Free Wheeling

Free Wheeling

Why Revolvers still thrive in the 21st century

By Dennis Adler

Longevity and technology are strange bedfellows, most often in opposition of one another because technology seeks better ways to accomplish tasks which in turn leads to obsolescence. The internal combustion motor, for example, improved factory manufacturing long before it was used to power a horseless carriage in 1886 (Carl Benz Patent Motorwagen) and that in itself offers an interesting perspective on revolvers. Six-shooters belong in the 1800s when they were the most advanced handgun design in the world. Thanks to Samuel Colt, after 1835 revolvers flourished as a design, stumbling a little at first (Colt’s first venture building revolvers in Paterson, NJ when broke in 1842) but through Colt’s ingenuity and better technology, oh there’s that word gain, Colt’s revolver designs from 1848 on never looked back. Colt’s began building single action cartridge loading revolvers in 1871-72 and the Peacemaker in 1873. Even when early semiautomatic pistols were being developed in the 1890s, revolvers were regarded as the best sidearm of choice by military, law enforcement, and civilians alike. However challenged by newer and better semi-auto designs following the turn of the century, even with designs by the Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Mfg. Co. and John M. Browning for semi-auto pistols, revolvers remained the choice by a resounding majority of law enforcement, U.S. government agencies (like the F.B.I.) and civilians. Even when the 1911 became accepted by some law enforcement agencies, like the Texas Rangers in the 1920s, they often carried a revolver as well. The legendary Frank Hamer did. When semi-autos reached their highest level of use by law enforcement, government, and civilians, from the mid 1980s to the turn of the century (and thereafter), revolvers did not decline in manufacturing (with the exception of Colt’s DA/SA models and they are making a comeback). In fact, manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and Taurus increased the number of DA/SA models and dove headlong into the 2000s with new designs, new manufacturing technology, like Titanium cylinders and aluminum frames. Models from Taurus and Ruger began combining alloy and polymers for lighter, more durable revolvers and in a wider variety of calibers, including those used in semi-auto pistols. The revolver wasn’t going away. Why? read more

Top vintage military arms

Top vintage military arms

CO2 in War and Peace

By Dennis Adler

When we are talking about copies of legendary military arms as CO2 models, it is not just a gun based on a design, it is a gun copied in detail from an original design like the Umarex Luger P.08 Parabellum and Mauser Broomhandle Model 712. Pictured are the limited edition WWII models. Only the P.08 is currently available.

In the past several years the world of CO2 pistols and rifles has been exposed to military history in ways that airgun enthusiasts could only have dreamed about as little as five years ago. Sure, there have been BB and pellet guns in the past that were based on military arms, like the Crosman Model M-1 Carbine built from 1968 to 1976, as well as a number of military training air rifles manufactured during WWI and WWII (very rare finds today), and more recently the Winchester Model M14 CO2 BB and pellet rifle, introduced in 2012, and of course, the excellent Diana K98 Mauser (under lever cocking) pneumatic pellet rifle. But in the world of blowback action CO2 pistols, rifles, and CO2 BB and pellet cartridge loading revolvers, the period from 2015 to 2019 has been a remarkable one for military arms enthusiasts.

Getting it right and wrong at the same time, the Tanfoglio Witness 1911 is an accurate copy of the WWII era 1911A1 c. 1926 design, but with a modern matte finish and overwhelming branding on one side and warnings and manufacturer’s marks on the other. Aside from that, the Tanfoglio (which is the same gun as the Swiss Arms 1911A1 currently not available), has it almost completely right including the small thumb safety, spur hammer and lanyard loop.

More than a century compressed into four years 

CO2 models copied, not based on but actually copied, from WWI and WWII era arms, are virtually a separate category of airguns today. I have covered all of them in Airgun Experience over the last several years but here is a recap of what is available and some links to the original articles to look back for specs and performance.

Right finish, but only sold as a commemorative, the John Wayne WWII 1911A1 is a fine-looking gun with just enough weathering in the finish to appear like a 1911 that has seen some action. Commemorative 1911s are not uncommon in the centerfire world, so this John Wayne CO2 model is right as it can be.

American military arms in CO2 are the scarcest, since the two primary field weapons were the M1 Carbine and Model 1911A1 pistol. The M1 is new to the game and really rounds out the best combination of rifle and pistol. For the 1911A1, there are a couple of period designs, all but the John Wayne Commemorative, however, have modern finishes. The JW has a weathered or battlefield finish that gives the gun a little character. The Swiss Arms 1911A1 version is currently unavailable but the Tanfoglio 1911A1 is the same exact gun with the same issues of modern finish and over embellishment of makers brand and safety warnings (Another is the Remington 1911 RAC with even bigger branding and warning issues). My solution to this was covered in a series of articles on Defarbing a 1911, which gives you a lot of work to do, but ends with a very war worn 1911A1 that is good for a second look when you un-holster it.

With a lot of handwork, you can take a modern finish off a CO2 model (like this Swiss Arms 1911A1) and make it look like a well worn blued gun. All that is missing is the correct markings, which unfortunately are almost impossible to do without having them hand engraved on the gun, which is an expensive proposition. This is still a head turner even without markings, which could have been worn down over time.
The current star of WWII American military arms is the new Springfield Armory M1 Carbine. This is the standard wood grained plastic stock model. A hardwood stock is also offered.

Russian arms are a bit more plentiful in design since guns developed before WWI were still in use during WWI and even into WWII, which gives you a broadly dispersed choice in revolvers, semi-autos, and one major Russian military rifle, the Mosin-Nagant. I have covered all the variations of the Nagant Model 1895 pistols in BB and pellet-loading cartridge versions and two finishes, plus the now unavailable but beautifully built Tokarev TT-33 that was sold by Gletcher.

