You know what? I’m happy… about my visit to the Arms&Hunting 2019 outdoor show.
Not because the show was so impressive – it wasn’t – but the Russian Hunting Magazine relieved me of the duty to write a review, and I got to just walk about the show with my 7 y. o. son. Answering all kinds of questions – Why is it better to shoot an animal in the heart than in the liver? – How do you remove the magazine from a pistol? – Can a lion outrun an antelope? – What is the difference between a red dot sight, a scope, a night vision, and a thermal sight? – priceless.
Here’s the gun he liked best: a folding .22lr semiauto from TOZ. I couldn’t fully fold it, because of that cord that connects it to the stand (security regulations), but you get the idea how it works. You can’t rest your head on the stock, so accuracy remains a question, but honestly I wouldn’t mind owning one. Going out to the woods and letting my son blast a few empty cans with it would be tons of fun… if only it weren’t illegal in Russia.
One Russian hunting shotgun I wouldn’t mind owning is the MTs-22 semiauto. There’s a lot of confusion about MTs-22, because there were two guns called with this moniker, and even the very nice lady (and a competitive rifle shot) who hosted TsKIB’s stand tried to convince me the gun was short recoil. It isn’t – the younger MTs-22 is gas-operated, but I took advantage of the argument to remove the gun’s fore-end to prove one of us wrong. We had to do it quickly, because TsKIB bosses usually disapprove of such things, and I could only snap a quick photo of the gas piston module, but I hope you can see even from this crap pic how compact and elegant it is.
Couple it with no-nonsense steel receiver, and you got a gun with the between-the-hands balance and feel of the old Browning A-5. Verrrry nice.
Do I have to tell you the former is a prototype, and the latter is off production, so you can’t buy them new anyway,
Here’s a few more Russian hunting guns I’ve seen at the show.
By law, to classify as a long arm in Russia, a gun must be at least 800 mm. in ready to fire state, with barrel (or barrel and receiver if inseparable) no shorter than 500 mm. This bred a host of folding bolt-action and AK platform guns, with separators that make the gun impossible to fire when the stock is folded. TOZ showed a new plastic-stocked version of their good old TOZ-106 20 gauge bolt-action, in two barrel lengths, with bells and whistles such as Picatini rail and muzzle breaks. The two guns below are a thumbhole stock version of MTs-20 (20 gauge), and 12-gauge TOZ-124. I noticed, however, that the serial number of the TOZ-106 started with 96, indicating that the “new” gun is actually a converted 1996 vintage production sample. Other guns were newer, but not by much. No new guns from TOZ just yet.
Molot showed a TOZ-106-lookalike folder on their Gornostai light bolt action for .336 TKM round. The new “shotgun rifle cartridge” family is where most effort of Russian gunmakers is focused now. A rifle license requires 5 years of no-incident ownership of a shotgun, but by definition the Lancaster oval bore and Paradox rifled chokes are shotguns. So – you take a rifle cartridge, tweak it a bit so as it doesn’t match the geometry of any certified rifle cartridge, couple it with a Paradox or Lancaster bore weapon, e presto! A rifle that can be had on shotgun license! You’d have to design a few shot cartridges to justify the “shotgun” certification, admittedly, but you can’t (and don’t have to) make the customers use them.
The first was .336 TKM, a straight-walled 7.62×39 case; then came 9.6x54R Lancaster on the Mosin case, new for this year are .345 TK on the Makarov pistol case, and .336 TKM Magnum on the .308 Winchester case.
A host of existing designs, from the 9 mm. submachine guns to Vepr semis and even AR-15 (I didn’t get to photo this one, though) are converted to the new rounds. Even the TechKrim itself upgraded from ammo maker to gun maker and produces some of the guns for their new rounds, in particular, two models on IzhMech break-open actions.
The single shot is an improved Izh-18, and the combination over/under is your good old MP-27, with no changes to the mechanism except the barrel regulation unit. TKM replaced the turnscrew eccentric with replaceable tiny cylinders, and claims they shoot and regulate every gun to shoot to POA at 50 meters, and by moving the cylinder to the next notch the user may change the regulation to 25 or 100 meters. This is actually a good improvement idea for any owner of MP-94 Taiga combination gun who is not happy with Baikal’s stock regulation unit.
Another Russian shotgun maker that is also making a good progress is Levsha-T of Tula. They started from best bespoke hand-detachable sidelock LT 5000 series, added a trigger plate action last year, and new for 2019 is the Trap, Skeet and Sporting Clays range, also trigger plate, with all necessary bells and whistles including adjustable comb and laminated wood stock.
Levsha-T is located literally a few steps away from the TsKIB’s premises, and in many respect continues the Tula tradition – Mikhail Kazakov, the owner and SEO, is a hereditary Tula gunmaker – but they’re as different as night and day. Levsha-T is a true bespoke gunmaker; they will take account every and each of your whims, as long as it lies within the area of possible in Newtonian physics. TsKIB… well, has always been an “I’m the gunmaker, and you can stand in awe admiring my superior ability” type of outfit. They do outperform LT in finish, though. Below is some gun porn from TsKIB, but don’t forget you can’t order any gun from them.
Finally, a few oldies/oddies – the revolving shotgun MTs-255 (and its .22lr version), and a bullpup SKS surrounded by some .22lr rifles from the Ataman company, that specializes in air guns but has been seeking to penetrate into the firearms market recently.
That’s pretty much it, folks. Pretty lame, if you ask me, and in case you’re wondering – no, the importers weren’t too impressive, either. Thankfully, I’ve been there with the kid. Good to be reminded that the shows are not only for old, weary, been-there-done-that journalists. The enthusiasm of a first-timer was refreshing. Yes, we live in a big city, and his contact with the outdoors is limited to some birdwatching in parks and an occasional fishing trip; I’ve got to make amends. Hey, Siri, find me affordable hunting opportunities north of Moscow.