September 20th, 2006 02:09 PM
1951 - 2011
A Case FOR the Defensive Makarov...
This is an older article and since then I've reshot the ammo mentioned and got essentially the same results. Still, it might be of interest to some.
Hello. It's been my observation that within the handgunning community there exists a contingent of folks enjoying no pistol more than their trusty 9x18mm Makarovs. Some own no other handgun(s) as they find the little Mak meeting their perceived needs. Not too far from the top on many
handgunners' lists sets "self-defense."
I've made no secret that I have found the Makarov to be a most dependable and surprisingly accurate pistol and consider it a "best buy" for people wanting a dependable pistol that is inexpensive though not cheap. I've also stated that I consider the .380 ACP and 9x18mm Makarov just a bit "light" for my own preferences to minimal "power" requirements for a defensive handgun; I still hold that view.
(If interested, some comparsions between the 2" .38, 9mm Mak, and .380 ACP can be found here:
Where is it written that every person must agree with me?
Though I consider a .38 Special 2" using 158-gr. LSWCHP +P ammunition my personal "minimum," others do not. This can be for a myriad of reasons. Some do not feel comfortable with but 5 shots before reloading. Others don't favor the revolver while some find the snub's recoil objectionable. There is also price. I think we get considerably more quality for our $150 to $200 spent on a Makarov than we would for almost any other pistol. (One exception might just be the little Bersa Thunder, but I'm not yet convinced that it will hold up to as much shooting as the similarly-priced Mak. I may be wrong.)
I decided to take a break from 1911's that I've been shooting extensively and take a look at the Makarov purely in terms of self defense. I've said about all I intend to on caliber or ballistics. Folks can make up their own minds on that.
My intention was to see what I could do "cold" with the Makarov after extensively shooting 1911's for several months with regard to:
1. DA/SA transition: (Is it the bugaboo it's sometime's portrayed as?)
2. Accuracy: (I already know the answer to that one, but wanted to present results from SA-only, DA-only, and groups fired DA for the first shot with subsequent shots fired SA. Slow-fire groups were fired as well.)
3. Sight Enhancement: Does it help? Is it worth the cost?
Does it really make any significant difference? To this end I fired the same drills using a Bulgarian Mak using the old "Beast Conversion" which is a Bulgarian slide fitted with Novak 3-dot fixed sights and an unaltered E. German gun.
I purposely am not comparing the Makarov to more potent
calibers in similar or even smaller guns. It's my view that such is tangential to caliber preference and the decision of the individual.
The Makarov is being shot against the Makarov, period.
I suspect that many "Makarovnics" shoot Barnaul ammunition and all shots fired were with their 95-gr. JHP.
The cost of this ammunition does allow the shooter to
practice with the same ammunition that he might choose to carry. (FWIW, I have chronographed and tested many rounds of this and have no problems with it for defensive use in this caliber. I am not saying it's the best. I am strongly suggesting that it's better than I ever expected.)
The first shots fired were with the EG Mak having the small factory sights. I shot at a line of 6 falling plates. I fired 6 shots at speed to clear the line from 7 yards. The first shot was double-action as the gun would be carried. I
tried it again, but fired all shots single-action. It was approximately 3/4 - second faster. How much difference will this make in the real world? It depends on the situation.
I repeated the drill using the Novak-sighted Bulgarian. I found that for me, I could get hits quicker both single and double-action with the larger sights.
I then shot both guns slow-fire and single-action only at 10 yards, standing and with a 2-hand hold. A total of ten shots per gun were fired.
While the group with the Bulgarian "Beast" is a bit tighter than the factory-sighted EG, when we introduce human error, I consider the groups equivalent. In dimmer light, I suspect that the larger sights would prove advantageous.
Eight rounds were fired from the Bulgarian at 10 yards. The first shot was DA with subsequent rounds being SA. The first shot is the highest one in the group. Each shot was fired as quickly as I could get a "flash sight picture."
The same thing was done with the EG Makarov. The first shot fired is at the lower left of the group. I used the "9" as the aiming point.