One of my favorite WWII Russian models is the Tokarev TT-33, which was (yes, past tense) built as a blowback action CO2 pistol by Gletcher. I didn’t care for the modern finish on the gun and this CO2 model became my first defarbing project in 2017.

I antiqued one, which has appeared in a several articles, along with the Makarov models like the PM 1951. Gletcher still has a Russian Legends line, and at the top of the order are two versions of the Mosin-Nagant, a circa 1891 cut down model with sawn off pistol grip, and the Model 1944 rifle. Both are excellent designs and have appeared in several articles over the last couple of years.

The WWII era Mosin-Nagant M1944 is manufactured by Gletcher and is a very close copy of the legendary Russian rifles. The bolt action air rifle is designed from original Mosin-Nagant plans but uses a removable box magazine (same style as the stripper clip fed integral magazine on the centerfire version) that holds CO2 and BBs. This is one of the better CO2 powered rifles made today and offers authentic operation. It is also accurate out to 10 meters.
Made by partisans during the Russian Revolution (1917) the Mosin-Nagant rifle was cut down into a concealable (under a long coat) bolt action pistol for close quarters use. The design was used in WWI and WWII as well. The Gletcher version is literally a cut down version of the 1944 model rifle. The shortened models were known in Russia as an Obrez.
Another pre-20th century design that remained in use by Russians in WWI and WWII was the Nagant revolver. A unique 7-shot design, it was one of the earliest military revolvers to be outfitted with a silencer because of its gas seal cylinder design. The Gletcher models are very authentic in design and offered in both smoothbore BB models (top) and rifled barrel pellet models (bottom). Both use cartridges. The guns also fit original and reproduction Nagant holsters.

It is the German military arms where airgun manufacturers have excelled, particularly Umarex, the parent company of Carl Walther. The Umarex Legends series has given us classic German pistols like the Walther P.38, Luger P.08, and the Mauser Broomhandle Model 712, perhaps the best blowback action pistol made for the sheer enjoyment of shooting CO2 airguns. To top off the German military line, the MP40 submachine gun allows realistic design and handling that is almost unrivaled by any modern CO2 design Carbine or select-fire arm. Umarex also has the Makarov Ultra version of the famous Russian semi-auto pistol.

Umarex has the P.08 in both the black grip (Black Widow) model and in a weathered WWII version.
Despite its stick magazine, the Umarex Walther P.38 (bottom) gets a pass for its fine polished blue black finish and accurate Walther banner markings.
If there is one masterpiece in German airgun design from Umarex it is the Broomhandle Mauser Model 712, pictured with an original C96 Broomhandle and shoulder stock holster.
Leather holsters were also made for the Broomhandle but the Model 712 demanded some extreme modifications for the extended capacity magazine. Pyramyd Air sells a reproduction of one such design to fit the CO2 version of the M712. (The Umarex Mauser is shown in the WWII finish, currently out of production.)
Fired from the shoulder, rather than this way like in the movies, the MP40 is surprisingly accurate even on full auto. Of course, recoil from .177 caliber steel BBs is a lot more manageable than 9mm cartridges!

Alas, the lofty British military arms are scarce in the CO2 world, in fact, presently there is only the Webley & Scott MK VI revolver, which is currently offered in the superior Battlefield Finish version with rifled steel barrel and pellet-loading cartridges, and the same model finished in bright polished nickel (which was not a traditional finish but was done back in the 1940s and later).

The best of the best in WWII weathered finish guns is the Webley & Scott MK VI which looks every bit as real as the actual WWII Webley at the top.

Of all the weathered finish CO2 military models, the Webley MK VI is the best for realism. There have been other weathered finishes offered as limited editions like the MP40 and M712 Broomhandle, both currently available only with standard matt finishes. We may see them again as WWII series guns, but likely not for awhile. The only weathered finish military guns remaining are the Webley, Luger P.08 and John Wayne 1911A1. When weathered finish guns come along that are appealing, buy them, because they often disappear from the market. The Umarex WWII Edition P.08 went out of production a couple of years back and is currently being offered again; this could be the last chance for that one.

The WWII period canvas holster, also sold by Pyramyd Air, adds the final touch of realism to the Battlefield Finish Webley MK VI.

As you can see, there have been some impressive models in the last several years, specifically in the military arms category, which is now a real category. Hopefully this review and the links to Airgun Experience articles will allow a quick reference to finding the best of the best in CO2 models. Happy reading!

The Airgun Experience will be on a brief hiatus and return on June 11th with the first series on the new Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 semi-auto in both black and bi-tone versions, vs. the actual 9mm XDM 3.8 models!

Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 3

Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 3

From the Old West, to Prohibition, to the battlefield

By Dennis Adler

The cut down Mosin-Nagant was a handy gun in its time, the rifles were plentiful having been made for over a quarter of a century by the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917, and easily modified. Some have the front sight remounted on the end of the shortened barrel, most had both sights removed. The Gletcher CO2 version favors the guns that were done by gunsmiths rather than revolutionaries with a hacksaw.

