The Baikal 12-bore shotgun is a reliable, well-made gun capable in practical terms of holding its own against much more expensive alternatives, discovers Jason Harris
This review on the Baikal 12-bore was originally published in 2008 and has been updated.
The Baikal shotgun has a host of fans, with many people fondly remembering a Baikal as their first gun. So what about the versatile Baikal 12-bore? In general outline the Baikal over-and-under has not changed much.
It is a little shinier perhaps and has a different stock shape but is still very recognisable. There is no hiding the fact that it is a Baikal.
What I noticed about the Baikal 12-bore
The first thing I noticed on the Baikal 12-bore is the tightness of the action, especially when closing the gun. A firm wrist movement is required, an indication that this later model still retains the solid virtues of the earlier models.
The gun weighs just under 7½lb and the point of balance lies in front of the fore-end knuckle, about 14in from the action crosspin, and sits comfortably between the natural positioning of the hands.
On the stock there is a good deal of patterning in the wood. The chequering is clean-cut in a minimalist pattern on both grip and fore-end.
The stock is stronger than the old design and the butt-pad, with its proliferation of holes, looks as if it should be as soft as jelly, but it is in fact nice and firm. It does not impair gun mounting and at the same time it is sufficient to cushion the blow.
Length of pull is 14in shorter than average stocks – this being a traditional Baikal feature. The drop from the top of the comb is 1¾in to 2¾in at the heel. The sweep at the front of the comb has a flattened shape, giving an unorthodox but modern appearance. This is the only area where the old stock with its slim comb looked more appealing.
Shooters buy a Baikal for the quality of its steel parts rather than a fancy stock. The Russians have for many years been excellent metallurgists.
The Russian factory which now makes Baikal shotguns once produced military firearms that were among the toughest in the world.
The 28½in barrels are slim at the breech ends, chambered 12×76 and built on the monoblock system. The jointing where the spigoted barrel tubes join the block is well done.
Seven chokes available
One of the features of the Baikal 12-bore is the chromed bores. On this gun they are stamped at 18.4mm. Both measure 0.727in with the bore comparator, which puts them in the middle of the proof site range.
The narrow top-rib is laid true, as are the fairly wide side ribs. The finish on the muzzle is tidy and workmanlike without any gaps. The blacking has a good depth of colour. It is evenly applied and there is some fancy work in the form of jewelling applied to the breech sides of the monoblock.
The Baikal 12-bore is fitted with optional screw-in shotgun choke tubes. There are three tubes suitable for steel and/or lead. There are seven chokes available, from skeet to extra-full choke. A slight disappointment is the choke key. It’s okay but not as substantial as you would expect from a Baikal.
Good shot patterns
After altering the stock length: on the pattern plate with the centre ‘bird’ sitting just above the foresight bead, the shot pattern was smack on, both barrels throwing to the same point of aim.
The ejection is well timed and positive
The trigger pull is a little long due to the deep and therefore safe sear engagement. At 5¾lb it is a bit heavy but has a clean break.
The large and pleasantly shaped trigger-guard bow meant I could wear shooting gloves without any fumbling.
For hedgerows rather than smart driven shoots
You are unlikely to take your trusty Baikal 12-bore on a smart driven pheasant day. The hedgerow or foreshore is more likely to be its domain.
It is a pity the manufacturer does not take a further step up the ladder. An alternative model with a higher quality wood, a choice of stock styles and perhaps a fancier finish, would do well because the Baikal is a reliable, well-made gun capable in practical terms of holding its own against much more expensive alternatives.