A few weeks ago I received an e-mail with photographs of two MTs-7-12, which look just like an MTs-7-12 is supposed to look, except that they were marked “1”, “2”, and “Arthur Turner Sheffield” on the ribs.
“Arthur Turner was a well known Sheffield gunshop that bought guns from Webley (UPD: please see the comments re: Webley making guns for Arthur Turner – A.M.) in Birmingham, had them marked and sold as Arthur Turner Guns“ – wrote Tim, the owner of the pair, in an accompanying letter – “In c. 1908 Arthur Turner took over the gunsmith’s shop of Charles Maleham at 5a West Bar Sheffield. He remained there until the business outgrew the space available and then moved a few yards to the corner of New Street. The business was there until the 1990s when the building was demolished, then moved to Infirmary Road where it remained until fairly recently. The name was sold on and Arthur Turner Gunmakers lives on but in reduced circumstances: https://burncross.cylex-uk.co.uk/company/arthur-turner-gunmakers-19885271.html“
“I can only imagine that, at some stage in the 1980s/1990s the original Arthur Turner gunshop had this pair made in Tula by TsKIB SOO, just as they would have had guns made in Birmingham by Webley.“
MTs-7 are among my favorite models of TsKIB, and when some people say they’re the best TsKIB guns ever, it’s hard to argue. A combination of TsKIB’s patent triggerplate action () and Boss-Woodward type hinging and lockup makes for a sleek, streamlined and extremely well-handling action. To have a pair of them, especially a matched, or better said a composed pair, is a rare privilege indeed.
The guns in question were made in or shortly after 1979. They could have been made to order, through Milbro (Millard Brothers, the Baikal/Vostok UK dealer at the time), or purchased from the dealer’s inventory. I believe the latter is more probable. TsKIB was not into pairs; I am not aware of any true pair they ever made (they might have, I am not omniscient). The serial numbers are not consequent. The numbers were assigned when the work on the guns was started, not finished, and if the guns were ordered as a pair, they would have consequent numbers. The guns have regular engraving, and definitely belonged to the same production lot. But gun no 790747 could have been sold earlier, or had a different engraving or wood pattern, or finished at a different date and dispatched to a different dealer.
Like all Soviet enterprizes, TsKIB had a production plan, and if the number of orders received was below the plan, made the remainer anyway to be sold off-the-shelf. It is my understanding that Raznoexport, the Soviet corporation responsible for export of manufactured goods, insisted the dealers carry a full inventory. TsKIB’s guns, however, were hard to sell in most Western countries, due to low brand recognigion, and might have been offered at large discounts. I have evidence that in some cases some dealers simply gave them away (as bonuses or personal gifts)!
Obviously, whoever managed Arthur Turner saw a business opportunity in these beautiful, but grossly underestimated guns. It sounds perfectly logical that with the authority of a British gunmaker bestowed on them, and a few nice touches that a British customer would expect from a bespoke gun, MTs’s could be sold at a good price, and leave a nice margin for the said gunmaker. In fact, I see no obvious reason why the scheme should ever fail. It would be interesting to find out why, especially since many modern UK gunmakers use the same scheme very successfully, selling under their own name guns made by Italian and Spanish makers.