1895 Nagant vs. 1895 Nagant Part 1

1895 Nagant vs. 1895 Nagant Part 1

The Russian Version of BBs vs. Pellets

By Dennis Adler

Gletcher offers back and silver versions of the legendary Model 1895 Nagant revolver. The black .177 caliber BB version (bottom) and the current 4.5mm pellet model NGT RF in black with rifled barrel. These are authentic looking CO2 pistols that reproduce nearly all the features found on the original 1895 models. (Russian Nagant holster courtesy World War Supply)

I know, all we hear about is Russia, Russia, Russia, but I’m taking about Mother Russia, 19th century Russia and the golden age of firearms, a time when America’s captains of industry and armsmakers courted the Russian Czars and lavished them with presentation pistols. Samuel Colt was among the first with a magnificent Gustav Young engraved and gold inlaid 3rd Model Dragoon and a pair of matching 1851 Navy Model revolvers that he personally presented to Czar Nicholas I in 1853 and 1854. By the end of the 19th century, everyone from Colt to Smith & Wesson had sold arms to Russia, but in 1895 Czar Nicholas II turned to the Nagant Brothers in Belgium and purchased their newest double action revolver to rearm his military.

The Gletcher Nagant airguns fit original and reproduction Nagant holsters. The BB and pellet cartridge loading revolvers carry seven rounds and an extra set of loaded cartridges can be carried in the holster’s sewn-in ammo pouch. Loaded pellet cartridges are shown.

The first revolvers to be carried in significant numbers by the Imperial Russian Army was a modified Smith & Wesson Model 3, followed by the Second Model Russian Smith & Wesson revolver and Third Model (also manufactured for the Russian military in Germany by Ludwig Loewe and at Russia’s Tula armory). The S&W topbreak models were used until the early 1890s, by which time it was determined (throughout Europe and with Russia following suit) that sidearms should be of a smaller caliber. The current S&W models were chambered in .44 Russian. It was also determined that a military revolver should be a double action, single action design, actually in keeping with British revolvers which had used double action, single action firing systems since the 1870s. Even the U.S. turned away from the legendary .45 Colt Peacemaker models and began fielding .38 caliber Colt double action revolvers by the late 1880s and into the early 20th century.

The original Nagant employed a loading system whereby the loading gate when opened released the cylinder to rotate freely. The same design is used for the CO2 models. The pellet cartridge-loading Nagant (bottom) loads the 4.5mm pellet into the rear of the cartridge where a primer would normally go. The BB cartridges (top) load the .177 caliber BB into the nose of the cartridge.

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Nagant’s story

Leon and Emile Nagant’s proposal to the Russian military was an innovative double action, single action 7-shot revolver chambered in 7.62x38mm (.30 caliber) utilizing their improved gas-seal design. Manufactured at their armory in Liege, Fabrique d’Armes et Leon Nagant, Leon and Emile’s gas seal employed a clever mechanical repositioning of the cylinder, which moved forward and against the forcing cone when the hammer was cocked, thereby completely sealing the cylinder gap. The nose of their  7.62mm cartridge case (the bullet was literally recessed inside the shell case) projected 1.5mm beyond the front of the cylinder chamber, which was far enough back from the forcing cone so as not to impede rotation before the cylinder moved forward into the firing position. This put the nose of the cartridge case into the forcing cone thus making a nearly perfect gas seal. The details of the Nagant’s operation were far more complex than that simple description, and involved the trigger design, cylinder, the pawl and the slot in which it traveled, a vertically-moving wedge block that forced a locking piece against the base of the cartridge to be fired, thereby preventing any rearward movement of the cartridge or the cylinder until after the gun was discharged. Last, there was a spring (compressed when the cylinder moved forward) that pushed the cylinder back to its rest position after the hammer fell and the trigger was released. This freed the cylinder to rotate to the next chamber. The gas seal allowed as much of the gunpowder charge as possible to be channeled behind the 7.62mm bullet giving it a higher velocity.

Both the black finished models have the same lines; however the current black pellet model has an additional feature…
…a manual safety. This is not used on the current nickel silver pellet model or earlier black pellet model, but has become a feature of the current supply of rifled barrel pistols (top). While it does not greatly detract from the look of the gun, a manual safety was not a feature on the original Nagant model.

