Thursday, March 24, 2005
I've had a chance to try out this little pistol. As I understand it, a Russian officer named Makarov(surprise!) took the Walther PPK design, simplified it, and designed the 9x18mm cartridge for it. Why that cartridge? Supposedly they wanted the simplicity of a blowback design, which pretty much prevented use of the 9mm Luger(9x19) cartridge, and you can't fire the 9x17mm(.380 to us) in this. For those who are not gun geeks, straight blowback is how all .22 autos work; the recoil spring and weight of the bolt or slide hold the action closed until pressure has dropped to a safe level, at which time the recoil energy pushes the bolt/slide back to eject the empty case and strip the next cartridge out of the magazine. It means that the design can be simple, no toggle or link or delay mechanism needed, but it also puts strict limits on how powerful a cartridge you can use; you could make a 9x19 in this action, but it would have a damn heavy recoil spring, making the action hard to cycle by hand.
The piece is about 6.5" long, 5" tall and 1" thick and weighs 1.8 lbs loaded. The magazine holds 8 rounds. It is a double-action: trigger for the first shot is heavy as you are cocking the hammer, followup shots are much lighter as the hammer stays cocked. The safety lever is located on the left; down to fire, up to safe. When you safe it, it both locks the firing pin and drops the hammer so you cannot carry cocked and locked. The sights(those little bumps on the slide?) are small and hard to pick up in low light conditions. I put a little International Orange paint on the front sight, and that helps a lot. They were made in a number of Warsaw Pact countries as well as Russia, this one being from Bulgaria. Some have been available chambered in .380, and some with adjustable target sights. The magazine release is like the Ruger MKII pistols, at the bottom rear of the butt; push back to release. I mentioned the trigger earlier, if you're looking at buying one, try several as the trigger action can vary drastically from one to the next. The dealer who supplied this one had two; one's trigger was heavy and gritty, this one was noticably lighter and cleaner.
I've put about 800 rounds through this one, mostly Wolf 100grain ball. I've found it to be quite accurate, better than I expected. It's a fixed-barrel design: the barrel is set into the frame, and the slide does all the moving, which means the barrel is always in the same position. I'm told that helps account for accuracy; in any case the thing does quite well. Recoil is sharp, but not hard, control in fast repeat shots isn't a problem. The other ammo I've used is the Hornady which uses a 95grain XTP hollow point. With deliberate slow aimed fire and going from low-ready to fire, in all this ammo there have been no malfunctions. None. No fails to feed, no jams, no nothing.
Stripping for cleaning couldn't get much simpler. Drop the magazine and make sure the chamber is empty; cock the hammer; pull the trigger guard down and to one side(it pivots at the rear); push the slide all the way back, tilt up at the rear and carefully slide forward off the barrel/receiver, and that's it.
I'd put a Hogue grip sleeve on one myself, the grip is a bit slick for my taste. There are lots of parts and accessories on the market, one good place to look being Makarov.Com. You can get replacement barrels, and you can change it to .380 just by putting in one so chambered, it'll use the same magazine.
Overall I like it. It's not too big, it's reliable, cheap ammo for practice is available, and the price is good. Last time I looked, around here they were running about $175. If you're looking for an inexpensive self-defense gun it would be one to look at, though it's at the bottom of what I'd like in power. For a fun gun for targets, it's great. The one real drawback is the sights. You can get a replacment rear sight, but the front would require having someone with the tools cut a dovetail in the slide to install a bigger one. It's probably been done, and I'd think it would be a simple operation for a gunsmith.
That's my opinion of it. Warranty not included, mileage may vary by user.