I already mentioned “The Montreal Gun”, created by Leonard Vassev for the 1967 World Expo, in the post about Izhevsk’s best engraver. Thousands of people from all over the world admired this unique specimen of gunmaking art; many were able to appreciate the amount of talent and toil that went into it, but none of them knew what drama lurked behind those graceful lines – or that the gun was in fact No2 of an unvoluntarily matched pair.
All since mid-1990s I’ve been hearing how TsKIB’s workforce, both designers and the “hands” who actually build the guns, are dissatisfied with the management and are quitting their jobs en masse. And all the time I’ve been waiting for some of them to start their own gunmaking business. Well, looks like it finally happened!
TsKIB was an exclusive gunmaker at all times. It’s difficult to estimate production numbers, as they don’t release the figures for models that are still made. There were, all in all, about 4500 MTs-8, about 4000 MTs-6, and even fewer MTs-5. “Russian Purdeys” – MTs-11 and TS-2, copies of the famous Beesley patent self-opener – number about 600 and 125 respectively. The current top-of-the-line models, MTs-111 and MTs-109, were made at the rate of about 12 guns per year (since 1970-1971) and so there can’t be more than about a thousand of them, perhaps much less. Out of these figures, TsKIB’s total output can be estimated at about 25,000 guns. How many of these were exported? My guess is about 10%, and it’s likely to be on the overestimating side.
Some Internet pictures of IzhMech (Baikal) Izh-54 – one of the lot made to commemorate the 50th years anniversary of the October Revolution in 1967.
Interestingly, this lot of 500 guns was meant for the export, and is in most likelihood the “American Lot” from the legend.Whether it didn’t make the trip to the West because of the insufficient quality of the wood or not, I don’t know.
The gun features gold-inlaid (in Vassev‘s improved dovetail technique) combination of Russian for “50 years 1917-1967” and some visual improvisation on the topic of Soviet symbols (such as hammer and sickle). But the rest of the action is not covered with scroll. That marks the transition between the first generation of Izhevsk gun decoration, where tight scroll filled all spaces in the action free from game scenes, to the current style, where the areas surrounding the inlaid or relief-engraved image are left undecorated “to highlight the main theme”.
This is the English version (not a direct translation) of my article which was published in Russian Hunting Magazine 1/2014
All pics (c) Joseph Manton London
Joseph Manton is one of the most famous names in history of British gunmaking. Almost every gun book contains a reference to him as the ‘father of London gun trade’, the person who shaped the modern double-barreled shotgun and lit up a whole constellation of gunmakers including Boss, Greener, Lancaster, Lang and Purdey. The knowledgeable hunter who reads such books also knows the sad end of Joe Manton’s story – bankruptcy, debt jail, dying alone and broke.
How will the knowledgeable hunter react when he or she sees a brand new gun bearing the name “Joseph Manton London”? Continue reading