York Guns Baikal ‘Stealth’ .410 shotgun
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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
Moderated Baikal shotguns have been around for a while now, but while it may look familiar, the Stealth is in fact a new design, developed in-house by York Guns (YG) to ensure that they could meet their customers’ demands for a product that had previously been beset by supply problems. Basing their design on the tried-and-tested Baikal MP-18M-M, the guys at YG have opted for Baikal’s latest version, from whose black synthetic stock and forend the Stealth clearly takes its name.
As we have come to expect from Baikal, the action is basic but bomb-proof, with the metalwork having a matte sheen and a brownish-black colour. Operation couldn’t be simpler: squeezing a short but comfortably contoured lever at the rear of the trigger guard unlatches the barrel and cocks the action, which causes an indicator pin to protrude from the top tang; and opening the gun activates the extractor. A manual, cross-bolt type safety is located behind the broad trigger blade, blocking it when applied, and showing a red ring around the L/H end when set to “fire”. Everything functioned smoothly out of the box, and though the safety is right-handed, left-handed shooters will find that it doesn’t get in the way and will appreciate the ambidextrous operation of the under-lever.
Everything In Moderation…
So far, so familiar, but it’s the moderated barrel that makes this gun different and York Guns have come up with a simple but effective system. The alloy moderator shroud, which has a tough black powder-coated finish, screws onto a broad alloy bushing securely bonded to the barrel ahead of the forend tip, and is further supported by a smooth bushing at the muzzle. Under the shroud, the Stealth retains the original 61cm tube, so conserving the full factory choke, but between the bushings five holes have been drilled through the barrel at regular intervals to vent propellant gas from behind the wadding into the moderator. As there are no vents in the forward bushing, this section traps all the fouling from the first phase of suppression – just as well then that it’s easy to clean.
Meanwhile, ahead of the muzzle, a series of baffles in the forward section of the shroud muffle the muzzle blast. The baffles are permanently bonded into the shroud – an arrangement that ensures they remain correctly aligned with the bore at all times.
The Baikal has 3” chambers, so you can use .410 cartridges in the full range of lengths, from 2” to 3”. I tried the gun with three loads from Eley: 2” Fourten (9g, #6); 3” Magnum (18g, #6); and 3” Magnum Subsonic (18g, #6), as well as some 2.5” (14g, #6) Lyalvale Express. The results were interesting. In the first place it was apparent that the vents in the barrel don’t bleed off enough gas to slow down either the 2.5” or 3” standard cartridges to subsonic velocities. It’s true they were quieter out of the Stealth than from an un-suppressed gun, but noise reduction with these loads was nothing to get excited about.
By contrast, and even though they are not rated as subsonic, the report from the 2” cartridges was no noisier than that of an un-moderated spring-powered airgun. The down-side of course is that you’re only throwing 9g of shot, which limits the effective range to about 15 yards. All the same, this would be an excellent load for use in particularly noise-sensitive areas and around farm buildings. My preference here, however, would be for smaller shot (#8 or #9), though as all the available factory loadings use #6s this would require hand-loading - something I’d do anyway if the gun were in regular use, since.410 ammo costs about 40% more to buy ready-made, and 40% less to hand-load, than equivalent 12g cartridges.
Last up were the Eley 3” subsonics. As expected, these were a bit noisier than the 2-inchers, but not much, and they threw their 18g of #6 into convincing killing patterns right out to 30 yards, making the Eleys the clear choice for open-country hunting. As ever, of course, the key to success with small bores is accuracy, since a dense pattern with 18g of shot is also a tight one!
Furniture and Handling
It matters then how the Stealth handles. First of all, the trigger is good, breaking at a crisp and pretty consistent 6.5-7 lb. Moreover, despite its bull-barrelled appearance, the gun isn’t muzzle-heavy, balancing just 7cm ahead of the hinge pin; and at 2.8 kg it’s by no means a burden to carry – though, unlike most Baikals, the Stealth didn’t come with sling swivels, which I reckon are always worth having on a working gun.
As for the synthetic furniture, it’s obviously practical, and the forend fills the hand nicely, but the proportions of the butt, with its longish 14 7/8” length of pull, and open-radiused pistol grip, had me noticeably stretching for the trigger. Of course both features will suit those with larger hands and longer arms, but it’s worth noting here that, unlike a wooden stock, the Stealth’s synthetic handle can’t be shortened or extended. Fortunately, the drop (1.5” at the comb and 2.5” at the heel) suited me quite well, and the absence of cast maintains the gun’s ambidextrous appeal.
The stock and forend have an easily-gripped non-slip texture, and ribbed panels in place of chequering on the pistol grip and the forend tip, whilst the butt ends in a ribbed rubber pad. At first the ribbed panels appeared to be more about style than practicality, but with gloves on the design made a lot more sense.
With the gun mounted, the Stealth presents an unusual sight picture, with first a short (17mm) cross-cut 7mm rib, then the big black half-moon of the moderator, and beyond it a squat brass bead. As is usually the case with moderated shotguns, therefore, it’s harder to draw a precise and instinctive bead on your target than it is with a conventional ribbed barrel – though with practice, and especially if the gun fits you well, this shouldn’t be a problem.
There’s scope to get even more out of the gun with some simple DIY modifications too. Adding a fibre-optic “bead” at the muzzle would be an obvious start, but fix a short length of Picatinny rail over the chamber and a couple more on the moderator shroud and you could mount a lamp/illuminator for night work, along with a laser/red-dot sight for greater precision. Come to think of it, as well as making sure you were shooting true with shotshells, an optical sight could be just the thing to turn the Stealth into a deadly little foxer with slug loads (paperwork permitting, of course).
Overall, then, I think the Stealth is an eminently practical gun for pest control in noise-sensitive areas and at night, whether you use it with ultra-discreet 2” loads for close work or 3” subsonics for the longer stuff. Out-of-the-box it’s already great value - give it a shorter stock and sling swivels and I couldn’t fault it - but add some rails, and treat it to a camo dip or paint job, and I reckon it would be just about perfect!