Hunting in Russia

Capercailzie

Spring capercailzie hunting is a Russian classic. The biggest grouse in the world begins its mating ritual with the male sitting on a tree at a special area known as lek, and singing the mating song. During parts of this song, which last for only a few seconds, the male is deaf; that’s when a hunter moves, usually in a form of a couple of giant leaps, in the direction of the bird. This may sound easy, but it really isn’t, as the bird is deaf only for a couple of seconds at a time; otherwise, it can hear very well and, knowing its vulnerability, is extremely wary. The hunter begins the stalk in the dark, going over leftover snow, bogs, fallen trees, and other impossible terrain. A capercailzie doing the lek song is a common theme for Russian engravers.

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My Izh-54 Sh grade.

Below is an extract from “Chasing Spring”, by Nikolai Vlasov, published in April 2015 issue of the Russian Hunting Magazine.

We went through the night, across the wood, swamps and beaver dams. Sleepy ducks would take off now and then, breaking the silence of the taiga with their loud expressions of disappointment, curlews sang their quiet songs in the clearings, woodcocks were doing their mating flight over the tops of the pines. The forest was living its life. We took a rest not far from the lek. Sanya was tending his saddle-sore legs, Kolya and Igor lit their cigarettes, and I was listening to the silence, which was now and then broken by the calls of migrating widgeon and the mad cries of the mating hare. These sounds filled my soul with peace. Then we spread; I went with Igor, and Kolya led Sanya into the marsh, their silhouettes soon vanishing in the dark, and only splashing of their feet could be heard. We approached the lek – the capercailzie mating ground, which spread across the kilometer-long ridge overgrown with pines – from the other side. Continue reading

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Russian Hunting Shotguns

A Brave Experiment with Design.

“Tulka” – a hammer double, usually in 16 gauge, made by Tula Armory (TOZ) – was an iconic Russian hunting shotgun. However, by mid-1970s, the demand for this type of weapon diminished. TOZ reacted with TOZ 54 (made in 12 gauge only).

TOZ 54 b

Angular hammers and locking lever, and a beavertail fore-end, were supposed to give this gun a “modern” look. The consumers, however, were not amuzed.

TOZ 54 a

This model was made for export. However, the “Made in USSR” inscription on the trigger plate is not a reliable indicator of the gun being an export grade. Lots of standard grade guns made for domestic market had similar inscriptions.

TOZ 54 c

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Russian Hunting Shotguns

“50 Years of October Revolution” Series.

Some Internet pictures of IzhMech (Baikal) Izh-54 – one of the lot made to commemorate the 50th years anniversary of the October Revolution in 1967.

Interestingly, this lot of 500 guns was meant for the export, and is in most likelihood the “American Lot” from the legend.Whether it didn’t make the trip to the West because of the insufficient quality of the wood or not, I don’t know.

The gun features gold-inlaid (in Vassev‘s improved dovetail technique) combination of Russian for “50 years 1917-1967” and some visual improvisation on the topic of Soviet symbols (such as hammer and sickle). But the rest of the action is not covered with scroll. That marks the transition between the first generation of Izhevsk gun decoration, where tight scroll filled all spaces in the action free from game scenes, to the current style, where the areas surrounding the inlaid or relief-engraved image are left undecorated “to highlight the main theme”.

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The Legend of the “American Lot”

A recent post on doublegunshop.com reminded me of this story, one of many legends connected with the export of Soviet guns. I tell it as is, and can’t vouch for its authenticity.

After the success of guns engraved by Beloborodov and Vassev on Montreal World Expo in 1967, the American exporters thought that a higher grade of Baikals could sell well in the States, and asked their Soviet partners if they could make it – engraved, and with extra fancy wood.

This last request puzzled the IzhMech employees. For them, there were three grades of wood – birch, beech and walnut. That walnut could be “extra fancy” was a bit of a surprize. Still, a challenge is a challenge. The supplies of walnut blanks was ransacked, those which look most fancy were chosen, and a lot of 100 guns – model Izh-54 – was made.

And the exporter turned it down.

What you call “extra fancy wood” is not what an American customer expects from a high-end gun, they explained.

The “American Lot” stayed at the factory and was sold quietly to the factory management’s friends, relatives and ‘connections’.

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Russian Hunting Shotguns

Izh-25

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Izh-25 was a clay gun version of the Izh-12 O/U. It was available in Trap or Skeet variants, with ventilated rib and vent holes in the fore-end, and a single trigger. The action was the standard Izh-12 action, until 1973, when a slightly reinforced Izh-27 action began to be used. Izh-25 was to fill the niche of an introduction level gun for beginners and amateurs; sportspeople who took part in national and international competitions were entitled to MTs guns. Yet, Larissa Gurvich won five World Skeet Championships with Izh-25 (apparently, she had a new gun made every three years or so).

The gun pictured here is unusual in that it was neither sold in the USSR, nor exported by the usual channels, but was a gift from a Sovied trade representative to his counterpart in New Zealand, as the plaque testifies. This is not, however, and upgrade version as I once thought, as this engraving seems to come standard on Izh-25. It was achieved, I believe, by electrochemical removal of metal, with the deeper cavities filled with aluminum (electrochemically as well) to give the picture a bit of a background.

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Izh 25 Trap came with 750-mm barrels choked 1 mm and 1.25 mm (Full and X-Full). Izh-25 Skeet had 675-mm long barrels, choked .25 mm (IC) under ane either a Tula choke or .5 mm (Mod) over. There’s a lifehack for Izh-25 Skeet owners, as the designers of the gun regulated the balance with the help of an extra-heavy crossbolt which fixes the stock. This makes the gun too muzzle-light for most, but, if you replace the original crossbolt with the regular one for MP27, it will make the gun a good 6 once lighter and also add some weight forward, welcome for such short barrels. With .5 mm in the over barrel, the Izh-25 will thus become a very useful upland gun.

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