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.
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.
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.