|Place of origin
|Nikolai Fyodorovich Makarov
|161.5 mm (6.34 in)
|93.5 mm (3.83 in)
|9 x 18 mm PM (9mm Makarov)
|50 m (54.7 yd)
|8-round detachable box magazine
|blade front, notch rear (adjustable for drift)
The Makarov PM (Pistolet Makarova, Russian: Пистолет Макарова ПМ) is a semi-automatic pistol which was designed in the late 1940s by Russian firearms designer Nikolai Fyodorovich Makarov. For many years, it was the Soviet Union's standard military side arm.
The Makarov was the result of a competition held to design a replacement for the aging Tokarev TT-33 semi-automatic pistol. The TT had been loosely derived from the FN Model 1903 automatic pistol and was, by 1945, deemed too large and lacking in stopping power and safety features for a modern service pistol  . Rather than building his gun around an existing cartridge, Nikolai Makarov designed a new round, the 9 x 18 mm PM, based on the popular Browning 9 x 17 mm/.380 ACP cartridge. In the interests of simplicity and economy, the Makarov pistol was to be of straight blowback operation, and the 9 x 18 mm round was found to be the most powerful which could be fired safely from such a design. Although the given dimension was 9 mm, the bullet was actually 9.3 mm in diameter, being shorter and wider and therefore incompatible with pistols chambered for the popular 9 mm Luger/Parabellum round. This meant that Soviet ammunition was unusable in NATO firearms, and NATO forces in a conflict would not be able to gather ammunition from fallen Soviet soldiers or Soviet munition stockpiles.
Makarov's design, the Pistolet Makarova (PM), was, in 1951, selected over the competition on account of its simplicity (it had few moving parts), economy, ease of manufacture, accuracy, and reasonable power. It remained in service among Soviet military and police until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Many ex-Eastern Bloc police continue to employ Cold War- era Makarovs, due to their simplicity and reliability. The Makarov has also become a popular concealed carry gun in the United States, and variants remain in production in both Russia and Bulgaria to this day.
The Pistolet Makarova (often abbreviated to PM) is a medium-size handgun with a straight blowback action and a frame-fixed barrel. As a blowback design, the only force holding the slide closed is from the recoil spring; upon firing, the barrel and slide do not "unlock" as with a locked-breech design. Blowback designs are uncomplicated, and are often more accurate than designs which use a recoiling, tilting, or otherwise articulated barrel. Blowback-operated pistols are also limited practically by the required weight of the slide. Using conventional manufacturing techniques, the 9 x 18 mm is the largest round that can practically use blowback operation. The Makarov is relatively heavy for its small size, another desirable attribute for a blowback pistol, as a heavy slide provides greater inertia against the force of the blast, reducing felt recoil or "kick" of the 9x18 mm round.
The Makarov employs a free-floating firing pin, and has no firing pin spring or firing pin block. Although this (in theory) allows for the possibility of an accidental discharge if the pistol is dropped on its muzzle from a great height, Makarov felt that the firing pin had insufficient mass to constitute a major safety hazard. The (Bulgarian) Makarov is government approved for sale in the State of California, having passed a state DOJ-mandated drop safety test (its listing on the DOJ certified roster will expire on December 6, 2006 unless renewed).
The notable features of the Makarov are its extreme simplicity and economy of parts. Many parts perform more than one task. For example, the slide stop is also the ejector. Similarly, the mainspring powers both the hammer and the trigger, and its lower end even serves as the magazine catch. Makarov pistol parts seldom break in normal usage, and they are easily replaced with very few tools if they do break.
The Makarov has a DA/SA or "Double Action, Single Action" operating system. After loading the pistol and charging the slide, the Makarov can be carried with the hammer down and the safety engaged. To fire, the slide-mounted safety is pushed down to the "fire" position, after which the user simply squeezes the trigger. The act of squeezing the trigger for the first shot also cocks the hammer, an action which necessitates a long, heavy trigger pull. The firing of the round and cycling of the action pre-cocks the hammer for subsequent shots, which are then fired Single Action with a short, light trigger pull. After pushing the safety up to "safe," the hammer is safely de-cocked. Operation is semi-automatic, firing as fast as the user can pull the trigger. Fired brass is ejected to the right rear of the shooter, typically traveling 5-7 feet.
The PM's standard magazine holds eight rounds. After firing the last round in the magazine, the slide locks open. After feeding a new magazine, the slide can be closed by activating a lever on the left side of the frame or by pulling the slide back to release the slide catch, either of which chambers a fresh round. The pistol is now ready for action again.
