Baikal MP153 semi-auto
Mark Stone gets his hands on yet another Baikal shotgun and maintains his belief that these guns perform way beyond what might be expected of the name and price
Yes folks, its Moscow Purdey time again, this one being the Baikal MP153; a 3½”, gas-operated semi-automatic and another example of York Gun’s seemingly ever expanding portfolio of budget priced shotguns. Likewise, unless it is looks and a name you’re after, the MP153 is another example of just how good cheap semis are becoming; megabuck manufacturers please take note.
Available in black synthetic or full camo, either finish marks the MP153 out as a true working smoothbore. That said; the black anodised receiver on the tester displayed little resistance to a passing thorn bush, a fine but distinct scratch being the end result. However, I have no doubts of the finishes ability to shrug off the weather. Both butt and forend are blessed with distinctive sculpting and stippled inlays to improve or offer some grip. Typically the gun comes with a set of sling swivels that reminds us the Russians and even Europeans do things a bit differently to we Brits.
Regular semi-auto users will immediately be forgiven for thinking that this gun looks remarkably like a more well-known American offering, and guess what… you’d be right. No names, no pack drill, but dependant on how you look at it, Baikal have taken certain styling details from a whole assortment of big names and successfully combined them into the MP153. That said this marriage of global forms has worked and very well too; the smooth flowing lines melding the action and gloss black barrel and heavy/light load self-regulating gas valve into one easy unit.
It seems to be the current form that assembling an auto is becoming more and more involved. Start with the bolt forward and offer the chamber and barrel ring to the receiver. Push part way then pull the bolt out of battery and the two parts will finally click together. What you’ve now got to do is manipulate the forend until it slides home, a process that may take more than a few moments. Stick at it, as eventually it will happen.
Unusually for me, I initially tried the MP153 on an evening’s duck flighting. What could go wrong, an auto shotgun on wildfowl, the two were made for each other. After comprehensively missing the first two mallards to come over, a serious rethink was needed, as this gun was certainly not throwing the Express Hevi-Shot loads where I expected it to…
It was the next Donald that demonstrated how the MP153 shot and that was as near flat as I’ve ever encountered, with the Hevi-Shot #5’s ably finding their mark. So this gave me a bit of a clue as to what to do for the following day’s clay shooting side of the test. As usual, 25 of Coniston SG’s skeet soon highlighted my previous evening’s findings that it was all too easy to shoot over the target. Also the Baikal’s slightly unusual weight distribution needs to be taken into account, as does its trigger pull as it showed a reasonable 7lb break, but with a rather lengthy take-up.
Tipping the scales at a pretty average 7lb 1oz, you soon realise that the gun’s bulk sits firmly in your leading hand. Whilst the slightly short butt and pull length of 14 1/8” with a drop at comb and heel of 1½” and 2¼” gives the distinct feeling that the rear of the pistol grip could be considered superfluous.
Looking towards the business end along the cross-cut 5mm vented rib, the main problem is the steel-proofed multi-chokes. Taking the overall barrel length to 28¾” each tube is cast with a large knurled ring to assist in fitting/removal. The negative of this is that even when concentrating on the target, the eye is constantly drawn to towards what looks like something fouling the muzzle, which is in fact the cross cutting haloing around the silvered bead.
Strange thing is, even when you take a clinical look at what’s theoretically wrong with this Baikal, not a single downside has even the most remote effect on how it shoots. Once you’ve mastered how and where it throws its patterns; not a single bird or clay is safe from the MP153’s deadly ability to add to your score or bag. The whole system efficiently and quickly cycles each and every load, not a single stove pipe irrespective of the heavy or lightweight Express ammo being used. Likewise recoil was most agreeable with the mechanism dialling out the majority of the punch.
If it was me, I’d add some additional weight to the hollow plastic stock, if only to bring the point of balance slightly more towards the receiver whilst lightening up the overall feel. Apart from that, I can’t think of a single reason why not to buy this Baikal; its built like the proverbial tank, chambers and discharges the most fearsome 3½” rounds with consummate ease and will fulfil each and every task asked of it.
No matter how you view the MP153 or any other Baikal, these shotguns have carved themselves an awesome reputation for longevity, reliability and an ability to perform way beyond expectations or price. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; your average Russian hunter isn’t looking for engraving, just a good working tool to put food on the table. With Baikal’s MP153 I guarantee your fridge will never be empty.
• Built like a tank
• Tough and reliable
• Cheap and effective
|Name||Baikal MP153 semi-auto|
|Calibre||12-bore (3 ½” chamber)|
|Stock||synthetic (black or camo)|
|Weight||7 lbs 1 oz|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates