Combination guns might not be all that prevalent in the UK, but Mike Powell has had one from Baikal on test and has good things to say about their versatility
Some time ago, York Guns sent me a couple of what are known as combination guns for review, one of which was the Baikal Taiga combination gun. This type of gun has been around for as long as I can remember, but they have never really taken off in this country. In America and in Europe, particularly in Germany and Austria, they are very popular indeed, possibly because of the greater diversity of game likely to be encountered in those parts.
Germany in particular really goes for the combination gun’s bigger brother, the Drilling, comprising of a side-by-side shotgun with a rifle barrel underneath. The calibre mix can be almost anything you require. The only problem I have with the Drilling is its weight; they are normally, by our standards, pretty heavy. However, they clearly have their uses.
I suppose the most used combination gun in this country would the 22LR combined with either a 20 or 12 bore. I always thought these could be a very useful addition to the working countryside toolkit. The gun I had for test was the combination of a 12 bore on top, and a .223 underneath. I thought that for the keeper this could be a very useful tool indeed.
Baikal has, in the past, faced quite a lot of criticism for the quality of its products, and in truth some of the earlier models I came across were a bit on the rustic side. However, in common with certain other European manufacturers, Baikal has raised its game in recent years and now produces some very good guns indeed. The first impression of the Taiga is that it looks a bit like the typical cowboy rifle, with its rimless top barrel and stocky appearance. Examining it was interesting, and revealed a gun that could be of serious interest to the working keeper. With its 23 ½ in barrels and 14 ½ in length of pull, it is short enough to be handy in the cab of the pick up or 4×4.
Looking in detail at the Taiga, the first thing that struck me was the quality of the woodwork. I am not sure if they are all like this one, but the figuring of the walnut with its oiled finish was excellent. The chequering was not of the finest quality, but for a working gun that is largely irrelevant. The stock itself was finished with a ventilated butt pad and has a sling swivel.
Breaking the gun down is done in typical shotgun fashion, as removing the forend allows the barrels to be dropped down and removed. The barrels themselves are nicely finished in black and have a post foresight, laterally adjustable rear sight and the front sling swivel. Clearly there will be no top rib on this combination gun as the sights make that impractical.
Locking the barrels into the action is done by the well-proven, simple but extremely robust system Baikal has used for years. This is a non-ejector, and the cartridges are extracted by twin cam operated rods. There has never been anything fancy about a Baikal operating mechanism, but it is functional and strong which, for a working gun, is ideal.
The overall finish is good and wood to metal fit is fine. The action is finished in plain black, which gives a functional appearance to the stocky gun.
The trigger guard houses the double triggers, the front one operating the top (shotgun) barrel and the rear operating the rifle. The automatic safety is the typical shotgun slide action type, which worked flawlessly. As I have already mentioned, the overall package gives the appearance of strength and reliability.