Tokarev TT-33, Makarov PM 1951 and Grach MR-443
By Dennis Adler
Times change, gun designs change, even nations change, but there are always a few constants, and when it comes to Russian guns, one constant is adopting existing technology to build a new model. From the John M. Browning inspired Tokarev, to the Walther inspired Makarov, to the present day Grach 9x19mm Russian military sidearm. Each successive Russian handgun since the TT-33 has used a more powerful cartridge; each has employed established internal designs and operating systems from other guns, however, the Grach, also referred to as the PY (Pistolet Yarygina) and MR-433, is a very modern looking and handling gun compared to its long-lived predecessors. The Gletcher version is again a very accurate copy of the models carried by Russian soldiers, police and the Federal Security Service (FSB). The FSB is the successor to the KGB, which was dissolved in November 1991 along with the Soviet Union a month later, the nation becoming known once again as Russia. The KGB was first replaced by the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service (FSK), which was reorganized into the FSB in 1995; a lot of acronyms but all amounting to the same things for the new Russian Federation, their version of the CIA.
Enter the Grach
Back in 1993, the Russian Federation sought a replacement for the aging Makarov pistols; the program was codenamed “Grach” and thus the name of the gun. It took years to find a suitable model that would meet all of the contemporary standards of the Russian military and the FSK. Several designs were submitted including one by Russian arms designer Vladimir Yarygin from the famed Izhmech armory (which also built the PM 1951). His was the most modern and advanced in design.
I know I have been casting aspersions throughout this series that Russian arms designers copied other guns, but in truth all armsmakers have an influence on one another, the Russians just seem to be more obvious in their choices, even with the Grach. By 2003 when it was adopted as the standard issue military pistol, just about every modern 9mm semi-auto military pistol in use looked similar, with the exception of Colt Model 1911s; once again a confluence of technology had driven designs toward a commonality of features. Look at the Grach and there are obvious influences of CZ-75 and Browning Hi-Power, the latter a design dating back to the era of the Tokarev! Remember what I said earlier about timeless guns.
Today, 14 years after the Grach was integrated into the Russian military, the pistol’s design falls a little short of many later semi-autos from FN, Glock, Sig Sauer, Heckler & Koch, and even CZ by not having an integral accessory rail on the frame. It is also a hammer-fired gun while the trend is leaning more toward striker-fired designs. But let’s look at what Vladimir Yarygin and Izhmech got right with the MR-433 and that Gletcher has capably reproduced in its .177 caliber model.
This is a big handgun comparable in size and weight to an HK USP, Beretta 92A1, a Sig Sauer P226, and obviously a CZ-75 and a Browning Hi-Power. The Gletcher Grach is no lightweight airgun either, tipping the scales at 34 ounces (with empty magazine).
The hammer-fired 9x19mm Grach uses a double stack magazine with a capacity of 18 rounds. The CO2 model loads 18 steel BBs. Like the centerfire pistol the .177 caliber Grach is all metal construction (steel frame and slide on the 9x19mm, cast alloy for the CO2 model) and both have a military black matte finish.
The Grach uses a short-recoil, locked-breech design and is similar to the Czech CZ-75 internally, with a modified Browning Hi-Power-style locking of the barrel’s breech block to the slide. The Gletcher model follows the lines but not the exact same operation (like the Sig Sauer P226 CO2 models, which have actual short-recoil, locked-breech actions with tilting barrels). The Gletcher uses a simpler blowback action air pistol mechanism without blowback action, although the slide works and locks back. There is also no exposed breech when the slide is open. It does use a double action/single action trigger and the same style elongated slide release and ambidextrous thumb safeties. Lastly, the airgun has the same fixed sights as the centerfire model with three white dots.
The gun’s squared design and common dimensions, an overall length of 7.75 inches (with a 4.4 inch barrel, 4.5 inch on the airgun), height of 5.50 inches; slide width of 1-inch and overall width of 1.20 inches, make it suitable for any number of holsters including those designed for the Sig Sauer P226.
In the conclusion to the Grach next Tuesday I will test the gun for handling ease, reloading, and accuracy.