The Model 1895 Nagant Revolver

The Belgian-Russian Connection

Part 1

The Model 1895 Nagant Revolver goes CO2

By Dennis Adler

Gletcher offers two versions of the legendary Model 1895 Nagant revolver. The original .177 caliber BB version (left) available in matte black or nickel, and the new pellet model (right) with rifled barrel. (Copy of Russian Nagant holster and belt courtesy World War Supply)

Gletcher offers two versions of the legendary Model 1895 Nagant revolver. The original .177 caliber BB version (left) available in matte black or nickel, and the new pellet model (right) with rifled barrel. (Copy of Russian Nagant holster and belt courtesy World War Supply)

There is an almost inexplicable attraction to early military revolvers and semi-automatic pistols that has not diminished with the passing of years. Aside form the Colt Model 1911, most are of foreign origin and you can count them on one hand; the German Mauser Broomhandle, Luger P.08 Parabellum and Walther P.38, the British Empire’s venerated .455 caliber Webley Mk VI revolver, and the Belgian Nagant 7-shot revolver carried by Russian soldiers in two World Wars. The amazing thing is that they are all available today as .177 caliber CO2 airguns with virtually every feature accurately reproduced!

The Gletcher Nagant airguns fit original and reproduction Nagant holsters. The BB and pellet cartridge loading revolvers carry seven rounds.

The Gletcher Nagant airguns fit original and reproduction Nagant holsters. The BB and pellet cartridge loading revolvers carry seven rounds.

Instantly recognizable, the Model 1895 Nagant became a staple of Russian cinema for nearly a century beginning with the 1928 B&W silent film Storm over Asia. The Nagant has also appeared in a number of noteworthy American films like Dr. Zhivago. Putting the gun into an even more contemporary setting, Robert Downey, Jr. carried one as Sherlock Holmes in the 2009 film, and currently actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes uses a Nagant in the popular British TV series. However, the 1895 Nagant revolver is perhaps better known to American collectors of WWI and WWII era European arms. Originally built in Belgium, it was one of the most advanced designs of the late 19th century. It was designed by brothers Leon and Emile Nagant and manufactured at their armory Fabrique d’Armes et Leon Nagant in Liege. The 7.62mm 7-shot gas-seal Nagant revolver was adopted in 1895 as the standard issue handgun for the Russian Army and was so highly regarded by the military that Russia purchased the patent rights and began manufacturing the Nagant revolvers at the Tula, Sestroryetsk and Izhevsk arsenals. Production continued until 1945 and even after the war the guns were still carried by Russian police and the infamous KGB (along with the 1930’s era Tokarev TT and TT-33 semi-autos).

The original-style Nagant holster from World War Supply has a sewn in cartridge pouch that can hold seven additional BB or pellet cartridges.

The original-style Nagant holster from World War Supply has a sewn in cartridge pouch that can hold seven additional BB or pellet cartridges.

The mettle of their metal    

            In recreating these historic handguns as air pistols Gletcher, which offers two versions of the Model 1895 Nagant revolver, a cartridge-loading BB pistol and cartridge-loading pellet model with rifled barrel, eschews the use of plastics in building the airguns by casting all metal components to provide durability, accurate styling, and the proper weight and methods of operation. In addition to the M1895 pistol, Gletcher also makes an authentic reproduction of the WWII pattern Mosin-Nagant Model 1944 rifle and a sawed off Model 1891 rifle version. The Gletcher air pistols reproduce nearly all of the original features and the revolver is a true, double action, single action pistol designed for solid handling and downrange accuracy.

Gletcher offers two finishes, a finely polished silver nickel or black matte; both are available in BB or pellet versions. The company, which specializes in Russian models with its Russian Legends series, went to great lengths to get the details right. The original 1895 Nagant was a well thought out design, so duplicating some of its more esoteric characteristics makes this gun a real gem for vintage arms collectors who like to dabble in non-cartridge firing doppelgangers, and they don’t get much closer to the real thing than Gletcher’s Nagant. First off, there is the frame and grip design, distinctive to the Belgian-made pistol. Gletcher has it right down to the fine points including the design and operation of the loading gate, a locking, swiveling ejector rod, and removable cylinder pin. Like the original Model 1895, the Gletcher’s cylinder can be removed by withdrawing the ejector rod, pulling the cylinder pin and rolling the cylinder out of the frame.

