The Makarov Pistol (Пистолет Макарова)
The Makarov has been the standard issue military and police sidearm in Eastern Block countries since the early 1950s. It was, and still is, manufactured in a number of countries: in Russia by the Izhevsk
armaments plant, in Germany (East Germany before that) by the Suhl plant, in Bulgaria by Arsenal.
The Makarov was designed to shoot 9 mm Makarov cartridges. The actual diameter of the bullet is slightly more than 9 mm, 9.22 mm. The casing is 18 mm long. The round is also known as the 9x18. The 9x18 round is more powerful than the 9x17 (9 Short or the .380). The Makarov pistol is also available in commercial variants chambered for the 9x17.
The pistol reviewed here is a 9x18 manufactured by Arsenal in Bulgaria.
Caliber: 9x18mm PM
Type: Double/Single action
Overall length 9 1/8" 161mm
Weight unloaded 24oz 690g
Barrel length 93,5 mm
Magazine capacity 8+1 rounds
The Makarov is a simple blowback design. When the bullet goes forward the slide recoils, extracts the fired casing and loads a new round from the 8 shot magazine. This simplicity and the fact that the slide is the only part of the gun that moves during recoil should make it very reliable.
This simplicity is also the reason why the Makarov has a fairly sharp recoil - the 9x18 is right on the limit of feasibility for this blowback design.
The Makarov has a Double/Single action trigger. If the hammer isn't cocked the first round can be fired in double action. The subsequent rounds can be fired in single action. The double action trigger pull is heavy - around 12-16 lb. and impairs accuracy for the first round fired. In single action the trigger is reasonably light at
about 8 lb and quite smooth. Like most guns, the trigger gets better with use. It brakes smoothly and predictably.
As can be seen in the photograph on the right, the sights on the standard Makarov are small. The sights are difficult to see in bad lighting conditions and are not conducive to fast target acquisition.
The rear sight is adjustable but requires a mallet to do so. The sights on the "sporting" version sold by Izhevsk can be adjusted with a screwdriver (though some don't keep the settings).
This said, the gun shoots to the point of aim and is extremely accurate. Our tester consistently shot 2" groups at 15 yards (the occasional flier not withstanding).
The accuracy is not that surprising. In a blowback design the barrel is permanently mounted in the frame and if the sights are adjusted correctly it will shoot consistently.
The photo below shows a field stripped Makarov with the integral barrel clearly visible.
The barrel is plated with hard chrome and after about 1000 rounds through it shows no signs of wear. There are no visible wear signs on other parts either.
The recoil spring in the photo to the left is not the original that came with the gun. The original is usually about 16 lb. we replaced it with a 19 lb from Wolf Springs. It makes chambering the first round a little harder but reduces perceived recoil and prevents the slide from hammering the frame.
The magazine is of a somewhat unusual design and holds 8 rounds in a single stack. The wide opening makes it easy to clean inside - necessary if you shoot Russian - made ammo, which is normally fairly dirty. The follower has a little tab protruding on one side. It makes loading very easy if done with a specially designed gadget.
Our experience with this gun has been very good. It digests every type and kind of ammo fed to it with no complaints or problems.
The Makarov has a free-floating firing pin. It is heavy enough to make a slight dent in the primer of a chambered round if the gun is dropped on the tip of the barrel and when the slide goes into battery and chambers a round. The impact is not strong enough to actually fire a round but is enough to make the gun illegal in California.
The safety lever is located on the left side of the slide and serves as a decocker. When in the safe position a protrusion of the safety lever moves in front of the firing pin, preventing the gun from firing even if it is dropped on the hammer.
A version chambered for the 9x17 round (.380 cal.) is manufactured by Izhevsk. 9x17 barrels can be bought and retrofitted to a 9x18 gun. It is possible to chamber and shoot a 9x17 round from the 9x18 barrel. This is very dangerous.
Another known variant is the "wide" Makarov. These guns accept a double stack magazine. They are rare and difficult to come by. According to our information the guns experience feeding problems and are not very reliable.
Two conversion kits were designed and made for the Makarov to enable training with .22 ammo. None have been available on the market in the last five or six years. Kits were designed by the East Germans and by the Bulgarians. Their designs are very different. For details explore Makarov.com
The Makarov is a reliable and accurate firearm. The recoil is sharp but manageable, especially with a slightly heavier than standard recoil spring and light bullets.
Its main weaknesses are its caliber, which is less powerful than the 9 mm Luger, and its weight, which is too high for a modern firearm. It could make a nice carry gun if it wasn't so heavy.