Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Distinctive M1895 Nagant Revolver

If you’re looking for an inexpensive yet rugged revolver, the Nagant M1895 may be just the ticket. Readily available from many of the common internet firearm distributors, the M1895 has a long history and is dirt cheap – with decent examples frequently available for as little as $80 + shipping to your FFL or C&R. Originally these little gems were cheap to buy, but expensive to feed as Fiocchi was the only brand producing ammo in the highly unusual 7.62 Nagant cartridge. Enterprising gunsmiths therefore created a .32 APC conversion cylinder for the Nagant revolver – though these conversions frequently cost nearly as much as the pistol itself. Recently Hot Shot has started producing Nagant ammo which lowers the feeding cost of the revolver considerably!

A Typical Nagant with holster and 7 rounds of ammunition

The M1895 Nagant has a very long history . Designed by Belgian industrialist Léon Nagant, with variants on basic design being adopted by several nations including Sweden, France, and Norway – though the Russian model was the only one that ended up using the novel gas seal system (hence the unusual ammunition for this particular pistol). Used extensively by Imperial Russia, the sidearm remained popular during the early Soviet period. Both single and double action variations were produced (the “solder’s” and “officer’s” models respectively) as well as some target variations. Many embossed with a Red Star were given as high honors for Communist Party Members during the early 1930’s. Although the pistol began to be supplanted by the TT-33 Tokarev semi-automatics in the 30’s, production of the Nagant revolver continued until 1945. They continued to be used after the war by the various Bolshevik secret police agencies as its sealed gas system facilitated use of a silencer on the revolver.

The 7.62mm Nagant cartridge, also known as 7.62x38mmR , shares the same caliber as all other soviet small arms of the time. This caliber was chosen to simplify firearm tooling across the Russia and later the Soviet Union. In size it is similar to a .32 Smith and Wesson cartridge. According to Cartridges of the World, the factory load for a Nagant revolver results in its 108 grain FMJ bullet traveling with a muzzle velocity of 1100 fps. Modern ammunition (Fiocchi) is more conservatively charged with a 98 grain FMJ bullet traveling with a muzzle velocity of roughly 750 FPS. The energy of the former loads are in excess of a 9mm Makarov load and compare favorably with .38 Special loads. The energy of the latter loads are similar to a .32 Smith and Wesson or .32 ACP.

A Desirable 1910 dated Nagant Revolver

Because of the long production and refurbishment history, the M1895 Nagant revolver is also an easy and fun firearm to collect. There are many variations in markings and arsenals, and these changed frequently over time. Early models with Imperial Russian markings still intact, pistols which have not been fully (or even partially) refurbished, and Ministry of Defense pistols are variants which generally will command a premium over the normal asking price. I have a few of these gems in my collection, and I’m certain more will follow me home at some point in the future!

Until next time!!!

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