The PM Makarov pistol, designed by Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov in 1951, succeeded the TT pistol as the standard service sidearm for Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War. Its slightly larger caliber and reduced firepower distinguished it from its predecessor.
The PM Makarov served as the standard issue sidearm for the USSR and was issued to non-commissioned officers, police, special forces, and tank and air crews. It remained in widespread use by Soviet military and police forces until the end of the USSR in 1991, and variants of the pistol continued to be produced in Russia, China, and Bulgaria. In the United States, surplus Soviet and East German military Makarovs are considered “curio and relic” items by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, as the countries of manufacture (the USSR and the GDR) no longer exist.
In 2003, the Makarov PM was officially replaced by the PYa pistol in the Russian service. However, as of 2016, large numbers of Makarov pistols were still in use by the Russian military and police. The PM remains the standard-issue pistol for many Eastern European and former Soviet republics. North Korea and Vietnam also use the PM as their standard-issue pistol, but North Korea has since switched to the CZ 75 made locally as the BaekDuSan pistol.
Despite various pistols being introduced to replace the Makarov, none have been able to replace it entirely. The MP-443 Grach/PYa is technically the Russian military’s standard sidearm, but it suffers from quality control and reliability issues. In September 2019, Rostec announced the Udav pistol went into mass production as the Makarov replacement. The Udav fires 9x21mm Gyurza rounds which are claimed to be able to pierce 1.4mm of titanium or 4mm of steel at 100 meters.
The Makarov PM, also known as Pistolet Makarova, was first developed in 1948 as a replacement for the TT pistols and Nagant M1895 revolvers. Its design closely resembles that of the German Walther PPK, featuring a double and single-action trigger, manual safety, and decocker. Compact and with a fixed barrel, it is known for its accuracy at standard pistol ranges and boasts improved ergonomics compared to the TT pistol.
The Makarov is a medium-sized handgun constructed with all steel and featuring a straight-blowback action. It has a frame-fixed barrel and utilizes the blowback mechanism, where the only force holding the slide closed is that of the recoil spring. This design results in simple operation and improved accuracy, but it also has limitations regarding slide weight.
The Makarov PM is chambered in the 9x18mm Makarov caliber, which served as the standard handgun round for the Soviet Union and its client states for over 20 years. The round was designed to be slightly larger than the 9mm to prevent Western pistols from being able to chamber Soviet ammunition, but it can still be used in an emergency with Western rounds.
Due to its direct blowback system, the Makarov PM is known for its accuracy and ease of construction. However, the 9mm Makarov cartridge is slightly less powerful than the 9mm Parabellum. In countries where this pistol is the standard, hollow-point ammunition may be rare or prohibited. Additionally, its effectiveness is lower than top-of-the-line full-frame handguns such as the Beretta 92FS, Colt 1911, and Glock 17.
The Makarov PM is equipped with a DA/SA trigger mechanism, which allows for both double-action and single-action firing. The manual safety, when engaged, simultaneously decocks the hammer and prevents movement of the slide, trigger, and hammer. Carrying the pistol with the safety engaged or disengaged and the hammer uncocked are both considered safe. The double-action trigger pull is heavy and requires a solid squeeze, sacrificing first-shot accuracy for safety. The hammer can be cocked by racking the slide, manually cocking the hammer, or firing a cartridge, thus setting the trigger for the next shot to a single action.
One of the major downsides of the Makarov PM is its limited ammo supply and high cost. Since it is not a widely used weapon in the US, there are fewer of them available, and the 9×18 round is not as popular. This results in fewer companies focusing on producing this caliber, making it more expensive and difficult to find.
The Makarov features a heel magazine release, a design commonly found in European pistols of the time, which may impede reloading. However, it is an effective method of retaining the magazine during high-stress situations. Despite this, the Makarov can be carried loaded, ready to go, and safely decocked, making it a suitable choice for police use.
The Makarov pistol was manufactured in several communist countries during the Cold War, including the USSR, East Germany, Bulgaria, China, and post-reunification Germany. The PMM (Pistolet Makarova Modernizirovannyy or Modernized Makarov pistol) is the most widely known among these versions. In 1990, a team of engineers redesigned the original gun by increasing the load for the cartridge, resulting in a higher muzzle velocity and 25% more gas pressure.
The PMM magazine holds 12 rounds, compared to the PM’s eight rounds. Some versions held ten rounds produced in greater quantities than the 12-round magazine. The PMM can use existing 9.2x18mm PM cartridges and features other minor modifications, such as ergonomic grip panels and flutes in the chamber to aid extraction. As of 2015, it is the service pistol of the Russian Airborne Troops, alongside the MP-443 Grach.
A silenced version of the Makarov pistol, the PB, was developed by reconnaissance groups and the KGB, with a dedicated detachable suppressor. Additionally, an experimental variant of the Makarov pistol, the TKB-023, was designed with a polymer frame to reduce weight and costs. Still, it was never serviced due to concerns about the polymer’s long-term storage and use.
Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia also developed handgun designs chambered in 9x18mm rounds. These pistols, such as the FEG PA-63, P-64, P-83 Wanad, and vz.82, are often labeled as “Polish Makarovs” or “Hungarian Makarovs” at gun shows by some US gun retailers. However, they are independent designs with more in common with the Walther PP and not the PM Makarov.
Lastly, a wide variety of aftermarket additions and replacements are available for the Makarov pistol, including replacement barrels, custom grips, custom finishes, and larger sights to replace the small originals. A scope/light mount also exists for the Makarov pistol but requires a threaded replacement barrel.
The Makarov pistol is known for its compact size and ease of carry, making it a practical option for those looking for a reliable “just in case” option. They are known for their reliability and accuracy, provided the shooter follows proper technique.
Due to Makarov’s high production numbers, pistols and ammunition are readily available. Millions of Makarov pistols have been produced, and billions of ammunition have been manufactured. The production lines for the ammunition have long been paid off, making the ammunition readily available and affordable. Additionally, spare parts for the Makarov are readily available, making it a dependable and practical choice for self-defense. The Makarov pistol is considered a workhorse for its durability and reasonable accuracy.
|Country of origin:||SSSR|
|Manufacturer:||Izhevsk Mechanical Plant (1949–2013) / Kalashnikov Concern (2013–present)|
|Barrel:||93.5 mm (3.68 in)|
|Weight (empty):||730 g (26 oz)|
|Magazine capacity:||8-round detachable box magazine (10- and 12-round available on the PMM)|