Baikal IZH-35M: Russian Artistry
Every once in a while I have friends who seem to have wonderfully odd guns in their collections and let me borrow them for some range time. The pistol we are featuring today fits that definition perfectly. The IZH-35M manufactured in Russia by Baikal and was imported to the United States by European American Armory (EAA). It could be said that the IZH-35M is an odd duck that is a bit hard to find which adds to its allure and collectability. Lets take a look at the specifications and features of this Soviet era pistol that was designed entirely for Olympic and competitive shooting, not so much for the weekend plinker.
Country of Origin: Russia
Manufacturer: Izhevsk Mechanical Plant (Baikal)
Caliber: .22 LR
Overall Length: 10.5 inches
Barrel Length: 6”
Frame Material: Aluminum
Weight: 36.8 Oz
Capacity: 5 rounds
Optics: None, standard adjustable iron sights
- No last round hold open feature
- Semi customizable walnut grip
- No magazine safety
- Limited aftermarket support
How Does It Feel & Shoot ?
Ultimately every gun review boils down to a few key issues and how the gun actually feels to the shooter is a large issue. No one wants to own a gun that looks great, and is uncomfortable to shoot. So how exactly does it feel in the hand ? Well that is a complicated question but to me a person who routinely plinks and shoots purely for fun, well it feels very odd and uncomfortable in the hand when I’ve had range time with it. But we have to stop and consider a few things when doing a review of the Baikal IZH-35M.
While the gun has a definite amount of interest in terms of “cool factor” based on its looks, history and overall presentation there are issues when it comes to the first question we get asked” How does it feel?”. The IZH-35M is highly customizable to the shooter and allows you to adjust the grips to fit the general width and features of your hand which is to be expected in a target pistol. That being said I still found the grip to be huge, uncomfortable and just generally odd feeling when it was in my hand.
The arrangement of finger shelfs while practical or needed for IPSC or olympic style events makes for a very odd feel to the 99% of shooters who have no desire to shoot these types of events. The lay out of the grip features told me right up front that this gun is not for novices or recreational shooters in any way shape or form.
Fit and Finish
The fit and finish of our purpose built olympic style pistol is not what you would expect from a Russian pistol. The matte black finish was even and consistent and the tolerances on the gun were very tight. No wiggle or shake on this pistol because shaking or wiggling leads can mean looser parts which equals poor performance. The slide to frame fit is again, what you would expect from this type of pistol in this price range. People may talk about lack of communist quality control on some guns but not this one.
Nothing got past the quality control folks, even if this pistol isn’t built for my style of shooting it is built to last and perform. There is zero doubt to that at all. One part of the fit and finish I would like to comment on is the grip again. The grip is made out of what appears to be a beechwood or some other soft slavic / russian wood. This is I assume so the shooter or their team can work on the grips and tune them or checker them for the shooters needs and desires. If you research these pistols on google there are many images of textured and sculpted wood grips. This would be a nightmare out of a harder wood like walnut, oak or similar species of wood.
Shooting and Accuracy
The IZS-35M like many target pistols is a bit finicky about feeding different types of ammo, as I found out. Once I found a brand and type it liked to feed reliably the pistol ran just as well as any other pistol I have. If I had to compare it to anything else I would say it reminds me of a rimfire Sig P-210. When it finds what it likes to eat, the reliability and accuracy is bordering on ridiculously good. Sometimes finding what a gun feeds best can be a frustrating ordeal for the guns owner. Luckily this was figured out faster than I expected when I just spoke with the pistols owner and he told me what to use. Any issues after that were 100% shooter errors.
The trigger being adjustable is a great touch for shooters who need it, since this wasn’t my pistol I wasn’t going to tinker with anything. The trigger has a short travel to engage but the reset was longer than I expected. It’s not a huge issue just one that confused me some. I admit this might be because I only had a few hundred rounds with this gun or the nature of the trigger set up itself. Either way it’s smooth but an odd travel arrangement
When it comes to shooting the pistol I have to mention that the magazine release on towards the very bottom of the grip which was break from most guns that I own or have any amount of time using. The magazine release is easy to operate and not awkward in anyway in its function, it’s just in an odd “European” style position much like older Berettas and Sigs.
Would I Own This Pistol ?
Would I own the IZH-35M ? Absolutely NO, never, ever, and let me explain why. This is a very well build and moderately priced pistol with a very specific purpose. That purpose is competition or target shooting at a very nigh level. I don’t do that type of shooting and have zero interest in getting involved with it. So this tool pistol doesn’t meet my needs. It’s just that simple. That’s not a negative on the gun at all.
You don’t buy a semi truck to commute to work in because it’s the wrong vehicle for the job, the same methodology applies here. Now if you are a target shooting or what to get involved in that type of shooting then yes this pistol might fit your needs or requirements.
Overall testing and evaluation this pistol was a great experience where I learned a lot about a pistol I had never heard about and a style of shooting I had very little exposure to. I wanted to thank my fellow Veteran, friend and colleague Tom Koloski (Retired USMC Major) who agreed to lend me the pistol for this testing. The Baikal IZH-35M has been wiped down, clean and returned in the same condition I received it in.