Baikal .410 shotgun reviewed
It’s as black as a winter’s night, synthetic stocked and quiet (depending upon the ammunition used), which sounds like a specification for one of Q’s toys in a Bondesque arsenal.
In appearance, it is long, lean and mean in a futuristic sort of way, but realistically it is a tool to do a job.
I refer, of course, to York Guns? sound-moderated conversion of the Baikal single barrel .410.
Sound moderators on shotguns are nothing new, as even back in the 1960s it was possible to purchase short push-on types.
These were held by the taper of the barrel, after removing the foresight bead, which in practice was not a wholly efficient system. Sometimes the sound moderator would come a little loose, so with the next shot it would take off into the undergrowth.
It became something of a habit to give the moderator a push and twist every so often to ensure it was still firmly in place.
York Guns has addressed these problems by fitting a long moderator tube that telescopes down over the barrel to stop just short of the fore-end.
The end of the sound moderator is bonded to the barrel, as is the support at the muzzle just behind the baffle.
The outer tube is then screwed into the rear support and the baffle similarly screwed in from the front, producing a mechanically fixed assembly.
Another advantage is the extra capacity this gives for the expansion of the propellant gases.
To aid this, the barrel is ported with 10 holes venting directly into the expansion chamber behind the baffle.
This makes use of the simple principle that expansion means a reduction in velocity of the gases, which equates to reduced noise.
Add on the baffle in front of the muzzle further to bleed off gases sideways into a series of chambers and you have all the primary requirements of a sound-moderator system.
Baikal .410 handling
The sound moderator outer sleeve is just short of 22in long, which increases the overall length of the gun to 50in, or to put that in perspective, about 4in longer than an average 28in-barrelled game gun.
This, of course, also incorporates some weight gain, pushing this little gun up to about 6.5lb, which actually turns out to be an advantage.
The problem with many dinky .410s is the lack of weight and often a bias towards being butt-heavy.
With the added, albeit quite modest, weight of the sound moderator, it overcomes the barrel-light, twitchy handling that is characteristic of small singles.
This gun balanced just behind where the forward hand sits naturally on the fore-end, imparting a steady feel to swinging and pointing the gun.
Considering it is likely to be a favourite with young first-time shooters, this is an advantage. At first, the lack of a foresight bead appearing in the user?s line of sight seems a bit odd.
The trick here is to ignore its absence and simply concentrate on the target and the front top edge of the sound moderator tube.
It takes a bit of getting used to, and therefore a while to build up confidence, but it works, though there is a tendency to shoot high.
I suspect, though, that a lot of users faced with this slightly unusual layout will go for the easy option of shutting one eye.
Baikal .410 design
The layout of the action will be familiar to anyone who used one of those rugged beech stocked single Baikal 12-bores.
When pulled upwards, the lever that wraps around the rear of the trigger-guard both opens the gun and cocks the mechanism.
This is a design of some antiquity but it works well, and the Russians seem wedded to the philosophy of ?if it works okay, why change it??
When open, the lever stays locked in place up near the grip of the stock ? meaning that, even with the triggerlock safety in the off position, it is impossible to pull the trigger and release the hammer.
This is an important safety-related feature and hints at a bit more sophistication than you might at first expect.
Still in place is the cocking indicator projecting through the top strap, a feature that Continental sportsmen seem to appreciate.
The single lump under the barrel is interesting as it is made integral with a shoe on to which the barrel is silver brazed.
This is an old method adopted for modern manufacture, very much like a 19th-century British ?interchangeable? design and not that dissimilar to conversions of muzzle-loaders to breechloaders.
It is true that there is little that is new in the gun world.
Baikal .410 improvements
The stock and fore-end are great improvements on the old beech version, though a small batch of wooden-stocked guns was converted.
However, it is this later synthetic version that imparts the futuristic styling and is an interesting blend of curves and lines ? certainly more Dan Dare than Joe Manton.
From a practical point of view, it should be durable, but it is not especially hard, giving a quite comfortable feel, certainly around the pistol grip.
The butt-pad is rubber and though the butt stock is hollow, it does not impart the kind of resonance you sometimes get when firing large-gauge synthetic-stocked guns.
I am not normally a great fan of synthetic stocks, but on this little gun it worked, and I understand from York Guns that you can have any colour as long as it is black!
Baikal .410 barrel
Pictured here is the stripped sound moderator, showing the machined baffle and porting in the barrel that vents into the expansion chamber to reduce the velocity of the gases.
The stripped down sound moderator.
Baikal .410 noise reduction
On test, it has to be appreciated that what the shooter hears, or does not hear, is not the same as what an animal down-range from the user might detect.
Also, atmospherics, the proximity or otherwise of buildings, and even the lie of the land, all have an effect on the perceived noise.
From a practical aspect, it is more difficult to reduce the noise of a shotgun than it is with a rifle, and it becomes a case of subduing rather than silencing the noise, reducing the crack to a cough.
On the noise front, noticeably the best performance by far was with the 2in Eley Fourten with its 9g shot load.
It was difficult to detect much difference between a Lyalvale 2.5in and Eley Extra Long 3in subsonic, but the real surprise was the patterns produced.
I normally test a .410 at 20 yards, and with the 18g Eley load, this Baikal threw tight patterns and still produced good killing patterns to 30 yards.
The 2.5in Lyalvale with its 14g load was not far behind, and even the little 2in cartridge would be a capable killer at 20 yards or so.
The origins of this shotgun may be humble, but in performance it would give more expensive guns a run for their money.
Conversion by York Guns.
Tel: 01904 487180.
Gun on test loaned by Shooting Supplies.
Tel: 01527 831261.