The Makarov pistol (Pistolet Makarova or PM) is the most famous firearm to come out of Russia since the AK-47. After the Second World War, the Russians decided to phase out the classic Tokarev TT33. I don’t think there was much wrong with the Tokarev, but it was the Cold War and the Ruskies were looking to evolve everywhere they possibly could. Like the legendary Kalashnikov, the PM wasn’t built to win any beauty contests. Rather, it was meant to serve a trustworthy sidearm, which it still does to this day. In fact, the PM has been a military-issued firearm on over 3 dozen countries and is still employed in several former Eastern Bloc countries. Although most American shooters will never shoot one of these guys, I still felt it was important to acknowledge a gun with this much history.


• Caliber: 9×18mm Makarov
• Capacity: 8
• Barrel Length: 3.7”
• Overall Length: 6.4”
• Width: 1.16”
• Weight: 26 oz. (Unloaded)
• Finish: Steel
• Sights: Adjustable Notch Rear, Blade Front
• MSRP: Approximately $300

Makarov Pistol
9.2/10Our Score

Makarov Pistol

Makarov Build

The Makarov may look simple, but that’s exactly what the Russians were aiming for. By incorporating as few components as possible and sticking with highly-durable steel, the Makarov pistol is actually a pretty solid handgun. Furthermore, because they wanted to create an effective sidearm that was both concealable and compact, the PM uses a unique caliber, but more on that later. Although its simplistic steel design increases its reliability and durability, it makes the pistol significantly heavier than comparable firearms. If I had to compare it to another pistol, the only one that comes to mind is the Walther PPK, which is also a minimalist steel semi-auto.

One of the Makarov’s standout features is its incredible safe operation, believe it or not. In addition to its safe blowback operation, the Russian shooter also sports an innovative and easy-to-use decocking safety switch. Besides for functioning as a standard safety lever, this feature also effectively prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin. Furthermore, the PM was designed to avoid accidental discharges, thanks to its notably heavy double-action trigger pull. To say the PM is lacking in ergonomics would be a major understatement. In addition to being unwieldy and heavy, the Russian pistol features a horrific plastic wraparound grip setup.

Makarov 9×18 Cartridge

While there are a few things which make the Makarov unique, few are as obvious as its 9×18mm PM cartridge. Although relatively unheard of in America, this pistol and SMG round is the Soviet equivalent of the NATO 9mm (9×19 Parabellum). Like 9mm, the Soviet equivalent packs a decent punch but is slightly wider and a tad shorter. Yet the only other firearm I’ve ever seen chamber this round is the old CZ Skorpion.

Makarov Ammo
9mm Makarov Ammo

Makarov 380 Auto Cartridge

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, many Soviet weapons were commercialized, including many by Baikal. One of their best-selling Russian variants to be sold in the West was a .380 Makarov, marketed as the IJ-70. Although less common than 9mm, .380 Auto has seen a rise in popularity as a self-defense cartridge, particularly among pocket pistols. Also called 9mm Short and .380 ACP, this caliber is probably best known from the Glock 42, Ruger LCP II, Kahr CW380, and Sig P238.

Makarov Performance

As expected, the Russian-designed semi-auto can perform reliably year after year. Due to its simplicity and ease-of-use, the Makarov is relatively impressive, but don’t expect any extraordinary accuracy. Because the Russians opted for increased safety over initial shooting precision, this is not the kind of pistol you’d win any competitions with. Nevertheless, I can’t say I don’t appreciate the added safety features on a pocket gun, especially considering its notable DA/SA trigger mechanism. I also think it’s worth noting that the classic semi-auto’s slide locks back after firing the last round. In another attempt at increasing its reliability, the Makarov was built with a deeply recessed breech face to keep ejection and extraction consistent and dependable.

Makarov Magazine

When the Russian engineers decided to replace the Tokarev, magazine reliability was one of their utmost priorities. The aforementioned pistol’s mags were notoriously easy to lose. In order to fix this fundamental problem, the Makarov was constructed to keep mags firmly in place until released by pressing on the heel release on the bottom of the grip. These single-stack 8-round metal mags remarkably simple yet reliable, so long as they are oiled properly.

Makarov Holster

Considering that the Makarov pistol was designed to be carried, it’s gotta be paired with a suitable holster. In general, I always check out AlienGear and their incredible line-up of products. You can’t go wrong with these holsters, especially their new and improved 3.5 Cloak Tuck IWB model. On the other hand, I’ve seen a few people recommend a simple plastic holster from Fobus or Bianchi, both of which are relatively reliable.

Stay tuned for more in-depth reviews of your favorite products here at Gunivore!

Sam M

Sam is an avid firearms enthusiast who loves sharing his knowledge and experience with fellow gunivores.

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  1. I don’t understand why more company’s Don’t make Guns in this Caliber instead of 380 it’s alot cheaper and there’s alot Available a little carbine would be neat

  2. I would have to take some issues with the writer, although most of the comments correct him. The Mak does not have bad ergonomics at all, and I am left handed. You can get better grips for them if you wish. I took one of my Bulgarians and polished the sear and hammer, and thinned the mainspring down where it operates the hammer. Greatly reduced double action trigger pull, made the trigger action better, and I have never had a misfire. Also, a stronger recoil spring will substantially reduce felt recoil. Overall, one of the best shooting milspec guns ever!

