by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Unique design
- Unique firearm cartridge
- Loading gate
- It disassembles!
- Cult status
Today, we’ll start our look at Gletcher’s Nagant CO2 BB revolver. This lookalike BB gun comes in both black and silver finishes, with a $30 premium for the silver. It’s a 7-shot solid-frame revolver whose prototype firearm (the Russian 1895 Nagant) was designed in the 19th century — so there are some differences from today’s standard handguns.
For starters, the Nagant revolver pushes the cylinder forward to mate with the rear of the barrel for less gas loss at firing. The BB gun replica only simulates that with a spring-loaded barrel that moves in and out as the cylinder turns — but don’t fret. That function on the firearm made the double-action trigger-pull very heavy! The BB-gun trigger is light.
Unique firearm cartridge
The Nagant cartridge is a 7.62X38mm rimmed cartridge. The brass case contains the bullet deep inside. From the side, it appears to be a wadcutter round or even empty. When the cylinder goes forward, the brass neck of the cartridge enters the rear of the barrel, where it expands upon firing, sealing the gas and giving higher velocity than a similar cartridge fired in a revolver with a standard cylinder gap. The gas sealing design meant the Nagant could use a silencer effectively because there isn’t any gas escaping at the cylinder gap. The BB gun cannot duplicate this function even if the cartridges were long enough, because CO2 doesn’t provide the same pressure as gunpowder.
The revolver came in 2 basic models — a double-action officer’s model after which the Gletcher BB gun is modeled and a single-action enlisted-man’s revolver. Most of the single-action guns were later converted to double-action operation, anyway, so this BB gun is very representative.
The handgun weighs just less than 2 lbs., which is close to the weight of the firearm. The trigger-pull is easier than the one on the firearm, and I’ll measure that for you in the next report.
Because of the long cartridges, Nagant revolvers have to be loaded one cartridge at a time through a loading gate on the right side of the receiver. This is more for their extraction and ejection than for loading because the cartridges are actually no longer than the cylinder. But getting one out after it has been fired takes a long push.
Because of the loading gate, the cylinder does not swing to the side as do the cylinders of many solid frame double-action revolvers. To eject the cartridges one at a time, you push in the ejector rod while turning it clockwise (from the shooter’s perspective). Then pull it forward and swing it to the right side of the gun. Theoretically, it pushes each fired cartridge out of the cylinder. In reality, the cartridges from this BB gun simply drop out on their own when the cylinder is turned to align them with the loading gate because they do not expand when fired. The ejector rod is just there to add realism.
BBs are loaded into the front of each cartridge. They sit in a plastic sleeve until smacked by a blast of CO2 gas.
The specs say this BB gun delivers a 5.1-grain steel BB out the muzzle at 328 f.p.s. That’s moderate enough to give a good shot count. I’m thinking it will be in the 70-80 full-power shots, at least. Of course, I’ll test that in Part 2.
I asked for the black gun because I don’t like silver guns. I don’t believe there were any original nickel-plated Nagants. This one looks like the original, which is exactly what I want in a lookalike BB gun.
The CO2 cartridge is stored inside the grip. The piercing screw head is cleverly disguised as the lanyard loop that’s found on the firearm.
The grip panels are checkered plastic. They appear very similar to the wooden panels on the firearm. The sights are a fixed post up front and a notch in the frame at the rear. The only provision the firearm sights have for adjustment is by drifting the front sight sideways in its dovetailed slot. On the BB gun, the sights do not move.
Disassembly is quick and easy. Rather than tell you about it, I prepared a short vodeo that explains the steps shown in the owner’s manual.
Russians love their Nagant revolvers. Communist Party members of the 1930s were sometimes presented with a special revolver that had a red star embossed on it. Although this revolver was replaced by the Tokarev pistol in 1933, production continued for many more years. The last organization to officially use the Nagant was the Russian Federation’s bailiff security service, which retired it in 2009!
This revolver is different than the Mosin Nagant rifle we looked at a few weeks back. There’s nothing strange about this gun. It mimics the firearm it copies as closely as possible. If it also shoots well, we’ll have a winner.