The PM (Pistolet Makarova, Russian: Пистолет Макарова) is a semi-automatic pistol design. Under the project leadership of Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, it became the Soviet Union's standard military side arm from 1951-1991.
The Makarov pistol resulted from a design competition for replacing the Tokarev TT-33 semi-automatic pistol and the Nagant M1895 revolver. Rather than building a pistol to an existing cartridge in the Soviet inventory, Nikolai Makarov utilized essentially the "9mm Ultra" cartridge which had been designed by Carl Walther G.m.b.H. for the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Walther's cartridge became the 9x18mm Makarov. For simplicity and economy, the Makarov pistol - which was principally a scaled-up Walther PP - was of straight blowback operation, with the 9x18mm cartridge being the most powerful cartridge it could safely fire. Although the nominal calibre was 9.0mm, the actual bullet was 9.22mm in diameter, being shorter and wider and thus incompatible with pistols chambered for 9x19mm Parabellum cartridges. Consequently, Soviet ammunition was unusable in NATO firearms, and in the event of war NATO forces would be unable to use ammunition from Soviet sources.
In 1951, the Pistol of Makarov (PM) was selected because of its simplicity (few moving parts), economy, easy manufacturing, and reasonable stopping power. It remained in wide front line service with Soviet military and police until the end of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 and beyond. Today, the Makarov is a popular handgun for concealed carry in the United States; variants of the pistol remain in production in Russia, China, and Bulgaria. In the U.S., surplus Soviet and East German military Makarovs are considered Curio & Relic eligible items by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, because the countries of manufacture, the U.S.S.R. and the G.D.R., no longer exist.
Since 2003, the Makarov PM was formally replaced by the Yarygin PYa pistol in Russian service, although as of 2011 large numbers of Makarov PMs are still in Russian Military and Police service. The Makarov PM is still the service pistol of many Eastern European and former Soviet Republics. China and North Korea also use Makarov PMs.
The Pistol Makarova (PM) is a medium-size, straight blowback action, frame-fixed barrel handgun. In blowback designs, the only force holding the slide closed is that of the recoil spring; upon firing, the barrel and slide do not have to unlock, as do locked-breech design pistols. Blowback designs are simple and more accurate than designs using a recoiling, tilting, or articulated barrel, but they are limited practically by the weight of the slide. The 9x18mm cartridge is a practical cartridge in blowback-operated pistols; producing a respectable level of energy from a gun of moderate weight and size. The PM is heavy for its size by modern US commercial handgun standards, largely because in a blowback pistol the heavy slide provides greater inertia to delay opening of the breech until internal pressures have fallen to a safe level. Other, more powerful cartridges have been used in blowback pistol designs, but the Makarov is widely regarded as particularly well balanced in its design elements. The Astra 600, chambered for 9mm Parabellum is a much older blowback pistol design than the Makarov, and fired a much more powerful cartridge. The US firm HiPoint currently manufactures large, heavy blowback pistols in even more powerful chamberings, including the .45 ACP.
The PM has a free-floating firing pin, with no firing pin spring or firing pin block. This allows for the possibility of accidentally firing if the pistol is dropped on its muzzle. Designer Makarov thought the firing pin of insufficient mass to constitute a major danger. The Makarov is notable for the safety elements of its design, with a safety that simultaneously blocks the hammer from contacting the firing pin and returns the weapon to the long-trigger-pull mode of double action when that safety is engaged. This is one of number of different types of safety mechanism generally referred to as "manual safety" in order to distinguish it from safeties that are disengaged by the user in the course of firing a gun without manipulation of separate safety controls. This type safety in the form of a slide mounted lever has some safety advantages points that the extra step to operate it may be of benefit in certain situations, although there is an argument over whether if that extra stop can also be a risk. The extra manipulation requirement can be a risk, especially when the slide mounted lever type is not positioned in ergonomic manner. Small Walther pistol(such as PPK) is one example of the case, and Makarov is very similar in configuration with such pistols.
