By Bruce Potts
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Gun reviews: Baikal MP-221 .45-70 double rifle: This meaty new side-by-side rifle from Baikal isn’t elegant, but it’s accurate and easy handling - perfect for boar.
Baikal double rifle.
Baikal needs no introduction, I’m sure, as it has been one of the few manufacturers that has supplied British shooters with truly cheap yet sturdy shotguns over the decades.
They may be built like a T34 tank — most Russian guns are — but you have to admire their longevity, even if they lack a little finesse in their design.
With the interest in boar shooting in this country accelerating, however, one model from the Baikal line imported by York Guns caught my eye.
It is a rather nice-looking double rifle with side-by-side barrels and in a perfect boar calibre, the US’s venerable .45-70.
As you can imagine, the Baikal MP-221 model is over-engineered in all departments — i.e. plenty of meat around the chambering and action and therefore you can load this .45-70 to good velocities that older vintage lever guns would never take safely.
It’s a short rifle, fast-handling — albeit a bit rough around the edges — which is enormous fun to shoot and for a close-quarter double rifle, at just £975 it is also a real bargain.
STOCK AND FORE-END
The stock is walnut, though very pale despite some staining. It is functional, however, and finished in a light, clear lacquer. The rifle has a splinter-type fore-end, which is 8.5in long and 2in wide, but very shallow in draft.
The lock-up is precise, though, as with the pistol grip area, the chequering is cut not pressed and a little crude. It certainly bites or grips the hand when the Baikal is shot.
The stock has no cheekpiece and a low comb for open sight use, and little or no cast, and so can be shot from either shoulder, though I found it too short for me, my right thumb under recoil was a bit close to my nose on occasions.
The ventilated .75in recoil pad is welcome, and because of the general short length and weight, the MP-221 handles well.
BARREL, ACTION AND FINISH
Finish, as one would expect, was blued steel and nice and even, as was the action with the name Baikal MP-221 and “Made in Russia” etched into the bottom plate. The action is solid with a flat, plain blued finish to the sides.
The barrels are also substantial: the chambers have 6mm thick walls and the barrels run separately along their length until the muzzle collar.
Here the right barrel sits free to move — at 8.75in down the barrel, on the underside, is an adjustment wheel that allows regulation or barrel tuning to occur.
You rotate the wheel through a mild steel covering rib to shield the barrel join, which in turn adjusts a wedge system to move the right barrel in relation to the left barrel, thereby coinciding shots at a range that you want.
The sights are elegantly simple, too — the foresight is a basic ramp and truncated post which looks as though it can be shortened to suit your needs, and the rearsight is dovetailed into the 7in-long quarter rib with a single screw to tighten and adjust for windage and rear facing notch-aiming blade.
The sights come up very quickly, but I also fitted an excellent Sightmark Holo/Reflex sight that gives a four reticule “floating” aim mark that suits the Baikal very well and is an accurate sight system for fast-moving game.
TRIGGER AND SAFETY
The safety automatically sets as the locking lever is operated and moves backward to show a small steel bead.
This disappears when the safety is slid forward and the rifle now becomes live and ready to fire. The Baikal has a double trigger mechanism — the length of pull is 14.25in for the front blade and 13.25in for the rear.
Trigger-pull and weight is a bit creepy and heavy at 7.5lb, but when the rifle is shouldered and a target engaged, you hardly notice it, and repositioning the firing finger between both trigger-blades is soon instinctive.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
Getting any double rifle to group accurately and together for both barrels can be tricky, and this is why doubles come regulated for a particular load. I had no such load, but tried a few factory loads and some jacketed and lead bullet reloads.
The factory loads were loaded to low lever action pressures so velocities were sedate but manageable.
The Remingtons shot 1,733fps for 2,001ft/lb of energy and would be a nice woodland round if not a little unusual — accuracy was 2.5in at 60 yards. Reloads and quite some regulation yielded some really impressive groupings.
The big old 510-gr Montana gas-checked bullets lumbered along at 1,412fps for 2,258ft/lb energy and gave consistent 2in shot-to-shot groupings per barrel but 2in apart.
The best and most accurate load, though quite mild, was the 405-gr Hollowpoint lead bullets with only 36 grains of Alliant RL 7 powder yielding 1,380fps and at 60 paces I had tight 1.5in clusters with the odd flier — really good accuracy and thus regulated to this rifle’s barrels.
The Baikal will not win any beauty pageants, but boar facing the MP-221 will worry about its accuracy at woodland ranges! For the price you get a hard-hitting double rifle that is accurate with proper loads, for less than a grand.
It’s one that you can sling about and not worry about scratching or, if it goes missing in the baggage on a hunting trip abroad, it will not break the bank.
It’s tough enough to handle heavy loads, though the short stock and light weight make it a bit “lively” in the shoulder, which is why the hollowpoint lead loads would be a good bet.
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