Peace Dividend, Part 1
The partial dissolution of the Soviet Union brought about what some believed was the “end” of the cold war. With it came a mild thaw in the relations between the United States and the somewhat individual states that the Soviet Union fractured into. A greater thaw occurred in relations with the former satellite countries like Poland.
For gun owners, this was a boon. These newly freed countries lurched toward capitalism, and sought ways to raise funds. Emptying their armories of surplus weapons was one way to being home some cash. And Americans were buying.
(click the title for more)
Over the next few posts I will look at some of the guns that became available to American shooters from the former Eastern Bloc. Rather than do a puff-piece, I want to look at how these guns actually shoot and hold up to use. This will be a challenge, since most glossy gun magazines do not routinely review used/surplus guns.
Today we look at the Makarov PM. It was the standard sidearm of the Soviet military from 1951 until 1991. Like most Soviet equipment, it was simple and straightforward (and a copy of a solid Western design, in this case the Walther PP). Blowback operation, with a fixed barrel and a floating firing pin (so don’t drop it with a round in the chamber!) The 8-round magazine is released with a catch at the bottom of the grip.
The Makarov PM fired the 9x18mm cartridge, which was basically a .380 (9x17mm) with a little more ooomph (but not as much ooomph as the 9x19mm Nato). The 9x18mm and .380 are not interchangeable. You can find surplus ammo around, but newly loaded ammo is offered by: Sellier & Bellot, Prvi Partizan, Winchester, Federal, Hornady, Fiocchi, Buffalo Bore, and CCI Blazer.
The military-issued version of the Makarov had fixed sights. Baikal added adjustable sights to some of the Makarovs they imported.
So, now we get to the nitty-gritty. You have seen them on the tables at gun shows, taunting you with their mysterious Eastern charm. And you probably asked yourself the same questions that everyone else has: How do they shoot? Are they reliable? Since it’s a military design, will it feed hollowpoints? Are some brands/nationalities better than others? Should I buy one? Will I be mocked as a fanboy if I bring one to the range?
And therein lies the problem. Like all things produced in the former Soviet Union, quality was not consistent. The manufacturing tolerances were not tight and the loose tolerances that were agreed upon were not rigidly applied. Quality control was more of a patriotic slogan than a procedure to be followed, and was always subject to the needs of that month’s production quota. Why work hard if you get the paycheck no matter what?
Gun Tests magazine (which you should be subscribing to) does not accept advertising, so they cannot be influenced by manufacturers. They test a lot of guns in every single issue, and they tell it like it is, warts and all. If the gun was good, they write that. If the gun was a jam-happy piece of crap, that’s what you will read in their review (and it won’t be buried in the middle of a paragraph at the end of the review, either). And they review a lot of odd guns, and used/surplus guns too. (Note: I do not always agree with the subjective conclusions that the Gun Test reviewers come to, but I do trust them to accurately document their objective findings). Over the years, they have looked at the Makarov a few times. Here is a brief chart of their findings:
Well, that’s not encouraging, is it? It seems clear that you should stay away from the Bulgarian models. I have heard good things about the Baikal versions, which had adjustable sights added to gain import points. In any case, even on a reliable example, you can expect a heavy trigger.
Should you buy one? Only you can decide if the gun suits your purposes. It doesn’t meet any burning need I have, but some of the other guns I will be discussing in future posts are a bit more interesting.