Russian Hunting Shotguns

Export of Soviet Guns, Part I.

Soviet and Russian gun export is perhaps the most difficult chapter to write, because information is barely available. On the Russian side, it is classified, first because the makers all belonged to the military-industrial complex, and lately as commercial secret. On the importing side, it has to do with numerous companies, some of them no longer exist. At this stage, I don’t know even know how to approach this problem, and perhaps the best way to start is to put down what I know by now (December 2015).

Raznoexport calendar

1988 promotional calendar

The beginning.

The export of Russian hunting shotguns did not begin until 1960s. In fact, before the second part of 1950s production capacity of domestic gunmakers wasn’t sufficient to satisfy even local demand, and the country imported scores of shotguns (mostly from East Germany). However, by 1960-1962 it became evident that the collective farm based agricultural system couldn’t feed growing urban population. The USSR had to import large quantities of food, and needed hard currency; all industries were ordered to come up with ideas for export merchandise.

54g_zpsnyxvvbxa

Early export Izh-54 with “Made in USSR” in Russian. (Photo by Bladeswitcher @ www. shotgunworld.com)

IzhMech answered with a major breakthrough in both manufacturing capacities and the model lineup. Every hunting shotgun produced by this maker was improved or so radically reengineered that it was given a new model name. Izh-58 got circular rather than oval receiver-stock joint. On Izh-54, barrel design was changed from dovetail to monoblock. Izh-59 over/under also got new barrels (all barrels for 12-gauge double guns were standardized to 725 mm length and 18.2 mm bore) and a new, more traditional fore-end, and was renamed Izh-12. The single shots were given new names – Izh-17 (hammer) and Izh-18 (hammerless); they got new triggers, all-new receivers without an opening on the underside and stronger lockup. Izh-18 also received trigger-mounted safety and a cocking indicator on top of the action.

TOZ 34 1967

TOZ 34 decorated to commemorate 50 years of Bolshevik revolution (photo by http://www.arahnid.ru

TOZ was slightly behind. They did improve their hammer Model BM, introducing chrome-lined monobloc barrels made of better steel, which allowed to reduce weight. The guns with the new barrels were named TOZ-63 (16 gauge) and TOZ-66 (12 gauge), and, interestingly, were made alongside the BM guns made to old specifications for a few years afterwards. But in introduction of new models TOZ apparently ran into problems. TOZ 34 over/under and MTs-21 semiauto were developed by mid-1960s (TOZ-34 even was awarded the Gold Medal at 1965 Leipzig Expo) but did not get to mass production until the end of the decade.

MTs8 Sweden

MTs8 that made it to Sweden. (Photo by http://www.jaktojagare.se)

TsKIB SOO offered all their models, but this limited-capacity, essentially bespoke maker could hardly make a difference in this game. In any case, selling upmarket guns requires a big marketing effort, and planned economy is by default less than efficient in such things. I’d say, to really sell TsKIB guns out there, one would have to open show rooms in London, New York and perhaps a few other major Western cities, and hire a top internationally recognized shot as the face of the brand.

Brands.

zatylnik_iz

Buttplate with Baikal logo (Photo by http://www.oborontech.ru)

Branding was something alien to Soviet planned economy – without competition, it didn’t really matter how a product name sounded. In 1930s, Izhevsk hunting guns were marked as made by “People’s Commissariat of Defense Works #180”. This, of course, wouldn’t do in the competitive bourgeois economy. Someone came up with “Vostok” for sporting arms and “Baikal” for hunting guns. I don’t know what person or organization suggested the names, but the Baikal logo was drawn by noone else but IzhMech’s Leonard Vassev. Today the Baikal brand is firmly associated with IzhMech, and following the transition to the Capitalist economy in 1990s the company secured the legal rights for it. But back in the day both Baikal and Vostok were umbrella brands for a variety of makers, although the division between them is obscure to me at this stage. For example, IzhMech guns for clay sports were sold as Baikal, but TsKIB sporting guns came as Vostok, at least on some markets.

