NY Times on importing guns from Izhmash

THe NYTimes’ Andrew Kramer has published an article on growing imports of Saiga rifles and shotguns from our favourite bankrupt Russian gun company …

The nickname of this town, home of the factory that makes Kalashnikov rifles, is the “Armory of Russia.” Over the years, it has armed a good number of other countries, too, as the lathes and presses of the Izhevsk Machine Works clanged around the clock to forge AK-47s and similar guns for insurgents and armies around the world.

But these days, many of Izhevsk’s weapons are headed somewhere else: the United States.

Despite the gun’s violent history — or perhaps because of it — American hunters and gun enthusiasts are snapping up tens of thousands of Kalashnikov rifles and shotguns. Demand is so brisk that the factory has shifted its focus from military to civilian manufacture over the last two years. United States sales of the civilian versions, sold under the brand name Saiga, rose by 50 percent last year, according to officials at the factory, known as Izhmash.

Selling Saigas in the United States is integral to the enterprise’s evolving business model of making single-shot civilian guns to occupy workers and equipment in between government orders for fully automatic assault rifles. About 70 percent of the factory’s output is now civilian rifles, up from 50 percent two years ago. Of the civilian arms, about 40 percent are exported to the United States.

I have been saying for years that Izhmash should be focusing on civilian exports. 70% of the company output may be civilians guns, but that is only because nobody is buying their military guns. If they were serious about exporting to the USA they would be designing guns that appeal to the American shooter. They may be limited in what can be imported into the USA (‘sporting’ guns only) but that has not stopped every other major gun company getting around this just exporting parts kits to local manufacturers.

[ Many thanks to Komrad for emailing us the link. ]

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.


  • RickOB

    Good for NY Times to recognize the “infamous” AK-47 as a growing market in the USA. Yes they are selling millions in the USA and no, not all of them are being used maliciously.

  • Killian

    Rick, almost none of them are used maliciously. There is a major undertone of negativity in this article. We are supposed to associate “insurgent”, “violent history”, and “fully automatic assault rifle” with gun ownership in the US, especially as it relates to semi-auto weapons and especially the AK platform (they even put “Kalashnikov” in there, to tie it to the negativity). They carefully, subtly slandered the AK platform and firearms ownership in general with this article.

    • kjjohn

      What else would you expect from the New York Times?

      • Nick

        It is a small price to pay in my opinion with more people going against gun control. After at least they facts unlike FOX NEWS which actually makes me sick. Except Shep Smith.

  • RDW

    The Russians have a much larger issue than you lead on to about selling to the US market. Currently there is a Voluntary Restraint Agreement in place between Russian and the US, and if a rifle or shotgun is not specifically listed in the VRA as exportable to the US than it is not allowed. What this all means is if new models were to be exported to the US the VRA would first have to be amended to include them. The Russians have several new and existing designs that would do well in the US (if they are mindful of their quality control), simply the current import/export rules need to be addressed first before they can make their way West. Also if they could abolish the VRA outright I am sure the Russians would begin designing many other types of firearms that would target more directly the US civilian market.

    • dave

      The VRA has been gone since December of 2011 when Russia joined the World Trade Organization, which requires all new members to dissolve any and all voluntary trade restrictions with other countries that are also members of the WTO. Russia is free to import any firearm that meets all existing USA import laws. They just haven’t done it yet for some reason.

      • RDW

        Tell that to the ATF when you apply for an import permit. How many SVDs or TIGRs have you seen imported recently?

      • RDW

        Also…I do believe the WTO agreement specifically exempts military arms, weapons, and munitions trade. 😉

      • dave

        Actually, RDW, I did a bit of research and nowhere does it make any exception for trade restrictions involving arms of any kind.

        However, I did find out that the WTO doesn’t require immediate dissolution of voluntary trade restrictions, but rather dissolution of them over a 4-year period after the country in question joins the WTO. So that would explain why we haven’t seen any SVDs, Russian parts kits, etc. imported yet.

      • RDW

        Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed:
        (b) to prevent any contracting party from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests
        (ii) relating to the traffic in arms….

      • dave

        That doesn’t specifically exempt, though. It just states that if the two countries want to exempt it, they can. We haven’t heard any official word on what the two parties involved want, so I’m airing on the side of optimism here.

      • RDW

        Actually it DOES exempt it from being REQUIRED to dissolve the VRA. The whole point of this discussion. I get the optimism. Believe me! But what that means is the WTO membership has nothing to do with the VRA that we are talking about and both countries have always had the option to abolish it on their own…hence VOLUNTARY. It’s just a political and diplomatic chip that hopefully will be removed, but if so it has nothing to do with the WTO…so the status quo still exists.

