The controls are great, and I appreciate that they went beyond your normal AK controls to produce a more comfortable gun. The downsides relate to the 14-inch LOP and the 8-pound weight.

Reliability * * * * *
It ate everything. I was impressed by how the gun kept going and going, regardless of what load I tossed into it. The RSS1 is not a picky eater, and thats a huge plus when it comes to semi-auto shotguns.

Accuracy * * * *
Accuracy loses a point because AK rifle sights aren’t great for shotguns. They work, but they take the reactive and speed-based nature of shotgun shooting to a slower, more precise rifleman’s speed. Get a red dot…you’ll be much happier.

Overall * * * *
The Citadel RSS1 is an impressive shotgun with lots of potential. It’s reliable, fast cycling, and a lot of fun to shoot. It’s not perfect, but a very worthy entry for those partial to an AK pattern shotgun.

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