Another authentic feature is the detachable cylinder pin which allows removing the cylinder from the solid frame revolver for cleaning.

Another authentic feature is the detachable cylinder pin which allows removing the cylinder from the solid frame revolver for cleaning.

Even though the Gletcher’s grip panels are plastic, they have the same diamond pattern checkering and front and backstrap insert panels. The gun’s distinctive crescent front and notched rear sight, cylinder flutes and bolt locks have been authentically duplicated. In weight and balance, the 7.62X38R caliber Model 1895 Nagant was a medium sized, solid frame revolver weighing just 28 ounces (empty), with an overall length of 9.4 inches including the standard 5-1/2 inch barrel (shorter barrel length guns were also made). The Gletcher airguns tip the scale at 28 ounces (empty) and have an overall length of 9.4 inches with a 5-1/2 inch barrel. Spot on. And as can be seen in the accompanying photographs the airgun fits all original and reproduction 1895 Nagant holsters!

6. The new pellet Model 1895 Nagant revolver is not only a sharp looking gun in nickel, but with its rifled barrel very accurate out to 10 meters.


The new pellet Model 1895 Nagant revolver is not only a sharp looking gun in nickel, but with its rifled barrel very accurate out to 10 meters. For the pellet model only, the pellets load into the back of the cartridge where a primer would usually be placed.

BBs vs. pellets

To test both the BB and pellet models, the target was set out at a range of 21 feet and shots were fired both single and double action. Trigger pull measured a smooth 10 pounds 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, 9 ounces average. The sights are easy to align and large enough to pick up in most lighting situations particularly with the nickel finished model. It is a very easy gun to shoot. As for loading… the Nagant is as slow in the 21st century as it was in the 19th. Thumb the loading gate down, rotate the cylinder and load each chamber. To reload, you really don’t need to use the ejector unless you are a stickler for following through on every detail. The spent brass BB or pellet cartridges easily slip out of the chamber as you rotate it. No gun powder, no case expansion, no fouling, so no resistance.

Although it is not necessary to use the Nagant’s unusual ejector system with the cartridge-loading airguns, the original design has been duplicated by Gletcher and is fully functional.

Although it is not necessary to use the Nagant’s unusual ejector system with the cartridge-loading airguns, the original design has been duplicated by Gletcher and is fully functional.

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 front edge. The authentic 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. And when it is turned all the way up the ring looks absolutely authentic!

The CO2 cartridge loads into the left side of the grip frame by removing the left grip panel. The lanyard ring is used to screw the CO2 cartridge into the grip until it is pierced.

The CO2 cartridge loads into the left side of the grip frame by removing the left grip panel. The lanyard ring is used to screw the CO2 cartridge into the grip until it is pierced.

Accuracy at 7 yards (21 feet) was a best seven at 1.7 inches with the BB gun using Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs. The pellet model with its rifled barrel was loaded with RWS Meisterkugeln 4.5mm lead pellets. Accuracy with the pellet gun was an impressive seven round group of 0.75 inches. Average velocity was 410 fps with the Meisterkugeln 4.5mm lead pellets and 390 fps with the Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs.

The author test fired the Nagant revolvers from a test distance of 21 feet.

The author test fired the Nagant revolvers from a test distance of 21 feet.

While I have liked the BB model since it was first introduced, the pellet version with rifled barrel is a tack driver of an air pistol and an honest 10 meter airgun for pistol shooting. If you’re a fan of vintage military small arms, the Gletcher Nagant is a keeper.

Best group with the Nagant pellet model from 21 feet measured 0.75 inches.

Best group with the Nagant pellet model from 21 feet measured 0.75 inches.

In Part 2 we delve further into the past to test the Gletcher Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 sawed-off rifle.

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