The Makarov pistol was Russia’s solution to the need for a modern military side arm and caliber after World War 2. It was a replacement for the TT33 Tokarev, a pistol that was deemed too large and over powered for practical use any more; it also lacked a manual safety, something that most military’s desire for a standard issue weapon. As Mikhail Kalashnikov’s AK-47 entered into service, it effectively negated the need for a pistol as anything more than a secondary to the rifle or as a defense based duty weapon. While the Makarov was designed in 1948 it did not enter service until 1951, after it had undergone several key design changes. It is still in use today in certain military and police capacities throughout several eastern bloc based nations.
The Makarov’s development came about through a contest between multiple engineers setup by the Russian military. Nikolay Makarov’s German Walther PP based design won almost hands done for its sheer simplicity, user-friendly features, and exceptional reliability in contrast to the other entries. The design has been copied and reproduced by several countries quite successfully despite essentially minor aesthetic changes.
The Makarov is chambered in 9x18mm and fires a projectile at a muzzle velocity averaging around 1000 feet per second. It features an 8 round capacity single stack magazine that can be ejected via a thumb lever on the underside of the pistol found next to the magazine’s base-plate. It’s blowback design is typical of the system employed by most modern handguns and it’s all steel construction makes for a beefy 26oz frame that dampens recoil well. It’s manual safety doubles as a decocker and is disengaged by flipping the lever down. The Makarov runs on a double/single action system and should the safety be re-engaged after firing or chambering a round, the hammer will decock back to a double action set-up while simultaneously locking the slide.
Disassembly is incredibly simple and for the most part self-contained to prevent the loss of necessary parts as I’m sure was part of the intent. The slide is removed by pulling down the (hinged) trigger guard and offsetting it to catch on the frame. Then the slide is pulled to the rear and lifted up on so that it can slide off the front of the barrel. The recoil spring goes over the barrel which is pressed and pinned into a fixture that is part of the frame. The majority of the composite grips found on the Makarov are removed via a retention screw on the back-strap portion of the grip. Beyond that, is an armorer’s work and far past the basic maintenance requirements for the pistol’s routine operation or cleaning.
Overall the only real shortcoming of the Makarov is it’s extremely limited capacity although some modern variants feature a double stack magazine with an increased capacity of up to 12 rounds; still rather short by modern standards. Also the magazine release can take some getting used to but with practice it’s not that bad. The gun is reliable and comfortable to carry despite it’s almost all steel construction. Accuracy is good too, despite the 9x18mm round being an oddball caliber that some may think of as being underpowered. Its size caters to concealment as well but it’s small grip can make for a slightly difficult draw, even with a holster. If you ever get the chance to handle one or pick one up in the states, I highly recommend it as they are fairly inexpensive but somewhat hard to find off the cuff.
Featured Image Courtesy of Andrey Mironov [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons