In January and March issues for 2017, Russian Hunting Magazine ran Elisaveta Tselykhova’s interview with Sergei Minkov, who used to do pre-production tests of new hunting guns at a model hunting preserve ran by VNIIOZ (Research Institute for Wildlife Management and Fur Farming). Talk about a dream job for a hunter and a gun nut! Sergei handled just about every new item of a hunter’s inventory introduced in the USSR from 1978 to 1991; here I’m reprinting here the part of the interview that deals with the MTs-19 rifle.
– My next question is about a high-end rifle by TsKIB SOO, MTs-19, originally for 9.3x53R, and later for .308 Win, with replaceable rotary magazine. They say these rifles were developed at the request of Leonid Brezhnev…
– The thing is that there were really two rifles with this model name. The first was, indeed, MTs-19-09 for 9.3x53R, but they were made before my time. Then, as you say, it was redesigned into MTs-19-07, for .308 Win. But later, when the Klimovsk factory copied the 9.3×64 Brenneke, TsKIB made another rifle for it, also dubbed MTs-19-09. The action, magazine and barrel were scaled up for the bigger cartridge. It had, indeed, a rotary magazine, and came with a set trigger. Both parts resembled the Mannlicher sporters, but only resembled, it wasn’t a copy.
– Which rifles did you test?
– There was only one, I hunted with it for three years. The bullets weren’t very good, though – primitive soft-points with thin jackets. At that, it worked much better than any other rifle cartridge then available. Moose or bear, they didn’t even think of going anywhere after being hit with it.
– What were the main features of this rifle?
– The designers were obviously concerned with safety. It wouldn’t fire if the bolt was even slightly unlocked. The problem was that it didn’t latch in the closed position, and the bolt opened too smoothly, so even the slightest pressure on the handle could move it enough to have an ftf. But the safety was very convenient. The rotary magazine was infallible, and very quiet, the rounds didn’t bang against each other. However, they could move back and forth with recoil, reaching the front end of the magazine, which could damage the tips of the bullets.
– What was the purpose of this rifle?
– Big-game hunting, including organized moose harvest. Some think that the 9.3×64 is too powerful for Russian game, but for me there’s no such thing as a too powerful bear rifle. It works well on moose, too, especially with good bullets. There’s even less meat damage than with the .308, usually, and the stopping power is something else. But of course it’s not the most popular round with a lot of recoil. Actually, I suspect the cartridge was not developed “for Brezhnev”, but was a side product from the big-bore sniper rifle later adopted by the Army.
– Were you happy with the rifle overall?
– Completely, save for the problem with the action. You could reload it while on safety. The safety was completely soundless – a rare and valuable feature, and the magazines are easy to change. And another thing about the bolt handle is that it was good-looking but a bit too sharp, jams into your body uncomfortably when you wear the rifle over the left shoulder.
– Left-handed shooters often suffer when they have to use guns developed for the right-handed, especially if the stock has cast off…
– Not all of us. I shoot from the left shoulder and have adapted to working the bolt with my right hand. I tried a left-handed Remington 700 once but didn’t like it. The right-handed actions are just right for southpaws, I think – we can work them without even taking the finger off the trigger. Another funny detail is the lacquer on that rifle made the stock look like birch, even though it was actually walnut. The coating was very strong, couldn’t scratch it by anything, but very slippery, especially when wet. Still, I liked the rifle and felt bad having to return it.
– What was the future of the model?
– It was made to order, and some people still hunt with them, unless put off by price and scarcity of ammo. There’s domestic ammo, which is affordable, but its quality leaves much to be desired. Besides, there’s strong competition from a much more popular 9.3×62 round, which is almost as powerful but has less recoil.