A Case FOR the Defensive Makarov... - Pistolsmith

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Old 09-18-2004, 10:00 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Southwest
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A Case FOR the Defensive Makarov...

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:

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/Comp ... rovetc.htm )

So what?

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.


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Old 09-19-2004, 04:57 AM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 47
I have considered picking up a mak as a "travel gun" when going on vacations, etc. I now use a Kel-Tec P40 for that purpose and have been very pleased with it. I agtee that hands down the makarov can be the best 160.00 spent for a handgun and IMHO the Kel-Tec would be a close second. I do not like the sights on the maks and noticed that you mentioned about upgrading sights in your post. I liked the novak ones that were on the pistol that you were shooting. Who is the reccomended smith for upgrading mak sights and what is the approximate cost?
Old 09-19-2004, 07:26 AM   #3
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Southwest
Posts: 2,371
Hello. Mine were done by a 'smith no longer in business who sold new commercial slides so-fitted via Makarov.com. I'd think any 'smith could do the milling and fit the sights on a Mak.

You might check at www.makarov.com as I believe that you can send your slide to them and they'll have the Novak's installed and refinish the slide.

I imagine the cost would be in the $150 area for everything.


Old 09-19-2004, 07:32 AM   #4
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 47
Originally Posted by Stephen A. Camp
I imagine the cost would be in the $150 area for everything.
seems hard to justify the expense when it is almost the price of the pistol.
Old 09-19-2004, 07:44 AM   #5
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Southwest
Posts: 2,371
Hello. Yes, many do feel that way.


Old 09-23-2004, 07:33 AM   #6
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 23
Hello Mr. Camp,

As always, I enjoyed this little article. I've read all your pieces on the Hi-Power site and, as a result, bought my first Mak the other night. Thank you for your informative articles. Have you ever considered writing a book on the Makarov?

Old 09-23-2004, 07:37 AM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Southwest
Posts: 2,371
Hello, and thanks. No, not really (on the Mak book thing). I don't know all that much about the Maks and there's tons of information from others who do
at various sites like www.makarov.com


Old 09-25-2004, 06:21 PM   #8
Posts: n/a
I had a similar operation done to my Bulgie Mak and I can hit pie plates all the time from a rest at 25 yards. I am not the greatest shot, hitting a pie plate at 25 yds with a Mak is a feat in my books.

Is $150 too much to see sights? I imagine a Mak would cost about $500 if it was made in the USA. We think nothing of putting $150 into a 1911, why not a Mak?


Old 10-14-2004, 07:25 AM   #9
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 42
The 1911 offers a lot more fighting potential

That's why Granted, not many actually carry a full size and wt 1911, but there are versions of the 1911 that are no bigger nor heavier than is the Makarov, and they can be loaded to hit 3x as hard as can the 9x18 blowback auto, while remaining fully-controlable. You will never get more than 250 ft lbs out of the blowback action of the Mak, no matter what you do to it. With bullets that are light enough, you can get 2200 fps with a compact 1911, while having no more recoil than .45 ACP ball ammo has. With the sort of ammo that most guys load into their .45 ACP, tho, they gain little or nothing over the "power" of the Mak (if the Mak is properly loaded).
Old 10-14-2004, 08:34 AM   #10
Posts: n/a
When you get into small handguns that roar, spit fire, and kick very few people shoot them well. Ask the poster what his Kel-Tec P40 is like to shoot with hot loads? I have shot a P40 and believe me it is no fun. I prefer to hit something with my Mak to missing with a power house! Regards, Richard

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