February 20, 2014

Makarov 9x18

No matter the reasons, many people cling to the idea of a pocket pistol as being somehow useful. Those with more experience will generally arm themselves in a more powerful, if not more convenient, manner, but as someone once said, rule number one for gunfighting is, “Have a gun.” The pocket pistol is often there in the pocket or purse while the bigger, heavier gun stays home. Of course pocket pistols can be, and commonly are, carried in some sort of holster. But some spend most of their lives being dragged around in the dusty confines of a makeshift container.

The so-called pocket pistol comes in many sizes and calibers. Not all of them are actually suitable for the pocket or for actual self-defense, come to think of it, but they can surely be fun guns, ammo costs notwithstanding.

Gun Tests Magazine recently tested a Makarov in a larger caliber, 9x18 (about $150). It was DA/SA, blued, and had plastic stocks and fixed sights. It had a safety that dropped its hammer. It was well preserved, and about 30 years old. Here’s what the magazine's shooters found:

Makarov 9x18, about $150

This Bulgarian-made pistol came with a holster and one magazine, and a cleaning rod of sorts was stowed in the holster. Fit and finish of the Makarov were okay, nothing to rave about but certainly not disgusting. The plastic grips were probably the best grips of this trio, though for right-handers only. There was a thumb rest for the right-hand thumb, and the grip material was modern-looking, gently stippled, and very attractive. The one-piece plastic grip was made in Germany. This gun was nearly as natural-feeling in the hand as a Walther. The front grip strap was long enough that those with narrow to normal hands could get three fingers onto the front grip strap. Some of us were crowded by the magazine lip, which had an uncomfortable sharp edge.

Gun Tests August 2003

Clean, simple, not very expensive, and it works. What more could you ask of a pocket auto?

A spring clip mounted on the bottom of the grip retained the magazine, which gave this gun an easy magazine release, though it required two hands.

The metal polish overall was fairly good, way better than war expedient. With this gun the frame extended forward farther beneath the Walther-shaped slide. The top of the slide had a narrow, serrated rib and the rear sight was drift adjustable and the front milled into the steel of the slide. The sight picture was excellent, with a flat-backed front blade that could have been wider, but was okay, and a square-notched rear that had enough room to easily find the front blade.

Wonder of wonders, there was a slide-release button on the left side of the frame, which made reloading fast. Reloads could be accomplished by slamming in a full magazine and hitting the button.

Takedown was simple. The trigger guard was pulled down and pushed to the side, and the slide could then be withdrawn and taken off forward. The guts of the Mak were not all that pretty, but seemed to be well made, sound and solid. As we found, all the parts worked well. One thing we noted was that our particular brand of test ammo left lots of gritty unburned or partially burned powder inside the gun (not in the barrel) that would require careful monitoring in long shooting sessions.

Gun Tests August 2003

There's not a lot beneath that grip on the Mak, but it's enough. We liked the mag release at the bottom of the gun, and the slide-dropping button just behind the trigger.

The gun was blocky, and a tad heavy, but of course it made larger holes in the paper. We had only one type of ammo on hand, Russian-made 115-grain jacketed hollow point. On the range the Makarov handled this ammo reliably. Despite the tiny ejection port our test gun functioned perfectly with all rounds fired. Accuracy was fair, about three inches on average for five shots at 15 yards. As for tinkering to improve accuracy, we’re in the dark here. The slide-to-frame fit seemed snug, and the barrel was securely pinned into the buttress on the frame. (The barrel was inserted into the frame protrusion from the back and, like the others, held with a single cross pin.) Bullets seemed well sized to the barrel. Grooves measured .366/.367, and bullets measured about .367. Is three inches enough accuracy? Probably. Would we like more? Yep.

The trigger didn’t help accuracy. The Mak had a spongy, creepy SA trigger that broke at 7.6 pounds.

Gun Tests Recommends: Makarov 9x18, about $150. Our Pick. The Mak was comfortable, though it had more whack to the hand than some .32s.

