"Baikal MP-155: The Apple That Fell Far From The Tree"
If you fancy driving on a long straight and calm road with beautiful countryside around you then nothing beats driving to Peshawar via motorway while listening to the song "yar ko hum ne ja baja dekha, kabhi zahir kabhi chupa dekha".
The song's lyrics rightfully reflected our enthusiasm for acquiring the most talked about Baikal's new offering MP-155, successor to a very popular and widely respected Baikal MP-153 Autoloader Shotgun.
One can measure our enthusiasm by knowing that throughout the journey we only discussed Baikal MP-155 and nothing else. wondering and asking each other how it would feel like and how much the quality has been improved over the previous model.
The moment we entered Fakhr-e-Alam and Sons, almost everybody noticed something quiet similar to Baikal MP-153 in the display cabinet behind the counter. Yup! it was was Baikal MP-155 for which we drove some 200km non-stop.
All of us rushed to the cabinet because everybody wanted to be the first the get their hands on it. I don't know why but to be honest even I wanted to be first to hold it.
Anyways, I picked it up when my turn came (civilized bunch, don't you think?). Three things immediately came to my attention. its lightweight around 7lbs, better balanced and the finishing has truly gone south for the winter. lols!
Anyhow, everything in that particular piece was out of spec. the rib was not straight and the trigger had too much play. not to mention that the whole thing was rattling like a bottle of pills. Among many other slips, the safety button too wasn't engaging (and disengaging) like it should. something didn't feel right but like any die-hard Baikal aficionados, we decided that we must pick one up even if it means flushing the pay-check down the toilet.
So.....we explained our eagerness to the dealer and he gladly agreed to let us in his store where we assembled like 30 pieces or so only to get the one that had the best of everything. boy! were we surprised or what? things were seriously wrong in almost all of them. either their ribs did not run true, the barrels were not straight (literally!), faulty trigger, bolt release buttons didn't work, choke tubes were not truly centered in the bore (off center choke tubes) or there were serious manufacturing flaws that we noticed while assembling them. in one particular piece, aluminum powder was falling off from inside the receiver. upon closer look we noticed the bolt rubbing against the wall of the receiver. imagine that!
Since we just had to buy one, we picked the one that was reasonably free from flaws. this particular piece also had the most smooth action when we racked the bolt.
Moving on.... the grain is pretty decent in this one. wood to metal finish leaves a lot to be desired. Rubber recoil pad is soft and it seems that its made to mimic the look of Beretta's kick-off mechanism however its just rubber covered plastic housing inside a hollowed out butt. this setup isn't appealing to me as it cannot be altered to increase/decrease the length of pull if desired. plus the hollowing out of the buttstock means we cannot install adjustable comb kits on it. bummer!
Baikal has incorporated shim system in this one that means we can alter the cast and drop to our liking. the shim goes between the receiver and butt stock. what I didn't like about this setup was that unlike other shotguns, shims stand out too much. it doesn't exactly blend in. Anyways, it gets the job done, I can learn to live with it.
The safety button is huge. good move by Baikal but it doesn't exactly behave like it should. there is too much play in it. when it comes to buttons, I like those that sharply click in and out (or on and off) like a button should.
The trigger on this one behaved well. there is very little trigger travel which is an improvement I'll give you that but every time I pressed the trigger the bolt or something moved inside the receiver. not necessarily a problem but I don't like unnecessary movements.
The receiver on this 76mm (3inch) chambered shotgun is definitely shortened which is good. it improved balance and handling over its predecessor Baikal MP-153. the wooden forend extends over the receiver which may look good in pictures but in reality is nothing short of absolutely disgusting. the trigger guard is nicely shaped. plenty of room for gloved finger in there. same is the case with the cartridge release, huge button makes it easy to operate.
The stepped-up arch type rib is clearly visible in the picture. which is also great in my humble opinion however its a big turn off the moment you see brazing joints under each and every post. this is truly sloppy metal work cause even Darra guys have learned to hide and in some cases avoid brazing work as it ruins the looks of a firearm.
I also didn't like the forend style. curves are always welcomed but the way forend nut interacts with the forend leaves a lot to be desired in terms of durability. I used almost every ounce of energy in me to tighten the nut but still couldn't get the forend to stop rattling on this un-used gun. good news for those who like mag extenders cause its the same thread therefore MP-153's extenders should work on MP-155 as well.
Anybody with a sharp eye can see that the barrel and rib though straight isn't finished right. plus I don't like barrels that open up at the muzzle like a blunderbuss. I guess the barrel is intentionally thinned to shed weight but the muzzle is kept the same to accommodate threads for the choke tubes. The barrel bore profile is the same as MP-153 and carries similar proof marks. not proofed for steel shot though.
A dovetail is machined on the receiver for those who like to install optics. frankly speaking I don't know why would somebody install scopes and aiming devices on a shotgun.
This out of focus picture clearly shows typical Baikal fashion tiny brass front bead and sloppy metal work as one can still see brazing joints under the rib.....and....whats with the tapering of the rib at the muzzle? I don't know but to me it looks like a Russian version of a bad joke. lols!
The extended colonial arms choke tube was installed to show that the choke threads are same as Baikal MP-153. thats definitely a good news for aftermarket choke tube users as any Tru-choke type choke from Trulock or Colonial Arms will work.
This gun however was supplied with a cylinder choke, an improved modified and a full choke. pretty odd combination of choke tubes don't you think? is this me or I am starting to get the hang of Russian humor?
and No!... we checked them all. the whole inventory of Baikal MP-155s at Fakhr-e-Alam and Sons had the same funny three choke combination.
Here is another look. The brazing spots look nasty!.
Here is the Baikal MP-155 standing next to Beretta for comparison. not a fair comparison to be honest but the point here is show how a shim is supposed to blend in and not stand out by extending outside the body of the buttstock and the receiver.
Has anyone noticed the slightly undersized trigger assembly retainer pin? usually this pin is always flushed from both sides. on Baikal MP-155 they were either too long or too short. the front pin protruding at the front of the trigger guard is the cocking indicator. it shows that the hammer is cocked.
Another look. the picture clearly shows oversized buttstock joined with the receiver. has anyone noticed the gap between the receiver and the rib?