The following article is specifically meant to familiarize the modern shooter with the plethora of handguns that exist on the market specifically having been designed and built in the former USSR and other communist countries prior to the collapse of the Berlin wall. The principle aim of the various communist bloc militaries was to arm each soldier with a rifle as the primary tool and the pistol was an after thought, an addition for officers or special forces specifically meant as a backup to the rifle. This reasoning is the primary cause for the discarding of the Nagant revolver which was quite accurate, reliable and an amazing piece of craftsmanship at a time when the revolver market was dominated by Colt, Smith and Wesson and Webley in the Western world.
During World War II the need was seen for a carbine or SMG (submachine gun) that could serve as a means of close in support while engaged in the defense of the major cities of Russia against the invading and arguably better armed forces of the German army. Of course it helped the design to move forward faster after the debacle in Finland when the Russian army went up against well trained Finnish soldiers who utilized their version of the Mosin Nagant to great affect as well as the reliable and easily utilized Suomi KP-31. The design that sprang forth was the PPSH-41, a stamped steel easily manufactured fully auto SMG (there was no switch for semi auto, it was purely a fully auto SMG meant as a close in offensive and defensive tool.) The TT-30 was the handgun variant that utilized the same round and was used along side the older Nagant revolver until 1952 when it was replaced by the Makarov.
Of special note to collectors and preppers alike is the noted reliability of almost every single firearm that comes from the communist bloc. With very few exceptions reliability is something they will always have over other mass produced military surplus firearms. As handguns specifically they are not only reliable but often extremely accurate though difficult in their original settings to shoot due to a variety of issues. For instance the TT-30 and the CZ-52 both utilize light recoil springs for the size of cartridge they use and the resulting muzzle climb makes followup shots distinctly difficult at best. It is this authors experience that in factory (original) settings they also both have quite a ridiculous amount of trigger slap which can be an odd feeling for someone used to western firearms. The CZ-52 especially should never be dry fired with an original firing pin. I use snap caps to test the trigger in both the TT-30 and the CZ-52, they can be found here for a good price as most gun stores will not carry 7.62×25 snap caps. Additionally the triggers themselves are often quite gritty and long in pull. Makarov style firearms or handguns utilizing the somewhat diminutive 9×18 makarov round suffer from similar ailments. Thanks to at least one manufacture in particular, WOLFF springs these issues are rapidly solved and once solved the handgun can be almost pleasant to shoot. In some cases (mine and others I know) rapidly find themselves becoming favorite carry firearms.
The rounds themselves are also seen negatively simply because they do not have a large variety of sporting or defensive loadings available. However, this is rapidly changing simply because the large number of inexpensive surplus firearms flooding the market have opened niche markets for ammunition manufacturers and the result is a much better supply of both self defense and sporting cartridge being available for both of the calibers mentioned above. Both the TT-30 and the CZ-52 are widely accepted to have flamethrower characteristics when surplus ammunition is used. The reasons for this range from lower quality powder which finishes its burn outside of the barrel to it being just another use for the pistol…insert surplus ammunition, place barrel in rat hole and squeeze trigger…chasing all rats away with the flame alone. However, after testing several modern loadings I have found that the large muzzle flash no longer exists in fact, it is now smaller than even some of my 9×19 loadings for my Glocks. The same applies to the much shorter barreled, smaller 9×18 makarov handguns.
I have found that the PPU 85 grain JHP is a wonderful shooting, extremely accurate round in the TT-30 and the CZ-52. With recoil springs strengthened by a minimum of 2lbs and some minor trigger work accomplished both handguns now shoot quite easily and are amazingly accurate out through 100 yards. The FEG-PA63, P-64, Makarov PM, CZ82 all shoot quite well once minor adjustments are made to recoil and trigger springs. For the 9×18 makarov based firearms I use Hornady 95 grn critical defense and love it, My personal favorite is the FEG-PA63 which I have found shoots point of aim out to 25 yards and even without good sights (this is a downfall of combloc handguns) it is quite easy to point and shoot. After replacing the old sights with sights designed for the Sig Sauer P238 the FEG has become quite beautiful. As for the CZ-52 I am looking at several different sight variations all of which will require some amount of milling. Regardless, my firearms as they stand now are reliable, accurate and after testing on both wild hogs, wild dogs and javelina I have absolutely no hesitation carrying either of these calibers with the rounds I have chosen for them.