Grades.

54f_zpswnek9ylv

“Drunken Master Style” proof marks on Izh-54 (Photo by Bladeswitcher @ http://www.shotgunworld.com)

Exported guns were made in the special Export grade, which featured the same finish as regular grade, but the guns were assembled to custom grade specifications (e.g., in regular guns the fit was controlled by gauges, but the custom grades were fit by smoke or paint). The first batches of export-bound guns were even made by one of the custom departments of the plant, as witnessed by the proof marks which look etched rather than stamped on the flats (I call it “drunken master style”). The production costs were apparently 15% above regular grade. First guns were marked “Made in USSR” in Russian, later the inscriptions featured the model number and “Made in USSR” in English. An Izh-17 single shot (circa 1968) pictured here has a curious combination of the English and Cyrillic letters.

Sales.

Raznoexport

Cover of Raznoexport catalogue. (Photo by MeGaWa @ http://www.forum.guns.ru)

Another thing I don’t know is how Soviet exporters found their customers. All export of consumer products, apparently, was carried out by the specially created outfit called “Raznoexport”. It looks like “Raznoexport” looked for sales contracts on world trade fairs and expos. The Montreal 1967 World Expo seems to be an especially important milestone for Russian gunmakers. Exhibition shotguns engraved by Leonard Vassev and other famous artisans impressed the Western shooting public and brought new orders, and new feedback.

Continue to Part II. The 1970s.

Continue to Part III. The 1980s.

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18 thoughts on “Export of Soviet Guns, Part I.

  1. Ian Bell says:

    Hi enjoyed your article. I have a Raznoexport poster I got in 1976. Let me know if you want a picture of it. Regards Ian Bell Aberdeen Scotland

    Like

  2. DaveC says:

    Thank you for this article. So good to find information about the history of firearms. My 65 year old Russian pistol MU 2-3 (western name because the Crillic letters look like MU) was made early 1950’s before the Toz 35 and still works perfectly, April 2017. At some time it will need spares and attention. Please help. I am searching for factory diagrams or factory parts list. Also need all information regarding this pistol. Not much detail on internet. DaveC South Africa.

    Like

  3. Andreas says:

    Hello Aleksei,
    My name is Andreas and I have an MC-6/12 over under 29.5″ that my father bought new in 1983 and condition is excellent.

    I would like to buy another MC or MU shotgun but in Cyprus, this is not possible.

    Can you please let me know if you know anyone that sells the guns?

    Regards
    Andreas

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Andreas,
      there’s no reliable source of new TsKIB guns that I know of, unless you want to make a pre-paid order for a lot of 5 guns. Your best choice is going through classifieds and used gun auctions. Some MTs in as-new condition surface now and then.

      Like

  4. Arthur says:

    Hi, Alexey. I have an IJ-12 with the serial number H 37284. Would you happen to know what the year of manufacture is? It has an automatic safety switch.

    Many thanks in advance,

    Arthur

    Liked by 1 person

  5. JP Paquot says:

    Aleksi, I just came across your 2015 article Export of Soviet Guns, Part I.that I enjoyed very much as it help me in identifying an early export hammer less single barrel shotgun in 16/70 with a 1962 date on the barrel and a tang safety. Its seems to be the predecessor of the IZH-18 and would like to know the model number as I haven’t been able to find anything on the web.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Evasio R. Diaz says:

    buenas tardes quisiera comprar los muelles de los martillos para una ij 27 o/u 12 ga ustedes me los pueden vender

    Like

  7. Athanasios Tsintzas says:

    Was ever any production of an over/under Izh-14 or similar ? It looks very common to Browning B4 but it is lighter and well balanced. I touch one today in my hands with double triggers, however the stock was too short for me and anyhow it wa not for sale 😦

    Like

  8. Athanasios Tsintzas says:

    Is there any list of all times BAIKAL over/under production, including customised ones ?

    Like

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