Could US Consumers save the Russian Firearms Industry?

Yesterday I blogged about the comments made by Russia’s Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Minister of Defence General Nikolai Makarov who said that the Russian Army had too many AK-74 rifles and would not be ordering more of them until 2014. I pointed out that this would be a blow to AK manufacturer Izhmash who are struggling to stay solvent.

General of the Army Nikolai Yegorovich Makarov

Reading between the lines, I believe that the Russian Army faces a problem also face by the US Army: politicians. Over here congressmen, for better or worse, regularly try to make the US Army upgrade its firearms, something they are always reluctant to do. It sounds like in Russia the politicians make their army buy guns it has no use for. I can sympathize with the Russians, from time to time I also run out of gun storage space.

A few readers emailed me suggesting that Izhmash could make a lot of money if it exported more guns to the USA. They certainly could make a fortune. Their newer guns like the Saiga-22, a .22 rifle patterned after the AK-105, would sell incredibly well, as would some of their older guns like the Tigr (Dragunov).

Saiga-М3 “Praktika”
Tigr / SVD (Dragunov)

The problem is that the State Department struck a deal with Russia back in 1996. In exchange for lifting the Soviet-era ban on firearm imports, the Russians would agree to a list of restrictions on what could be exported to the USA. Only firearms listed in T.D. ATF-393 can be imported into the USA from the former Soviet states. These restrictions were purportedly to prevent the US market being flooded with cheap handguns. The other roadblock to importing Izhmash’s guns is the BATFE ban on importing guns that they do not consider to be “sporting guns”. This bans imports of all guns with vaguely tactical features such as a pistol grips or flash suppressors.

If Russia could negotiate a lift of these import restrictions, they would be able to keep Izhmash workers employed without forcing the Army to take guns it does not want. That said, subsiding Izhmash may well be cheaper than the trade concessions they would have to offer the United States (assuming the State Department and White House were even interested in entering negotiations).

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Kevin

    Machinegun makers in desperate straits can always find people willing to pay money for guns if they don’t ask any questions. Typically these are people we’d rather not have large amount of machineguns. This is the sort of thing that the USG should attempt to prevent if it’s practical to do so.

  • Rob

    considering how well the BATFE handles anti cartel operations, I’d say nullify all laws imposed by them
    just my thoughts though

  • JD

    Or perhaps they could setup a factory in the US, employ US workers, and still remain solvent, and the US consumer could still get the gun they wanted with all the banned features.

  • So?

    New Izhmash AK-74s are of inferior quality to those produced 20 years ago. Meanwhile, how about a decent sniper rifle? Or a service pistol?

  • SpudGun

    If we lived in different economic times, I would wholeheartedly support a lifting of import restrictions for Izhmash, but with unemployment at such high levels and American firearms factories being forced to close and lay off workers, the financial implications of millions of cheap AKs flooding the market would be disasterous.

    If Izhmash opened a factory in the US and imported the complient parts, they’d be able to shift the suprlus rifles plus pay tax, hire American workers, use American made parts, etc.

  • Dave

    “BATFE ban on importing guns that they do not consider to be “sporting guns””

    This always makes me wonder, why haven’t action shooting sports been recognized as a sporting purpose yet? Are any pro 2A or action shooting groups pushing their congresscritters for this recognition?

  • armed_partisan

    They’ve got a lot of nifty handguns I’d like to see get imported, like a break barrel revolver chambered in .357 Magnum! Russia has a lot of very interesting and nifty designs, but more than likely, the stuff that they would negotiate to get imported would be the same old crap that’s already over represented in the US marketplace, and honestly, are we actually TRYING to help the Russian arms industry? We may not be engaged in open hostilities at the moment, but we’re hardly old friends.

  • Freiheit

    This has really interesting secondary effects too.

    “If Russia could negotiate a lift of these import restrictions, they would be able to “:
    – issue another blow to the ridiculous “sporting purposes” rule
    – issue another blow to non-legislative restrictions on firearms
    – provide further evidence that “cheap” or “evil” guns are not driving crime

    It won’t happen, but if it did it would be a boon to the RKBA movement.

    Plus I’d finally be able to afford an SVD!

  • Stretch

    I’m sure the current administration would approve the deal … provided they get a cut of the profits and at least 5% of the arms are redirected to Mexican Drug Cartels.

  • El Duderino

    Hmm that list of weapons is actually pretty nice. Never held Russian-built guns in very high regard. Would love to have a Winchester 1895 in 7.62x54R though, only problem is that most go for a few grand when available…

  • Tahoe

    I would snap up a Tigr so fast it would make your head spin….but, it’s pretty clear the .gov isn’t interested in bringing more weapons in. And it has nothing to do with administrations (before someone starts that), as noted this started in 1996.

  • Lance

    The Saiga-22 is a AK-74/AK-103 copy not a AK-105 which is a SBR Krinkov style weapon. The best thing is to sell parts kits and have Century and Arsenal make 922r complaint guns any way.

  • Brandon

    With the proliferation of 3-gun matches, the BATFE should be forced to recognize ‘tactical’ guns as ‘sporting’ guns. Of course that would be logic.