Surplus handguns did not always get my fancy, in fact, in the past I was the typical ‘Murican who believed only .45 auto and revolvers that ate .38 and .357 were guns for men. The 1911 or the Trooper were the only handguns and everything else was shite with a capital S. Fortunately, I grew up. After learning that research, testing and extensive handling was necessary to become a true pistolero I began experimenting with a variety of rounds. I researched firearm related deaths in the United States and found that the lowly .22lr was involved in a greater number of firearms related causalties then the amazing .45. In fact I found that the amazing, spectacular .45 auto was a rare deliverer of death. Rather it was the lowly .38 or 9mm or .357 or a .22lr that did the deed. So I began testing using wild hogs, javelina and other pest animals with similar body mass to humans. I quickly found that where you shot the target mattered most. The next thing I found was that even up through 8mm NOTHING stopped prey immediately, there was almost always a few second window of continued life and this matters when defending oneself.
Regardless, after testing thoroughly I have found that the handguns I carry which are the following calibers will successfully and repeatedly put prey or threats to my life down if un-armored. While armored targets are easily stopped using higher caliber rifle rounds in full metal jacket. Remember, blood loss is what causes death, the more rapidly this occurs the faster death occurs. Unless a target is armored on their extremities you can easily perforate large blood carrying vessels resulting in a relatively quick death.
The following are my suggestions based on use, testing and personal ownership of the firearms themselves.
For personal defense / carry on a daily basis I would suggest the following handguns in order of personal preference – average cost attached
1. CZ82 (12+1 capacity in newer models) $250 – 425 there are several places that carry a variety of magazines as these handguns are still in production.
2. FEG PA-63 (7+1 capacity) spare magazines are expensive, generally the firearm can be had for $200 – 250 (lightest model and very comfortable to carry)
3. P-64 (7+1 capacity) spare magazines are easier to get $195 – 250
9x18mak caliber ammunition choices –
Self Defense – Hornady Critical Defense 95grn is in my opinion the best round for the 9×18 handguns given their surplus status, blow-back actions and age – safety alone requires shooting standard power versus +P that some really great ammunition makers like Buffalo Bore make. I and many others have tested this choice and it always preforms.
PPU fmj works and runs great in all test pistols
For field/hunter/survival carrying
1. CZ – 52 (8+1 capacity) additional magazines widely available for reasonable pricing $300-500 I personally prefer this model versus the TT-30 simply because the rolling block allows me to load hotter loads. The major variation here is that the magazine release is typical European and behind the magazine versus on the frame behind the trigger.
2. TT – 30 (8+1 capacity) additional magazines are also widely available and for a reasonable price of between $150 and 300 these and the Yugo version M – 57 are widely liked by those who own them. The Browning grip and functional design with a much easier to use magazine release makes these generally more popular among collectors who plan on using them.
I have found that a few different pre made holsters and magazine pouches will fit them unless you wish to stick with the fold over leather bag approach they originally come with. The BladeTech 229 is my favorite for the CZ – 52. And the magazine pouches are re-purposed 10mm single stack or double stack pouches.
7.62×25 ammunition choices
Whether you are hunting, defending self or simply carrying as a backup I prefer using the PPU 85 grn JHP – there are others available, however, after testing and shooting quite a bit including some surplus this particular round has several things that make it much more easy to carry than the others available.
1. It is a JHP which while not as reliable as the Hornady or Speer jhps with the velocities that come with this round (1500+) it makes for a much deadlier round.
2. It is accurate, offhand it shoots point of aim and groups accordingly.
3. When you can find it (I use ammoseek.com) it is relatively inexpensive at between $17 and 20 a box of 50. Lastly I find that having a solid handgun cleaning kit helps especially if you choose to use surplus ammunition. The good old Hoppes cleaning kit as a followup to hot soapy water bath is a must.
Remember, Ballistol is as always my top choice for cleaning and lubricating my weapons, especially my surplus firearms and can be had for a relatively low price compared to many other modern miracle cleaners. It is green, food safe and works for knives, guns and more. (I do not recommend eating it by itself of course.)
So, which one do you own and are you as pleasantly surprised with its capabilities and relative ease of use as I am?
My mind is free as is my body, I would rather die on my feet free than on my knees a slave.
I have included some pictures of the handguns broken down and fully put together for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy and as always feel free to support this site through the link to the left if you get some good from it.