By Jeff W. Zimba
In the December, 2009 issue (Vol. 13, No. 3) of Small Arms Review we tested the MD-20 Drum Magazine designed for the Saiga-12 by MD Arms, Ltd. We barely scratched the surface of the Saiga-12 story and since we have received many requests for more information, we are continuing this month by testing the radical S17 Tromix conversion. As the MD-20 article was going through the final preparation for print, we got a call from Tony Rumore, CEO of Tromix, asking if we had ever tried the Tromix S17. We had not, and soon thereafter a test gun arrived. We are happy to introduce you to your next addiction.
Tromix Lead Delivery Systems
Tony Rumore and the company he founded in 1999, Tromix, has been responsible for some very radical gun designs with some of the most interesting (some would say craziest) gun projects in recent memory. With a company philosophy that plainly states “Entertainment is our main objective” and a proven commitment to high quality over mass quantity, Rumore has had gun enthusiasts gawking over some of his wild creations since he hit the industry.
Early on, their specialty leaned towards the big bore black rifle market. He was an early pioneer in such projects as the Sledgehammer Series with chamberings including .44 AutoMag, .440 CorBon, .458 SOCOM, .475 Tremor and .50 Action Express. Since they were a little before the time when these increasingly popular big bores really took off, Rumore shelved the Sledgehammer Series and kept searching for a larger market share. He seems to have found his calling in the Tromix/Saiga series and continues to specialize in this area today.
The signature model today for Tromix is the 8-inch barreled “Micro-12” model. It is a custom built, Kalashnikov based, 12-gauge with a Shark brake and HK battle sights. The reliability has increased several-fold from the original stock guns, and the use of almost any 12-gauge round will cycle and feed with ease. For a gun known for being finicky with ammo, it is a great leap to have this new and improved design eat everything you can throw in it, from bulk-pack, low-brass to heavy magnum rounds, reliably and comfortably.
With the Tromix reputation and business growing steadily, primarily known for the painstaking time necessary to produce the superior quality they demand, the backlog has been increasing as fast as they can make these custom guns. This created some problems, so Rumore needed to make some business changes to continue to meet the demands of new customers. Instead of ramping up production and risking the loss of quality, he simply developed a new market plan: in effect today.
The “old” Tromix used to take orders and build in order of an ever-growing waiting list. People started to grumble about the long wait time so the new Tromix plan is as follows; every month the lines open up for orders for the next 30 days. After the number of builds get to the end of that amount of work, the order lines close until the beginning of the next month. This only puts new orders one month out from delivery and solves many issues at once. It stops the ever-growing list and long build times and gives those who place their order at the beginning of the month a product in a 30-day period. This is a new plan but so far it is working great and everyone seems pleased.
From Stock Saiga to Tromix Approved
Even though countless people have been dedicated cheerleaders of the Saiga-12 series since its introduction, it has not been without controversy. It is no secret that the quality of each gun, even exact models, can vary greatly with every order. The greatest abnormalities in quality seem to be focused on the gas-piston operating system. Since we started researching the Saiga-12 guns we have learned that the reason some are so finicky on ammo is that the number AND the diameter of gas ports are not always the same from one gun to another. There doesn’t seem to be any official reason for this and among the most vocal enthusiasts of the Saiga-12 platform (you can find them by visiting www.saiga12.com) just seems to be an accepted risk in buying these guns. Since the entire system is rebuilt and overhauled in the Tromix guns it is a moot point, and for those looking for a fast, and reliable quick-fix, MD Arms, Ltd. has developed their adjustable “Gunfixers Improved Gas Plug” to help properly regulate and solve the gas problems.
When you send your factory Saiga-12 to Tromix for their basic fixed stock conversion, it will receive the following upgrades for the price of only $395:
SAW pistol grip,
Re-machined receiver end to correct angle,
Tig welded back plate,
Welded selector safety stop,
Welded Tromix trigger guard,
Welded up discarded axis pin holes,
U.S. manufactured fire control parts,
Gas block realigned as necessary,
New, fixed Tromix stock,
Mag-well modified for hi-capacity magazines,
Extractor tuned with proper barrel relief,
Sand-blasted with aluminum oxide media,
Refinished with black, bake-on Norrell Moly Resin.
Several upgrades can be purchased at the time of the order and range from shortening barrels (NFA and Title 1 lengths), folding stock, threaded muzzle, night sights, HK sights, Shark brake, and much more.
