The U.S. Department of the Treasury is adding Molot-Oruzhie, OOO to the list of banned Russian and Ukrainian separatist companies. Molot makes the popular Vepr family of sporting rifles and shotguns, somewhat based on the AK design.
Molot is one of 38 individuals and entities that the department is adding to the ban list.
The move expands on the Obama-era sanctions against Russia, responding to Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian Crimea. The department first applied sanctions against the Kalashnikov Concern in 2014. In addition to military equipment, the Kalashnikov Concern produces the Saiga series of sporting arms. Saiga products are also similar to AK-pattern rifles.
“These steps are consistent with the U.S. commitment to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine and to facilitate Crimea’s return to Ukraine,” stated the Treasury. “U.S. sanctions on Russia related to the situation in eastern Ukraine will remain in place until Russia fully honors its obligations under the Minsk Agreements.”
“U.S. sanctions related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula.”
The department has accused Molot of acting as a front for the Kalashnikov Concern.
“Molot-Oruzhie is being designated for operating in the arms or related material sector of the Russian Federation and for acting or purporting to act for on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Kalashnikov Concern.
“These designations will maintain pressure on Russia to work toward a diplomatic solution,” added Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations.”
This will have a significant effect on the American shooting community. Vepr products are popular with just about every segment of gun owners. They are in common use for competition shooting, hunting and self-defense.
Vepr shotguns, in particular, are frequently used for tactical shooting sports. There is a large aftermarket industry that caters to these guns and it will take a serious hit in the near and long term due to these new sanctions.
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The AK industry is already in a transition period due to the Saiga import ban. Molot was in the process of replacing Saiga as the leader in Russian-made AK products in the U.S. Many shooters consider Vepr as a higher-end alternative to Saiga. Vepr rifles and shotguns come in a wide variety of chamberings including .223 Remington, 7.62x39mm, .308 Winchester and shotgun shells up to 12 gauge.
With the largest foreign manufacturers of AK-style firearms banned from the U.S. market, American AK production is ramping up. This ban does not affect domestic production of AK-pattern rifles, pistols and shotguns.