Comments (40)

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Posted by: soferu | October 5, 2015 8:16 PM    Report this comment

my question is can the 9x18 fire a 380 acp?
how do you tell if the weapon is chambered in 380 if there are no markings on the barrel,.
i understand that the weapon was chambered in 380 until 1947.
true or lie?
thanks
steve

Posted by: sjybarra | May 7, 2015 5:33 PM    Report this comment

I once tested a
115 grain load, I think the brand was Brown Bear. My gun didn't group very well with it at even 10 to 15 yards, maybe three inches. Rounds shot high. 94 95 grain bullets of all makes shoot well out of my gun----maybe two inches at that range. I never shoot from a rest. I was disappointed with the accuracy of the 115 grainers, to say the least.
They also shot well above point of aim, maybe two inches. This has been at least four years ago.

Posted by: Tom19563 | March 12, 2015 7:35 PM    Report this comment

I have a Bulgarian Makarov that I used for CC and practice regularly with it. Very accurate and reliable. Refinements to the trigger have made it crisp and smooth, breaking at 7 lbs, which I'm comfortable with.

I was in Russia in 2013 (Moscow, Tula, St Petersburg, other areas). One thing I observed was that security guards EVERYWHERE carried Makarovs. There were other pistols being used as a sidearm, mostly on police, but the Makarov was the most common sidearm I saw throughout my travels.

Posted by: Gricha27 | October 3, 2014 7:51 AM    Report this comment

I have a CZ82, 9x18 breaks down the same way but it is very accurate little pistol magazine hold 12 rounds got years ago @ CDNN Sports.Com I think they still have some left. The CZ was the best one, they also have some from Hungary, and other former Warsaw Pact countries. A great CCW pistol. Feeds all kind of 9x18 ammo. A great little for CCW. It can be carry locked and cocked with the safety engaged or DA with hammer down.

Posted by: Benayah | October 3, 2014 6:13 AM    Report this comment

Got a Bulgarian 9x18 this summer. Stripped it, and looked like it had hardly been fired. Fairly accurate with PPU 95 gr. Fmj. Cast and loaded some Lee 95 grain lead bullets with Power Pistol. Nice 1" groups at 35 feet. Also loaded some Speer HP's with Acc#2. Same great accuracy. Still want to try some of Russian steel case cartridges. Great little pistol.

Posted by: pyatdr | October 3, 2014 12:21 AM    Report this comment

While I usually carry a springfield 40 subcompact I also have a mak I have changed the grips being left handed installed a 15 lb recoil spring and a 7 lb trigger spring.
I have put about a thousand rounds through it with no fails what so ever. Accuracy is suprizingly good, it makes a great summer carry.
I have filed all the edges for a nicer feel.

Posted by: seumasmac | October 2, 2014 11:21 AM    Report this comment

I have 4 Mak's. None for sale. I use 94 gr. Surplus ammo. Best shooters I have for the money. Very accurate guns. CC is wonderful with any of these.

Posted by: zachary | October 2, 2014 10:12 AM    Report this comment

Try Natchez.com and Ammotogo.com.

Posted by: Cecil B | February 26, 2014 2:10 PM    Report this comment

Thanks. I hoped to find the 120gr.

Posted by: tailfeathers | February 26, 2014 1:49 PM    Report this comment

tailfeathers: Sportsmansguide.com has some Silver Bear, 9 x 18 FMJ, 94 gr, for $70 for 250 rnds. You can always make them HP with a drill and a little patience.

Posted by: Cecil B | February 26, 2014 12:01 AM    Report this comment

I had some 120 grain hollow point Silver Bear cartridges That were terrific but I can't find them anywhere. Anyone ever use them/have a source?

Posted by: tailfeathers | February 22, 2014 4:05 PM    Report this comment

I bought my EG Mak in late 1999, and have used it as my CCP pistol in Mi. pretty much since then. I have numerous options I have bought to replace it, but the Mak always ends up on my belt. It has one of the best triggers I have used outside of custom work, and is dead on accurate. Then consider it has 27 total parts, all but the barrel replaceable with that "cleaning rod of sorts" and you have something very unique. A cheap, reliable, rugged, accurate pistol that practically anyone who can use a screwdriver can keep running for years to come.

Posted by: s.dickinson | February 22, 2014 2:15 PM    Report this comment

Well, I bought one CZ-82 at around $200 two years ago and was so impressed that I bought a second CZ-82. I love the gun. I shoot it at our club's outdoor 50ft range and it shoots tight groups. The DA trigger pull is heavy but I like that on any handgun as a double safety feature. You really got to mean to pull that trigger in a self defense situaton at close range before the gun will discharge. In SA it is easy to aim and hit accutately with the light trigger. The pologonal barrel is very accurate when compared to other handguns I have with rifled barrels. Ammo is not too hard to find on-line when available and then I buy in bulk. I also did a polishing of the feed ramp on mine which made me just feel better since I never had either gun jam and I shoot them often. I also have two Polish P-64 handguns that are PPK clones for half the price and very high quality. The trigger on the P-64's are light (in SA) and the gun is also accurate. I never regreted buying either the CZ-82's or the P-64,s and even though I have two of each I will not part with them.

