1895 Nagant vs. 1895 Nagant Part 2

1895 Nagant vs. 1895 Nagant Part 2 Part 1

The Russian Version of BBs vs. Pellets

By Dennis Adler

There is a lot to like about the Gletcher Nagant Model 1895, one thing not to like is that they are probably in short supply and when this second series is gone it could be awhile until they are back again. It is an air pistol that vintage military arms enthusiasts should own. Whether you like the BB (bottom) or the pellet version (top), is a matter of personal preference. Either gun is very accurate for its size and barrel length; the plus goes to the pellet cartridge-firing model for its increased accuracy range out to 10 meters. Both airguns fieldstrip like the centerfire pistol, which is a very straightforward process.

Since we are talking about air pistols, it is easier to toss theories around and “in theory” the Nagant BB model with the BB loaded at the front of the cartridge and the cartridge nose sealing with the forcing cone, like the original Nagant Model 1895 design, makes the BB model more authentic in operation than the pellet-firing version which has the pellet seated at the back of the cartridge. It is a very minor point, which, in the past, has proven to favor the rear loading cartridges with Peacemaker BB and pellet models. Will a front loaded BB in the Nagant design have as much velocity and accuracy as a rear loading pellet cartridge model? And just for extra measure, we’ll toss in the wild card by also loading the BB model cartridges with lighter weight (i.e. higher velocity) Dust Devils. In Part 3 we will see which gun performs best at 21 feet and 10 meters, the BB or pellet model. It is a question that has been asked before and now with newer BBs to fire (that did not exist when the first Nagant Model 1895 models were introduced several years ago in the Gletcher Russian Legends series); the outcome should be more interesting.

Two guns and two different types of cartridges, the front loading BB shells (bottom) which look similar to the 7.62x38mm Nagant rounds, and the pellet cartridges, (top) which are shown resting on their noses with the 4.5mm lead wadcutter pellets inserted into the back of the shell.

Change, oh change, why?

As for the addition of the manual safety, which was not on the earlier Nagant 1895 BB or pellet models, I don’t see it as a great detractor to the gun, but it is something the superbly reproduced Nagant air pistol did not need. Other CO2 revolvers are also burdened with manual safeties, even the Peacemaker and Schofield, so it is not surprising that this safety mandate has caught up to the Nagant. Honestly they could have made a better choice in the design and placement, maybe even have been so bold as to copy the old Webley MK IV .38 revolver, which had a crossbolt safety in the frame to block the hammer from being cocked. At least it would have had some measure of historical relevance. What we had with the first series Nagant CO2 models was a gun suitable for anyone to shoot well with a little practice, and that has always been one of the best characteristics of a revolver, it is ambidextrous by design. Gletcher has just slightly mucked it up by complying with a mandatory safety. I’m not sure about the internal design of the Nagant air pistol but a more subtle sliding safety behind the hammer, like the Schofield CO2 model, would still have been less obtrusive.

With the cylinder removed it is easy to show how the floating forcing cone works. Here I am pressing it forward with my finger, much the way it is pushed forward when the cylinder rotates…

…as soon and the cylinder chamber aligns with the barrel the forcing cone extends out and into the front of the chamber providing a better CO2 seal by bridging the cylinder gap. This is not how the original pistols worked, but achieves the same end. This is how most CO2 revolvers solve the cylinder gap problem that all cartridge revolvers suffer from. The original Nagant design used a complex mechanism to push the cylinder forward and over the forcing cone to create a gas seal. (This also made the 7.62x38mm Nagant one of the few revolvers that could be effectively fitted with a silencer!)

Aesthetics aside, is there any other difference between the early BB and pellet firing Nagant models and the latest Gletcher Nagant pistols? The answer is no, just that wrong-sided safety lever (unless you like kicking it on and off with your trigger finger or if you are left handed, with your thumb). There is one other small point, the finish on the latest pellet-firing black model, which is more of a dark grey than black. Again not a deal breaker; just depends on what you like to see. I’d like to see it weathered or antiqued, and the grey finish has more “potential” for some customizing work.