In the realm of military arms the Mosin-Nagant is a classic rifle, the Obrez on the other hand, is almost more of an historical curiosity because they were not made at any arsenal but simply modified individually in the field, much like cut down weapons used during the American Civil War. So, there was no absolute consistency from one to another, unless a revolutionary group with a decent gunsmith among them built a small quantity at one time, otherwise it was a pattern copied by individuals with surplus Model 1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles. In the Russian Revolution they served as a kind of rebel pistol in a rifle caliber. Some Obrez Mosin-Nagant pistols appeared during the Spanish Civil War and others were either resurrected or made new by resistance fighters during WWII, but still they were a rare gun to find in any numbers. This fact led Gletcher to the Obrez while looking at famous Russian military guns when they started their Russian Legends series of CO2 models some years ago. And while the rifle made most sense, the Obrez was almost irresistible as a unique CO2 model. And I don’t think anyone will disagree with that, even after Gletcher introduced the M1944 Mosin-Nagant WWII era rifle. The little sawed off M1891 had a look that any military weapons collector or arms enthusiast couldn’t shy away from. Many existing Obrez remain only because of the attachment their original owners had for them during the revolution. Those who survived, some maybe even as a result of using the gun, held on to them as wartime momentos. Other rifles throughout world wars and conflicts have been cut down in similar fashion; Obrez roughly translates to cut down, so it is not necessarily exclusive to the Mosin-Nagant. But it is to the Gletcher model.

The Gletcher has a nicely designed self-contained CO2 BB magazine that holds 16 BBs. Extra magazines are readily available for rifle and pistol models, which makes quick work of reloading the gun.
The magazine fits into the receiver and gives the gun the same contours as the 7.62x54mm R cartridge models with internal magazines.
The magazine slaps in with ease and the Gletcher is ready to handle like the actual centerfire Obrez pistols, only without the robust kick of the 7.62x54mm R rifle cartridge.

What can a 5.6 pound CO2 pistol with a 6-inch barrel do?

Impractical to shoot one-handed, the Gletcher Obrez is the ultimate two-handed hold pistol, but for quick operation you need to perfect a rhythm of slightly rotating the gun left while the shooting hand slaps the bolt up and open, and then rotating back as you drive the bolt closed. You can also work the action as close to straight up in the support hand as possible, as if it were a bolt action rifle without a shoulder stock, though it is hard to totally stabilize it. Either way it is not as quick to reload and fire as a carbine, and there is no graceful way to shoot this gun because it is neither pistol nor rifle. If you want accuracy with it as a BB gun though, you have to aim carefully and shoot slowly.

The bolt action is smooth and works easily to ready the gun for the first shot.

I did all of the photography outdoors in the snow, pretty much what a winter might have looked like in a Russian forest and open, snow covered field when the real Obrez Mosin-Nagant pistols were being used in battle. But unlike those 7.62mm guns, the CO2 in the Gletcher didn’t quite hold up to the task and the shooting tests were completed on the indoor range.

The best way to handle the Gletcher is to aim it like a rifle giving the gun as much support as possible with the shooting arm and offside hand. With the tangent rear sight and hooded front sight you can get a solid fix on your target. The weight of the gun when solidly supported in both hands makes it about as steady as possible for close range shooting.

21 feet and counting

First up was a trigger pull test to see how lightly the trigger press is to get off a clean aimed shot. Average pull was 3 pounds, 4.5 ounces with light stacking and crisp break shot after shot. You quickly get a feel for this trigger and that, along with the weight and balance of this hefty pistol keep you locked on target.

Looking over my velocity tests I decided to use Hornady Black Diamond black anodized steel BBs for test one at 21 feet, and then shoot it over with Dust Devils. For test 2 I backed up to 10 meters with Dust Devils. Remember, this is only a 6-inch smoothbore barrel, despite the looks of a longer barrel on the outside. Pushing Dust Devils to 10 meters at 380 fps seemed within the gun’s capabilities for maintaining accuracy. All tests were shot off hand with a two handed hold as shown in the pictures.

There is no set way to work the action, I tired giving the gun as much support as possible with the offside hand and arm while slapping the bolt up and back with my shooting hand and trying to keep the gun as level as possible.
With the gun almost leveled after drawing the bolt to rear, closing the bolt quickly kept it balanced and I was able to close the action, drop my hand back on the wrist and put the gun back on target with a smooth follow through.
The angle of the bolt lends itself to a quick return to the pistol grip and trigger. I did it this way for all of the outside shooting and would estimate a little over a second to work the action and get back on target. This would work well with large reactive metal targets and frangible BBs or copper coated Smart Shot outdoors, though not necessarily in below freezing temperatures!

The gun tends to hit left of POA but I had no problem with elevation. The Hornady Black Diamond clocking an average of 378 fps put nine out of 10 shots into 0.93 inches one flyer, if you will, in the bullseye, opening my total group up to 1.125 inches. Of the 0.93 inch group 8 shots were overlapping at 0.44 inches. So, at 21 feet with slow, careful aim the hefty Gletcher Mosin-Nagant pistol can pack them in tight.

On the indoor range and shooting for accuracy, not speed of reloading (also waiting 15 seconds between shots to keep the CO2 from over cooling), at 21 feet with Hornady Black Diamond I piled eight out of 10 shots into a very tight cluster, with one just slightly above, and what turned out with this group to be a “flyer” hitting the red bullseye. The gun consistently shoots left of POA but is very close for elevation (adjusted one increment up at 21 feet with steel BBs). You could correct POA by aiming right of center, which I did on a few targets, but I had the best overall groups with a 6 o’clock hold under the 10 ring. In this picture I have the bolt rotated left to the SAFE position.
Still hitting left with Dust Devils my shots came in higher and more to POA, but didn’t group as tightly. This is 10 rounds at 1.25 inches with a couple of overlapping hits.

I shot 10 rounds of Air Venturi Dust Devils at 21 feet, which clustered into 1.25 inches, so not quite as accurate as the Hornady steel. Stepping back to 10 meters I shot a 10-meter air pistol target. I had to adjust the rear sight down to the lowest position, which kept elevation decent but everything began hitting further left. I corrected POA to the right of the bullseye but shots still went a little left and only two rounds hit the black, the rest grouped left of center for a 10-shot spread of 1.25 inches.