When engaged, the Makarov's safety switch blocks the hammer from hitting the rear of the firing pin. The Makarov's magazine release location is common with that of many European pistols, being located on the heel or "butt" of the handgrip. This design decision was in contrast to the frame-mounted release of the Tokarev TT-33, as this location had been observed to have a propensity for the TT's release to become snagged on clothing, or, in the heat of battle, for soldiers accidentally to release the magazines of their pistols.
As with all firearms, proper maintenance, the Rules of Gun safety, and using only the properly chambered round are imperative.
During the mid-1980's until the early 1990's access to 9 mm Makarov ammunition was limited in the United States. During this period, at least one gun writer suggested and tested the substitution of .380 ACP/9 mm Kurz ammunition in PM's. The weapons functioned but were inaccurate beyond short range demonstrating keyholing at medium ranges.
Russian and ex-Eastern Bloc 9 x 18 mm PM ammunition is inexpensive and widely available. However, much of this is Berdan primed and corrosive. Ammunition claiming to be non-corrosive should be treated as corrosive if manufactured in eastern Europe (due to concerns over quality control).
After firing the Makarov, field strip the gun, remove the grips, and boil in water for a few minutes to remove salts. This is especially important when using ammunition with corrosive primers. Bore clean and protect as you would any gun.
Explicit care must be taken to use the correct ammunition as there are several similar cartridges of 9 mm calibre which can not be fired safely or, most likely, at all in a Makarov. Similar cartridges often confused with the 9 x 18 mm PM are .380 ACP (also known as 9x17, 9 mm Short or 9 mm Kurz) and 9 x 19 mm Luger.
The correct ammunition is 9 x 18 mm PM (also known as 9 mm Makarov) for most unmodified factory pistols, although replacement barrels and civilian models chambered in .380 ACP are also available, and will require .380 ACP ammunition for safe firing.
The PM is relatively inexpensive, with prices in North America ranging from USD $150-$350 as of 2006. Rare or pristine Makarovs can command over $450, but only when in exceptional condition. As with Soviet 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition, surplus 9x18 Makarov rounds are very cheap, at about USD $0.10 a round, though care must be taken if the round's primers are corrosive.
The Makarov was manufactured in several Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War and afterwards; apart from Russia itself, they were East Germany, Bulgaria, China, and post-unification Germany, which also found itself with several thousand ex-GDR Makarov pistols.
The most widely known variant, the Makarov PMM, was a redesign of the original gun. In 1990, a group of engineers reworked the original Makarov, primarily by increasing the load for the cartridge. The result was nearly twice the original muzzle velocity, and generated 25% more gas pressure. The altered cartridge, called the 9 mm Makarov High Impulse, often uses armor piercing bullets. This magazine also holds 12 rounds, compared to the PM's 8 rounds. The Makarov PMM is able to use existing Makarov cartridges and has other minor modifications such as an improved hand grip as well as threaded grooves in the chamber.
During the 1990's, the Russian Firearms manufacturer, Baikal, marketed various Makarov handguns in the United States under the IJ-70 model. Included were handguns in both standard and high capacity frames. They were available in .380 ACP in addition to the standard 9mm Makarov round. Some minor modifications were made to facilitate importation into the United States. It is unlikely that more will be imported in the near future due to voluntary agreements restricting the importation of small arms from Russia. Also no longer importable is the Baikal MP645K air pistol, which is known in shooting and collecting circles as the "Air Mak". It fires .177 (4.5mm) BB's propelled by CO2, with extreme realism, including a double action trigger mechanism, and slide that cycles after a shot is fired. The CO2 cartridge is housed in a modified double stack Makarov magazine, and the frame is the same as that of a double stack Makarov. The pistol is still available in the United Kingdom and various other nations in Europe and elsewhere. Despite the ban on importation, some "Air Maks" are still available on the second hand market. Due to the fixed supply, prices have more than doubled since importation ceased.
Countries like Poland and Hungary have developed their own handgun designs that use the 9x18 mm round. Hungary developed the PA-63 and Poland has developed the P-64 and the P-83 Vanad. While similar in appearance to the PM, and chambered for the same round, these 9 mm Makarov firing pistols are often found labeled at gun shows by some US gun retailers as "Polish Makarovs" and "Hungarian Makarovs". Nonetheless, these similar designs are independent of the PM and have more in common with the Walther PP. They are simply pistols that happen to be chambered for the same 9 mm Makarov round.
As with the Simonov SKS, the market prefers Makarovs which were made in East Germany. The Bulgarian pistols are not quite as polished but are still generally regarded as being solid and reliable weapons. The Russian and Chinese Makarovs are generally not thought of highly, but still have value as collectables.