Posted by: 63 NOVA ANDY | February 21, 2014 8:10 PM    Report this comment

Well, I bought one CZ-82 at around $200 two years ago and was so impressed that I bought a second CZ-82. I love the gun. I shoot it at our club's outdoor 50ft range and it shoots tight groups. The DA trigger pull is heavy but I like that on any handgun as a double safety feature. You really got to mean to pull that trigger in a self defense situaton at close range before the gun will discharge. In SA it is easy to aim and hit accutately with the light trigger. The pologonal barrel is very accurate when compared to other handguns I have with rifled barrels. Ammo is not too hard to find on-line when available and then I buy in bulk. I also did a polishing of the feed ramp on mine which made me just feel better since I never had either gun jam and I shoot them often. I also have two Polish P-64 handguns that are PPK clones for half the price and very high quality. The trigger on the P-64's are light (in SA) and the gun is also accurate. I never regreted buying either the CZ-82's or the P-64,s and even though I have two of each I will not part with them.

Posted by: 63 NOVA ANDY | February 21, 2014 8:07 PM    Report this comment

Well, I bought one CZ-82 at around $200 two years ago and was so impressed that I bought a second CZ-82. I love the gun. I shoot it at our club's outdoor 50ft range and it shoots tight groups. The DA trigger pull is heavy but I like that on any handgun as a double safety feature. You really got to mean to pull that trigger in a self defense situaton at close range before the gun will discharge. In SA it is easy to aim and hit accutately with the light trigger. The pologonal barrel is very accurate when compared to other handguns I have with rifled barrels. Ammo is not too hard to find on-line when available and then I buy in bulk. I also did a polishing of the feed ramp on mine which made me just feel better since I never had either gun jam and I shoot them often. I also have two Polish P-64 handguns that are PPK clones for half the price and very high quality. The trigger on the P-64's are light (in SA) and the gun is also accurate. I never regreted buying either the CZ-82's or the P-64,s and even though I have two of each I will not part with them.

Posted by: 63 NOVA ANDY | February 21, 2014 8:06 PM    Report this comment

Hard to beat a Makarov!!!!

Posted by: DaveShooter | February 20, 2014 9:51 PM    Report this comment

I used to carry my Walther PPKS with one in the chamber, hammer down and safety off. I dropped the son of a bitch one time. It hit on the barrel tip and discharged. Wonder if this one will do the same. I was on my way to court when it happened but had to go home and change underwear.

Posted by: Cecil B | February 20, 2014 8:19 PM    Report this comment

I have a pair of East German Makarovs that out shoot my son's Sig .380 as well as every other one they've been up against. beautifully made with typical German precision. They are NOT for sale!

Posted by: tailfeathers | February 20, 2014 5:55 PM    Report this comment

There are several guns that take Makarov ammo but the one that I truly like is the Hungarian PA-63. The reason is when I fire the Polish P-64, the web of my hand gets hit to the point of bleeding but with the PA-63, the design is such that the grip is one peace, smooth, and no sharp edges to push into the skin. Just my thoughts for you.

Posted by: RightwingPatriot | September 19, 2012 11:39 AM    Report this comment

Does not surprise me at all. My 2 East Germans are not for sale either.

Posted by: tailfeathers | June 15, 2012 9:10 PM    Report this comment

I have an East German Makarov that I purchased in the mid 1980's and it's one of the few guns in my collection that I wouldn't consider selling. Over the years I've fired several different Mak variants (Russian surplus and commercial, Chinese, Bulgarian, etc.) and the East German ones consistently have better finish and are very accurate considering the tiny sights and mediocre trigger. The CZ82's that others have mentioned are a much later design and are also VERY nice little guns which are nicely made (as are almost all CZ handguns). About 10 years ago my ex and I both got our carry permits and she qualified with my Mak and I qualified with my CZ75. The instructor was very familiar with the CZ75 and was not surprised when I shot the best target in the class but what did surprise him was that my ex shot the second best with the Mak lol! A few guys with very expensive toys left the class with egg on their face after being out shot by a $150 pocket gun.