Accuracy shatters like Dust Devils on steel at 10 meters but I still managed to get 10 shots on the target at 1.25 inches, though none tightly grouped, but rather spread out from end to end, and again almost all hitting left of POA. For just plain fun shooting the Gletcher is an interesting gun to handle and with a little practice about as accurate as any other BB “pistol” with a 6-inch smoothbore barrel.

Not a bad total group for Dust Devils at 10 meters from a 6-inch barrel, but for scoring at 10 meters, pretty bad. Still, the gun’s accuracy at that distance is good enough to work with reactive metal targets where accuracy requires that you hit the target not center punch it. At either distance with steel or frangible BBs, this heavy gun will give your arms a workout and you will get a sense of what the real Obrez Mosin-Nagant pistols felt like minus the, so I have read, very heavy recoil.

File this airgun under eclectic.

Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 2

Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 2

From the Old West, to Prohibition, to the battlefield

By Dennis Adler

The Gletcher Obrez version of the Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 is nothing if not interesting looking. The removable box magazine allows the combining of CO2 and BBs in one, and with spare magazines, quick reloads. The bolt action is impressively quick to work.

If necessity is the mother of invention, than war and crime is the mother of necessity. Most of the firearms developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries were built for offensive or defensive use in war; certainly many were also designed and built as target and hunting rifles, and even target pistols. There is, however, a fine line that separates that distinction, and everything needs to be viewed in the context of the times; we simply cannot subject 19th century thinking to 21st century interpretation.

The Mosin-Nagant was a series of rifles that were produced in Russia from 1891 through 1948. Many original Mosin-Nagant models are still in use today around the world. With millions having been manufactured they are readily available and affordable for military arms collectors. The Gletcher Mosin-Nagant CO2 rifle is based on the late WWII era model produced in 1944, a variation of the M38 version with a folding bayonet. Any of the models could have been used to make an Obrez.

Shortening the barrel and cutting the stock off at the wrist, as was done with older Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifles around 1917, perhaps even earlier, was done during desperate times in war by men whose very lives were at risk for having such a weapon. With the Model 1891 this was done most famously during the Russian Revolution, which began on March 8, 1917 and ended with the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, bringing an end to Czarist ruled Russia. Mind you, this all occurred in the midst of World War I, a war in which Russia was taking heavy loses in the fight against Germany. Within a matter of months Russia’s post-Czarist government was foundering, which led to the October Bolshevik Revolution and the beginning of the Soviet Union. However, the rise of Lenin as head of a new government was not entirely successful, and multiple factions arose leading to a Russian Civil War in the middle of a World War. The Great War ended in 1919 but the Russian Civil War lasted until 1923 with Lenin and the Red Army victorious. A year later Lenin died and Joseph Stalin rose to power as leader of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. All very interesting politically and historically, but also very much intertwined with the archaic weapons still being used in Russia during WWI and throughout the Civil War, the Mosin-Nagant in particular, which was developed during the reign of the Russian Czars and then used to overthrow them.

The Mosin-Nagant design was updated in 1930 and designated M91/30 which was famously used by the Red Army. Among changes was a switch from the hexagonal receivers used on the original rifles to less-labor-intensive and expensive to manufacture round receivers (such as those used on the Gletcher Mosin-Nagant). The bolt is removable just like the actual guns by having an empty magazine (or in the case of the Gletcher with the magazine removed), pulling the bolt to the rear, depressing the trigger, which releases the catch and allows the bolt to be drawn out the back of the receiver. It is replaced the same way, depress the trigger and slide the bolt all the way forward. The seating screw key, which stores in the front of the magazine, provides all the torque needed to seat and pierce the CO2.

Even though the Mosin-Nagant was designed before the turn of the century, it was so well built that, with later improvements in 1930, it remained in use by Soviet troops throughout WWII (rather famously), and well into the late 20th century. Primarily the design of Sergei Mosin, Leon Nagant’s designs were also employed in the bolt action and other parts of the gun when it was manufactured and eventually both men were paid equal sums for the rifle’s development, though neither of their names would be officially tied to it. The Mosin-Nagant label is simply preferred over the military designation “3-Lineyaya Vintovka obr 1891g.” What exactly is 3-Lineyaya? It translates to 3-line, a reference to the caliber, 3-line being 7.62mm.

Gletcher followed the design of the Mosin-Nagant for the M1944 rifle. It is very easy to see how the guns were cut down for the Obrez when compared together (inset).

The rifles employed the Sergei Mosin and Leon Nagant designs for the bolt handle and safety, which was engaged by pulling the cocking piece to the rear and rotating it left, allowing it to hook over the rear of the receiver, a very simple but reliable means of putting the gun on safe with a chambered round. The horizontal position of the turn bolt handle might seem awkward in appearance today, compared to more “elegant” bolt action designs with curved bolt handles that rest against the side of the stock, but Mosin’s design proved remarkably quick to operate in the field.

The seating key fits into an opening in the magazine, which is pictured facing opposite of how it loads to show the recess for the key.

CO2 version

As noted in Part 1, the Gletcher M1891 uses a removable box magazine that holds the CO2 cartridge and a load of 16 BBs. The original M1891 had an integral magazine with 5-rounds fed through the open action using a stripper clip, which was very common at the time. Unlike the Obrez models, which often had the sights removed and were not aimed so much as “pointed”, the Gletcher version uses the ruggedly-designed M1891/30-style sliding tangent rear and hooded front post sights, the /30 indicating the improved version of the M1891.

