by B.B. Pelletier

I dislike that phrase because it sends the message that airguns AREN’T real! I know what it means. Sometimes, though, a company will make an airgun FROM a firearm, and then there is no debate. It IS a real gun, whether using air or gunpowder. Such was the case a few years ago with the Russian Makrov BB pistol.

The Makarov BB pistol was made from a real 9x18mm firearm.

This Bulgarian Makarov looks and
feels very similar to the BB gun shown above.

Sold here at Pyramyd Air
Back in the late 1990s, Baikal started converting Makrov pistols to use CO2 powerlets and fire lead BBs. They used actual handguns as a starting point! EAA imported them. While they were available, you could buy them right here at Pyramyd Air. I believe they were made for U.S consumption only and did not go to other countries, however I have no solid evidence of that.

The guns came in the same rough pasteboard boxes as the Russian Makrov firearm. The BB gun came with the cleaning rod, a set of replacement seals, a combination tool for disassembly, the instruction manual and a small packet of steel BBs. However, the BBs were incorrect for the pistol’s rifled barrel! It was made to shoot .177 lead balls that are still available today. If you happen to run across one of these airguns, DON’T shoot BBs in it! EAA apparently requested the Russians to pack the BBs without knowing or caring that they would destroy the barrel.

Seen side-by-side with a 9×18 Makarov firearm, the resemblance is uncanny. The size and weight are identical. The BB gun has more metal removed from the slide, but its heavier steel magazine, which doubles as the firing valve, balances that. Russian Makarovs usually have adjustable rear sights, but Baikal put a non-adjustable rear sight on the BB pistol.

Very powerful!
Velocity with the correct lead ball ammo runs in the 400 f.p.s. range, so steel BBs would come out at 500 or more. Another reason to avoid steel BBS: bounce-backs could be quite dangerous! Lead won’t bounce (although it does fragment and shatter, causing some pieces to occasionally fly back), so it’s much safer.

Same firing mechanism, but some differences
I notice there are some parts differences between the BB gun and the firearm. The nice, predictable two-stage double-action pull on my Bulgarian Makarov is lighter but otherwise the same on the BB gun. However, in single-action, the Bulgarian firearm has a crisp letoff, while the BB gun has LOTS of creep and travel!

Diasassembly stays the same
If there is an easier handgun to disassemble for cleaning, I haven’t found it yet. The Makarov copies Walther’s famous PP/PPK by dropping the triggerguard and pulling back and up on the slide to disengage from the frame. By comparison, a Colt M1911 is twice as difficult, and most shooters find it easy!

Importation stopped by ATF
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (now BATF&E) stopped importation of the Makarov BB gun because it is possible to turn it back into a firearm with the right parts. Never mind that the parts are not easily available; that still makes the BB gun frame a firearm, so they stopped them. When they were available for sale, they went for around $100. With the scarcity created by the embargo, you might have to pay more for one, if you can find one.