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Visit to Dissident Arms: World Class Open Division Guns

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Five years ago, if you showed up to a 3-gun match with an AK-pattern shotgun, you were there to do two things: troll the other open shooters, and clear malfunctions. But Dissident Arms has changed all that by building the reigning Open-Division shotgun off of the Vepr platform, and they’re not stopping with just the competition world either.


I sat down with Dissident Arms founders and gunsmiths Michael Whitesides and Lan Nguyen a few days ago to find out what it takes to make a magazine-fed shotgun that actually works. It’s not surprising to find out that they got their start working at a small local gun store and watching 3-Gun-Nation on TV. But unlike most “shooters” who just talk about going to classes or matches, this pair went all in. Within a year of their first shooting class and match, they were flying across the country, competing at a national level, and discovering that there was something lacking in the open class shotgun category.


Sure, getting an out of the box autoloader to run through even one stage can be a challenge, let alone getting through an entire match without malfunctions. That’s what they set out to do, though, after being let down by multi-thousand dollar off the shelf competition guns and custom-built disappointments. These repeated failures would lead to the development of what would later be known as the KL-12.


Building a world-class shotgun from a stock Vepr took a lot of work from tuning magazines, proper ammo selection, and internal part redesign. Literally, only a handful of untouched parts remain from the stock gun and everything else is modified extensively. Most guns out there don’t see a thousand rounds through them in a lifetime let alone a month unless you're talking about one in use by a tier one military unit or a professional competition shooter. Some of Dissidents guns have seen three thousand rounds in the first month, and they expect them to perform the same for the first shot as they do on number three thousand and one. So it makes sense for them to expand into the tactical shotgun world with a tuned SBS and other offerings held to their high standard of performance.


It’s not surprising that Dissident has sold shotguns on six continents, to world and national level competitive shooters, foreign nations shooting teams, Hollywood prop houses, and major metropolitan area SWAT teams. However, they are not a “one trick pony” and know the importance of expanding their offerings especially with the current Vepr import ban which really hasn’t impacted the price points or availability of the guns at this point. You can get a Vepr 12 for less than they bought their original three guns before the ban, minus the Dissident Arms treatment of course. By expanding their offerings to IMI and Arsenal models, they have set their sights on the rifle market including 5.56 offerings. Lan’s personal customized Galil rifle has the full Dissident treatment along with an LPVO and offset dot that we typically see on 3-gun AR variants.


It is obvious when you talk to these guys or look at how they have designed and modified their guns that they are serious competitive shooters, almost from the time they began shooting 3-Gun they have hosted monthly local as well as regional matches. But with months of custom guns lined up and no end in sight, Michael and Lan have gone all in, foregoing there hosting duties at least temporarily to focus strictly on Dissident Arms. Despite all of this on their plates, they are still one of the title sponsors/collaborators for the upcoming Kalash Bash in a few short weeks. With over twenty sponsors from across the nation, this two-day AK centric event/eight stage match is promising to rival Red October.



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