The magazine has a light follower spring and a locking follower (arrow) to make loading easy. Rather than a loading port in the channel, BBs are inserted though the large firing port one at a time. This is a slow but easy process. An extra magazine or two will make shooting sessions more enjoyable.

The wood-grained stock is synthetic but has a nice appearance and smooth reddish-brown finish. It also has the correct style finger grooves set along the sides of the forend. With an overall weight of 5.6 pounds it is a hefty little gun but an accurate copy of the Obrez variations, right down to the operation of the action, trigger, and the removable bolt. Gletcher has done an excellent job copying this somewhat obscure variation of the gun.

BBs and velocities

Since the Gletcher M1891 was introduced four years ago there have been two developments in .177 caliber BBs, copper-coated lead Smart Shot, which is heavier than steel BBs and thus delivers lower velocities but allows shooting at reactive metal targets, and frangible composite .177 caliber Dust Devils, which are lighter than steel or lead BBs and can be used with metal targets. Neither Smart Shot nor Dust Devils always reliably work in all magazine-fed CO2 pistols and rifles. So, first up is a velocity and function test of Dust Devils in the 16-shot, bolt-action pistol.

For the velocity test I used four different BBs, Remington plated steel, Umarex Precision polished steel, Hornady Black Diamond black anodized coated, and Air Venturi’s frangible composite Dust Devils.

One of the problems Dust Devils have is feeding and with the easy loading of the Gletcher M1891 magazine (through the firing port) light follower spring and the unique angle of the BB feeding column of 45 degrees, function with Dust Devils should be excellent. There were zero failures to feed from the magazine and average velocity was 380 fps.

Next up, I shot Umarex Precision steel BBs which averaged 366 fps. To give some balance to the velocity test I switched my steel BBs to Remington brand plated steel, which delivered an average of 368 fps, and then Hornady Black Diamond black anodized steel BBs which clocked 378 fps average. The factory specs say “average velocity 427 fps” but not with anything I have been able to find.

Not exactly a pistol, nor a carbine, the Obrez was simply a sawed off bolt action rifle that could be a formidable weapon at close range, as they were intended. Heavy, but small enough to be hidden, or with a lanyard attached to the stock and slung over a shoulder, and left resting along the side hidden under a coat. With the Gletcher’s sights (most Obrez had no sights) the gun should prove fairly accurate at air pistol distances out to 30 plus feet.

As a pistol (this is hardly what you could call a carbine without some form of shoulder stock) the Obrez Gletcher model is not a typical BB gun, but with its short barrel, very solid heft, slick bolt action and good sights, at ranges from 21 feet to 10 meters or so, it can keep .177 caliber BBs close enough to make shooting this unique airgun an interesting experience.

In Part 3 we’ll find out just how accurate the Gletcher is and how easy to handle on the range.

Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 1

Sawed-Off Rifles – Mosin-Nagant Part 1

From the Old West, to Prohibition, to the battlefield

By Dennis Adler

Rifles and shotguns that become, shall we say, “less than the sum of their parts” by being converted into unusual pistols or sawed off models present a unique substrata of guns. In the 1860s, percussion shotguns were made with short barrels for use on horseback by the Cavalry, but shotguns of all types were cut down with shorter barrels and stocks cut off behind the wrist to make them smaller and more concealable. Others were made as pistols from the start like the Ithaca-style double barrel in the center. Rifles also were given the barrel and stock cut for much the same reason, but the Winchester made for Steve McQueen’s character bounty hunter Josh Randall is the most famous cut down rifle of all time. At top, the Gletcher M1891 is a CO2 version of the early 20th century Russian Mosin-Nagant field-modified Obrez bolt action pistol.

Continuing on the theme of “Sweet Inspirations” it is safe to say that no one ever asked why you would saw the barrel down and cut the stock off a rifle or a shotgun, because the only people who did it already knew the reason. Most of the time it was either an outlaw or a lawman, and both for the same purpose, to conceal, either in a box or other cover, under a table, or on their person, a small but powerful weapon for use at close range. Sawed off shotguns came first, most prominently during the Civil War for mounted troops, later for lawmen, outlaws, and often mercantile shop and salon owners, especially in boom towns. By the end of the 19th century, sawed off shotguns and rifles were not that uncommon but used far less often than more conventional lever action carbines and short-barrel double guns and pump action shotguns.

Even the famous Springfield Trapdoor Rifle got the pistol cut. General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered Springfield Trapdoor rifles converted into pistols as part of proposed armament for cavalry during the early Western Expansion. Only two large caliber Trapdoor pistols were built, and two small caliber examples. The guns proved unsuitable but inspired a number of copies in the 1870s as well as a few after the turn of the century. In the early to mid 20th century a handful of surplus stocks were found in the inventory of the W. Stokes Kirk gun store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and were used to make a handful of original style Trapdoor Pistols from original rifles, like the example pictured. Both of the original Trapdoor pistols still exist, one in the Springfield Armory museum and the other in the Smithsonian.

Cut down double rifles, as opposed to double barrel shotguns, were something else altogether and were eventually built that way from the start in mid to late 19th century Europe. They were known as a Howdah Pistol. The technical description of a Howdah, as outlined by arms historian Robert J. Maze in his 2002 book Howdah to High Power is that of a “large-caliber (typically rifle caliber) handgun. Multi-barreled designs were initially favored for Howdah pistols because they offered faster reloading than was possible with contemporary revolvers.” They also offered the advantage of significantly larger calibers than a revolver could provide. For hunters in Africa and India the Howdah was regarded as the last line of defense against large game at close range. Although originally intended for use in only the “gravest extremes” during the late 1880s Her Majesty’s Royal Army officers adopted the Howdah pistol as a defensive weapon carried in the many far flung outposts of the British Empire. Staring down the twin barrels of a large bore Howdah was a foreboding sight. This was the same idea Ithaca had with its c.1922 smoothbore double barrel pistol, only for use with 12 ga., .20 ga. and 410 ga. shotgun shells, rather than rifle caliber cartridges.

