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 old.com