Peace Dividend – Part 2

TT-33 Tokarev

TT-33 Tokarev

Peace Dividend – Part 2

Today’s morsel of shooty goodness from behind the Iron Curtain: the TT-33 pistol.  The acronym stands for Tula Tokarev (Tula being the arsenal where it was first made, Tokarev being the designer who created it), with 33 representing the year it was adopted, 1933).

Originally named the TT-30, it was later slightly modified (minor changes to the barrel, disconnector, trigger and frame were implemented, such as omission of the removable backstrap and changes to the full-circumference locking lugs) and renamed TT-33.

(click the title for more)

It’s a single-action pistol; based on Browning’s 1903 and 1911 designs, with the modification of having the hammer, sear & disconnector as a self-contained unit that can be removed.  This sub-assembly also has the cartridge feed lips on it, making the TT-33 more resistant to misfeeds due to magazine issues.  Made 1930 – 1954, it replaced the Nagant 1895 revolver as the standard Soviet sidearm, and was itself replaced by the Makarov PM in 1951.

It fires the 85-gr 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge at 1400fps (almost dimensionally the same as the .30 Mauser round, but higher pressure; don’t shoot Tokarev rounds in a Mauser!), and feeds from an 8-round single-stack magazine.  It apparently does not kick bad, but does make a bit of noise & blast when fired.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In addition to the Soviet version, this design was manufactured in other East Bloc countries:

  • Chinese models are called Model 51 (C&R eligible) and Model 54-1 (Norinco listed as manufacturer, not C&R eligible); also some versions called M20 and TU-90;   9mm version called the Model 213.
  • Poland:  PW wz.33
  • Romanian Model TTC
  • Hungarian Model 48 (rebarreled to fire 9x19mm)
  • North Korean M68
  • Yugoslavia M57, M65, M70A (and 9mm conversion M88)
  • Egypt made a version in 9mm called the Tokagypt, which was allegedly very popular with the Baader-Meinhoff gang.

Gun Tests magazine tested a Polish and Norinco TT-33 in their September 2002 issue.  Both guns fed & ejected reliably, and shot approximately 3″ groups at 15yds.

Some quirks:

1)  The front sight blade is machined from the slide; the rear sight is a U-notch that is dovetailed in (some guns allegedly have adjustable rear sights).  The rear notch is often quite narrow, especially on Chinese guns.  So take a good look through the sights before you buy.

2)  The safety issue.  Soviet versions do not have a safety as issued, just the ability to put the pistol on half-cock.  The satellite countries that produced their own versions followed that pattern for domestic use as far as I can determine.  But, to get imported under GCA1968 (which attempted to ban “cheap foreign Saturday Night Specials”), handguns must have a certain number of “points” which correspond to features that are considered sporting in nature.  Think of the “no flash hider” and “no bayonet lug” provisions of the 1994 Clinton Gun Ban (AKA: “1996 Clinton Congressional Enema”).  Adding a manual safety would generate a lot of points, making importation much more feasible.  So that is what many importers did.  Yes, it damages the collector value.  If you can find one without a safety, it is worth more.

Tokarev Safety Modifications

Tokarev Safety Modifications

Norincos often have manual safety added on the left side behind the top of the grip panel to allow importation.  With the safety on, the Chinese guns have the hammer blocked and the slide will not move.

Imported Polish, Romanian, and Yugoslavian models might have a safety on the left side, just behind the trigger (different position than Chinese, and only blocks the trigger).  Some guns have grip panels that accommodate the safety lever, and some do not.  And, apparently, there is variance within nationalities (due to different importers?) on safety implementation.

Regardless of what nationality and which safety design was added, the gun was not designed for a safety, and the workmanship with which they were added varies considerably.  Talk on the internet seems to indicate that a “tight” safety is better than a “loose” one.  Some complain that the safety detents are not deep enough to hold the lever in position, and people claim to have made them deeper by drilling.  Those same discussions claim that the frame steel is kind of soft, so I am not sure I can endorse that method.  In any case, try the safety and see how tightly it stays in each position.

3)  If you buy one, remember that it is at least 60 years old.  In addition to standard inspection points, look at the innards and watch for weak or rusty springs.  The Polish TT-33 that Gun Tests used had a weak spring with caused some light primer strikes. (no endorsement, I just found the link) has a lot of Tokarev parts listed for sale.

4)  Many surplus dealers mix & match parts, so be on the lookout for East Bloc guns with the wrap-around grips of the Tokagypt, for example.

Those who own them say the TT-33 is a fun gun to shoot.

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