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Education / Training Russian TOZ-35M free pistol: Part One

Russian TOZ-35M free pistol: Part One

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Tula Arsenal
  • The action
  • Set the trigger
  • What is free pistol?
  • Whaddaya get?
  • The grips!
  • Question?
  • BB’s next task
  • Summary

This will be a different sort of report. A couple weeks back I was discussing the rough-looking stock of the MP532 Russian target air rifle and I happened to show a photo of a Russian TOZ-35M free pistol. To get that photo I went to Gun Broker where I discovered that there are now hundreds of these Russian free pistols on the market and the price is pretty much in the cellar. I remember lusting after one years ago when they were selling for more than twice what they bring today. And since I’m a sucker for accurate pistols, I bought one.

TOZ M-35 Russian free pistol.

Tula Arsenal

The TOZ-35M was made at the Tula Arms Plant (also called Tula Arsenal) that was founded in 1712 by Czar Peter 1. Production of the pistol began in 1961. The pistol I bought came with a production certificate that says it was manufactured on November 5, 1988 — 31 years ago tomorrow.

The action

This pistol’s action has a Martini-type dropping breechblock that most modern free pistols incorporate. The front of the block drops down, exposing the breech and giving the shooter a ramp to conveniently load one .22 long rifle cartridge into the chamber. A lever at the bottom of the grip is pushed forward to make this happen. Push the lever a little farther and the action is cocked. When this is done the extractor pulls the fired cartridge, if there is one, out of the chamber. Then pull the lever all the way back and the extractor goes back to the breech and the breechblock rises in the front, sealing the breech for firing.

Set the trigger

The action is cocked but the gun will not fire until the trigger is set. That’s done by a separate lever on the left side of the frame. Push it down to set the trigger. It is single-stage — or at least it is so light that I cannot feel a first stage, which is also the case with my Haemmerli 100 free pistol.

Once the trigger is set the pistol is ready to fire. The trigger pull can be set as light as 20 grams, which is 25 times lighter than the 500-gram minimum that a 10-meter target air pistol is allowed to have.

What is free pistol?

Free pistol is a sport of bullseye target shooting where the pistol is relatively free from regulations. The grip cannot completely wrap around the shooter’s hand (but they come pretty close), no optical sights are permitted and it is a one-handed shooting sport. The caliber is .22 long rifle and the distance is 50 meters.

I gave you a small look at free pistol when I tested the Hammerli 100 free pistol three years ago. Well, that gun broke my heart. It won’t chamber most .22 long rifle rounds and the accuracy I got from it (2.5 inches at 50 yards) was mediocre. I’m sure it has a extra-tight chamber for some Olympic ammo that was probably popular in 1955, but since I don’t own a time machine or a DeLorean and a flux capacitor to make one, I can’t get any. That’s another reason this Soviet Sweetie caught my eye. Knowing the Russians are very pragmatic when it comes to competing and winning, I’m believing the TOZ-35M will digest most .22 rounds.

Whaddaya get?

This is the cool part. When you buy one of these in excellent condition (that means brand new) it comes in a fitted case made of Russian birch.

TOZ 35M case
TOZ M-35 Russian free pistol case.

Inside the case is a gun lover’s world of fascination. A shooter’s busy box!

TOZ 35M case open
This is what comes with the gun. There’s a manual and certification record, a cleaning rod and separate handle, brushes and mops to clean the barrel, tools for disassembly, an oil bottle and other stuff.

TOZ 35M case detail
Here you see the white handle for the cleaning rod that’s in the box lid, the black oil bottle on the right, The brushes, cleaning rod parts and pin punches for disassembly. And the lump of waxed paper on the right…

TOZ 35M case wood parts box
… contains a wooden box that has a small package of waxed paper inside.

TOZ 35M parts
Inside that waxed paper we find a firing pin, a couple springs, a couple front sight inserts, a rear sight insert and perhaps a thingamajig!

