The Defensive Makarov Revisited...

The Defensive Makarov Revisited...

This is a discussion on The Defensive Makarov Revisited... within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Hello. A good while back I penned out a thing called "A Case FOR the Defensive Makarov" and after receiving several queries concerning how "appropriate" ...

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  1. #1
    1951 - 2011
    Array Stephen A. Camp's Avatar
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    The Defensive Makarov Revisited...

    Hello. A good while back I penned out a thing called "A Case FOR the Defensive Makarov" and after receiving several queries concerning how "appropriate" the 9x18mm Makarov is as a defensive arm, I decided that a follow-up piece might be of service.

    My perception of why the Makarov remains so popular with many shooters is that the little things have a second-to-none reputation for reliability and didn't cost the proverbial "arm and a leg", yet one got a quality firearm for this lesser tariff. When the rest of the shooting community (finally) learned that these little shooters could also actually group nicely and with many of the then inexpensive foreign ammo, the rush was on. (Sadly, I fall into the latter group, foolishly waiting until about the end of the rush to get my Makarovs.)

    In my initial shooting of the little guns, I found the claims on reliability, quality-vs.-cost, and built-in mechanical accuracy to be true.

    Still, like the .380 ACP, I never could really get all that enthusiastic about the 9x18mm Makarov cartridge as a self-protection round; maybe it was just too many years of .45's, hot-loaded 9x19's, .357's and other more powerful rounds. Yet, I found myself not willing to sell any Makarov and just enjoying the fire out of shooting them.

    For me, they remain as addictive as homemade sin, but as "fun guns" primarily; any sort of "serious" theme remains secondary. At the same time, I believe that "placement is power" and have said so on more than a few ocassions. Thus, it appears to me that IF you feel comfortable with the 9mm Mak's ballistics coupled with a willingness to shoot if necessary and accurately at speed, the gun might very well make a viable "carry gun" for self-defense.

    Rather than sit here and try to pontificate on any handgun caliber's "worthiness" in the self-defense arena, I thought that I'd run a few tests, present my findings and let the reader make his or her decision. I will interject my own observations here and there but will try and be as objective as possible on what seems for many to be a most subjective and emotional topic.

    Firearms: Today I used a Bulgarian Makarov for most shooting drills. It was used with its factory slide and fixed sights as well as with the now discontinued "Beast" slide, which is a new Bulgarian slide nicely fitted with Novak fixed sights.


    This Bulgarian Makarov was used for most of the shooting today. In the past I've shot it usually with the very comfortable Pearce grips. Today, I used thin factory plastic grips as most folks buy their Makarovs wearing them and I could compare to the Pearce grips being worn by the Russian-made gun. (To me, the Pearce grips are more comfortable but a tad harder to conceal due to their extra thickness. Some folks complain of "stickiness" with rubber grips to outer garments like shirts. I suspect this will depend upon both the maker of the grip and the particular shirt material, but do not know this for a fact.)

    Some shooting was done with the Beast slide conversion on a commecial Russian frame wearing Pearce grips.

    Shooting: Distances in these tests were 5, 15 and 25 yards. The "quick-and-dirty" practical-type drills were done starting from a low-ready position and timed with a Pact Club Timer III. A two-hand hold was used and each drill began with the pistol in the double-action mode as this is how it is meant to be carried. I did not have the safety engaged. The shots fired for group were done at 15 and 25 yards from a seated position and in slow-fire; no effort was made at speed. They were fired single-action only with my wrists braced.

    Ammunition:

    Barnaul 95-gr. JHP
    Wolf 100-gr. FMJ
    Silver Bear 115-gr. JHP
    Brown Bear 115-gr. JHP

    15 Yards:


    This was admittedly the best 5-shot group of the day at this distance, but in my two guns, the Barnaul consistently grouped better than the Wolf ammunition. This group is probably as much luck as any skill.


    This was the best group I could get with Wolff 100-gr. FMJ at 15 yards. Like the group in the previous picture, this one was done using the Russian frame/bbl and Beast slide. POA in both was the center of the bullseye.


    Using the Bulgarian, this group was fired with the heavy-for-caliber 115-gr. JHP as loaded in Silver Bear ammunition.


