Visiting Russia's Arsenal city 10 years later

Visiting Russia's Arsenal city 10 years later

Marco Vorobiev was a member of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He's a U.S. citizen now and conducts training courses that draw on his special forces training. He'll have a new installment every Wednesday.

I remember it like it was yesterday. When I, holding back all the emotions, shook Mikhail Kalashnikov's hand, thanking him for creating the gun that saved my life. I remember it vividly, because that day I was in the presence of a great man. Or maybe because it was September 11, 2001 and World has changed forever.

Back then, city of Izhevsk,,the home of "Izhmash" or Izhevsk Machine Building Plant, the producer of famed AK rifles, looked like time had stood still, preserving a typical Soviet province.

For me, it was just a trip down memory lane, whereas for my travel mates, gunwriter David Fortier and renowned gun smith Marc Krebs, seeing Izhevsk for the first time as it appeared years ago was "different" to say the least.

Nevertheless, being gun enthusiasts, we overlooked the minor inconveniences of Soviet accommodations with the promise of gun riches unimaginable to the average American. We were not disappointed.

Being the first foreigners to shoot three of the newest Izhmash firearms: the AN-94 (Abakan) assault rifle, Bison submachine gun and SV-98 sniper rifle, overshadowed any and all negative impressions.

Traveling there 10 years, later I was not disappointed once more. Though I did not get to shoot any new guns, I enjoyed the city of Izhevsk fully. It is no longer a drab-looking province left over from Soviet times. It is now a major industrial and metropolitan center with clean streets, modern buildings, exquisite restaurants and four-star Western hotels.

Add all things gun related and you've got a perfect combination. Unfortunately, this trip was rather short, but it was long enough to plant a seed in my head. I can't wait to go back. I know I will shortly accept this time I will shoot some guns. I promise.

Izhevsk looked the part of a typical Soviet provincial city in 2001 when Vorobiev visited

along with field editor David Fortier and advertiser Marc Krebs.

The highlight of the 2001 trip was meeting and sharing a meal with Mikhail Kalashnikov.

This was a big moment for former Spetsnaz man Vorobiev.

Vorobiev, Fortier Krebs were fortunate enough to test some of Izhmash's newest firearms,

including this SV-98 sniper rifle with attached sound suppressor.

The newly rebuilt St. Michael's Cathedral represents the rebirth of Russia's arsenal city.

The current Russian regime has accommodated itself to the Church.

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