You have to appreciate a gun that comes with all this stuff. It’s as if they expect you to shoot the pistol a lot and also to service it for the rest of your life.

The grips!

Okay — time for the drum roll. The grips are a trifle unfinished as they come to you — as if they were just cut from a fence post. There is a right grip panel, a left grip panel and a palm shelf. But when you get them they look like enough firewood for a long winter’s nap!

TOZ-35M right
The TOZ-M35 right profile.

TOZ 35M left
The TOZ-35M left profile.

TOZ-35M grips rear
And there is the gun viewed from the rear. The palm shelf is to the right.


One thing stands out when you look at the pistol. Why did they finish the forearm and leave the grips raw? I think a production manager at Tula looked at the gun and figured the forearm is three minutes on a belt sander, followed by a coat of shellac, while the grips are a project for someone serving 20-to-life in the gulag. One thing this almost guarantees is that the grips won’t ever match it.

BB’s next task

So, old BB Pelletier, whose woodworking skills approach those of a deceased beaver, has to turn these blocks of timber into grips he can hold. No problem! Just remove everything that doesn’t look like an Olympic free pistol grip. Should be easy.

Oh, I have a secret or two up my sleeve! I would have to — right? Otherwise, as the Gingerbread Man said in Shrek II, I would be up Chocolate Creek without a popsicle stick!


This report may turn out to be the longest unfinished one in the history of this blog. It sure looks like it at this point! Stay tuned, but don’t forget to have a life, too.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

45 thoughts on “Russian TOZ-35M free pistol: Part One”

  1. B.B.,

    Now that to is a block of wood. Is there a way for you to test the accuracy of this pistol without modifying the grips first? Is that what you meant by being an unfinished blog? There must be some way to test it. Like putting it in an adapter for a Ransom Rest?


  2. B.B.,

    Congratulations on your new acquisition. On the grip(s),…. I would not know where to start. I would have thought that they would have been “roughed in” a bit more,.. at least getting you in the ball park to start with. Will you try to copy a picture or do you have a pistol on hand that will act as a hard copy?

    Good Day to you and to all,…….. Chris

  3. BB,

    Now that’s rough.

    Over the years I have seen free pistols here and there. The grips look like something Vana2 would dream up. You do not hold this pistol, you put it on. My Izzy grip is almost like that. When I pick it up, the grip supports it in my hand. My fingers and thumb hardly touch it.

    It will be interesting to see what you do with that piece of firewood.

  4. Small Dremel tools are your friend! At least you don’t have to worry about making it look “purdy” when your done. Oh and you might want to check your supply of wood putty for the wooops moments.Also, I don’t know about you but I would have to have a goodly stash of band-aids and butterflies.Final sanding will remove most of the blood stains.

  5. Derrick,

    At the price the set of grips will cost ($375 S&H not included), I think it will be safe to say that Tom will let his inner beaver loose first before he swipes his Visa card.


  6. BB,
    Is there enough wood in the right places to make a left handed grip? I don’t want a free pistol grip, but more of a sporter pistol ambidextrous grip.


    David Enoch

  7. BB ,

    I really like how they include a cleaning kit and spare parts . The spare striker and springs are nice , definitely be needed by a serious competitor. Even if you can’t repair the pistol at least you have the parts for a gunsmith to install . I believe this is due to IZH being a Military Arsenal , don’t see this with production guns , the accounting department would have a fit over giving away parts !!

  8. BB ,

    You are correct 2 different arsenals . I am so used to IZH from all the 46m guns I reseal , just did one Friday ! . My friend has a 1953 SKS from the Tula Arsenal , very nice quality .

    • Gene,

      No problemo! I made the same mistake myself when drafting this report and was fortunate enough to check it online before the report published. I also have a Tula SKS and indeed, it is a very nice weapon. Mine is all milled like your friend’s, which makes for smooth operation.