  • I have a Saiga 308 and absolutely love it! Great weapon.

  • Jay

    Yeah right! The US government would allow its people to have cheap firearms!? That would allow for many more legal would be owners to acquire a firearm, thus arming more Americans. You cannot have that!

    They do not want the citizens to have any modern (assault) firearm, because in theory if there was a “revolution” and the people only have revolvers, .22s and bolt guns it would be a huge disadvantage.

    They use excuses to try to justify the infringements on firearm importations. They say that “assault” (select fire as well) rifles have no business in a legal gun owners hands or any firearm that takes more than 10 rounds. They use the excuse that criminals will get a hold of them and use them. They “believe” firearms are for hunting and rarely protecting your house; that’s it.

    If they have their way you would only have black powder muzzle loaders that fire a small pellet or purely air-guns and not the airsoft kind either.

  • RCG

    I can’t quite see Hillary Clinton (or her boss) jumping at this one.

  • Lance

    Thats why they send them as demilled parts kits so they can avoid this and have US parts for the receiver added.

  • jdun1911

    If the US firearms companies cannot compete than they should go out of business.

  • John

    Izmesh should seriously consider the airsoft market…

  • John Doe

    Make an AK-pattern chambered in .223/5.56, and compete against the AR-series. Selling a 6.5 or 6.8 option wouldn’t hurt.

    • Dave

      Izhmash already makes four different 5.56 AKs. The AK101, which is an AK74M redesigned for 5.56; The AK102, a short barreled 101; the AK108, a 101 with special recoil reducing internals; and the Saiga 223, a semi-auto only 101 with a sporter stock to get around the import ban. So far, the AR fans aren’t too impressed.

  • corey

    lift the ban, i want my mp-412 REX

  • james

    if they imported an SVD , i’d get one..

  • Steve,

    The Russians produced sporting versions of the Dragunov over the years. There was a design called the Medved in 9x54R, a sporting version of the 7.62 Mosin-Nagant round and there have also been later versions in powerful rounds like 9.3×64 and in military and sporting chamberings like the 30-06. These guns sell quite well in Europe where restrictions on gun ownership and on “military style” firearms are far more restrictive than in the USA. I would blame Izhmash and other Russian gunmakers like KBP-Shipunov for not taking the US market seriously and not tailoring products for sale here. If they wished to, they could easily modify and sell these rifles making them compliant with whatever BATFE regulations they need to comply with.

    • Mehul, interesting. I never heard of the Medved. I have come across other sportirized SVDs overseas.

  • howlingcoyote

    They could come out with a new semi-auto in 357-7.62×39.
    How about a semi-auto 444 Marlin? That 410 Saiga system could work. or neck the 7.62x54R up to 41 cal., that would be neat too.
    Or how about a semi-auto 375 Win.?

    Hey guys at Izhmash if you are reading this, these are good ideas to stay in business with the American market

  • eduards

    If izmash going to bankruptcy in real it will be great day for every gun lover, because it produces total crap which is survive only by russian goverment high firearm import taxes and “special” certification procedures . Example guy wants keltec su16 rifle after all these “special”treatment it will cost him whoping 2000USD(1200-1300 in taxes), by the way saiga in Russia cost around 700-800USD and are not reliables(forget about tapco trigger and other american made improvements) By the way russians hate them too and buy normal western made weapons include ar 15 which they like much more …. remember it is not cheap in russsia …. And if you read main russian gun lover portal about this producer it is bankrupt likely and customer replay to it’s quality and attitude to their costumers are as better word will be “buy what we produce , don’t like quality or our attitude to fix our bugs or poor craftsmanship etc go f*** “. America has great choice of cheap and quality weapons (keltech and highpoint) as well medium priced , but high quality choice as spikes tactical or bcm. I wish if in europe we have these offerings . Personally I would like to have Highpoint carbine as extra weapon but pay around at least 500 USD for 98% possibility to export from US(200 goes for BATFE and 300 for firm who doing papers+storing services isn’t free) and this is not wise even if i don’t have any legal issues for having gun+have all needed permission from my government to do so(i live in nato membership country and officially are allies …)

    • Yuri

      Yeap,nobody need it,thats why it is so hard to find “total crap which is survive only by russian goverment”.Russian army dont’t buy AK’s,because they have so many of them in warehouses,even if they will stop buying them,they will be good for another 10 years at least.

  • aaron

    I would love to get the chance to try out the top break pistol from russia.the .357 i would love to see the craftsmanship ive seen pictures but would love to take it to the range and see it in action.I do beleive they have made a very sturdy weapon after all they do have some great engineers there.A friend of mine from romania was a maintenance man at a factory we both worked at.The man was a proven genious he created more tools and inventions than you could beleive most of the time out of just scrap.Soi dont doubt that the 357 rex is one tough gun

  • aaron

    sorry about the spelling its voice text and itsa mess at times

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  • BillyBones

    As I see it… the AR platform has made tremendous inroads in the “sporting” community in recent years. In the same vein, it stands to reason to add the semi AK’s and Dragunov designs to sporting class of weapons permitted for import.

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