The Russian Army adopted the Nagant revolver as its standard sidearm in 1895, officially naming it the Revolver Sistemy Nagana obrazets 1895 goda (Nagant system revolver Model 1895). The Nagant was so well received that the patent rights were purchased so the revolvers could be manufactured at Russia’s Tula, Sestroryetsk and Izhevsk arsenals. This proved to be a better outcome for Fabrique d’Armes et Leon Nagant which only manufactured 20,000 Nagant revolvers for the Russian military between 1895 and 1898, after which the Russians built another 180,000 between 1898 and 1902. By the beginning of WWI, production had reached 436,210 Model 1895 revolvers and they remained in use a remarkable half a century, including throughout WWII.

The Nagant was designed as a military firearm and was not a particularly elegant looking handgun in the Colt or S&W style, actually more like a Civil War era Starr double action percussion revolver or a British Adams & Tranter, but that is not to say a Nagant couldn’t be engraved and made into a far more impressive looking presentation piece. This example is one of the finest Nagant revolvers ever produced. Imagine the possibilities for a CO2 model! (Photo courtesy Rock Island auction Co.)

In its time, when horse soldiers were still leading the attacks, the Nagant was regarded as one of the best cavalry handguns in the word. It was both ahead of its time and at the same time, antiquated by its old style loading system compared to the topbreak S&W models already in use by the Russian military, and the swing out cylinder design developed by Colt in 1889. The other factor was having been introduced only a few years before the first practical semiautomatic pistols would come into use. Nevertheless, the Nagant Model 1895 stayed in service and remains one of those classic 19th century handguns that have withstood the test of time. As a CO2 model the Gletcher Nagant version brings all of the guns exceptional features to bear. Gletcher even has a variation of the gas seal concept using the floating forcing cone and corresponding recesses at the front of each cylinder chamber. This is common on most CO2 revolvers but really works with the Nagant design. When the cylinder rotates the floating forcing cone is pushed back by the cylinder and when the gun is cocked it moves forward again into the recess in the face of the chamber, thus creating its own de facto gas seal.

Using a CO2 revolver trick, the Gletcher has a gas seal similar to the Nagant pistol. By using the spring loaded forcing cone instead of moving the cylinder forward, when the cylinder rotates (turned manually for the photo) the forcing cone gets pushed back (arrow).
The face of each cylinder chamber has a recess and when the hammer is cocked (or when fired double action as the hammer locks back) and the cylinder aligns with the barrel, the forcing cone drops into the front of the cylinder creating a de facto gas (or CO2) seal with the front of the cartridge (arrow). The Nagant revolvers have an average velocity of 410 fps with lead wadcutter pellets, and around 390 to 400 fps with BBs.

The Gletcher Nagant is probably one of the most historically well thought out air pistols in recent years. A better finish or weathered finish on the black models (the plated models, however, look impressive), real wood grips and some original factory markings on the frame would make these airguns as close to perfect as possible.

In part 2 we will examine the firing mechanism, fit and finish, and field stripping.  

8 thoughts on “1895 Nagant vs. 1895 Nagant Part 1”

  1. Great to see a series on this pistol. Just to note however that I did recently get a rifled, nickel version and it does have the safety on it. After checking Gletchers website, it seems that they are manufacturing the pellet versions with a safety lock and the bb versions without. Very curious.

    On point though, I find mine to be very accurate in single action but shoots an inch low in double action. Can’t figure out if it’s me or maybe the hammer strike is a bit harder on the valve in single action. I really should take the time to chrony double versus single to see if there is a difference in velocity. I don’t have this issue shooting my other revolvers in double action but this pistol is still new to me and I’m still leaning the nuances of it.

  2. I just picked up a blue pellet version , and it has the safety. My earlier nickel version does not. The blue one is screaming for removal of white markings and a weathered battle finish. These revolvers are very accurate, and due to the gas seal system are pretty hard hitting . With the just over 4 inch barrel they throw 7 gr pellets faster than most 6 inch barrel revolvers. With alloy pellets the Nagant should hit around 425 fps plus. It is a compact , easy to carry revolver and a plus is that it fits most S&W K frame holsters

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