  9. I feel so bad at times B.B. This is one of the few blogs I read on a daily basis, yet between work and bringing up two teenage boy by myself I just don’t find enough time to respond to the few blogs I read.
    But we are still shooting lots…a mix of air in our basement range and powder. Am hugely enjoying my Pedersoli Sharps Cavalry Carbine (45-70) I purchased a year ago and my youngest son (16) recently bought himself a Henry 30-30 brass with octagonal barrel. My oldest just bought 2 weeks ago a Ithaca (a rebranded Tika) in triple duece (.222) so we are now in the process of setting up and learning how to reload. Don’t know U.S. pricing but in Canada box of (20) 45-70 sets me back about $60…OUCH!!
    So keep it coming…I read every day, and though I don’t get to respond as much this is still the best part of my day on the internet.

  10. B.B.,

    You have the formed and puttied Hämmerli 100 to guide you. You get to decide what wood to remove and slowly approach the perfect handshake with your pistol. You have the chance to make this lovely group of wood blocks into a dream grip. May the spirit of Free Pistol shooting guide your every decision.

    You can get this done and done well,


  11. So now you are the Commissar of Airguns.

    I was reading in your article about Super-tuning the R1,that you didn’t think the R1 was particularly accurate as a whole. I had Dave Slade tune my San Rafael model under 12 fpe and it has turned out the be very accurate. I was hitting 3/8” kill zones at up to 17 yards consistently as well as 1” kill zones at 45 yards and 1 to 1 1/2” inch kill zones at 50-55 yards consistently off of cross-sticks. If I did my part, it didn’t seem to miss. There is a good chance that the Air Arm’s 8.4’s played a big role in it. On the other hand, that big piston slamming into the breach seal may have played a part in misses, too. I plan to continue using the R1 in hunter field target next year so we’ll see what improvements I can make with a lot of practice over the winter.


  12. B.B.,

    My first inclination is to get some modeling clay (of sorts) and form a grip. Remove the wood one, wrap the action with contact paper, apply mass quantities of clay, grab hold and “squish” away. Form, remove, add, etc. with other hand. Carefully cut off (split) and let dry. Some modeling (hobby) stuff can be baked hard. My niece did “critter” crafting with it.

    It would get you 99% to the way of your ideal finished product,… in model form only. And,… an absolute perfection fit.

    Just an idea,……. Chris

      • B.B.,

        Glad to see that I am ahead of the speculation curve,…. for once! 😉

        Myself,… I would be inclined to use the method I mentioned and sculpt/form it from (just) a clay-ish substance. Sure,… not as nice as wood,…. but? The stuff she used came in all sorts of colors and could be baked in a home oven with no issues. Call it lazy if you will,…. but having a 100% perfect fit from the first “squish” would be awful tempting to leave as is. Of course,…. with some refinements to aesthetics. Stippling done by impression method, etc..

        In all,… it will interesting to see how you proceed. I am glad to see that you are embracing new tech. in your approach. No point in reinventing the wheel or carving words in stone tablets,… eh? 😉


  13. Ok. I am very interested in this pistol and the price is right. I have actually been looking at free pistols as I live in a place now I can shoot one in my backyard. Seems like the ultimate shooting sport. I am left handed. Is making the grip left handed possible? You said something about a LH block. Is that for LH people to make a LH grip?

    • Brazos,

      I don’t see why this grip could not be made for left-handed shooter. There certainly seems to be enough wood on both side.

      The palm shelf on the bottom would have to be heavily re-engineered to switch over and I’m not enough of a woodworker to comment on that.


  14. Thanks again for bringing this pistol up for review. I am researching the whole LH issue. So far I am thinking it may be best to buy an aftermarket LH grip. So now I am searching LH grips. Of course it increases the overall price 40% but overall probably still a pretty good deal. Though not an airgun I am looking forward to further blogs on this pistol. Unfourtunately looking at that big block of wood for a pistol grip it may be quite a while before you post about it again.

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