Field stripping the CO2 Nagant is a quick four-step procedure that begins after making sure the cartridges are removed from the cylinder and that there is no CO2 in the gun. This is the same as clearing any handgun before field stripping. Removing the CO2 is another safety step and the CO2 will likely be exhausted anyway before the gun is field stripped (unless you are clearing a jammed BB or pellet from the barrel). The first step is to open the loading gate, then rotate the ejector rod head 90 degrees left until it releases from the lock inside the housing and pull it all the way forward until it stops (as shown). The locking notch can be seen on the extended rod. Then rotate the ejector and housing so that it is in line with the cylinder and push the rod far enough back toward the frame that the housing stays out of the way. (If the ejector rod is all the way out, the housing which pivots freely will drop back into the lower position when you let go of it). This allows access to the cylinder arbor sleeve. Pull it out completely, which frees the cylinder. Then push the cylinder from the left side and roll it out.

Stripping it down

The Nagant CO2 models are built to the same design specs as the Model 1895 pistols and that is admittedly a somewhat awkward orientation. Loading speed was obviously not a mandate, especially when it comes to using the ejector rod to push spent shells out of the cylinder. This was a necessity for the 7.62x38mm models because the shell was designed for the nose of the cartridge to expand and close the gap inside the forcing cone to complete the gas seal. Ejecting the spent shell cases required the ejector rod. Not so with the CO2 model, the shells just drop out one at a time when you tilt the gun back and rotate the cylinder, but the original design has been authentically duplicated by Gletcher and the ejector rod works. Outside of a topbreak revolver or one with a swing out cylinder, the Nagant, like a Colt, Remington, or any single or double action with a loading gate, is slower to reload; it’s the nature of the beast. But the ejector has another role. You have to rotate it the same as if you were ejecting a spent shell to fieldstrip the Nagant. This is a basic fieldstrip that ends up with the cylinder being removed.

In this photo I have removed the cylinder arbor sleeve (at far right) and I am rolling the cylinder out of the frame by pushing it from the left side. Replacing the cylinder is just the reverse, rolling it back in from the right side so the ratchet fits back into the recoil shield channel. (The channel is only on the right side, the cylinder will not fit from the left).

Once the cylinder is in place, reinsert the cylinder arbor sleeve into the frame until the flange is flush with the front.

With the cylinder arbor sleeve in place, push the ejector back until it is under pressure. It is shown at the point where you begin to feel resistance and the locking notch (arrow) is still exposed. From this point apply pressure against the internal spring and push the rod the rest of the way in rotating the ejector head 90 degrees right to the locked position.

As with the 7.62x38mm pistol, be certain the shells are removed and with the airgun that there is no CO2 in the grip before starting to fieldstrip the Nagant. This is accomplished by lowering the loading gate, pushing the tip of the ejector rod inward and turning it 90 degrees to the left until it pops forward. At this point the notch in the ejector rod has disengaged from the stop inside the ejector housing, pull the rod forward until it stops and then rotate the entire ejector housing up so it is in line with the cylinder. With an actual 7.62x38mm Nagant you would use the rod to push each spent shell case from the cylinder chambers. But there is a second function here when field striping the gun. With the ejector housing rotated up, catch the leading edge of the cylinder arbor sleeve (at the front of the frame) and pull the sleeve completely out. You can now roll the cylinder out of the frame by pushing it from the left side and taking it out from the right. The barrel can be cleaned with a pellet pistol cleaning rod and patch (of any lead residue build up in the rifling) and perform any other routine cleaning. Reassembly is reverse order. It is the same as a centerfire Nagant pistol.

With the Nagant back together, you can begin loading the BB or pellet cartridges. The cylinder will rotate right from chamber to chamber with very little effort. Once the loading gate is closed the cylinder is locked and will only rotate as the gun is cocked.

In part 3, it’s time to put that lead residue into the barrel rifling and the smoothbore as well, testing the BB vs. pellet model and firing pellet shells from the smoothbore Nagant.

3 thoughts on “1895 Nagant vs. 1895 Nagant Part 2

  1. I seem to remember seeing a movie or TV show in which the main character reloaded his revolver by removing the empty cylinder and inserting a pre-loaded cylinder. Could that be done with the Nagant revolver?


    • Sounds like Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. He used a Remington 1858 converted to use cartridges. No loading gate or ejector rod . He carried spare loaded cylinders. The Nagant could do this , but you could just knock out the empties, remove the cylinder reliadcthe cylinder from a seven round speed loader and replace the cylinder. Would bet either a seven shot38 spl, or a 32 would work . A lot cheaper.


    • Pale Rider is right. Also Anson Mount did it twice in the AMC television series Hell on Wheels. I interviewed Anson on the set in Calgary during the fourth season for Guns of the Old West, and he said he totally took the idea from Clint Eastwood. I have to tell you though, that Anson upped the game, he did it while walking!


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