WTW: The East German Makarov

Most gun owners keep informal lists. You might just need firearms for hunting, shooting or self-defense, or you can specialize collecting in a defined area, but there are still guns you need to have. Because, well: ‘Merica!

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My handgun list includes a US Property marked 1911, 1st Generation Colt SAA, S&W Model 29, P-08 Luger and a Makarov pistol. I have at least one of each and think every gun owner should follow suit to appreciate firearms that represent points in history of arms development or world history.

Okay, so you get the first four, but a Makarov? Seriously?

Well, if you think they should be relegated to the junk counter at your local fun store, think again!

History

In 1951 the Soviet Union adopted the Makarov pistol as a replacement of the older TT33 Tokarev pistol. The pistol was designed by Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, whose other claim to fame was coming up with the 9K111 Fagot.

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Essentially a simplified Walther PPK, the Makarov is a blowback-operated pistol with a fixed barrel, external hammer, 8-round magazine, and slide-mounted decocking lever that fires DA/SA. like most Eurotrash pistols of the era, the magazine is a heel release, complete with lanyard ring.

Makarovs are chambered for 9x18mm ammunition. This round’s case length is halfway between a traditional 9mm Luger/Parabellum/NATO round (19mm) and .380 ACP/9mm Kurz (17mm). It uses a slightly wider bullet at .361″ as opposed to the Western .355″ diameter. On the power scale the round is a little hotter than a .380 ACP, but far below the ballistics of a true 9mm. Think 93 grains flying at about 1050 FPS.

For a good forty years, Makarovs of any type were considered “forbidden fruit”. You could read about them in Mack Bolan books, but they were unavailable in the US, aside from a few Vietnam bringbacks. The ammunition was pretty much Unobtainium as well. All that changed in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Empire and subsequent dissolution of the Warsaw Pact.

As freedom sprang in Eastern Europe and free trade flourished, Makarovs, Tokarevs, AK parts kits and of course SKS rifles and Mosin-Nagants became hot imports. Companies like Century International Arms helped us get our Cold War fixes, and Makarovs of all types could be had for as low as $99 shipped.

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Minor cosmetic changes had to be made to keep the gun control nuts from running out of big people diapers. The Gun Control act of 1968 assigns a points system to importable handguns. The Maks were pretty close on this due to size and weight, so most often this was in the form of a “target style grip” or adjustable sight to meet the “sporting purposes” criteria.

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Our Mak

East Germany was a Soviet satellite nation and was licensed to produce the Makarov. German craftsmanship, even on the commie side of the Wall, shines through in the superb fit and finish on these pistols. Built in 1962, mine came with a military flap-style holster, cleaning rod and spare magazine. The included military holster is well-made, but probably only used by commie types idolized by the left, who excel at shooting prisoners in the back of the head.

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We replaced the fugazy “target grips” with a set of authentic Stasi grips. While not as cool looking as the commie red Bakelite grips, they restore the pistol to its former glory and make you want to line dissenters up against a wall while handing out cigarettes. Well, some of them anyway.

A limited number of the East German Maks means if you did not grab one back when they were priced less than a high-point, you can now expect to pay Walther-type prices for one.

It breaks down like a Walther PP/PPK: pull down the trigger guard, retract the slide, pull up, and remove recoil spring from barrel.

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As a shooter it is certainly no H&K, but we would put it up against any .380 ACP blowback pistol on the market. On occasion, we have used it as a carry piece, but in a concealment type holster more suited for a Walther PP.  Ammunition is not as plentiful as it one was, but it’s out there. A number of companies offer JHP rounds, too.

The East German Makarov is like holding a piece of history in your hand and hearkens back to the days of Checkpoint Charlie. While all Makarovs are cool pistols in their own regard, the East German flavor is probably the cream of the crop.

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Mike Searson

Mike “the Mook” Searson is a veteran writer who began his career in firearms at the Camp Pendleton School for Destructive Boys at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire life, writing about guns and knives for numerous publications and consulting with the film industry on weapons while at the same time working as gunsmith and ballistician. Though seemingly a surly curmudgeon shy a few chromosomes at first meeting, Searson is actually far less of a dick and at least a little smarter than most of the Mad Duo’s minions. He is rightfully considered to be not just good company, but actually fit for polite company as well (though he has never forgotten his roots as a rifleman trained to kill people and break things, and if you look closely you’ll see his knuckles are still quite scabbed over from dragging the ground). You can learn more about him on his website or follow him on Twitter, @MikeSearson. [huge_it_gallery id="19"]


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