In the early 20th century, lawmen in the West still found themselves on horseback but with more modern arms like Colt Model 1911 semi-autos and double barrel shotgun pistols like this Ithaca. Small, powerful and very effective at close range, many an outlaw chose to surrender to the double than run the risk of being blown down where they stood. Doubles similar to the Ithaca went as far back as the 1870s, and in Europe the design was known as a Howdah pistol with the guns chambered for large pistol and rifle cartridges.

What you see here is a modern copy of a Howdah style Ithaca shotgun pistol manufactured today in Italy by Pedersoli and based on the actual Ithaca 10-inch barrel length Flues Model break-open pistol introduced in 1922. They were manufactured in the U.S. through 1925 and an improved model was built until 1934. The grip shape is nearly identical including the integrated spur to stabilize the gun in the hand during recoil, (a design seen on many Howdah pistols), a sliding thumb operated safety and break-open lever.

While there were cut down rifles in the Old West, it is unlikely any were as distinctive as Steve McQueen’s Mare’s Laig in Wanted Dead or Alive. There were three different guns made for the series, all handcrafted by Kenny Von Dutch Howard, the third was McQueen’s own gun with an octagonal barrel (shown), which was used in publicity photos but not on the television series, the other two guns had round barrels.

As rifled barrel pistols designed today to fire a .45 Colt cartridge or chamber 410 ga. shotgun shells, the Pedersoli Howdah’s rifled barrel design and use as a cartridge pistol circumvents the federal regulations established in 1934 by the National Firearms Act (NFA). The NFA made ownership of a sawed off shotgun or rifle illegal without federal registration and paying a $200 tax. The retail price for the Ithaca back in the early 1930s was $40 and thus an additional $200 tax and a stack of government paperwork brought an end to production of the model Ithaca called the Auto & Burglar. The Pedersoli has resurrected the design as a handgun in a federally legal version. The original double barrel pistols were smoothbore shotguns, and like the original sawed off shotguns carried over from the Wild West, found a new use in the hands of 1920’s and ’30’s Prohibition and gangland mobsters until the federal government stepped in with the NFA. Ultimately, gangsters still used them and regular folks, who may have kept one at home or in a retail store for protection, either had to break the law to keep them, turn them in, or go through the process of obtaining a permit and paying the tax stamp fee.

There were three different finger lever designs as well, the third (shown) being similar to the other tear drop loop, while the other Mare’s Laig had a much larger “D” loop, which McQueen found harder to handle. The guns were all .44-40 Winchesters with a 6-round magazine. For effect, the studio filled McQueen’s cartridge loops with .45-70 cartridges, which could never have fit in a Model 92.

Sawed off rifles, on the other hand, were a pretty interesting commodity in the Old West, either made by a man with a hacksaw, a gunsmith, or in some cases by companies like Winchester, which called their short barreled lever action rifles the Trapper Model. They came with barrels as short as 12 inches (but with carbine length shoulder stocks). Examples like the cut down barrel and sawn off buttstock Winchester used by Steve McQueen in the television series Wanted Dead or Alive were “based” on real guns from the Old West, but made a bit more visually appealing with the large loop lever (like John Wayne used in the movies) and a custom belt holster so it could be carried on the hip and drawn as fast as a revolver.

The original Mosin-Nagant designed bolt action rifles built in the late 1890s were chambered in 7.62x54mmR with an internal box magazine. The Gletcher CO2 model in .177 caliber uses a removable box magazine that holds 16 steel BBs and the 12 gr. CO2 cartridge. The modified design of the bolt-action rifle cut down to a pistol has a 6 inch smoothbore barrel recessed 4.5 inches from the muzzle.

Now, imagine going back to the early 20th century and finding out that during the Russian Revolution, older Mosin-Nagant bolt action rifles were cut down in much the same fashion and used by Russian dissidents during the October 1917 revolution. Known as an Obrez the guns were mostly modified early Model 1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles with the stocks cut off behind the wrist and barrels shortened to as little as 12 inches, pretty similar to a lever action western rifle only with a cartridge magazine and a bolt action.

One out of three

Of this interesting trio of historic arms, only the Mosin-Nagant pistol has been reproduced as a CO2 model. Frankly, it is almost surprising that this unusual early box magazine, bolt action rifle designed by Russian military officer, Captain Sergei Ivaonvich Mosin and Belgian armsmakers Emile and Leon Nagant, would have been the gun of choice for being cut down. A bolt action pistol is not exactly a fast handling gun. Even more unlikely is that the Mosin-Nagant Obrez would become the basis for an air rifle pistol conversion. The Obrez designs varied from maker to maker with most crudely built and not well finished like the Gletcher Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 CO2 version.

In Russia, the rifles used to make the sawed off pistols were never actually called a Mosin-Nagant. The actual name was 3-Lineyaya Vintovka obr 1891g (3-line rifle, model of 1891). Original rifle production began in 1892 at the Russian ordnance factories at Tula, Izhevk and Sestroryetsk. The Model 1891 and subsequently improved models and variations were used by Russian (and later Soviet) soldiers through WWII, so it became a very famous infantry rifle. They were built in several versions for the Russian Army as a rifle (and sniper rifle), as a carbine and for mounted cavalry as a Dragoon with an even shorter barrel, probably the basis for the Obrez favored by irregular forces and partisans for its easy concealment under clothing. It was also popular with Russian organized crime for the same reason.