I intended to fire the following groups at 10 yards, but inadvertently moved to the 7 yard line and had begun shooting before I realized my mistake. The following groups consist of 10 shots each and were fired double-action for each shot. I lowered the gun between shots and decocked the pistol before firing the next shot.
Each shot was fired as quickly as a "flash sight picture" could be obtained.
Here are the results for the E. German...
...and the Bulgarian. I "threw" the shot at the far left and knew it when it happened; my fault and not the gun's...
I had forgotten how pleasant the Makarov, particularly with Pearce grips, is to shoot.
You can see that the gun's just been fired and has already cycled back into battery. The trigger's not yet even been released for another shot and it's back on target using my off-hand. Quick recoil-recovery might be of importance in a defensive situation and the Makarov seems to have it.
As expected, there were no failures to feed, extract, or eject in today's shooting.
I decided to "limp wrist" the Makarov for a few shots and see if I could make it malfunction. Both of my guns have Wolff 19-lb. recoil springs.
I fired this gun with my off-hand and very weak grip. Notice that the slide's already cycled and it's ready to go again.
Tricky to photograph, you can see that the Makarov has ejected the fired case with the slide not yet forward. My grip was quite "limp" and no malfunction.
I repeated this for 9 shots. Results: Zero malfunctions.
Translation: Though obviously a limited "test" it appears that folks unable to provide a really strong grip probably don't have to worry about "limp wrist" grips causing problems as they can in some pistols. The E. German Makarov performed just as the Bulgarian: flawlessly in these attempts to cause a malfunction. It also re-enforced the Makarov's reputation for reliability in my opinion. Reliability is considered essential in a weapon for protection.
My shooting is not the best and many can do both tighter groups and quicker shooting. Some cannot, but perhaps this admittedly limited "test" can provide some insight as to whether or not one wants to use the Mak as is or "upgrade" the sights. This depends on what one perceives as necessary on his own pistol relative to his eyesight or personal likes.
I suggest that the costs involved for higher visibility sights are worth it. Some will disagree, citing that such costs about as much as the gun if the slide is reblued. They are very correct, but I think the Makarov is that good and well worth the investment.
In my own case, my 53 year old eyes simply do better with the larger sights when there's any emphasis on quick shooting. This very well may not be true for many others.
There is a difference in speed when shooting either double-action-only or transitioning from DA to SA, but I did not find it terribly difficult at all. Were I to practice as much with the Makarov as I do 1911's and Hi Powers, it would probably be easier... and I may just spend some time on that.
These two Makarovs once again demonstrated that the "Commie Pot Metal" pistols have excellent intrinsic accuracy commensurate with their extreme reliability.
Many of us own more expensive guns. I do and they're shot frequently and treated with proper cleaning and maintanence. So are my Makarovs; they may not be expensive, but neither are the "cheap."
The Makarov sits as a top performer in my observation for people not insisting upon the lightest weight or smallest dimensions in a pistol that can be fed inexpensively and shot lots. Ammunition costs are relatively low and allow for lots of practice. Placement is power and it's easy to get with the Makarov.
This pistol does not sit as my first choice for a "serious" pistol, but it isn't anywhere near the bottom either.
Hopefully this limited test will be of use to folks considering the Makarov as a carry or home defense pistol and let them more easily decide if they want to alter the sights, grips, or leave the gun stock.
September 20th, 2006 03:27 PM
Yet another fine write-up Steve, for which thank you. I am impressed with the Novaks and just might convert mine one day.
It is IMO a much under rated little semi - and I enjoy shooting mine even with the rather basic std sights. Mine was a Bulgy import but actually it seems, a Russian per the marking on left of frame.
I paid more like $200 than the oft found Gun Show price of $149 but it came in a typical Eastern Block rough cardboard box - which included the black grips. I put those on instead of the brown ones with the star and find it very pleasant indeed.
Mine has rested for quite some while - methinks soon time to wake the puppy up again
Chris - P95
NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.
"To own a gun and assume that you are armed
is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."
- a portal for 2A links, articles and some videos.