    Brown Bear's 115-gr. JHP grouped equivalently to the Silver in my opinion. POA using the Bulgarian and this ammunition was 6 O' Clock on the bullseye.

    25 Yards:

    Though many don't shoot their Makarovs at this distance, I thought I'd give it a whirl, just for grins.


    Using the Russian/Beast combination mentioned previously and a 6 O' Clock hold on the darker, smaller innermost bullseye, this 10-shot group was the best of 3 fired.

    These "tests", while too tame to interest some verified for me that the Makarov pistols being fired were capable of very decent mechanical accuracy. I have little doubt that they were capable of tighter groups but due to human error (mine), we didn't see them shot to their absolute truest potential.

    5 Yards:: At this close distance I fired Mr. Jim Higginbotham's "Standard Controlability test". (He is a long-time long-time firearm instructor for both state and federal agencies.) The drill is this:

    1. Start at a low-ready 5 yards from the target, which is the size of a vertically-folded piece of 8 1/2 x 11" typing paper. The target is now 5 1/2" wide by 8 1/2" tall.

    2. Passing is 5 shots into the target in no more than 2 seconds.

    3. An average of 3 runs was taken.

    4. I used the 115-gr. Silver Bear ammo for this drill as it was offered a little more recoil than the 95-gr. Barnaul JHP.

    I did the test 3 times using the Bulgarian with its smallish factory sights and then 3 times with the larger Novak 3-dot sights on the Beast slide.

    Resulting averages were very similar for both setups:

    Factory Bulgarian: 1.77 secs

    Bulgarian w/Beast Slide: 1.71 secs

    I forgot to photograph the "groups" but they were roughly the same with some on the edge of the target from both the plain Bulgarian Mak or with it using the Beast slide.

    7-Yards: At this distance, I did 5 runs starting from a low-ready position. As was the case when doing the controllability drills, the gun was DA for the first shot. It was the standard "two-to-the-body-and-one-to-the-head" exercise that the late Jeff Cooper also called "The Mozambique Drill". How valid it is or isn't in real life might be argued by some deep into training and tactics but my point in using it is simply to have a consistent standard to be used in conjunction with Mr. Higginbotham's controlability test to see if the "high-visibility" Novak sights were superior to the admittedly small sights standard to the Makarov.


    Here are the Beast slide w/Novak sights (top) and the Bulgarian factory slide (bottom) as viewed from the top so a visual comparison of the sights can be made. Are the Novak sights really better? I just wanted to put them to the test and see using the same frame with the same trigger-pull for the gun in either configuration. POA vs. POI were very acceptable (with both the Bulgarian and the Russian, which says something to me about consistency in manufacture of these pistols, at least with these two.

    Again, an average was taken using the Pact timer.


    Here are the results are 5 FTS drills using the Bulgarian in standard factory trim using the small fixed sights.


    ...and using the Beast slide conversion.

    Average times were 2.26 secs with the standard fixed sights and 2.19 secs with the Novak-equipped slide. How much of this is just my human reflex variation and how much is actually being able to pick up the larger sights? I do not know? Is there enough time to make a real difference in the real world? I'm not sure. You decide for yourself.

    I will say this. If one's eyesight is such that close-in objects (like handgun sights) are no longer clear (like they were 25 years ago), the larger sights probably do make a difference. I shot with my eyeglasses removed. Otherwise I could not have seen either sight clearly. (I didn't think to try the drills with my glasses on or we might have seen a more distinct winner. Note that the chest group with the smaller Bulgarian sights seems more vertically strung. Might this be from my trying to find the smallish front sight at speed and perhaps overcompensating?)

    In any event, I found the results from either variation of the Bulgarian pistol to be satisfactory.

    Observations: I will admit that I was not really surprised at the similarity in results using the factory vs. Novak sights. This is because several years ago I had Novak sights installed on a couple of Mk III 9mm Hi Power pistols. Comparing them to the standard fixed Mk III sights, I found no real difference in either slow or rapid-fire exercises. Those sights are closer in size than the Novak to the Makarov standard sight but how much real world difference is there between the two? Would this hold true for every single shooter or just some and not others? I don't know.

    There were no malfunctions with either pistol, something that remains the standard for the Makarov.

    Are they acceptable defensive "carry guns"?

    You decide.

    For me, there's no question that they remain addictive...

    Best.