The magazine holds the CO2 valve body, 16 steel BBs and the CO2. It fits into the bottom of the magazine well. (It is shown facing the wrong direction to reveal the CO2 and BB loading channel.

This Gletcher model, which comes and goes from the Gletcher line, like the full-size M1944 rifle, is probably one of the most under valued and under rated CO2 models on the market today, and certainly one of the, if not the most unusual pistols ever made.

In Part 2, we will begin a new test of the 1891 pistol chronographing it with different types of steel BBs as well as Dust Devils to see how much performance and accuracy this unusual rifle turned pistol can deliver.

1895 Nagant vs. 1895 Nagant Part 3

1895 Nagant vs. 1895 Nagant Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

The Russian Version of BBs vs. Pellets

By Dennis Adler

The Gletcher Model 1895 Nagant pistols deliver design quality, accuracy in features as well as downrange, and a choice of either a smoothbore BB or rifled barrel version. Gletcher also has a nickel silver version which is a sharp looking gun, but very few, if any were originally nickel plated. The blued guns were, however, sometimes engraved. The Gletcher models open up a variety of possibilities for customizing as well as just being authentic copies of one of the most famous military revolvers in history.

Like the Umarex Colt Peacemakers and the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 double action revolvers, the Gletcher Model 1895 Nagant double actions are a perfect set for BB and pellet-firing cartridges. The Nagant models are also true to their centerfire predecessors with the exception of a manual safety on some of the newer production guns, but even the Peacemakers and Dan Wesson CO2 models are fitted with these added safety mechanisms. And let me digress on that for a moment because there are several reasons for adding manual safeties to air pistols when their centerfire counterparts, except most semi-autos, were never equipped with them.

Adding a manual thumb safety to the Gletcher Model 1895 was perhaps necessary for an air pistol (even Colt Peacemakers and Schofield single action have them fitted), but this is not one of the more elegant applications. Pictured above the latest Gletcher pellet model with manual safety is a WWII era Webley MK IV which was fitted with a crossbolt hammer block safety, a subtle but equally effective means of adding a safety to a centerfire double action military revolver.

First is a pervasive need for manufacturers to explore every option that can prevent them from litigation in the event of an accident, i.e., during a deposition the questions, “Did the airgun have a safety mechanism? Was the safety mechanism properly set prior to the accident?” Yes and yes are the correct answers because we are beyond a time when personal responsibility and common sense are enough. We need backups. In the Old West, a smart cowboy carried his revolver with the hammer resting on an empty chamber. Guns got dropped, they could fall out of a holster unless you had it latched down with a loop around the hammer; your horse might get spooked and you end up getting thrown, and invariably a revolver lands on its hammer; boom. Semi-autos had some form of safety mechanism almost from the onset, or one could do what was in the military manual of operation; not carry the pistol with a round chambered. Personal responsibility was a powerful thing back in the day. Second, while we speak of these air pistols as “adult airguns” there are a lot of younger airgun enthusiasts and with adult supervision a CO2 pistol is a great way to learn gun basics, and the manual safety and observing safety measures should be taught from day one. What better place to begin than learning to set a safety (even if the real guns don’t have them). Safety should always be the first order of training with any gun no matter what it shoots.

Webley was faced with a similar task on versions of its .38 caliber MK IV during the war years and solved the problem by adding a fairly unobtrusive crossbolt safety that blocked the hammer and could be easily set and released with either hand, maintaining the pistol’s ambidextrous handling. It was, of course, a topbreak design, which makes it ambidextrous. This approach might have worked for the Gletcher Nagant and would have looked better.
The Gletcher approach to adding a manual safety on a double action revolver achieves the end goal of blocking the hammer when set (as shown in the lower position), and is about as well placed as it can be for a safety with a lever. It can be set and released with the trigger finger or for left-handed shooters with the thumb. It is easy to operate.

Yes, it is an odd thing for a double action revolver like the Nagant but maybe Webley had a good idea back in the war years with the MK IV crossbolt safety. Honestly the best revolver safety I have seen on a CO2 pistol is the one used on S&W revolvers and the early ASG Dan Wesson models with the S&W-style thumb latch cylinder release. They use the thumb latch as a manual safety by pushing it back. But I said there were three reasons why we see manual safeties on revolvers, and this goes back to the second, and this is endemic in our society. No one wants to take responsibility, so manufacturers have to make it more difficult to be irresponsible.

Four ways to send BBs or pellets downrange; the Gletcher 1895 Nagant pellet model (top) with 4-1/4 inch rifled barrel (shown with Meisterkugeln Professional Line lead wadcutters and H&N Sport Match Green alloy pellets), and smoothbore BB version (shown with Air Venturi Dust Devils frangible BBs and Umarex Precision steel BBs). The BB version can also load the pellet cartridges and fire lead or alloy pellets with surprising accuracy out to 25 feet.

Test loads

The Nagant air pistol cartridges are of two different designs as I noted in Part 2, so there is no 100 percent comparison because pellet-loading shells that have the pellet at the back, where it has the advantage of receiving the full CO2 charge before it heads through the core of the brass shell and into the barrel, where as the BB shells load the BB in the nose where a bullet should be, but the air has already begun to expand before it gets behind the BB and sends it down the barrel. How much difference does this make? In earlier tests, rear-loading shells (BB and pellet) slightly out perform front loading shells. The more interesting shift in the BB vs. pellet equation is going to be lighter grain weight Dust Devils vs. alloy 4.5mm pellets! We are going to run this test four times, steel BBs vs. lead wadcutters, and Dust Devils vs. alloy wadcutters, so all four types can be cross referenced for performance.