September 20th, 2006 04:20 PM
Great Report on the Mak, It was one of my primary carry's when my
Arthritus was raging. All in all a nice carry piece.
quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
September 20th, 2006 04:29 PM
Stephen, thanks for the report. I have two Maks myself and have found them to be extremely accurate and utterly reliable. My Bulgarian (Arsenal) Mak is .380 with the standard sights. I have used some sight paint to mark the front sight so it is quickly observable. My Russian is 9X18 and has the adjustable rear sights. I painted the front sight on it as well. I have fired close to 1000 rounds through the Bulgy with no failures of any sort. The Russian has over 500 rounds by me and no failures. The only problem with either comes when firing 100 gr. Wolf through the Russian. With either Pearce grips or the Red Star original grips the palm of my hand gets very sore by time I have fired 3 mags. The 92 gr. Brown Bear and other rounds including several brands of JHP all are quite comfortable to fire.
Although I do not carry either of the Maks, I would not feel under armed with either one because of the great accuracy that is inherent in the pistol. In a defensive situation the small sights might be a small disability, but I believe that it is offset by the natural aimablility (for lack of a better word) of the pistol. I have on several occasions done drills where I simply draw the pistol and fire as soon as the pistol is at arms length and I usually put all rounds in a 3 to 4 " group at the A on a IPSC silhouette target. If I can do that in a defensive situation I won't worry about the sight or the lightness of the round.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe. Albert Einstein
September 20th, 2006 05:01 PM
Another excellent write-up; thanks Mr. C.
I, regrettably, never purchased a Mak when they were under $200 (or even $150). Now that the surplus supply's dried up (and they are $200+....or more)...I want one...or two.
USAF: Loving Our Obscene Amenities Since 1947
September 20th, 2006 05:55 PM
Great report. I have owned a Mak for a number of years and have shot the heck out of it. Although I have never used it s a carry piece, it would certainly fit the bill. I have never had any problems with it and it is very accurate. IMO the 9x18 is just fine as a carry gun.
So why don't I carry it? Beats me.
September 20th, 2006 07:05 PM
Nice write up. I have been the owner of a Russian Mak for about 3 years now. Can you believe i found it in the paper for $75 bones? I love the gun! Although I don't use it as my carry I have probably the most fun shooting it.
September 20th, 2006 08:02 PM
i got a polish p64, yes i known it is not a mak, but it is a 9x18. it is a great gun, just as good as the ppk that it was copy from. single stage trigger was a bear untill i did some work, the rest of the gun is good for a polish copy. i got the gun with four mags for $100.00, and one mag had matching serial number.
September 20th, 2006 08:35 PM
For anyone looking Makarovs in excellent condition are still available for under $200, although not nearly as often as a year ago. Last Saturday at a gun show in Montgomery, AL I saw an East German Mak for private sale for $179. It did not have the box, but did have two mag with serial numbers matching the pistol. The finish was 85 to 90 and the barrel was in excellent shape. If I did not already have two Maks I would have been tempted. I bought both of my Maks in 2006. The .380 Bulgy in January for $200 with two matching mags and a second grip. It was like new. Appeared to have had only a few mags shot through it. In May I bought the 9X18 Russian for $180. It was obviously used but about 90 to 95. It came with a cheap holster, 3 mags (1 with matching serial), Pearce grips, and 50 rounds of ammunition (35 Brown Bear FMJ and 15 CCI JHP).
I have seen one EG new in box for $279 and a used EG like new for $250 at two different dealers for the past 8 months. If they are still there at the show in December I may make them each an offer and see what happens. If I can get them at the price I want to pay I'll probably have them posted for sale here the next day. I don't remember when the December show I'm going to is, but if you save a little Christmas money back you might have a Mak under your tree. I'll edit this later this evening and put the December show date in.
Just checked and I will be at a show on November 25 and December 2. The November 25 show will be a big one and both dealers will likely be there. We will see what happens.
Last edited by dr_cmg; September 20th, 2006 at 11:59 PM.
Reason: Add show dates.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe. Albert Einstein
September 20th, 2006 09:43 PM
Ya Know , my Wallet really didn't need to see a MAK with Novak
-SIG , it's What's for Dinner-
know your rights!
"If I walk in the woods, I feel much more comfortable carrying a gun. What if you meet a bear in the woods that's going to attack you? You shoot it."
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