One of the many benefits of the end of the Cold War was the vast amount of military surplus items that made their way west. From uniforms to clothing to weapons and ammunition, American shooters benefited greatly from the cheap goods that were once readily available. Now that most Eastern European countries have eliminated their stores of Warsaw Pact-era weaponry and ammunition, prices of many surplus firearms are starting to rise. But some good deals are still available.
One of those is the Tokarev pistol. Once the standard service pistol of the Soviet Union, the Tokarev was designed in 1930 by borrowing many elements from the American 1911 pistol. Replaced in Soviet service by the Makarov pistol, the Tokarev was produced by numerous other countries and remained a standard sidearm for decades. Over 1.7 million were produced by the Soviets.
The Soviet Union used the 7.63x25mm Mauser cartridge as the basis for the 7.62x25mm Mauser cartridge that was developed for use in the Tokarev pistol. Loaded hotter than the Mauser cartridge, the 7.62x25 features an 85-grain bullet traveling at 1,450-1,500 feet per second. Some modern commercial loads are advertised as reaching over 1,700 feet per second with that bullet. Those are pretty significant power figures, which is why the 7.62x25 round was one of the most feared pistol calibers of its time.
While imports of the Tokarev are slowing, the Yugoslavian M57 variant of the Tokarev is still being imported both as a surplus pistol and as a new production pistol. The M57 features a 9-round magazine versus the 8-round magazine of most other Tokarev variants. Its magazines can be used in other Tokarevs but not vice versa.
Advantages of the Tokarev Pistol
1. Powerful Cartridge
With advertised velocities from 1,450 feet per second to over 1,700 feet per second, the 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge can produced anywhere from 400 to 560 foot-pounds of energy. That exceeds 9mm Parabellum ballistics and starts to approach .357 Magnum power levels. And with that kind of speed the Tokarev shoots very flat, making it easier to hit things at longer distances.
2. Low Cost
Yugoslavian M57 pistols are still available at very affordable prices. Expect to pay somewhere between $200 and $250 for an M57 today.
An all-steel service pistol designed for the hot 7.62x25mm Tokarev round, the Tokarev pistol has a reputation of being built like a tank. It can take a licking and keep on ticking.
Disadvantages of the Tokarev Pistol
1. Poor Ergonomics
The grip angle of the Tokarev is almost universally abhorred, more reminiscent of the angle of a revolver than that of a pistol, making it difficult to hold and fire comfortably. While there are aftermarket grips available that can create a more favorable grip angle, that adds extra complication and expense.
2. External Safety on Some Models
Some of the imported Tokarevs such as the M57 are required to have an external safety added in order for them to be imported into the United States. Many shooters have taken issue with the placement of the safety, which thankfully can be removed in order to bring the pistol back to its original configuration.
3. Horrendous Looks
Thanks in part to its grip angle and in part to its having been designed by Soviets, the Tokarev is perhaps one of the world’s ugliest pistols. If you can get past that, though, the Tokarev will serve you well for as long as you can feed it.