  2. #2
    VIP Member Array maclean3's Avatar
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    Another great review Sir, thanks for taking the time to write it up. I seem to recall you had a Mak hard chromed as well? Perhaps I'm thinking of someone else though.

    An East German Mak is still very high on my wish list, as is a Russian Military and your earlier review strongly reinforced that. I may end up trading my .380 PPk for one if I find a good deal locally. If not, I'll save my pennies and exercise my C&R license.
    Jack

  3. #3
    Distinguished Member Array ripley16's Avatar
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    Good report. Sounds like you would like the Makawrap grips. Have you tried them?
    Makawrap Makarov Replacement Grip

  4. #4
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    Hello. No, I've not tried those grips yet. Thanks to all for the kind words. Glad that the post was of interest.

    Best.

  5. #5
    VIP Member Array JerryM's Avatar
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    Hi Stephen,
    Thanks for the post. I have three Maks, and they are great little guns. I think they must be the most reliable guns made.
    I have a good friend who is about to customize one of his, and I remember you did a lot of work on yours.

    I did have your website address, but not now. Do you still have it? I found it helpful.

    Regards,
    Jerry

  6. #6
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    Hello. It's in my "signature" on posts here.

    Best.

  7. #7
    VIP Member Array JerryM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen A. Camp View Post
    Hello. It's in my "signature" on posts here.

    Best.
    I am in the slow group, I guess. I don't see a signature.
    OK I got it in the "About Me."

    Regards,
    Jerry

  8. #8
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    Exellent write up as always. I really enjoy reading your posts complete with pictures as they are always among the better ones on the net. Are you a proffesional writer?Thanks for that.
    I would rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.


    AR. CHL Instr. 07/02 FFL
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    http://bobbailey1959.wordpress.com/

  9. #9
    1951 - 2011
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    Hello. I reckon I'm sort of semi-professional at the writing thing. Makes enough money to supplement my police retirement.

    Best.

  10. #10
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    Hello, Jerry. I thought it was visible at the bottom of each of my posts.

    "Drop by Hi Powers and Handguns and hi-powers--handguns "

    I assumed it was visible to all.

    In any event, best to you and yours.

  11. #11
    VIP Member Array JerryM's Avatar
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen A. Camp View Post
    Hello, Jerry. I thought it was visible at the bottom of each of my posts.

    "Drop by Hi Powers and Handguns and hi-powers--handguns "

    I assumed it was visible to all.

    In any event, best to you and yours.
    Hi Stephen,

    What can we expect from old retired police officers? Maybe the same as older retired soldiers. But some of us cannot write. You do a fine job. I bet you learned that from the paperwork you had to do.:)

    Regards,
    Jerry

  12. #12
    1951 - 2011
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    Hahahaha! Hello. Yup! I did do some writing, the usual stuff of course, but if one of my troops "unlimbered" his "shooting iron" against some punk dude trying to kill him, my hand would have turned into something akin to a dried rat paw wrapped around a pencil had I died!

    I didn't die but I did do a few such reports and all were "righteous".

    Best.

  13. #13
    VIP Member Array maclean3's Avatar
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    Jerry, I think there's an option in the User CP area that turns signatures on and off. Maybe that's why you're not seeing it. Stephen's website is an excellent resource for handgun info and I highly recommend spending a few hours (or more) reading through it. Here's a link: Hi Powers and Handguns

    Jack

  14. #14
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    Thank you Stephen!

    A wonderful writeup as usual. I always enjoy your informative & entertaining articles.
    Mine: Glock 36............Wife's: Ruger SP101 3"
    -------Ruger SR9....................Ruger SR9c
    -------S&W SW99 .45.............Charter Arms Undercover

    Hidden Defense - Personal gun & holster designs/reviews.

  15. #15
    VIP Member Array JerryM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maclean3 View Post
    Jerry, I think there's an option in the User CP area that turns signatures on and off. Maybe that's why you're not seeing it. Stephen's website is an excellent resource for handgun info and I highly recommend spending a few hours (or more) reading through it. Here's a link: Hi Powers and Handguns

    Jack
    Thanks Mac,
    I got it. Stephen's site is well worth reading. I recalled that from a few years back, but had lost the address.
    Thanks, again.

    Regards,
    Jerry

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