PM Makarov: A successor of a legendary TT pistol

Author: Eric Sof

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The PM Makarov pistol was a successor of the TT pistol as a service sidearm in the Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War. Makarov was a new pistol with a slightly bigger bullet with less power. It was developed under the direct supervision of Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov in 1951.

Design

The first design was made in 1948 to replace the TT pistols and Nagant M1895 revolvers. PM Makarov (Pistolet Makarova) is similar to German Walther PPK because it has a similar operating mechanism with a double and single-action trigger. It has manual safety and decocker. It’s compact and—with a fixed barrel—pretty accurate at reasonable pistol ranges. The ergonomics are far better than at TT pistol.

PM Makarov fully disassembled to the basic parts
PM Makarov fully stripped to the basic parts (Photo: XY)

Like the other handguns, Makarov is medium-sized with straight-blowback-action, all-steel construction. It also has a frame-fixed barrel. The only force holding the slide closed in blowback designs is that of the recoil spring; upon firing, the barrel and slide do not have to unlock, as do locked-breech-design pistols. Blowback designs are simple and more accurate than designs using a recoiling, tilting, or articulated barrel, but they are limited practically by the slide’s weight.

9x18mm Makarov

The PM Makarov is chambered in the 9x18mm Makarov caliber. The 9mm Makarov round was the standard handgun round of the Soviet Union and client states for over 20 years. A product of Soviet paranoia, its round is slightly larger than 9 mm so that no western pistol could chamber the Soviet ammunition. Still, in an emergency, Makarov can use Western Rounds.

The Makarov round is as powerful as a direct blowback system will support. Direct blowback pistols are inherently more accurate and more straightforward to build.

9x18mm Makarov cartridge
9x18mm Makarov cartridge (Photo: Bellot)

The 9mm Makarov cartridge is slightly less potent than the more common 9mm Parabellum, and in countries where this pistol is the standard, hollow-point ammunition is rare or prohibited. That being said, there is a significant step down in effectiveness compared to the top line full-frame handguns like the Beretta 92FS, Colt 1911, and Glock 17.

Operation

The PM Makarov has a DA/SA trigger mechanism. Engaging the manual safety simultaneously decocks the hammer if cocked and prevents the slide, trigger, and hammer movement. Both carrying with the safety engaged or disengaged, and hammer uncocked are considered safe. The DA trigger pull is heavy, requiring a solid squeeze, trading first shot accuracy for safety. Racking the slide, manually cocking the hammer, or firing a cartridge all cock the hammer, setting the trigger for the next shot to a single action.

User experience

The biggest downside of PM Makarov is ammo supply and cost. Since it isn’t an American weapon, there aren’t as many in the US. The 9x 18 round is not popular. Due to that, most companies are focusing on keeping up with the needs and wants of the gun-owning population. That means most places making 9mm rounds are making 9x19mm rounds and not putting much emphasis on making rounds that are seldom used.

The use of a heel magazine release (like many European pistols of the time) probably slowed reloading, but it’s an excellent way to retain the magazine under stress. You can carry it loaded and ready to go and decock it safely, so it also functions as a decent police pistol as well.

Conclusion

PM Makarov pistols are relatively compact and easy to carry, especially for people who need one “just in case,” which is pretty much everyone, except special operators who clear buildings of terrorists. They are reliable. They are accurate, provided the shooter does their part.

Millions of them were made. Billions of rounds of ammunition were made for them. Ammunition production lines paid for themselves long ago. Spare parts are in abundance. PM Makarov is a workhorse of a pistol. It was considered a cheap and reliable choice for self-defense. It’s dependable, reasonably accurate, and holds up well.

Technical specifications

Manufacturer: Izhevsk Mechanical Plant (1949–2013) / Kalashnikov Concern (2013–present)
Type: semi-auto, straight-blowback-action
Caliber: 9x18mm Makarov
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)
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1 thought on “PM Makarov: A successor of a legendary TT pistol”

  1. I love this gun …I’ve had mine for about 20 years now, it is very accurate the slide will bite you if holding it to high. I wish I could get ammo for it I would love to buy 1000 rounds for it to have.