Weapon Trivia Wednesday: Tokarev TT-33, Romanian style
Mike the Mook
If you’re a fan of military surplus pistols, you may have noticed the world’s supply of importable pistols that can be transferred via a Curio & Relic license is drying up. For good or ill, some pistols that could be had for as low as $69 a decade ago are appreciating in value like Colts and Smith & Wesson revolvers. With one exception, certain variants of the Tokarev TT-33.
Now the Russian, Chinese and Hungarian models may cost the same as a used Glock, but there is a Romanian version that floats around the $200 price range at retail levels.
The TT-30 or TT-33 design by Fedor Tokarev borrowed heavily from the Browning 1903. The Soviets simplified the hammer and sear and made them as a modular unit that could be more easily installed than anything John Browning ever came up with.
Like many early firearm designs, there is no manual safety. The shooter simply had to place the hammer at half-cock and rely on the safety located between his ears.
However, a crude aftermarket safety was added in order to make them legally importable under the provisions of the Gun Control act of 1968. Some of these can be removed by the end user to improve the authenticity of the pistol.
Of all our Cold War-era pistols, this is probably our least favorite. It doesn’t conceal as well as an East German Makarov and lacks the styling of the roller locked CZ52. The grip frame always seems too small for our XL-sized hands, and the base of the magazine has more sharp edges than a piece of broken glass. Lastly, despite its similarity to the 1911, it simply does not point very naturally for us.
However it’s still the most affordable of all the surplus pistols out, there and can be had for as low as $159 if you know where to look.
Classic examples were made in Russia, China, Poland and other Soviet satellite nations. To this day crude copies are being hammered out of God knows what kind of metal in the Khyber Pass.
Our version is the aforementioned Romanian variant made under license at the Cugir plant and imported by Century Arms. Despite the short grip frame and it not being our favorite handgun, it is a deceptively pleasant pistol to shoot with much less recoil than the CZ52 in the same 7.62 X 25 caliber.
This is a bottle necked cartridge based on the earlier .30 Mauser and .30 Luger family of cartridges. It offers good penetration and the rim is similar to the 9mm Luger, so you can convert these to 9mm with a barrel swap.
The pistol sports lanyard loops on the grip as well as the magazine. Single-action in operation, it has a very nicely checkered hammer. Still, we prize our Luger, CZ52 and Makarov as shooters above this one.
There is a similar Serbian-made pistol known as the M57 that has better ergonomics, a longer grip frame and a better safety, but this is not a true milsurp pistol as it was designed for the commercial market.
Ammunition may not be as cheap as it once was, but new commercially loaded ammo is being produced by Privi Partizan and Sellier & Bellot. It is a bit pricier than 9mm, but under 45 ACP prices.
So if you’re looking to complete your Cold War load out and think your AK or SKS needs a sidearm and you can’t afford a Russian Makarov, you may want to look at one of these Romanian Cugirs.
Don’t take too long, though, as surplus arms, by their nature are of a finite supply and once they are gone from the importers and wholesalers, they will be hoarded and sold for 5 times their value within a decade!
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Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: 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.