By David Tong
Historical look and review of the Makarov Pistol.
USA -(AmmoLand.com)- Makarov’s Pistol was designed in the late 1940s by Nikolai Fyedorovich Makarov, as a result of examination of the Soviet Union’s two service pistols of WWII, the old 1891 Nagant 7.62mm rimmed revolver, and their TT33 “Tokarev” that greatly resembles a scaled-down 1911, also 7.62 caliber.
Of course, the TT used a rimless cartridge known as “7.62X25,” which is a hotted-up version of the older C96 Broomhandle Mauser’s “7.63mm” cartridge.
Since the Soviets did not have the same handgun doctrine as the U.S., and largely supplanted the handgun in the Great Patriotic War with stamped sheet-metal submachine guns in the same 7.62X25 cartridge, what few handguns that were carried were largely badges of rank.
It might not be entirely accurate to state that these pistols were used prevalently to execute enemies of the state, though they were surely employed that way.
The USSR adopted the Makarov Pistol as a very simple, all-steel blowback auto pistol in 1951, and it remained in official service until the demise of that government in 1991. It has been described as a knock off of the Walther Model Polizei Pistole (PP) of 1929, but that is not quite true. It is much easier to build quickly, and less expensive.
In terms of operation the Mak does operate very similarly. It features a double-action trigger cocking first shot, while successive shots are fired single-action. It features a left side slide-mounted safety/decocking lever, and field stripping procedures are identical to the German piece.
After removing the magazine, clear the chamber, pushing the slide catch upward to lock the slide to the rear. Pull the hinged trigger guard downward and place its upper lug alongside the bottom of the guard’s slot on the frame’s flat to hold it there. Retract the slide about ¼” to the rear, pull up on its rear, and ease it forward over the barrel breech and the barrel proper to the front. Remove the circumferential recoil spring, and the pistol is now field-stripped. This too is identical to the disassembly of the Walther PP.
Most of the military pistols produced by nations of the Warsaw Pact had hard-chrome lined barrels, to better resist corrosion from their ammunition primers and soldier neglect. When looking at the guts of the pistol, one is struck by how few parts are in the thing, and how some of them serve more than one use, like the leaf mainspring that powers both the sear and the hammer, is also the heel-mounted magazine catch.
The Makarov Pistol is known for being simple and ruggedly reliable in function.
Please do not confuse the American .380 (“9X17mm”) with the “9X18 Makarov” rounds though. They are not the same in either case length or bullet diameter.
The .380 cartridge will enter a Mak’s chamber but will not properly headspace as it is too short, and likely misfires will occur if you attempt to shoot it. Conversely, the 9X18 bullets measure .366” in diameter, not .355” of the .380ACP. The 9X18s should not even be capable of being chambered in a properly built .380 pistol.
However the slight differences in cartridge and projectile size, the two rounds can be considered functionally identical in terms of stopping power as their bullets move approximately at the same speed and are roughly the same weight. Neither would be a first choice by most handgun enthusiasts as a “manstopper,” and while either can certainly be improved by modern hollow-point bullets, nor can either be considered anything but the power floor of effectiveness either.
The BATFE has determined that Soviet Union and East German imported Makarov pistols are now considered to be “curios and relics,” because neither country exists any longer.
Collectors seem to prefer the German Makarov Pistol as they are finished a bit nicer inside, although nearly all of them from 20 years ago were polished in a medium-fine high gloss blue. My limited experience with an East German one about that long ago showed that it was a softly-recoiling and “reasonably-accurate-to-fifteen-yards” type of affair, which is in excess of how far one might be expected to use a compact blowback auto.
It never failed to function, and that might be expected of a pistol that originated from a land of ice and snow.
Newly made Russian Federation produced Maks are now available, and I have seen and shot both the original single-column magazine version, as well as a rarer staggered-column magazine one, both wearing adjustable “target” sights and thumb-rest grips to comply with ATF “points” rules for importation.
The Makarov Pistol is entertaining and inexpensive, if not too accurately of a way, to acquire an utterly reliable plinker for practice and recreation, though I’d surely prefer something that hit a bit harder if push came to shove.
*** Images by Rock Island Auction Company