Makarov Basics

We've been talking about Makarovs for so long that we forget that some people are totally new to not only this firearm, but semi-automatics in general. We hope we've covered the basics here, but if you still have questions, drop by the frequently asked questions list, post questions on the Makarov web discussion board 


What is a Makarov?

The Pistolet Makarova or Makarov is a semi-automatic (self-loading) pistol, designed in the 1950s by Russian Nikolai Federovich Makarov.  The objective was to design a simple and reliable medium-powered pistol intended as the sidearm of the Soviet Forces. The pistol was accepted by the Russian forces in 1951 and has been the standard sidearm ever since. Recent developments and advancements in firearms technology may soon change that, but its place in history is secured.

Specifications:


Type: Double/Single Action Self Loading Pistol
System of Operation: Blowback
Safety: Hammer block, slide lock, decocking, firing pin not secured
Caliber: 9x18mm (9mm Makarov), some have been converted to .380 ACP (9mm Kurz)
Capacity: 8+1 rounds
Sights: Fixed blade front, dovetailed u-notch rear, drift adjustable
Length: 6.34"
Weight (loaded): 1.71 pounds
Barrel: fixed, 3.83", 4 groove, right-hand twist
Magazine release: heel
Number of Parts: 27

Double-action means that after the pistol is loaded and the hammer has been decocked (see discussion on the safety), the first trigger action, via the trigger bar, will cock the hammer until it is released by the sear to strike the firing pin. After the shot has been fired, the empty case begins to move backwards in Newtonian action/reaction style, overcoming both the slide mass and the recoil spring strength. There are no locking devices on the Makarov pistol (as opposed to, for example, on the Colt 1911, which has a locked breech), thus it is known as a blowback operation. Once the slide is approaching its most rearward position, the ejector prong on the slide stop pushes on the left rear of the empty case. This, along with the extractor holding on the right rear of the case, flings the case out of the ejection port. The hammer is also cocked by the slide. The slide begins to move forward, stripping the next cartridge from the magazine, pushing it into the chamber, thus self loading the pistol (i.e. no manual bolt must be moved). Finally, the slide goes into battery (all the way forward), the extractor lifts over the cartridge rim and snaps into place. The pistol is now ready to be fired again. A disconnector prevents a second shot from being fired by the same trigger pull.

Subsequent shots are single action, meaning that the hammer is already cocked and that the trigger action, again transferred by the trigger bar, pushes the sear away from the hammer, thus releasing the hammer, starting the firing sequence again.

Other notes on the firing system: The firing pin is a floating firing pin without a spring return or firing pin block safety. This is a very simple mechanism that has worked for over 50 years with few (if any) reports of safety issues. The hammer face has a second engaging surface for the sear to catch near the bottom of its stroke in case the first hammer face is damaged. This ensures the pistol will not fire unless the trigger is actually pulled, thus raising the sear.

After the last shot is fired, the follower tab on the magazine pushes up on the slide release and the slide locks into the rearward position after ejecting the final case. The magazine should now be ejected (see magazine note below) and a new magazine inserted. By pushing the slide release, the recoil spring pushes the slide forward, stripping the first cartridge of the magazine into the chamber, and the pistol is ready to fire in single-action mode. The slide release may also be manually activated by pushing up while manually pulling the slide backwards and locking it in place. This is particularly useful when clearing jams (which, fortunately rarely happen).

The slide-mounted manual safety uses the more intuitive up is safe/down is fire setting, which is opposite of the Walther PP and PPK style pistols (and their FEG clones). The safety also safely decocks or drops the hammer and physically blocks the hammer from hitting the firing pin if the user wishes to carry the pistol with a round in the chamber and hammer down. This is much safer than manually holding the hammer and pulling the trigger to decock. General firearm safety tips apply (i.e. point gun down range when decocking), but the Makarov does not have a history of accidental discharges while decocking. The hammer cannot be moved when the safety is engaged (except for the later modified Simson-Suhl Makarov) and thus the slide is blocked and the action cannot be cleared or loaded. The safety is held in the safe and fire positions by a pressed-in detent spring and the appropriate detents in the slide. Should the detent spring fall out, the pistol will most likely go to the "fire" position. The safety should be replaced if the spring has fallen out.

The safety can be easily removed by rotation clockwise past the "safe" position, making approximately a 120 angle with the muzzle, and pulling it out of the slide. The safety also holds the firing pin in place, so care should be taken that the firing pin is not lost when the safety is removed.

The magazine is a single-stack, non-staggered, reliable design with 4 basics parts: case, spring, follower, and floorplate. Its capacity is 8 rounds of either 9x18Makarov caliber or .380 ACP (note: .380ACP and 9x18M should not be fired in the same gun...see the FAQ for more discussions on caliber). Magazines can become dirty and should be cleaned occasionally (see the tech info page for instructions). The magazine loading is made easier by the mag loading tool. Using your thumbnail to hold down the follower tab is a bad idea because you can easily split your thumbnail (very painful).

The magazine release is on the heel of the pistol, near the bottom of the grip. To release the magazine, push the magazine release towards the rear of the pistol until the magazine drops slightly. Pull the magazine out the remainder of the way. Note: There is no magazine safety on the pistol and the pistol can be fired with the magazine removed if a cartridge remains in the chamber (Rule #1: "a gun is always loaded"). Some people have complained that this type of magazine release is more difficult to operate than the thumb-button type release on other pistols. However, this was done by design to prevent accidental magazine release and with time, one can become quite proficient with this. There is a trick for making this handier on the tech info page.

The barrel is a fixed design and is pressed into the frame and a pin ensures the barrel does not back out. This design minimizes movement in the pistol and the resultant accuracy tends to amaze people who have never shot a fixed barrel pistol. The barrel may be replaced and traded for a different caliber or other configuration (threaded, ported, etc.). See the tech info page for details on barrel replacement.

While some Russian models came from the factory with a rear adjustable sight, the original Makarov has a fixed rear sight. Although called "fixed", it can be moved left or right with a soft (brass is recommended to avoid marring the sight) drift punch to compensate for target groups that are off left/right. If you have a Russian model with a rear target sight, take great care not to lose the elevation screw or spring since these are difficult to find (we cannot get them). If you wish to change from target to a fixed sight set, you need to replace the slide since a considerable amount of metal was removed from the Russian slides to make room for the target sight.

The Makarov only has 27 parts, which is considerably fewer than the Walther's 42. See the cross-sectional view of the Makarov for an overview. This overall simplicity of the gun is part of the genius of the design and allows the gun to be disassembled with very few tools. Many parts are thus multi-function. For example, the hammer spring also serves as the magazine release, the safety holds the firing pin in place, the slide release is also the ejector, and the trigger guard doubles as the field stripping slide release.