The plastic grips do a fine job reproducing the look of the Nagant which used matching inserts at the frontstrap and backstrap to improve the gripping surface. This was well ahead of other handguns for front and backstrap grip design. The left side Gletcher grip panel lifts off to access the CO2 loading channel. There is a small relieved surface at the lower front to and raise the grip panel for removal.

BBs vs. pellets

To test both the BB and pellet models, the target is set at a compromised range of 25 feet, just a bit further than normal for optimum BB accuracy and a little closer for pellets.

Double action trigger pull on the BB Nagant measured a smooth 8 pounds, 5.5 ounces average, and the trigger solidly stages the hammer half way through allowing a very solid hold on target. Single action trigger pull measured a modest 5 pounds, 8 ounces average and again very smooth with no stacking. On the pellet model, double action averaged 9 pounds, 13.5 ounces, solidly staging the hammer half way through, and 5 pounds, 7.5 ounces single action.

With the left grip panel removed, it is easy to see how the CO2 loads in the Nagant. The lanyard loop is the turnkey for seating the CO2 cartridge. The narrow grip profile of the Gletcher Nagant is also the most compact of any CO2 pistol and answers a big question of whether smaller grip-sized revolvers like WWI and WWII era Colt and S&W models could be copied as CO2 pistols. Yes they can, if any manufacturers are willing to step up.

The CO2 cartridge loads into the left side of the grip frame by removing the left panel, which has a discrete notch at the lower edge. The lanyard ring at the base of the grip is attached to the retention screw that seats the CO2 cartridge. Turning the lanyard ring raises the cartridge until it is pierced, making the gun ready to load and fire. With the grips mounted and the lanyard ring turned all the way up it looks absolutely authentic! As for loading, the Nagant is as slow in the 21st century as it was in the 20th. Thumb the loading gate down, rotate the cylinder and load each chamber just like a Colt Peacemaker.

Dust Devils gave high velocity and respectable accuracy at 25 feet, clearing the chronograph’s screens at an average of 407 fps and a best five-shot group measuring 0.56 inches. (All shooting tests were fired single action using a two-handed hold.)

Starting with frangible composite Dust Devils, it is important to know that they are less consistent in size compared to steel BBs (also a fraction smaller) and have to be carefully seated into the nose of the BB cartridge using some type of seating tool (you usually find these with some pellet firing pistols but a small wood dowel works just fine) to make certain they do not fall out (and they do). It is a slower loading process but it does pay off in an average velocity of 407 fps with a high of 420 fps for seven rounds. Umarex Precision steel BBs averaged 385 fps, with a high of 396 fps for seven rounds, so both get downrange at a pretty good clip.

Steel BBs produced an average velocity of 385 fps with a best five-shot group measuring 0.93 inches at 25 feet.

Switching to the Nagant pellet model, Meisterkugeln Professional Line 7.0 gr. lead wadcutters from the rifled barrel delivered an average velocity of 396 fps with a high of 403 fps. Loaded with H&N Sport Match Green alloy wadcutters, average velocity clocked a hasty 454 fps with a high of 467 fps. I also ran the pellet cartridges through the smoothbore BB model loaded with the H&N alloy wadcutters and they clocked an average velocity of 453 fps with a high of 462 fps, so there is almost no difference in velocity between the smoothbore and rifled barrel Nagant models using the same cartridges and alloy pellets. The Nagant Model 1895 pistols deliver high velocity no matter what you load. The final cut will be accuracy.

You can shoot the pellet loading cartridges from the smoothbore BB model Nagant and it will deliver high velocity (with alloy pellets like H&N Sport Match Green 5.25 gr. wadcutters) and more than acceptable accuracy for a smoothbore firing pellets. Average velocity with the H&N was 453 fps with a best five rounds at 1.18 inches.

Accuracy at 25 feet with Dust Devils was very satisfactory, despite the issues with loading them into the nose of the BB cartridges. My best 7-shot group had a spread of 1.68 inches with a best five rounds clustered at 0.56 inches left of the bullseye.

Switching to Umarex steel BBs the next seven rounds at 25 feet punched into 1.24 inches with four hits left of the bullseye (cutting the line between the 9 and 10 rings at 10 o’clock) and three strung together in the red. My best five were a little wider at 0.93 inches. One last run at 25 feet with pellet cartridges firing the 453 fps H&N alloy wadcutters delivered seven hard hitting rounds a little wider but center at 1.725 inches with a best five measuring 1.18 inches. I would definitely invest in a couple of packs of pellet cartridges if I already had the BB model and was happy with it, but still wanted to shoot pellets.

The Nagant pellet model is a more accurate pistol overall and delivers sub 1-inch groups at 25 feet. Meisterkugeln 7.0 gr. lead wadcutters clocked 396 fps average and punched six out of seven rounds into 0.625 inches.

The pellet model Nagant is a tack driver, as might be expected sending seven Meisterkugeln wadcutters into 1.125 inches with six out of seven at 0.625 inches, actually 0.06 inches wider than the Dust Devils at the same 25 foot distance from the BB model but with more overlapping hits.

Best group of the day is owned by the pellet-firing Nagant Model 1895 with H&N 5.25 gr. alloy wadcutters at an average velocity of 454 fps and placing seven rounds at a dime-sized 0.56 inches.

Switching to the higher velocity 5.25 gr. H&N Sport Match Green alloy pellets, the Nagant slammed seven into a dime-sized overlapping spread measuring 0.56 inches, but remember this is at 25 feet not 10 meters. Still, the best group of the day and a final reminder that this is a pair of CO2 models you really want to own.

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.