I was surprised to find so many Russian hunting shotguns in the online catalogue of Holt’s Auction (silent bid). Most of them are totally unremarkable, but there were a couple of interesting pieces and also something that drew my attention.
First, to the guns. Most of them were the usual suspects – Izh-58, Izh-27, a few Izh-43, Izh-26, and Izh-18 including one sound-moderated .410 (Lot 5398) , an MP-153 semi, and a Tula TOZ-66 (Lot 5817). Two, however, deserve a special mention.
This gun, not very accurately described as “Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod” is nothing else but MTs-8. From the description and the photo it is a regular Skeet gun, but an MTs is always an MTs, and gets a priority pass. If you set your sights on it, find a way to make sure it has the original Tula chokes and have not had the barrels shortened. The 70-90 pound estimate doesn’t even begin to approach its true value! Sale S0320 Lot 5145
But my personal highlight is this humble single shot that didn’t even get a lot of its own. Hiding in the midst of “10 different single shots” is an Izh-KB. The model preceded Izh-18 and differs from it in that it has sliding top tang safety, adjustable rear sight, a skinnier receiver and fore-end. It’s also about half a pound lighter than an Izh-18 in the same gauge. Izh-KB is a rare beast, outnumbered by its hammer counterpart Izh-K 20 to 1, and to my knowledge they weren’t officially exported to the UK (I could be wrong here). I hope this lot ends with a serious single shot collector and the gun gets the care and preservation it deserves. Sale S0320 Lot 5306
Now about that other thing. The standard barrel dimensions for 12-gauge guns at IzhMech were: length – 725 mm (about 28 1/2″), chokes: 0.5 mm (approx. Modified) in one and 1.0 mm. (approx. Full) in the other barrel. Exceptions, especially between 1963 and 1993, were few and far between. Limited runs of Izh-27 were made, for example, with 675-mm (approx. 26 1/2″) barrels choked 0.25 mm (IC) under and 0.5 mm (M) over. But as I look through USSR-made guns offered at Holt’s, I notice that a lot of them are described as having “roughly 27 1/2” barrels, choked anywhere from IC to IM. This is unusual.
Look at that early Izh-43 (Lot 5737), for example (pay attention to the stock-receiver joint, that meets at a sharper angle than with later guns). By serial number, it was made in 1987, so it’s one of the earliest samples of the model. Interestingly, Izh-43 was introduced with “universal triggers” – two non-selective single triggers, the front firing the right barrel first, the rear trigger firing the left barrel first. If the gun has this configuration, it would be one of the rarest Izh-43 ever. This isn’t too likely, however, because almost immediately the factory reverted to the traditional double-trigger arrangement. But whatever the triggers, the regular barrels were 725 mm. long, with 0.5 mm / 1.0 mm choke constrictions. This gun, however, is described as having “27 1/2 in. nitro barrels bored approx. 1/4 choke in both”.
Of course there may be something I don’t know about Export lots, and the descriptions may not be totally accurate (who would bother with a gun that estimates at about 40 pounds on the average?). But I think the answer is that, apparently, quite a lot of people open the chokes on their Baikals by cutting the barrels. If you cut behind the constriction area, you’ll end up with true cylinders, and if you cut about an inch, you may turn the standard chokes into about IC and M.
The latter approach has its caveats: it’s not just the manufacturers’ whim that they usually leave a short length of cylinder bore between the constriction area and the muzzle. It was found long ago that if you don’t, the chokes will soon wear out to true cylinders. This will happen extra fast if you shoot steel, so, if you’re thinking about getting a cheap Baikal and open the chokes to shoot cheap non-tox, my advice is to get a gun with standard factory dimensions and have the chokes opened the right way, by boring out. It wouldn’t hurt to have the forcing cones lengthened, either. It may cost you a bit more than picking a gun with cut barrels at the auction, but IMO will pay in the long run.