Tokarev TT-33, Makarov PM1951 and Grach MR-443

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

As I said in Tuesday’s article, I went a little over the top on antiquing the TT-33 so I pulled it back by redoing the finish to a standard condition of 30% as shown in the Blue Book of Gun Values Photo Percentage Grading Scale. It looks like a well used, finish worn WWII pistol. It is matched with an equally antiqued TT-33 holster from World War Supply. The Tokarev was used by Russian soldiers, police and the KGB for almost two decades giving way to the Makarov PM 1951, which wasn’t really that much of a step forward, as it was just a new gun.

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 PM 1951 was smaller, fired a larger caliber round but was actually a step back in design by using a heel mounted magazine release, while the much older TT-33 had used a frame mounted release.

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.

Nikolay Makarov found most of his inspiration for the PM 1951 in the c.1929 Walther PP. The PM 1951 disassembled exactly the same way (pulling down on the triggerguard and then drawing the slide to the rear, up and forward off the barrel and frame). The excellent CO2 version by Gletcher (and Umarex) is built exactly the same and also fieldstrips the same. A true blowback action design, the Makarov had the barrel affixed to the frame and surrounded by the recoil spring. This was a push for a pistol chambered in 9x18mm (a slightly larger bullet diameter than a .380 ACP). Pyramyd Air sells the Umarex Makarov Ultra version.

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.

The Walther PP and PPK had the magazine release on the frame behind the triggerguard, as did the Tokarev TT-33. Makarov reverted to the more traditional European style of magazine release on the heel of the pistol grip, which is odd since he had copied so much of the Walther design.

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.

The slide locks back on an empty magazine and the release drops the slide with authority on the reload. This is a fairly heavy recoiling pistol for a CO2 model. The thumb safety is easy to operate.

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.

Gletcher has done a great job of minimizing verbiage on the PM 1951 which is all maintained on the right side of the slide and frame. The pistol has a 3.75 inch barrel with an internal smoothbore barrel recessed 0.25 inches from the muzzle.

My first 16-round target had a total spread (on a National 10 meter air pistol target) of 1.25 inches with several rounds closely grouped at 0.5 inches.

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.

I had a best target consisting of 10 shots almost in one ragged tear measuring 0.687 inches, at which point I called it a day! The Gletcher PM 1951 Makarov is one of the better blowback action CO2 models and one of the Gletcher Russian Legends Series. It is also available in the Umarex Legends Series as the Makarov Ultra.

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.”

[1] Pyramyd Air sells the Umarex Makarov Ultra version which is the same as the Gletcher except for using an external CO2 seating key.

4 thoughts on “Tokarev TT-33, Makarov PM1951 and Grach MR-443

  1. The Umarex Makarov Ultra is one of my favorite pocket style airguns, along with the Beretta 84 . Both put the Walther PPk/s to shame. Mine both hit around 340-350 fps, and chew the black out of the bullseye. The Makarov has snappy recoil to boot. The only flaws are the co2 key and not a true da /sa trigger. The technology is there for both. The profile of the Umarex pistol is closer to the actual pistol than the Gletcher. Would be nice to see more pocket pistols of this type




    • It varies. I actually got an almost stunning color case look after polishing and just applying a heavy coat of Perma Blue. Not what I was looking for on the TT-33 but if I had been doing a frame on a Colt Single Action I would have been thrilled. Oil would change it. So I’m not sure how it works because there are a lot of variables. I have watched actually bone charcoal color case hardening done at Colt’s and this is not as predictable as the real process, especially on polished alloy. Fun to experiment though.


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