  3. I have a .380 Russian Makarov “Biakal”
    with a holster and spare clip I would like to trade in for a Ruger LCP. Any idea what I can get for it?

    1. Hi, I can’t give you a definitive quote, but you could probably get around $450 for your Makarov collection.

  4. I would have to agree with other commenters about the accuracy. I have owned several pistols and revolvers over the years. Some old, some brand new. I pride myself in being the best marksman I can be. Therefore, I can’t stand a gun that is consistently inaccurate. The Makarov I own has always been one of the most accurate pistols I own. Everyone who shoots it agrees. It consistently performs better than many Glocks, S&W M&Ps, and Springfield XDs.

  5. I regret that I only own two of them. I got my Bulgarian about twenty five years ago, when my fellow cops were snapping them up cheap and getting authorized to make them off-duty guns. My service piece was a Ruger Security Six .357 mag. But I love my Mak as much now as I did then. Somebody here said they weren’t accurate. Really? My Dept qualified twice a year with both service arm and off duty. We Mak shooters had no problem out shooting the guys who were admiring them, and looking for places to buy them. For the kind of shooting cops do, the Makarov was more than accurate enough. If I could have, I would have carried the Makarov on duty too! Twenty five years later (six months ago), I met a guy who was selling his IJ-70 Baikal. I had to have it. The price has gone way up, but life is short, and the gun looks brand new. Now I have to clean two Makarovs after having a ball at the range. In my opinion, a great gun for self defense, home defense, or target shooting. These are well made pistols, and I have never, ever, had a misfire with either gun. It bothers me that some show-offs brag about having several of them. Poor me. I might be having another Mak attack. It’s a good thing I’m not rich!

  6. When the USSR broke up they flooded the market with surplus weapons. I bought several SKS’s and one Makarov 9mm. The rifles were all original (not pieces like so many were after a while) and & under $80 and the Makarov was under $90. The rifles were no disappointment for shooting sports and the Mak was surprisingly good for general purposes, I even prefer this over the Glock 42. Frank O.

  7. Yeah, the Makarov IS pretty much perfect, except the steel makes it kind of heavy versus most other pocket-pistols. Another big positive that wasn’t mentioned is that it’s so easy to take down. It has just 27 parts, because many parts have been ingeniously designed to serve double purposes, And while I agree that it’s not the ideal competitive pistol,I’d argue that (A) that’s not what it was designed for, and (B) it’s pretty darn accurate nevertheless,

    As Sam says, it’s amazingly difficult to make it discharge accidentally, unless there’s some pretty extreme user-stupidity. Many reviewers have subjected it to dozens of drop-testis, and I’ve never heard of a single discharge.

    The ammo isn’t everywhere, but it’s pretty easy to find here in the Chicago area–although the brand-options are much wider on-line. Delivery seems pretty quick, considering that it’s a type of cargo that could go “Boom!” I just order a couple boxes at a time.

    Sam doesn’t seem to think the Makarov is very attractive, but personally, I love that graceful Walther PP design. Makes it look like someone really cared about the visual impression this workhorse military side-arm would make. Why shoot a gun that looks exactly like all the others at the range? You can spot a Makarov from a block away. .

    And if you do spot one,I’d suggest you consider making an offer for it.

  8. This is the first semi auto pistol I ever owned and the best one that I no longer have. When I got mine you almost had to order ammo and that is one reason I gave it up. The other reason I gave it up is that my sister in law fell in love with it.

    1. Ammo is very easy to get. When I first got my first Mak it was a little scarce but myself and the other cops I worked with knew where to look. That was in 1990. It became a cult secret among cops when these things first hit the U.S. We were all clamoring to our dept.’s gun boss, Captain Cool (I call him) for permission to carry them off duty or back up. This was a little before polymer and Glocks, and we fell in love with the Makarov. If we bought our own, and got qualified on the pistol range, we were good to go! A couple months ago (2020) I saw an opportunity to get my second Makarov (30 years later). Been retired a long time, and now enjoy leisurely target shooting at my neighborhood range. I now happily own a Bulgarian (1990) and a Russian Baikal (2020). So I could go on and on about how tried and true mine are, but not tonight. Just wanted to give my take on the Makarov, which I am obviously still in love with. They are really great guns! I have been carrying, shooting, and defending myself and family for three decades with them. To further qualify myself, I am a former 1stCav Infantry sergeant, U.S Army, and have ample small arms experience. Get yourself a Mak, and don’t look back. Tell em’ an old Grunt told ya so!

      1. I was just looking at my first reply posted in October, 20 1919. I noticed that my recent trip down memory lane was off by about three months. Folks, the Old Grunt should fact check himself before going down memory lane. My Makarov story remains the same, but yours truly has a little trouble with the chronological details at times. In other words, my memory ain’t worth a damn at times. (lots of times). Please forgive me the three month slip up, and just remember all the nice things I said about the Makarov. Every word of praise about the sweet little commie pistola makarova is true. If you ever get a chance to shoot, or better yet, buy one, by all means DO IT! Tell em’ the old Infantry Grunt with diminishing memory cells told ya so. Honets!

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