The Tromix S17
When you decide to step into one of the most radical NFA redesigns, you have the option of the Tromix S17. This upgrade includes all the work previously listed with the following available options and accessories:
8-inch barrel (10, 12 and 14-inch also available),
Tromix folding stock,
Galil charging handle,
Door-breeching “Shark” muzzle brake
XS night sights
Limbsaver recoil pad
Kross Hellion handguard
On the Range
We have had several opportunities to bring the S17 out to test it and to solicit opinions and observations. For something we first thought may just be an interesting novelty, it turned into a “regular” on every outing with people lining up to run a magazine (or drum or two) at every opportunity.
Since stock, factory Saiga-12s have a reputation for excessive recoil, the interest in the S17 is usually just curiousness at first. After people watch others shoot magazine after magazine through it, all with the same smile and what would seem as choreographed remarks about how low the recoil really is, the curiosity peaks to taking the next position in line.
To clear up a little about the varying recoil reports in the stock Saiga-12s, we can offer this as another example of the inconsistency of the gas systems. We once thought it was just that some people were a little more “recoil sensitive” than other people, but after firing a few with different experiences with supposedly identical guns, this writer can attest that some just have more recoil than others. The cause is most likely due to the inconsistent number and size of the gas ports. An excessive amount of gas will usually lead to excessive recoil so this makes perfect sense. All that aside, the Tromix guns have this problem solved so it is no longer an issue.
Thus far we have shot skeet, partridge and several range abandoned automobiles in huge quantities. No matter whether using the MD-20 20-round drum or any of the many stick magazines, it has yet to malfunction in any way. Although this writer prefers a stout load for “work projects” it is pretty nice to have the option to break out several 100-round, Wal-Mart Bulk Packs of #7 low-brass when everyone wants to try it. It is as easy on the wallet as it is the eyes (and the shoulder) at that point.
During the Maine Ruffed Grouse season we had the chance to take the S17 into the field and are pleased to report that if the shooter can do his part, the frying pan fills just as fast as any previous season. Maine Snowshoe Hare testing will also commence immediately following this writing.
Tactical or Tacticool?
We posed this question to a few people who carry firearms (yes, long guns) for work, and the impression was usually the same. The short barrel makes the S17 a fantastic “up close and personal” gun. For building, or even vehicle entry the short barrel and the eye-catching Tromix “Shark” brake should function great as a standoff device for breaching. (A test we have not done ourselves as of yet.) The sturdy and serrated brake will break windows with little effort and stands almost no chance of sustaining any kind of serious abuse. Since it is a 12-gauge chambering, it has the ability to fire several specialty rounds, from the fastest slug to many of the less lethal rounds. The magazine feed allows the user to carry preloaded magazines with an assortment of ammo, making load-type changes fast and simple. When this question was to be posed to Rumore, his company motto stating, “Entertainment is our main objective” immediately came to mind – and we can attest that it is both fun and useful.
The Tromix S17 is a definite winner. It is VERY well made, with every aspect of fit, finish, quality and craftsmanship receiving high marks. It is a great looking gun, resembling a Krink that was blended with a Galil on steroids. Every shortfall of the original guns has been addressed and rectified, multi-fold. It is as fun to shoot as it is to look at and has all the potential to be as serious a professional tool as it is just plain fun to shoot. As the ultimate complement, this writer has already started a list for “thinning the herd” of numerous other scatterguns since shooting the S17 because the cold, hard fact is they will just keep pushing further to the rear of the gun safe now. The S17 is the first one out in almost every shotgun application. If you are a big-bore fan with a passion for well-made, military-style firearms the Tromix S17 will not let you down.
Tromix S17 Shotguns
405 N. Walnut Ave. #8
Broken Arrow, OK 74012
Phone: (918) 251-5640
MD-20, 12-Gauge Drum
MD Arms, Ltd.
PO Box 237
Casstown, OH 45312
Tromix S17 Specifications
Operating system: Piston w/adj. gas plug
(empty): 7lbs, 7oz
(stock folded): 22.25 inches
(stock open): 33.25 inches
Chamber: 2-3/4 inch and 3 inch
Barrel: 12-inch Smoothbore
Sights: XS Night Sights
Stock: Tromix Side-Folding
Galil-Style Charging Handle, Shark
Muzzle Brake, /Limbsaver Recoil Pad
MSRP as tested: $2,180