Makarov PM

The Makarov PM (Pistol Makarova, muh-KAR-uhv, Russ: Пистолет Макарова ПМ) is a semi-automatic pistol designed in the late 1940s, by Nikolai Fyodorovich Makarov, and was 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. Rather than building a pistol to an existing cartridge, Nikolai Makarov designed a new cartridge, the 9x18mm Makarov. For simplicity and economy, the Makarov pistol was of straight blowback operation, with the 9x18mm cartridge being the most powerful cartridge that its design could safely fire; although the nominal calibre was 9.0mm, the actual bullet was 9.3mm in diameter — shorter and wider and thus incompatible with pistols chambered for 9x19mm Parabellum cartridges. Consequently, Soviet ammunition was unusable in NATO firearms, hence, in war, NATO would be unable to use ammunition from killed or captured Soviet soldiers or from Soviet ammunition dumps.

In 1951, the Pistol of Makarov (PM) was selected because of its simplicity (few moving parts), economy, easy manufacturing, accuracy, and reasonable killing power. It remained in service with Soviet military and police until the end of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. Today, the Makarov is a popular handgun for concealed carry in the U.S.; variants of the Pistol Makarova remain in production in Russia and Bulgaria, however, in the U.S., Soviet and East German 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 D.D.R. no longer exist.

Since 2003, the Makarov PM was replaced by the Yarygin PYa pistol in Russian service. But as of 2008 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.


The Pistol Makarova (PM) is a medium-size, straight blowback action, frame-fixed barrel handgun. In blowback design, the only force holding the slide closed is that of the recoil spring; upon firing, the barrel and slide do not unlock, as do locked-breech design pistols. Blowback designs are simple and more accurate than designs using a recoiling, tilting, or articulated barrel. Blowback-operated pistols are also limited practically by the weight of the slide. The 9x18mm cartridge is the largest, useful cartridge in blowback-operated pistols. The PM is heavy for its size, a desirable attribute in a blowback pistol; the heavy slide provides greater inertia against recoil.

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 Bulgarian-model Makarov is government-approved for sale in the U.S. state of California, having passed a state DOJ-mandated drop-safety test (its entry is due for expiration on Dec 6, 2008 unless renewed). As a result of the firing pin, similar to the SKS rifle, the firing pin must be free from oil, preservatives, cosmoline, or fouling before shooting in order to avoid slamfire. If the firing pin does not rattle when the gun is shaken in the direction of travel, it requires cleaning.

The PM's notable features are its simplicity and economy of parts; many do more than one task, e.g. the slide stop is the ejector. Similarly, the mainspring powers the hammer and the trigger, while its lower end is the 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. The pistol is ready to shoot.

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 design to avoid its snagging in clothes, and the accidental, premature release of the magazine.

From the mid-1980s until the early 1990s 9 mm Makarov ammunition was difficult to obtain in the U.S. In that time, one gunship writer suggested and tested the substitution of .380 ACP/9 mm Short ammunition in PM's . The weapons fired, but were inaccurate beyond short-range, demonstrating keyholing at medium ranges.


Newly manufactured, non-corrosive 9x18mmPM ammunition is currently produced by many modern cartridge manufacturers such as Wolf, Winchester (Under their "Metric Calibers" brand), and Sellier & Bellot. The Russian Barnaul, Novosibirsk, and Ulyanovsk factories also produce ammunition which is imported to the United States and sold under the Silver/Brown Bear brand.

Explicit care must be taken to use the correct ammunition as there are several similar cartridges of 9 mm caliber which can not be fired safely or, most likely, at all in a Makarov. Similar cartridges often confused with the 9x18mm Makarov are .380 ACP (also known as 9x17mm Browning Short, 9 mm Short or 9 mm Kurz) and 9x19mm Parabellum.

9x18mm Ultra or 9x18mm Police ammunition is not compatible with the Makarov, although they have the same 9x18mm designation. The 9 mm Makarov round is 9.25 mm as compared with the 9 mm Ultra's 9 mm and the 9mm Police's 9.02 mm. (see 9mm).

The correct ammunition is 9x18mm Makarov for most unmodified factory pistols, although replacement barrels and civilian models chambered in .380 ACP and .32 NAA are also available, and will require .380 ACP and .32 NAA ammunition, respectively, for safe firing.


The Makarov was manufactured in several Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War and afterwards; apart from Russia 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 second hand market. Due to the fixed supply, prices have more than doubled since importation ceased.

Countries like Poland and Hungary have developed their own handgun designs that use the 9x18mm round. Hungary developed the PA-63 and Poland has developed the P-64 and the P-83 Vanad. 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). They are simply pistols that happen to be chambered for the same 9 mm Makarov round.

A wide variety of after-market 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.

As with the Simonov SKS, the market prefers Makarovs which were made in East Germany. The Bulgarian pistols are not quite as polished but are still generally regarded as being solid and reliable weapons. The Russian and Chinese Makarovs are generally not thought of highly, but still have value as collectables.


  • The History and Development of Imperial and Soviet Russian Military Small Arms and Ammunition 1700-1986 written by Fred A. DATIG (Handgun Press - 1988)
  • Soviet Military Pistols - Tokarev & Makarov by Gerard HENROTIN (H&L Publishing / - 2002)


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