February 2011

Two Tokarevs: Yugoslav M57 Outshines Romanian TT-33

Careful cleaning raised the grade of one of these surplus pistols from F to A. Both included surprisingly good internal designs and thumb safeties that allowed for cocked-and-locked carry.

The Tokarev pistol replaced the old Nagant revolver in Russia in the 1930s, and what a change it was. The new semiauto zinged out an 85-grain bullet at close to 1500 fps, and was the speed king for handguns until the advent of the 357 Magnum in the 1950s, which could sometimes equal, but seldom exceed, the speed of the Mauser-designed cartridge.

The 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge originated before the turn of the 19th century as the 30 Borchardt, which didn’t quite make the velocity of the Mauser or Tokarev cartridges, though the bullet weight was the same. It then was adopted by Mauser and was loaded hotter for his Broomhandle. The Russians copied the 1896 Mauser round essentially exactly, but put it into a much simpler handgun. While somewhat similar to the Colt 1911 design, the Tokarev was a simplification in some ways, and an advancement in others. The big thing about the Tokarev is the original design of both the TT-30 and TT-33 lacked a safety. There was a half-cock position on the hammer, but no easy way to lower the hammer once it was cocked, nor to keep it in the cocked position.

We acquired two Tokarev TT-33 variants for this test report. One was a Yugoslavian version, marked as the Model M57. It featured a well-made and cleanly installed thumb safety that permitted normal and confident cocked-and-locked carry. The other gun was from Romania and had a crude safety that had been added to permit importation into the U.S. There were other slight differences between the two that we’ll get into later.

Because the takedown is identical for the two, we’ll discuss that first. One of the nicer aspects of the Tokarev is a much easier takedown than that of the 1911. You don’t have to wrestle the slide all the way back and hunt for a notch to get the cross pin out. And once the slide is removed toward the front, the hammer/sear group comes out as a unit for easy cleaning or replacement. The slide spring remains in the gun until you pull it out, which then permits removal of the barrel.

The Tokarev was a clean design, we thought, with an easily cocked hammer and excellent sights, though the rear one was on the high side to properly match the front blade. None of our shooters disliked the vertical grip angle of these two pistols. We all thought the grip felt natural.

The Tokarev has a barrel bushing, but turning it is not required to remove the slide. The slide spring keeps the barrel bushing in place, and once the slide spring is removed, the barrel bushing can be rotated 180 degrees to free the barrel, which comes out of the gun toward the front.

The barrels of the two guns had locking rings machined completely around their circumferences, though only the top portion locked into the slide. The benefit is much easier manufacture than that needed for a typical 1911 barrel.

Both guns exhibited a semi-gloss blued finish, and both had plastic grips that were held in place by hidden clips, accessible via the mag well. Both had lanyard rings, and both had fixed sights. The handling differences between the two were minimal, and the range results were similar. The Romanian version had a shorter grip, permitting eight rounds in the magazine instead of nine for the Yugo version. We tested them with two types of low-cost surplus ammunition, Romanian and Polish. Here’s what we found.

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