Makarov Soviet Pistol; Sidearm of the Warsaw Pact and the KGB

Evidently, some Soviets developed a liking for the German Walther PPs and PPKs they had captured in World War Two.  Looking to replace their aging Tukarov TT33 pistol–an interesting pistol in itself–there was a design competition for its replacement.

Arms designer Nikolai Makarov decided on a variation of the German 9mm round, rather than developing a new sidearm that would have utilized the stockpiles of 7.62 rounds, and won the bid.  The result was a pistol utilizing a unique caliber, the Makarov 9 X 18mm cartridge, which had more stopping power than the 7.62mm.  One millimeter shorter than the high-pressure German Parabellum 9 X 19mm round, the new 9 X 18mm Makarov PM (Pistolet Makarova) became the new Soviet standard sidearm, issued to the military not only in the Soviet Union, but in the Warsaw Pact Eastern European communist bloc nations as well.  With production beginning in 1949, the semiautomatic pistol entered military service in 1951, and was used officially until 1991.  Many are still in use.  The PM was also the preferred sidearm of most KGB agents.  There were versions manufactured in East Germany, Bulgaria and China as well.  Later, other Warsaw Pact nations manufactured their own pistols chambered for the Makarov 9 X 18mm round, such as the Hungarian P63 and the Polish P64.

Like the AK 47 rifle that had just entered service before it, the Makarov PM was destined for longevity and success.  It is a rather simple firearm with fewer moving parts than most pistols, and has since proven its reliability.  Very similar to the German PPK by Carl Walther, like most European semiautomatic pistols, the Makarova has a magazine that is released from the boot of the grip, rather than the side of the pistol.  Many feel that the best Makarov PMs are the ones that were manufactured in East Germany.  There are markings on the pistol to help determine their location of manufacture.

The straight blowback-operated single-action/double-action semiautomatic is easily field-stripped without tools in about a minute by anyone who is familiar with the pistol. The simple safety mechanism, located high up on the left side of the pistol, is also given high marks for reliability and durability, and has passed drop tests with flying colors.  Its standard magazine holds 8 rounds, and there is a special high-capacity magazine that holds 12.  I have heard however that the high-capacity round is under-engineered, and that users are better off to stick to the standard 8-round magazine.  I have also heard that the original factory magazines are better for use in the PM than after-factory replacements.  While designated a 9mm pistol, the PM ammo is actually 9.3mm in diameter, and contrary to some beliefs, will not safely take a Parabellum 9 X 19mm round.  There is also a .380 caliber version of the Makarov PM.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a commercial version of the Makarov PM continued to be produced by Baikal, a private company in Russia, well into the 1990s.  Many of them were imported into the United States, and have become quite popular.  I have been told that some of the 1990s imports in nickel-plated chrome have a very thin finish on them, that wears off quickly.  That would lead me to stay with the more standard blued finish.  The ammunition for the PM is still produced and relatively easy to find.  There are also a lot of other pistols based on the PM, most notably the Hungarian P63 which is very similar to the PM, and chambered in the same caliber.

For an authentic, non-firing replica of the Makarov PM pistol, please visit Guns of

Webley Mk IV .455 Cal. British Revolver

In the 1880’s, at around the same time the American West was steadily replacing its remaining percussion weapons with the now-standard Colt Single-Action revolvers, Winchester repeating rifles and any other weapons that utilized the self-contained ammunition, the British Empire was outfitting its services with similar weapons.  The Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) as well as privately owned arms producers such as  Webley & Scott were producing some legends of their own.

Near the turn of the century, many of these legends made their appearance on the firearms scene.  The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle became the standard for decades to come, and was a mainstay success, lasting for decades.  Accompanying this legendary British rifle was an equally successful revolver, the Webley revolver.

Moving forward from previous RSAF and private designs, Birmingham arms producer Webley & Scott introduced an upgrade to satisfy the British military demand for reliable sidearms, the Webley Mk IV revolver.

There are many models of the Webley, nearly all of them successful.  Owing to the proliferation of the Mk IV, and its historical place in the British military for so many decades, I’m going to focus on this particular model for this posting.  The Mk IV was a break-top revolver, originally chambered in .455 caliber, utilizing a 200 grain bullet.  This came to be known as the Webley Mk IV .455/200, but is also well known as the “Boer War Revolver”.  The Boer War lasted from 1899 to 1902.

Production of the Mk IV began in 1899, and was used by British troops  in the 2nd Boer War against Dutch and Zulu combatants in South African Transvaal and Africaans  regions.  Using case-hardened steel, and stronger parts, the Mk IV replaced its predecessor, the Mk III.  With a hinge on the revolver’s strong frame, the barrel and the cylinder could be opened, and swung downward, away from the hammer, exposing the ends of the bullets and extracting them at the same time, making for fast and easy reloading.  The Mk IV was a double-action revolver, meaning that you could run it through the entire cycle, including firing, with a single trigger pull without needing to manually cock the hammer.  This, in addition to the revolver’s compact size, durability,  and reliability, even in muddy or sandy environments, made it a success that carried it clear up into the 1960’s.

In 1913, the Mk V was introduced just in time to see action in World War One, then known as the “Great War.”  However, there were so many Mk IV revolvers in circulation that more of them were used in the war than the Mk V, because of supply issues caused by the sudden demands of the war.

After 1921, the Webley revolvers were produced by the Royal Small Arms Factory in the London suburb of Enfield.  RSAF was a British government-owned arms producer.  The privately owned Webley & Scott company continued to produce arms until 1979.  After that, they were known for air guns and other sporting products.  Today, products are still made under the Webley name.

Webley revolvers, in all their different models and calibers, continued to be used in World War Two, and remained in the service of the British Military until 1963-1964.  I could not finish this article without mentioning that the Webley revolver was also a favorite with the fictional character, Indiana Jones, and can be seen in the popular adventure movies.  You just can’t keep a good classic down.  Who would want to?  It goes without saying that the legendary Webley revolvers earned their respected place in history alongside their legendary rifle cousin, the Lee-Enfield SMLE.  Like the famous bolt-action rifle, the Webley revolver is now a highly prized and beloved piece of firearms history, and sought by collectors.


For an authentic non-firing replica of the Webley Mk IV revolver, please visit

Published in: Uncategorized on January 16, 2011 at 3:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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