Model identification of Russian hunting shotguns that were exported through official channels is usually very easy. Most guns proudly bear their model designations stamped on the action or barrel(s). Sometimes, however, it’s a tricky thing (if you need help with identifying or dating your Russian shotgun, click here and leave a comment). This is a query I recently received from a very knowlegeable Russian gun enthusiast in Pakistan:
Sir, please confirm the model
Nothing is written on it like IJ-58 or anything else😏
At first sight, there does seem to be much in the way of model ID, but, like Sherlock Holmes used to say, it will take me more time to explain how I arrived at my conclusion from evidence than it actually took me to identify this gun.Yet, why don’t we go through this step by step, to see how it’s done:
This gun was made in the USSR. The evidence is the remains of the words to this effect on the left side of the frame:
And the Soviet (Russian) proof marks, which also tell us the gun was made by the Izhevsk Mechanical Plant – the “arrow in shield” is its signature stamp.
There’s only one Russian side-by-side shotgun with a semi-circular stock to action joint, and this is Izh-58. Eurica? Not yet. There were four generations of this model, known under three different names: 58, 58M and 58MA, and knowing which specific submodel this gun is would help us to narrow down its possible mfg date.
It is perfectly clear that this gun is either M or MA. Izh-58 had “bolsters” – the parts of the breech that stand out of the action to support the barrels – that had a semi-cylindrical, rather than semi-spheric, as in this example, shape. (In the first years of production, Izh-58 had semi-oval, rather than semi-circular, stock-action joint as well).
The difference between M and MA is mostly in the inside, and can be determined by a click of the safety – in MA it is, as the model letters suggest, automatic. But this isn’t reliable, as many users converted the safety to non-automatic. But let’s look attentively to the place where the model designation should have been, and we’ll see some of the remains of it, and it sure looks like it used to say “Model Izh 58 MA”.
So, this gun was made some time between 1976 and 1986. The letter A on the rear locking lug seems to suggest 1976 as the mfg date, but it’s hard to say, because the serial No on the lug is almost invisible (filed off?).
As a sidenote, the bottom of the gun’s action is missing the “Soviet sign of quality” – which confrims it being Export grade. The Soviet sign of quality happened to precisely match Dodge logo, and so it would be a big copyright issue if guns with these image were sold. I expect some relegious people would be reluctant to wear a gun with a pentagram on it, too.
The problem with model ID of this gun, as a matter of fact, come down to years of hard use and substandard gunsmithing it saw. It’s hard to wear out a roll-stamped engraving from wear alone, so I suspect someone at some point sanded the action (perhaps as a re-bluing project). All screws are misaligned, and I think I see a piece of foil sticking out from under the hinge pin – which would indicate a homemade attempt to fix loose barrels. The serial number on the action doesn’t seem to match the one on the rear lump, and the letter on the action is not from Cyrillic alphabeth, so God only knows what amount of repair works this gun underwent.
However, in spite of all abuse, this gun still goes bang and, in some parts of the world, is considered a perfectly usable and even desirable hunting weapon. That’s what they love Russian guns for.