  • EchoVictor76

    I recently saw an interview with the director if Izhmash about the AK-12. He said that next year they are planning on making a sporting version for the civilian market. There’s a good change we’ll be seeing AK-12 based Saigas in a couple of years.

    • Avery

      The improved ergonomics of the AK-12 would be a good fit to the Saiga.

  • Kevin

    Izhmash could make a small fortune exporting parts like bolt carriers, bolts, barrels, etc. If you want a Saiga 12 barrel the only way to get one today is to buy a new shotgun and take it apart for parts. When your piston breaks the BC you can’t just buy parts, you end up either buying a shotgun for parts or sending it to someone to weld the damn thing back together.

    Heck, if they sold a AK-74U parts kit (all but receiver) I’d buy one tomorrow.

    However they don’t seem to understand this. Apparently gunsmithing is illegal in Russia, all the work on a gun needs to be done at the factory.

    • nobody

      No one in the US would import an ak74u parts kit, there is to much of a chance of idiots building it as a pistol which would allow the ATF to ban the import of 5.45x39mm because it would be considered armor piercing pistol ammunition.

      • JMD

        That’s sort of an “urban myth”, perpetuated by people who haven’t actually taken the time to read the law. There are a handful of exceptions to that rule, including the one that says cartridges .22 caliber and under do not count as “armor piercing” regardless of projectile composition. That’s why it’s still legal to import M855 made in other countries. If that cartridge was .23 caliber it’d be considered armor piercing. If what you said was true, 5.56 AR pistols would’ve forced importers to stop bringing in foreign-made M855 decades ago.

        5.45x39mm is a .21 caliber cartridge, and therefore exempt from the armor piercing rule.

      • Kevin

        Huh? I can buy a Bulgarian AK74U parts kit from several sources, but I’d really like a Russian one.

      • nobody


        M855 is legal because the core is lead with a steel penetrator in front of it and the law specifies that for it to be considered armor piercing it has to have a core made entirely out of one ore more of the prohibited metals, 5.45x39mm would be illegal as the whole core is made out of steel. Also the .22 calliber bullet exception is only for restrictions on the jacket weight. Google 18 USC sec. 921(a)(17) for the actual law.

        (17)(A) The term “ammunition” means ammunition or cartridge
        cases, primers, bullets, or propellent powder designed for use in
        any firearm.
        (B) The term “armor piercing ammunition” means –
        (i) a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a
        handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence
        of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of
        tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or
        depleted uranium; or
        (ii) a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber
        designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a
        weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the

      • nobody


        Sorry, I should have been more specific. From your post it sounds like you want new manufactured parts kits. Importers wouldn’t import large amounts of them since the only way to build them would be as an sbr which wouldn’t be that profitable for Izhmash due to only small amounts being ordered and they aren’t actively manufactured any more. Importing larger amounts of them would result in having a lot of inventory that wouldn’t sell or people building pistol versions and getting 5.45x39mm milsurp ammunition banned from import due to all of it being steel core.

  • Ducksquad00

    These flaming liberals and their hate articles on weapons are hilarious. Yes Americans are interested in the AK-47 and other weapons because of their violent histories? HA! What a JOKE! NY Times and all of the other liberal media would love to stereotype all gun owners as criminals.

    • John Doe

      Your reading comprehension needs help.

      – a gun loving liberal

      • kjjohn

        While there are gun-loving liberals like you, you are usually the exception.

      • Josef

        Adn therefor all liberals, gun owning or not, should be treated as anti-gun, right?

      • Nick

        Same Here.

      • kjjohn

        Not saying all should be treated as anti-gun – just that most of them are. There are many liberal principles that I agree with, and many conservative ones. For guns, I am on the right.

    • charles222


  • Pepin the Short

    They’re importing Izhmash guns now?
    Strange. I still don’t see an SVD in my gun safe.

  • JMD

    Now if they can just import a sporter version of the AK-107, I’ll be very happy.

    • Nick

      Seeing how the newer models have those new aperture sights on the dust cover. Those would be great.

      -A Fellow gun loving Liberal.

      • Cameron

        As a gun-loving conservative, I love gun-loving liberals! It’s far past time the Second Amendment stopped being a point of political division.

  • KC

    I always kind of wanted a Bizon. I wonder if there’s any interest in pistol configured one in the US?

    • Komrad

      You’d have to call it a Saiga and you’d have better luck giving it a longer barrel, but I’d kill for a Bizon.

  • Proud owner of an Izhmash SGL-21 AK variant. I like it.

  • Sam Suggs

    I hate the whiny tonge in cheek tone

  • Sam Suggs

    I mean it practically screams ban ban ban throught the quotation