Tokarev TT-33, Makarov PM1951, and Grach MR-443
“The Gun That Came in From the Cold” Makarov’s PM 1951 Part 2, Part 1
By Dennis Adler
Before I get into today’s review of the Makarov PM1951, I want to go over the Tokarev TT-33 one last time. After Tuesday’s article I went back and refinished the antiquing a second time on the Gletcher TT-33, this time with a specific goal in mind, something a little less beaten and more just field worn, so I eliminated the stains (re-polished the frame) and reblued and rubbed the finish out to what the Blue Book of Gun Values considers a 40% condition factor on the Photo Percentage Grading Scale (PPGS). It would actually be closer to 30% were it not for the good condition of the grips and lack of pitting in the finish. This is a nice look for a WWII-era service pistol. So this first photo is the final effort to achieve that look. Again, 0000 steel wool to polish out the factory finish, down to the alloy in most areas, and then coats of Birchwood Casey Perma Blue applied liberally with cotton patches, rubbed dark, then lightly brushed again with the steel wool, more bluing, polishing and then gun oil to stop the action and preserve the final look. It is a basic formula that anyone can adapt and alter to their personal preferences. This time I was going for a finish similar to the photo in the Blue Book PPGS. The Gletcher now has official prop gun status!
The fate of the TT-33 as a military arm in the USSR
We know that some gun designs are timeless like the Colt Model 1911 and Walther PPK, and for others time runs out, and even though they may remain “timeless” like a Broomhandle Mauser, for many, like the Tokarev TT-33, production comes to an end. In the 1950s, this was to be the fate of the TT-33, from favored sidearm to backstreet shops and battlefield finds, from fine military holsters to being tucked behind someone’s back. What followed the Tokarev was another gun with its fundamental design tied to someone else’s work. As Fedor Vasilevich Tokarev had been inspired by John M. Browning, Nikolay Makarov would find his inspiration in the works of Carl Walther.
The PM 1951 was originally issued to Soviet officers during what we look back upon today as the “Cold War Era” when the U.S. and Russia began a chilly and dangerous game (much again like today), the stuff of which novels, movies and television series have been based upon for decades. In 1951, the old but well used Tokarev TT-33 bowed to a shiny new player, the Pistolet Makarova.
As influences of John Browning designs were evident in the Tokarev, it was equally easy to recognize traces of the Walther PP and PPK design in Makarov’s new semi-auto. Interestingly, the Walther PP was actually a year older in design than the Tokarev, yet still appeared relatively modern in 1951 compared to the TT-30 and TT-33. The Walther influences are evident in the PM 1951’s slide design, blowback action and a fixed frame-mounted barrel surrounded by a large recoil spring. Makarov actually had some rather archaic ideas, and in some ways the PM 1951 was a step backward in that it resorted to the slower and more difficult to operate heel mounted magazine release. This was a severe handicap to an expeditious reload in the field.
Like the Tokarev, the PM 1951 also used an 8-round single stack magazine but was chambered in 9x18mm Makarov (a slightly larger bullet diameter than a 9x17mm or .380 ACP) and was a more powerful handgun than the old 7.62x25mm Tokarev. It was also a double action/single action design with the safety also de-cocking the gun when set. This was a big selling feature.
Makarov’s design for the manual safety on the left side of the frame was a significant improvement over the TT-33’s safety mechanism, and the gun was easier to grasp overall due to its contoured grip design (again a lot like a Walther PP). Makarov’s design, however, had been only one among several submitted to replace the Tokarev. His was ultimately deemed the best to meet the demands of the postwar Soviet military and the KGB. It was first issued in 1951 overlapping the remaining TT-33s in service and was the Soviet Union’s primary military sidearm until the early 1990s and the next legendary Russian handgun of the mid 20th Century.
Gletcher’s PM 1951
From the get go the Gletcher has one fatal accuracy flaw; it uses a single action trigger system with a double action length of pull instead of a correct double action/single action trigger. Of course, this is only relevant if you want to fire the first shot double action (hammer de-cocked). After the first shot, the PM 1951 is a single action gun.
The Gletcher PM 1951 uses an authentic blowback action like the original gun which adds even more authenticity to shooting this air pistol. Lastly, it works with self-contained 16-shot CO2 and BB magazines to provide more realistic handling when reloading and chambering the first round. The magazine’s weight also helps center the gun in the hand and improve the pistol’s balance. With an average velocity for the PM 1951 of 329 fps, this is a very smooth and fast shooting airgun. Despite the long pull, trigger press is an exceptional 4 pounds 14 ounces average. It may be wrong for the design, but it is one of the smoothest air pistol triggers around, which adds to the PM 1951’s impressive accuracy.
The safety clicks on and off with authority and the slide release feels exactly like one on a centerfire handgun, slamming the slide into battery. Even though the original-style Makarov sights are hard to acquire, the gun is steady in the hand, and the smoothbore barrel delivers better accuracy than some short barreled pellet models with rifled barrels. At a test distance of 21 feet firing offhand using a two-handed hold, my first target placed 16 shots into 1.25 inches with several tight groups of three and four rounds at 0.5 inches. My last target (who has a best target and keeps shooting?) was a nearly picture perfect 10 shots with all but two in one ragged tear, measuring 0.687 inches, the best I have ever done with the Gletcher PM 1951. It might not be 100 percent accurate in details but it is 100 percent accurate at 21 feet.
If you are an enthusiast of Cold War era guns, then this classic Soviet pistol from the 1950s is well worth adding to your collection. Saturday we begin our first look at the one of the latest Russian military handguns, the Grach MR-443 “Pistolet Yarygina.”
 Pyramyd Air sells the Umarex Makarov Ultra version which is the same as the Gletcher except for using an external CO2 seating key.