Posted by: Clark W | June 15, 2012 9:09 AM    Report this comment

not a bad looking little gun I won't mind having one or two in my collection.
God Bless America and Our Troops Past Present and Future.
Keeping to My Oath Locked Loaded and Keeping My Powder Dry.
Get the US Out of the UN and the UN Out of the US

Posted by: bear1 | June 10, 2012 1:26 AM    Report this comment

I have a Russian in .380ACP. Great little Gun and scary accurate.I think I got it for $100.00 and it had Pearce grips already installed.I would buy another in a heartbeat!

Posted by: azroamer1 | June 7, 2012 8:48 PM    Report this comment

I bought a case of 6 Bulgarian ARSENAL Maks a dozen or so years ago for a paltry $135 each after reading a glowing recommendation by Massad Ayoob.
Dolled them up with Pearce grips, brass mag extensions with finger rest (can't find them anymore), glue on night sight dots, a little polishing on feed ramp, slide rails, and other sliding contact points...they are sweeeet!
Stockpiled several thousand rounds S&B ball and assorted Russian 9x18 - it was dirt cheap and plentiful back then, like under $100/1000 (should have bought more, huh?).
Absolutely the best handgun bang for buck I've ever seen - warts and all. Every one of them (spread around among freinds and family) has been totally reliable, reasonably accurate, and buckets of fun to shoot.
Some scumbag broke into my truck and stole my (not well enough hidden)favorite pet Mak, damn!
I was royally pissed, but nowhere near as crazed as I would have been were it my favorite pet 1911-A1. That was an unfortunate demonstration of where the el-cheapo firearm is golden...exactly the point of Ayoob's treatise on great "expendable" guns to have.

Posted by: Dragonchow | June 7, 2012 5:53 PM    Report this comment

I have a CZ 82 Makarov 9X18 and I'm quite happy with it. While somewhat primitive looking, it has a button to drop the magazine along with a slide release and frame mounted safety. The barrel looks like a tube, but after a few rounds you can see the spirals of polygon rifling. The trigger is, like most Czech firearms, excellent. Double action is about 12 pounds and single action is about 5. The 9X18 round itself is no barn burner, with most loadings midway between .380 heavy and 9X19 light. I use several brands of ammo in it, from Wolf to Silver Bear to Sellier & Bellot and they are all about equal in accuracy, that being 1½ to 2" at 7 yards. My only gripes are:
1: the thing is too narrow for my hand, and
2: using the excellent sights, I hit about 4" low. That means a 12 o'clock hold for a center bullseye, but it's doable on a regular basis. I may either shorten the front sight or find a taller rear sight...sometime.
For a light carry pistol, its good and dependable, and the Makarov cartridge may not be a long distance champion, but at street fighting distances it will do the job dependably.

Posted by: KMacK | June 7, 2012 5:35 PM    Report this comment

Not to wander too far afield, but speaking of Czech pistols I dearly love my early (1983)CZ75 in 9x19. Dead reliable, shoots better than I can see, and a bluing job to rival S&W.

Posted by: Larry L | June 7, 2012 4:02 PM    Report this comment

It would hardly be an even trade..... I wouldn't either.

Posted by: canovack | June 7, 2012 3:58 PM    Report this comment

Ain't trading my S&W 637 for one.

Posted by: olafhardtB | June 7, 2012 3:42 PM    Report this comment

Full size, big bore pistols are not always desirable in certain situations. I own 2 East German Maks that are more reliable and accurate than the Sig 239 I have shot. It always boils down to bullet placement. I definitely do not feel unarmed with these.

Posted by: tailfeathers | June 7, 2012 2:54 PM    Report this comment

The Czechoslovakian (now Czech Republic) being in the CommBloc nations reluctantly, were required to change from the Tokarev and variants to the 9x18 Mak cartridge. They designed their pistol to be a double stack mag variant of the Walther PPK, and improved on the design. Theirs was the CZ-82 all steel DA/SA blowback pistol, and their police/civilian variant was the CZ-83 in .380ACP, .32ACP and special order 9x18 Mak. The CZ-83 is still being produced.
It is a superb pistol, but definitely not a pocket pistol with it's weight. Extremely accurate, well made.
NOTE: The 9mm & .380ACP cartridges are .355 and the 9x18 Mak is .365 (commercially). Consequently, if you shorten 9mm brass to be used in a 9x18 pistol, you'll find that the case head will swell and sometimes split. Not a good practice. 9x18 Mak ammo is plentiful and inexpensive, Hornady still makes their XTP version of the ammo at 95g. and Fiocchi provides their version of the XTP (with Hornady Bullets) at the same price (Hornady is 25 rounds per box, Fiocchi is 50 rounds/box).

