|A PM in its natural habitat.|
Sometime after WWII, the Soviet Union felt the need for a new sidearm. Through most of WWII and after, the standard pistols of the Soviet Army were the Tokarev TT-33 and the 1895 Nagant Revolver. The Tokarev was a fine pistol in its own right, and fired an interesting cartridge (both of which I will discuss in due time), but it was getting long in the tooth. Its basic design was stolen modeled after the American Colt 1903 and 1911 pistols. As for the 1895 Nagant…well, let’s just say it was obsolete the day it was invented, and again, I promise I’ll elaborate on that statement later (*update: it's later. Click the link for my take on the Nagant).
|In Soviet Russia, pistol fires you!|
There’s an old anecdote (perhaps untrue, but still poignant regardless) that illustrates a fundamental difference between the West and the USSR. The story goes that during the Space Race of the 50s and 60s, NASA procured specially designed pens so our astronauts could write in zero gravity. These ‘space pens’ (which you can still buy) employed a patented ink cartridge which allowed them to write at any angle, and yes, even in zero gravity. Cool, right? Go America! Ingenuity and all that!
Well, the USSR obviously had a space program, too, and a need for a space-age writing instrument as well. So what was the Soviet solution? How did cosmonauts write in orbit without the benefit of the amazing American space pen?
They used one of these:
|Soviet Space-Age Pen. Lenin would be proud.|
In the world of firearms, the Makarov PM is a pencil. It has very few parts, and some perform multiple functions. For example, the magazine retention system and release is an extension of the hammer/trigger spring, which itself is just a curved piece of stamped metal . The safety/decocker also holds the free-floating firing pin in place, and the slide stop does double duty as the ejector for spent casings. Fewer parts means both cheaper to make and more reliable since there’s less stuff that can break. It’s something that engineers these days seem to forget at times. Keeping in line with simplicity, the PM works using a blowback system, so there’s no complex lock-up or linkage with moving parts needed.
|See? Very few parts. Well, for a pistol, that is.|
To recap, the PM was simple, which made it cheap, reliable, and rugged, so it’s not hard to understand why the Soviets adopted it in 1951. Along with the PM, the USSR adopted the 9 x 18mm Makarov cartridge, which sported a ~95 grain, .365 diameter FMJ bullet that moved at 1,000 fps. This makes the 9x18mm a bit better than the .380 ACP which is so popular in pocket guns these days, and quite a bit less powerful than the 9mm Luger, which was what the majority of NATO used at the time.
|Left: 9mm Luger. Right: 9 x 18mm Makarov.|
Though this may be heresy, I prefer the PM to its Western counterpart, the Walther P1. Though the P1 is more powerful thanks to its 9mm Luger chambering and has better sights, the PM’s simplicity, natural pointability, and heft win me over. Also, I shoot a lot better with the PM than I do the Walther, so the fun factor definitely tilts toward the PM there. All in all, the PM is another affordable way to own a piece of history, and no serious collection is complete without one. Besides, this guy seems to like his alot.
|In the Russian Army, this is what passes for a smile.|