When handled properly, the Makarov has excellent security against the possibility of accidental discharge caused by inadvertent pressure placed upon the trigger (such as in the acts of carrying the weapon in dense brush or re-holstering it). The Bulgarian-model Makarov is even government-approved for sale in the U.S. state of California, having passed a state DOJ-mandated drop-safety test. The PM's notable features are its simplicity and economy of parts; many do more than one task, e.g. the trigger guard is also the take down lever, the one piece slide stop is also the ejector and the sear spring also is the slide stop (and ejector) return spring. Similarly, the mainspring powers the hammer, and the trigger, while its lower end is the heel (European) style magazine catch. Makarov pistol parts seldom break with normal usage, and are easily replaced using few tools.
In addition to simplicity, the pistol is, unlike the TT-33, easily field stripped and reassembled (including removing the firing pin) without any tools; no more than a minute is required.
The Makarov has a DA/SA (double-action, single-action) operating system. After loading and charging the pistol by pulling back the slide, it can be carried with the hammer down and the safety engaged. To fire, the slide-mounted safety lever is pushed down to the "fire" position, after which the shooter squeezes the trigger to fire the gun. The action of squeezing the trigger for the first shot also cocks the hammer, an action requiring a long, strong squeeze of the trigger. The firing and cycling of the action re-cocks the hammer for subsequent shooting; fired single action with a short, light trigger squeeze. The PM's operation is semi-automatic, firing as quickly as the shooter can squeeze the trigger. Spent cartridges are ejected to the shooter's right and rear, some 18–20 feet away. When the safety is engaged,the hammer drops from the cocked position. The safety lever has a notch that blocks the hammer from striking the firing pin. This is the only safe way to lower the hammer.
The PM's standard magazine holds 8 rounds. After firing the last round, the slide locks open. After inserting a loaded magazine, the slide is closed by activating a lever on the left side of the frame or by withdrawing it to release the slide catch; either action loads a cartridge to the chamber.
When engaged, the PM's safety lever switch blocks the hammer from striking the rear end of the firing pin. The magazine release is on the heel of the handgrip. This is designed to avoid its snagging in clothes, and the accidental, premature release of the magazine.
Highly customized version of the Russian Makarov PM showing muzzle flash.The Makarov was manufactured in several communist countries during the Cold War and afterwards; apart from the USSR 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 a significant increase in muzzle velocity, and generated 25% more gas pressure. This magazine also holds 12 rounds, compared to the PM's 8 rounds. Versions that held 10 rounds were also produced in greater quantities than the 12-round magazine. 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 1990s, 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 9 mm Makarov round. Some minor modifications were made to facilitate importation into the United States, including the replacement of the rear fixed sight with a low-quality adjustable sight (only these Russian models marketed abroad feature an adjustable sight). 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 (4.5 mm) BB's propelled by CO2, with extreme realism, including a double action trigger mechanism. 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 secondhand market. Due to the fixed supply, prices have more than doubled since importation ceased.
A sporting version of Makarov by Baikal is Baikal-442.
Countries like India, Poland and Hungary have developed their own handgun designs that use the 9x18mm round. Hungary developed the FEG PA-63 and Poland has developed the P-64 and the P-83 Wanad. 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 (which, in fact, was also a major influence on the original Russian Makarov).
A wide variety of aftermarket additions and replacements exist for the Makarov, including but not limited to: replacement barrels, custom grips, custom finishes and larger sights with various properties to replace the notoriously small originals. A scope/light mount exists for the Makarov but requires a threaded replacement barrel.
- China: Adopted by the People's Liberation Army in 1959 as the Type 59. Produced locally with minor cosmetic differences (i.e. the width of the slide's sight rail and configuration of the safety lever). Chinese Makarovs are made from milled forgings and all the metal parts are salt blued.
- Cuba (made under license)
- East Germany: Copy pistols were produced.
- North Korea
- Soviet Union