One of the "Holy Grails" of competitive shooting is finding good quality equipment that doesn't cost an arm and a leg to purchase. Such finds are few and far between, but after using a Baikal IHK-46 this past week, I feel that it warrants at least strong consideration as such a find.
The pistol arrived in a black, hard plastic case, well protected and secure. The case locks, and it came with a couple of keys. Upon first inspection, I was impressed with the finish of the metal and wood. It was much better that I expected and showed no visible sign of flaws or blemishes. The grips are made of a light colored hardwood, and have an adjustable shelf for support on the right side. These are pretty narrow grips, and they didn't fill my rather large palm, but for most shooters I think that they would be very comfortable (in fact, this aspect makes the IHK-46 a good candidate for junior shooters, and some women). The gun has a rather long barrel, which allows an excellent sight radius of just over 14". The weight is almost three pounds, and sits well balanced in the hand. As this is a pneumatic, under-lever cocking pistol, the overall length allows the cocking arm to be relatively long as well. This makes the cocking effort very managable. The steel cocking arm terminates in a square, wooden handle of sorts - similar to the ones found on air rifles of this type.
The cocking motion is bit puzzling at first, kind of a "Rube Goldberg" type of mechanism, but once you work the action a few times it doesn't seem so complicated. The cocking arm is held in place by a spring-loaded clip located in the bottom of the air cylinder. Swinging freely after release, the arm rotates a full 125 degrees at which point a trailing arm comes in contact with the slide. By swinging the arm through the final 25 degrees you enact the following:
The slide carries forward, which in turn releases the cover lever. This is a two part, spring-loaded unit which the air travels through between the cylinder and the breech. The slide continues forward and the cover lever continues up and back, exposing the breech for easy pellet loading, and cocking the trigger at it's final point of travel (the seals are exposed at this point as well, making their lubrication and replacement simple). One can now return the cocking arm to it's closed position, an act which requires approximately 15 pounds of force. This effort does not put the IHK-46 in the same ease of use class as the FWB and Pardini underlever models, but it is easy enough for a 13 year old girl on my junior team to use. After loading the pellet, you simply push the cover lever forward and down, snapping it into place under the spring-loaded slide. The pistol is now ready to fire.
The trigger on the Baikal is surprisingly good, and adjustable for pre-travel, post-travel, position (length of pull), and weight. You can also dry-fire the IHK-46 by manually pulling the slide forward and running the cover arm through it's range of motion. I set the take up and post travel to my liking, and then adjusted the weight to a crisp 500 grams. The postion of the trigger was acceptable to me as it came, so I was ready to shoot.
I used R10 Light Pistol pellets to get the most out of the lower velocity that most pneumatics naturally have. After several dry fires, I shot five pellets to get an idea of group size. It produced a tight knot with only one outside shot (my own problem, not the gun's). The sight picture was not good, and I decided to modify it. Both the front and rear sight blades can be changed to several possible combinations, and the gun came with a number of blades as well as a couple of tools and a cleaning rod. I like to have the front blade match as closely as possible to the width of the black area of the target. I then put on a rear blade that showed a definite white outline on either side of the front blade when it was centered. Satisfied with this change, I shot approximately 20 more targets, producing some very tight groups.
Overall, I am quite impressed with the Baikal IHK-46, but with all of the moving parts in the cocking motion, I would be interested to see how it would hold up to a couple of years of heavy use. This is a pistol that will require your close attention to cleaning and lubrication if you choose to purchase one, and the price may very well influence you to buy two. The gun that I used for this product review was at a local shop for $325.00 in the case. This represents a great value in an entry to novice level competition air pistol. I have seen them cheaper and more expensive, but plan on being able to find one for around this price.
I doubt that you could find another model that combines the same amount of accuracy, adjustability, and affordability that the Baikal IHK-46 brings to the table, ... grails are getting alot harder to come by.