Carrying a Makarov

This is a guest post by Andrew BettsMakarov

Should You Trust a Commie? Carrying a Makarov.

If you knew you were going into a fight, you would be a fool to choose a pistol. Pistols are not powerful. They do not point very naturally. They do not hold a lot of ammunition. They do one thing well: they are small enough to be on your person when you need a gun. Home defense guns are guns that you choose as though you knew you would be going into a fight.

You do not know that a fight will ever come to you, but if you do need to defend your home, you know what some of the parameters of that fight are going to be. With that in mind, we can choose the very best tool for that fight. For most people, the best tool for home defense is a light rifle or a shotgun in 12 or 20 gauge.

Unfortunately though, you could find yourself in a fight when that home defense gun is at the other end of your house. You could come home to a burglary in progress or men could force their way past you when you answer the door in the middle of the day. You wouldn’t choose a handgun for home defense but for whatever reason, you might find yourself relying on your carry piece for that purpose. One popular carry pistol is the Makarov or its many variants.

There is a perception that Warsaw Pact firearms are of low quality, that they are crudely designed and roughly manufactured. That reputation might be well deserved in some cases. A Mosin-Nagant 91/30 is a sturdy and reliable rifle but it lacks the finesse and craftsmanship of a Mauser K98 or Springfield M1903. The Makarov, though, is a makarovwell-designed and aesthetically pleasing pistol that is at least the equal of a WWII Remington-Rand 1911A1 in terms of the sophistication of design and execution of machining.

The Makarov uses a traditional double action / single action fire control mechanism, which means that the first shot has a heavy, long trigger pull and subsequent shots have a light, short trigger pull. Relatively speaking, the double action trigger stroke is shorter than many other pistols but is very much on the heavy side. The single action trigger is actually lighter and smoother than is usually seen in a DA/SA design but there is some creep. The safety is also a decocker and operates in the “right” direction, moving downward to fire. Up engages the safety and drops the hammer without allowing it to contact the firing pin. The single stack magazine and fixed barrel make the pistol thin enough to carry comfortably. The grip is as short as it can be and still fit all the fingers of an average man’s hand.makarov

Being thin and short make it easy to carry. Having the option to carry with the hammer down and the safety off is very attractive for many armed citizens. The heavy trigger pull reduces the likelihood of a negligent discharge but the short, light pull of subsequent shots can contribute to better combat accuracy.

It has tiny sights, though you could certainly replace them. True 1911A1s have small sights, too but few people carry them with those sights. The magazine has huge cutouts on its sides, which seems a very foolish design for a military pistol. It is not likely to be of much concern on an armed citizen’s pistol, though. What might be a little concerning, though, is that there does not appear to be any JHP ammunition that can expand and meet minimum penetration requirements.

When this load was fired through four layers of denim, it failed to expand and performed exactly as though it was full metal jacket, penetrating nearly thirty inches. Without the heavy clothing analog, it expanded beautifully, much better than one would expect from cheap Russian ammo with a steel jacket. Unfortunately, that expansion caused it to slow too quickly and it fell far short of the 12” minimum penetration standard, barely reaching nine inches. Worse, the extra length of the 115 gr projectile prevents reliable feeding in some guns. But that is cheap Russian ammo. Surely well designed American jacketed hollow point can do better, right?

Unfortunately, the story here was similar. In bare gelatin, the bullet expanded well but penetrated only about seven inches. In the heavy clothing test, the bullet does expand partially and it does penetrate almost perfectly but this performance can hardly be relied upon. The partial expansion indicates that the bullet could have just as easily failed to expand at all. More importantly, the appropriate penetration depth was only reached through an accident of partial expansion. Any more expansion would result in penetration that falls short of the standard.

It is this author’s opinion that the combination of bullet weight, sectional density, and velocity make it difficult for a bullet to perform properly. It is likely possible to design a bullet to expand just enough to still meet the standard, and do it reliably whether in bare gelatin or denim but it would take a great deal of research that the ammunition makers are unlikely to invest in such a niche caliber. Still, FMJ is no Nerf dart.

We may be spoiled by these wonders of modern technology. A 95 gr FMJ will still ruin a bad guy’s whole day. As always, shot placement comes first in determining the effect a bullet will have on an attacker. To that end, the Makarov is accurate enough and has a good enough trigger to put the holes where you need them. Being thin, short, and rounded helps it carry well. Being affordable makes the few and minor shortcomings it has seem even smaller.


Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan.  Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.

Photo credit – Andrew Betts


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