The Nagant M1895, or plain old Nagant Revolver, has long served the Russian military and is among the most unique handguns from behind the former Iron Curtain.
This seven-shot, 7.62x38mm revolver originally designed in Belgium by Emil Nagant, was adopted by Russia in 1895. It was soon after manufactured under license in Russia and is perhaps the longest lasting surplus military handgun that has spanned Imperial and communist times, right into the current Russian Federated Republic era.
This sturdy revolver is long known for its unique gas seal principle – whereupon rearing back the hammer, or a double-action pull of the trigger, allows the cylinder to move forward into the forcing cone providing a tight gas seal upon ignition. The odd-appearing cartridge has its bullet seated about 3/16 of an inch beneath the case mouth, which also expands during firing, providing an even more complete seal with practically no gas escaping.
Though loading and extraction are very slow and clumsy by today’s standard, the Nagant 1895 remained in service until 2009 with the Russian court bailiff system, and right up to 2014 with the Ukrainian railroad security police. Those that began appearing around 1997 have, for the most part, come from the Ukraine complete with quantities of sealed tins of 1950s to ‘70s Soviet-manufactured surplus ammunition.
At the range, this revolver is far more accurate in the single-action mode, as the heavy double-action pull appears to break at the 25-pound mark, which does nothing for accuracy. These revolvers can be found with both Imperial Russian or Communist “Bolshevik” markings.
Early variants prior to the communist era have Cyrillic markings of the Tula factory on the rear left frame with year of manufacture. From 1929 on they normally have a star on the left frame with a year of production. In World War II-era models made from 1942 to 1945, however, there may be found three different sets of markings on the rear left frame. Most of those imported are in superb condition and appear to have been refinished years earlier, and are often accompanied by a fabric holster and a cleaning rod fitted to loops on the front.
For both shooters and collectors, the appearance of handguns long unavailable to the West, have really made an exciting dent in the firearms market in the span of a little over 25 years. It’s a completely new and exciting field of shooting and collecting that has opened up a formerly prohibited area that continues to flourish.
Editor’s Notes: This article originally appeared in Gun Digest 2018, 72nd Edition.
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