“If your handgun possesses enough accuracy to hit a man in the chest at 50 meters, you have more accuracy than you probably will ever need!” These were the words — or at least a rough paraphrase — of the late great firearms expert Chuck Taylor in his 1982 book, The Complete Book of Combat Handgunning. The equally late great Chuck Karwan — who, like Taylor, had been a Green Beret in Vietnam — laid out a similar handgun accuracy standard in the chapter he contributed to the 1986 Gun Digest Book of 9mm Handguns.
For most people, pistol altercations rarely take place beyond a distance of 21 feet, but there are exceptions to the rule. For example, Massad F. Ayoob reported that during the 1989 Miami riots, a Miami PD officer shot a sniper at a distance of 200 feet with a Glock 19. And during the June 1994 Fairchild AFB incident, then-Senior Airman Andy Brown, a U.S. Air Force Security Policeman, killed a rifle-wielding suspect at 70 yards with his duty-issue Beretta M9 service pistol.
In a full-scale military conflict, the odds of a pistol being used at longer distances go up significantly. With that in mind, I was inspired to re-evaluate of one of my all-time favorite handguns, the 9x18mm “Pistolet Makarovka” (Makarov Pistol).
A Brief History of the Makarov
The “Mak” served as the official standard-issue service pistol of the Red Army and the post-Soviet Ground Forces of the Russian Federation from 1951 to 2003. It was also the standard sidearm of the Ukrainian Ground Forces from 1991 to 2004 before being officially replaced by the MP-443 “Grach” AKA “Yarygin” and RPC Fort-14P. It is reportedly still seeing plenty of use by both sides of the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Indeed, thinking back to my first contract stint in Kosovo back in 2014, I got to observe plenty of Ukrainian soldiers who were serving as part of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) international peacekeeping contingent, and they still had Maks in their holsters.
What’s more, as recently as 2020, the government of Estonia — another Former Soviet Republic none too keen on Russian revanchism — supplied 2,400 surplus Makarov pistols to Kyiv.
Range Report Part I: Dialing Long-Distance
So anyway, it was merrily off to good ol’ Silver Eagle Group indoor shooting range in Ashburn, Virginia, this past weekend to test my personal Bulgarian-made Makarov’s practical accuracy capabilities at the 25- and 50-yard markers.
For ammo, I used the Sellier & Bellot 95-grain full metal jacket load, and the victim, er, target, was the ICE-QT paper target. I started off with 25 rounds of head shots at 25 yards to warm up, followed by 25 rounds of center torso shots at 50 yards.
My first 11 rounds at the maximum distance went way high, with six striking the head, two hitting the right shoulder, and three whiffing altogether.
So, I made a so-called Kentucky windage adjustment, sighting in on the target’s waistline, and achieved much more pleasing results: 13 rounds in the 5-zone, with two in the tie-breaking dead-center 5x-zone, and one striking way low right in the target’s thigh.
Bottom line: though not designed as a tack-driving target pistol, the Mak will do its part if you do yours.
Range Report Part Deux: The Mak as a Ladies’ Gun?
In several past postings on my Facebook page over the years, I repeatedly made the statement “Chicks dig the Makarov,” as several female shooting buddies of mine with varying levels of experience have indeed liked the gun very much, Well. for this most recent evaluation, it just so happened that my wonderful girlfriend Lisa — herself a highly experienced shooter with 31 years of trigger time under her belt — was visiting from freedom-loving Florida, and in addition to my trying out her Canik TP9 and Smith & Wesson Model 3913 LadySmith 9mm pistols for the first time, she tried out both my WWI Colt M1911 .45 ACP and my Makarov. She did her own firing string from 7 yards, which is a more realistic distance from a CCW permit holder’s standpoint. Here’s her impressions of the Mak:
“I can easily see why this would be considered a lady’s gun, as those with smaller hands will appreciate how nice the grip is. The action is nice with low recoil, making the second shot as smooth as the first. All in all, I think this would be a good weapon for first-time lady shooters, to try, allowing them time to acclimate to a weapon.”
Want Your Own?
I lucked out with my Bulgarian Mak, as it was part of a huge batch of surplus specimens imported in 2003 by Century Arms — the same company that currently imports the Romanian-made WASR-10 AK variant — and I was able to purchase mine back then for a measly $160. Needless to say, thanks to inflation, the price for surplus Makarovs has gone up since then. True Gun Value states that “A MAKAROV pistol is currently worth an average price of $505.16 new and $458.78 used The 12-month average price is $488.69 new and $424.96 used.”
However, they can still be obtained for a lower price from various sources. For example, Sportsman’s Warehouse lists one at $229.95, Sportsmans Outdoor Superstore is listing it at $299.99, and Guns International lists a Russian-made Baikal version at $450.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.