There isn’t a Russian writer who hasn’t built a headline on “Pictures at an Exhibition”, title of the famous piano music by Mussorgsky. But this year’s Arms&Hunting Moscow Expo brings to mind another Russian classic – “After the Battle of Prince Igor and the Polovtsy”.
Economic sanctions and the general crisis in the Russian economy have caused most international companies to skip this expo, or do the minimal ‘maintaining presence’. The same crisis was supposed to drive the domestic companies to compete for the shares of the market which are opened by unavailability or too high price of imported product, but Russian companies seemed to be remarkably passive in front of these opportunities. Consequently, the Moscow Expo, which couldn’t compete with IWA and SHOT even in its best days, this year looked but a ruin of its former self.
The Tula Arms Works, or TOZ, was not represented at all. Apparently, the maker had so little success in the hunting guns sector, that when they got large military orders, they decided to curb the civilian arms program in toto. TsKIB, Russian bespoke maker, is neither here nor there – they go from expo to expo with the same set of guns, but people who tried to get something done at the maker’s seem extremely frustrated.
Molot Arms (Vyatskie Polyany) presented an improved version of their Bekas semiauto, with a new mag cap design borrowed from their pump guns, which allows using the gun with extended mag. That was about all as far as hunting guns went; they didn’t even feature their interesting Toukan 20-gauge semi with Mannlicher-type rotary magazine. Their explanation was that they were exposing ‘only the newest developments’. Photo is from the Internet.
Baikal, the most popular Russian brand of hunting guns, which has been so successful on the civilian market that nearly fell out of the defense game, was a bit better represented. However, it was present only as part of the Kalashnikov Group which owns it – which is a mistake IMO, it had to get a separate stand to focus on different consumer groups. As it was, Baikal was overshadowed by the military/tactical focus of the Kalashnikov brand, and it looked like whatever sporting guns were exposed, it was only ‘to tick the square’, as the saying goes.
MP 234 was represented in Sporting Clays configuration, explicitly marked “prototype”, with ported barrels, single trigger, adjustable stock, extended screw-in chokes, and high rib with a furrow running alongside it. The gun seemed well-made, but it is – as of yet – a product of the custom gun department, so there’s absolutely no way of telling what it is going to be like when it is mass-made. When that will be is equally a mystery; “when the war’s over” seems the most likely answer. The plant needs new high-tech equipment to launch the production, and between weak ruble, high credit rates and economic sanctions, that’s hard to do.
Another novelty was MP155 in 20 gauge, on a scaled action. It looked and felt good, and I’m thinking I might get it for my wife, if it’s available in Rusich grade.
I happened to miss MP155 with new coating and plastic stock, and so can’t say whether it’s actually available or just another ‘promising future development’ which is destined to travel from expo to expo until some other ‘promising development’ comes up. Photo is from the Internet
Admittedly, the expo might have something to thrill the lover of the ‘tacticool’ – there seemed to be hundreds of Kalashnikov variations, with new and improved grips, stocks, muzzle brakes and whatnot. But this blog is about Russian hunting shotguns, and frankly speaking the weapons designed to kill people just don’t turn me on. So, sorry, no AK’s here; I will post, however, a strange thing which goes by the name of MP 155K; I thought it was a double-fed (tubular + box) device like MP154, but no, it’s just an MP155 with box magazine and AR-style stock. Photo is from the Internet
This situation will not surprise anyone who is familiar with the structure of Russian gunmaking: building hunting guns is only an extension of the military-industrial complex. These days, the military works obtain much more financing than they used to in decades, and it is only natural that all their efforts are focused on defense orders, with sporting guns only a third or fourth consideration. Maybe it is even good strategy; with domestic market cornered by sanctions and weak ruble, export limited, and new equipment hard to get, perhaps it’s worthwhile to concentrate on military orders, accumulate the resources and make a breakthrough on the civilian market when situation changes. Only time will tell.