My CZ-82 is my main CCW carry pistol and has been 'tuned' by my gunsmith with a great trigger and adjustable Fiber-Optic sights.

Posted by: JPKirkpatrick | June 7, 2012 2:02 PM    Report this comment

Use 9 x 18 makarov brass only. this should really be called the 9.2 MM Dia as the bullet (projectile) itself is .010 approx LARGER in Diameter then is the 9 x 17 and 9 x 19 (luger) ammo.

Posted by: Cava3r4 | June 7, 2012 1:15 PM    Report this comment

I have one of these though mine I have worked on. I did not like the 9x18 ammo so I changed out the barrel to 380 auto and added a stiffed spring from wolf to take the "wack" out of it.

Posted by: Emil | June 7, 2012 11:51 AM    Report this comment

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Markbo. To each, his own. The Makarov and the P-64 are both very reminiscent of the Walther PP and PPK. Fact is, they both field strip in the same manner as the Walther pistols. Remembering my first comment about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, I personally view any and all Glock pistols as supremely ugly, and they don't feel good in my hand either. That said, I respect the Glocks for their consistent reliability and durability.

Posted by: canovack | June 7, 2012 11:42 AM    Report this comment

I'm sure you guys that have them love them and good on you. But I think they are just butt ugly. Like all older designs though it's always good to have a loyal following and to keep the shooting public aware. Thanks for the input!

Posted by: Markbo | June 7, 2012 11:28 AM    Report this comment

The little Makarov pistol is a DA/SA pistol. It can be fired DA for the first shot, with subsequent shots in SA mode. The hammer can also be thumb cocked for SA mode. The safety is reminiscent of the Beretta M92, being a hammer drop safety.....not a decocker, as the gun cannot be fired DA or SA with the safety engaged.

A nice corollary to the Makarov is the Polish P-64. It, too, is chambered in the 9x18 mm cartridge, but being of smaller size, it has a six round magazine instead of the eight rounder found with the Makarov. Like the Makarov, the P-64 is a relatively inexpensive piece that can be used as a "disposable" in the same manner as the Makarov.

Posted by: canovack | June 7, 2012 11:24 AM    Report this comment

So glad to see some interest in this great little pistol. It doesn't have much snob appeal being pretty much a utility tool but interesting as it was side arm used almost exclusively by the Soviet block police. I bought mine about 15 years ago for $155 new in the box and have been using it as my primary carry piece for about 6 yrs. A little heavy being all steel but the size is just right for me and it conceals well. 8 rd. mags are available (or used to be). I carry it much like a revolver. One rd. in the chamber, hammer resting on the hammer block safety and safety lever off. Double action trigger pull is fairly long but did smooth out nice with some careful action polishing & good lube. Single action trigger is lighter and shorter as to be expected. Mine is the Russian IJ70 with adjustable sights which presented a little problem with holstering but after some creative metal/leather work on the mouth of the holster it seats nicely without snagging on the sights sharp corners anymore. It shoots flawlessly with acceptable accuracy but 9x18 ammo supplies are becoming a little thin so I buy every chance I can. 9mm Luger brass can be cut shorter and resized for handloading if necessary.

Posted by: olgare | June 7, 2012 11:17 AM    Report this comment

DA first shot, SA thereafter. Safety drops the hammer when applied. Hornady used to (maybe still does?) makes a 95-gr HP for the 9x18 Mak.

Posted by: Claud | June 7, 2012 10:48 AM    Report this comment

When these little pistols were first available on the American market, I bought a handful, since they were very inexpensive, have a pretty good feel in the hand, and make pretty good "disposables" to put into one's checked baggage when travelling. My favorite of the lot is a Bulgarian Makarov that is finished in hard chrome. I have no idea as to its current worth, but it is such a neat little hideaway gun, that I'll keep it for the foreseeable future.

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