by Wayne Goble July 14, 2020 5 min read

In 1956 a gentleman named Rudolph Koppe, who had immigrated from Germany, started to sell a few lines of knives and scissors to stores across Canada. He was a good, hardworking salesman and his company became known as Ruko of Canada. By 1966 he was selling Husqvarna rifles, Tradewinds shotguns and scopes, Puma knives, Swedish Axes, Solinjen Scissors knives and Cutlery and Silva compasses. He also took on a couple new firearm lines: Baikal & Vostok Firearms from Russia. These firearms were from Tula and Tzhevsk in the Soviet Union, both of which had been gunsmithing centers for over five centuries. To the best of my knowledge this was the first quantity of firearms in North America from the communist country and I believe Ruko had exclusive rights to North America but because the U.S. would not allow Russian imports, it was basically Canada. For the next 25 years +, Ruko imported shotguns, 22 rifles and 22 target rifles and pistols from Baikal & from Vostok.

The Baikal line of shotguns, three of which I’m going to discuss here, were the mainstay of the Russian imports and among them, the IJ18 was by far the most popular. This single shot hammerless shotgun was a plain, solid tool with a lightly stained hardwood stock and a fairly hefty, dully blued barrel. It was available in 12ga 2 ¾”, 20ga 3” and 410ga 3” and I remember one of Ruko’s people saying that Canadian Tire stores sold thousands of the 410 3” single shot shotguns over the years. With the demise of North American manufactured single shot shotguns, the popularity of these Slavic alternatives with the very reasonable price tag in 1986 of $89 only increased. We still see many of all three gauges come in on trade and they are still very serviceable.

The Baikal IJ 58M 12ga 2 ¾” or 20ga 3” was a double trigger side by side double barrel shotgun. The model IJ 58 MAE was identical only it had ejectors for spent shells. The IJ 58 had a top tag safety reddish hardwood with lacquer finish, lightly engraved blued receiver and matte or dull blue finished barrels. This double was certainly not the ballerina that more expensive doubles were. It was solid and pointed a bit like a Savage model 311 shotgun. It was robust and I must say that if you were a gunsmith looking for income from Russian SxS you’d starve to death. The IJ 58M in 1986 sold for $289.95.  

Finally, the Baikal IJ 27ER over and under 12ga 2 ¾” shotgun, also available in IJ 27EIC with a single trigger had a top tang safety and an engraved receiver with hand checkered walnut stock and a chrome lined barrels and raised ventilated rib. Again, a solid O&U with good balance and pointing and once again is a thoroughly dependable firearm 30 years later. This over and under was $419.50 in 1986. This model was also offered as an IJ 27 EIC silver and an IJ 27 EIC super; both sporting higher-grade walnut and checkering plus heavily engraved receivers. However they were also 50%-100% more expensive and not many were imported.  

Beyond these three, Ruko also imported a lesser amount of the Toz 34 which was a higher quality finished O&U 12ga 2 ¾”. It had an oiled walnut stock and brighter blueing. This shotgun was also offered in a very high grade with silver inlay, mother of pearl inlay bird deep engraved receiver with a two-piece forearm much like a Merkel. Only 500 standard Toz 34s were imported while the even rarer Toz 34 EP Sovereign etc. High Grades counted closer to 50 in all of North America.

The Toz rifle IJ16 single shot and the IJ 17 clip repeater 22lr were brought in in large quantities and were again very serviceable and dependable. Both 22 rifles had stained hardwood stocks and blued metal but were really not beauty stars. The Toz 16 sold for $109.50 and the Toz 17 sold for $134.50 in 1986.

Ruko also imported Toz 14 Target, the Toz B6 Biathlon and a couple of other Bolt 22 target rifles. These were accurate but very blocky and dull finishes. These were not huge sellers. You also run into surplus target rifles brought in by a surplus importer in the late 90’s. The Ruko target rifles range from $295.00 to $595.00 depending on sights etc.

One of the most surprising and under sold Russian offerings was the Vostok Margolin MCM 22 LR target pistol. This was an exceptionally accurate semi auto pistol which came in a wooden case with accessories such as a palm stop, oiler cleaning rod etc. plus spare parts which like most Russian firearms were not needed. You see this pistol come up for sale every so often. It’s a good dependable target pistol. This pistol was also offered in the MCU-1 22 short rapid-fire target pistol. Both sold for $275.00 in 1986.

The Russians also offered a Toz 35 22 LR single shot free pistol developed for Olympic shooting. Ruko offered this pistol for $650.00 and like the Vostok Margolin it was a very good performing specialty pistol.

Ruko also brought the Baikal line of pellet rifles into Canada. These all were break open spring compressed air rifles. The first model was the IJ 100 in 1970. It sold for $31.95. This model was followed by the I.J. 22 177 pellet rifle in 1978 and sold for $30.95. Part of the price being lower especially 8 years later was the influence of Chinese imported air guns. In 1995 the Baikal Model I.J. 38 Christmas special was $74.95. Baikal Pellet rifles had different model numbers but basically they all had fairly plain stained hardwood stocks iron sights and dull blue. Accuracy was good for the dollar value. Ruko sold thousands of the Baikal pellet rifles over the years but the Chinese pellet rifles eventually owned the low-end market and companies like Diana, BSA, Gamo, Crossman etc. kept developing newer more accurate pellet rifles for the mid to high end market. Eventually Baikal developed more modern pellet rifles for the new millennium market, but they are no longer available for import with today’s trade laws.

Russian 22 ammo became quite popular during 1970’s to the new millennium. In 1970 Ruko imported large amounts of Russian 22 LR. It came in its original 50 Rd poor quality cardboard box with Russian writing. It was available in 22 LR steel casing, brass and match. In 1970 the steel was 95cents for 50 rds. and 22 short was available in brass for 95cents. In the 80’s I believe Ruko discontinued the Russian ammo and brought in 22 R.F. from the Philippines.

In the mid 1990’s with firearms laws changing after over 35 years of firearm distribution, Ruko, who had over the years had lines such as Beretta, Rossi Tikka, Pedersoli, Squires, Bingham, Steyr, Erma and of course Baikal and Vostok, closed the door as a firearms distribution. Today the company still distributes knives and other accessories. No firearms are being imported at present from Russia because of Canadian Government bans.

The Baikal’s were widely distributed by Ruko and we see many used firearms in our store. In my opinion for the number of firearms sold it holds one of the three ribbons for least warranty claims along with longevity of functioning. If you see a Baikal in the used rack at your local gun shop, don’t be afraid to take it home.

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