This unusual gun combines the effectiveness of both the .410 and the .22RF, writes Lewis Potter
In theory, the combination gun – having the virtues of both rifle and shotgun – should be the ultimate tool in the field. The Baikal Scout .22RF/.410 is an over-and-under combination gun with one rifled and one smoothbore shot barrel, and is one of a small family of similar guns that includes a .410/.22WMR, 20-bore/.22LR, 12-bore/.308, 12-bore/.223 and 12-bore/.222 Remington.
In the fine finish department, one never expects too much from Baikal shotguns, so I was quite pleasantly surprised with how this little combination gun looks. The wood is dark with some veining and is fairly smoothly finished, and the absence of chequering in this case enhances rather than detracts from its style.
The stock is the usual substantial piece of wood and is fitted well proud of the steelwork. Baikalseemstohaveadoptedapolicyof producing a limited number of stock sizes to suit various action bodies. From a practical point of view it does not matter and this maker takes the no-frills philosophy to extremes, where others dare not tread. The fore-end is reasonably slim and somewhat angular but provides a comfortable grip, especially when using the rifle barrel.
The finish on all the steelwork is matt black and sling fittings come as standard, which, for a gun like this, is very welcome. Imagine if you had both hands full with a sack of feed — a sling would be indispensable. A soft and distinctively styled rubber butt-pad finishes the stock, and the fore-end still uses a form of Deeley catch which is always nice to use but, rather oddly for Baikal, is one of the more complicated methods used to retain a fore-end — perhaps a case of the maker sticking with a familiar type.
At barely 61/4lb and with slim barrels and a 141/2in length of pull, the balance is slightly butt-heavy, though for the kind of knockabout vermin shooting a gun like this is likely to be put to, that hardly matters. It comes up to the shoulder so that the rifle sights fall nicely in line with the eye. From a styling perspective an over-and-under combination gun looks better with the rifle barrel below the shot barrel but for sighting it is best on top.
Lockwork and sights
The lockwork of any Baikal is always interesting and good quality steel is very much part of the package. Opening the gun is effected by pulling the lever at the rear of the trigger-guard up towards the pistol grip. This is a two-finger job as it not only unlocks the barrels but also cocks the hammer if in the fired position.
There is a single hammer to fire either barrel so a sophisticated changeover system is employed. What appears to be a top tang safety button is the barrel selector, both positions being clearly marked. Pressing the plunger in the middle of the button unlocks it and a rocking lever connected to the button brings into play another vertical bar that selects the firing pin to be struck by the hammer. This sounds complicated but in practice it is a remarkably neat solution that seems to work well.
By contrast, the monobloc barrel assembly looks simple but to shoot correctly there has been some nifty machine work. The barrels are laid parallel and at the muzzles the “spectacle” band is fixed to the rifle barrel but allows movement at the muzzle of the shot barrel. Not being solidly fixed makes allowance for differential expansion in the event that the barrels heat up unevenly on firing. Four screw- in chokes for the .410 barrel come as part of the standard package.
The sights are a Patridge rearsight (a square slot in the sight instead of a vee) and matching foresight which has some limited vertical screw adjustment. Windage adjustment (side-to- side) on the rearsight is achieved using the old method of tapping it sideways to achieve correct alignment. The basic quarter rib that carries the rearsight is rather short and to fix any sort of optical sight — a red dot sight would seem to be ideal — requires removal of the rearsight.
This Baikal is a non-ejector. A cocking indicator is located in front of the barrel selector button — for anyone unfamiliar with this device, it is a small plunger that stands proud when the gun is cocked, and flush with the top tang when the hammer is down in the fired or uncocked position. Well-liked on the Continent, it is something most UK shooters can live with but tend to regard as unnecessary.
The safety is the cross-bolt type that locks the trigger and is situated at the rear of the trigger-guard. As for the trigger, it is wide and pleasingly shaped, especially for rifle use.
Ammunition for testing the shot barrel included Lyalvale Express 2in and 21/2in loaded with 9g and 14g of No. 6 shot, and the equivalent length Eley Fourten and Fourlong with 9g and 12.5g of shot. All patterns were good but obviously at distances over 20 yards the 9g loads had started to develop some fairly noticeable gaps in the patterns.
Another cartridge used to test the shot barrel was Eley Trap .410 with 19g of No. 8 shot which gave respectable, if fairly big, patterns at a full 30 yards. I found this to be a strong indication of the kind of shot coverage you can achieve with a .410.
Shooting with the rifle barrel was always going to be a bit limited on-range due to the Patridge sights and 51/2lb, long, albeit smooth, trigger-pull. Testing took place from a rested position at only 38 yards on the basis that at any greater range the foresight would appear almost as large as something like a squirrel, rabbit or the other small pests that one might be aiming at with a .22 rimfire. Despite that, the results were commendable with the best 3-shot group half an inch centre-to-centre using RWS subsonic ammunition.
Baikal Scout combination gun specifications:
.22RF/.410 3in magnum
Nominal 23in. Four multi-chokes supplied for the shot barrel.
Single-trigger with manual barrel selector and cocking indicator.
York Guns, tel 01904 487180 or go to www.yorkguns.com
Construction: Solidly made with no frills, good steel and surprisingly nice wood.
Handling: Butt-heavy with the light barrels, but this isn’t really a handicap.
Finish: This gun has a basic finish that is quite suitable for a vermin tool.
Fit: A reasonably comfortable fit with good sight alignment.
Value: Not cheap, but for an unusual solution to an old problem it represents quite good value.
The Baikal Scout combination gun proves that it is a practical proposition to have a rifle and shotgun combined. Combination guns are relatively uncommon but this good-value solution could change that.
With basic sights there is a limit to its use as a rifle but a red dot sight, which can be used if necessary with both eyes open, would improve its potential as a rifle without really having a detrimental impact on its practicality as a shotgun. Used within the capabilities of the open sights it is still a very useful tool for short-range use, and could easily become an important gun in the cabinet for gamekeepers who need both a small rimfire rifle and a single-barrel .410.
Shot patterns were good and a further accuracy test with a riflescope fitted showed the pattern of bullet strikes to be consistent, especially for a firearm that appears to defy the current accepted “best practices” of rifle construction.
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