The Nagant M1895 was the Tsarist Russian armies service revolver from 1895 until 1945. It was devised and designed by the famous Belgium gunsmith brothers, Leon and Emile Nagant in 1886.  They also designed the renowned Mosin-Nagant M1891 bolt action rifle, this also for the Russian army. Note: Nagant is pronounced Nagan in Russian, they drop the ' T '

The revolver  did not go into full production until 1895 when the Tsarist Russian Army adopted it as their new service revolver. It was then immediately designated the M1895 and replaced the dated Smith & Wesson Model 3 Revolver.  The Model 3, as seen below, was currently their service revolver.  It was an antiquated old American west revolver that used less powerful black powder as the bullets propellant. It was also a top-break revolver similar to the British Webley design, it worked well but many soldiers just didn't like it.

Production of the Nagant actually began in Liège, Belgium, but was soon moved to Russian Manufacturing Arsenals.  The Nagant M1895 was produced over a fifty year period from1895 until 1945 at the three following arms factories: From 1895 to 1898 the Nagant Arsenal, From 1899 to 1942 the Tula Arsenal and from 1943 to 1945 the Izhevsk Arsenal.  The total number that were manufactured was approximately two million.

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING

The Nagant M1895 had a caliber of  7.62mm (.32 cal) and fired seven shots, there were two variants of this revolver, one was double action, only issued to officers whilst the other was single action issued to NCO's.  Whether DA or SA though, they both had a very high twenty pound trigger pull, most revolvers have about twelve pounds.

However, it was a quality piece, being very well manufactured and exceedingly reliable in all conditions including cold Russian winters.  What made this revolver so special though, was its extra power and covert capabilities that will be described further on.

It was known as a gas seal revolver in that when the trigger was pulled, the cylinder slid forward slightly and the cylinders aperture enclosed the breech so that there was no gap.  With the cylinder/breech gap sealed off, the expanding gases from the firing bullet did not escape and hence was more powerful than any other revolver of the same caliber.  It was an expensive and complex engineering feat but this didn't stop their mass production, as the army high command and troops alike thought well of them and hence were under high demand.

TECHNICHALLY SPEAKING...

Below, the red arrow clearly indicates the gap at the end of the cylinder, before the breech.  There is a lot of daylight coming through that gap as well!

Below, when the hammer is cocked to fire the revolver, the gap has now closed up, effectively sealing the breech ( as indicated by the red arrow ) as the cylinder has now slid forward.  It is a very clever mechanism and again is testimony to the innovation and resourcefulness that indeed states that war is the mother of invention!

Interestingly, the Nagant M1895 has one of the longest firing pins that has ever been seen on a revolver as depicted above.

The Nagant M1859 has actually been rigorously tested on a chronograph (bullet speed detector) and it was recorded that the gas seal system actually gave the bullet an additional three hundred, feet per second, (f.p.s) muzzle velocity taking the total velocity up to nine hundred and fifty feet per second. It may even exceed one thousand feet per second, depending on the cartridges charge of powder

This information was cited from an experienced Nagant M1895 shooter, whereas nearly all info on the internet will incorrectly state a muzzle velocity of only seven hundred and fifty f.p.s for this gun.  Seven hundred and fifty f.p.s would actually be about average for a revolver used in the 1890's and 1940's.  Firearms powder development was carried out in post war years and continues today to give us nitro-genus powders that can be twice as powerful as pre war firearms powders.

For its day, the Nagant M1895 was the .357 Magnum equivalent, true that it was not quite as powerful as a .357 Magnum that fires a 158 grain bullet at one thousand three hundred and seventy f.p.s  but it was getting on par.  The Nagant could fire a bullet accurately at over thirty yards, hitting a soldier, penetrating his heavy battledress and thick under garments to exit the other side of him.

 

THE COVERT ASPECT...

Silence is golden as they say, and the fact that this revolver employed this unique gas seal system also allowed it to be fitted with a silencer.  A suppressor being the more accurate term that I will use from now on, as these devices suppress the sound and do not totally eliminate it.


NOTE:

The Nagant was not like any other revolver and due to its gas seal system this revolver did actually totally silence the gun when it was fired.  When the Nagant was fired with silencer fitted, the only sound was a quiet "phut" noise and the click of the firing pin as it struck the cartridges primer.  Quite a remarkable piece indeed that enforces my testimony that one should never underestimate the ingenuity and practicality of the Russians!

Normal revolvers cannot be suppressed, this is due to the escaping gases around the cylinder mouth and breech when fired.  After all, its the expanding gases that makes a gun go BANG when fired.  Therefore, if expanding gases only emits out of the muzzle then they can be suppressed.

The YouTube  video below illustrates the effectiveness of the Nagant revolver when fitted with a suppressor/silencer...

 

Below is an image of a specially made modern suppressor fitted to the Nagant M1895. The Nagant design maybe over one hundred and fifteen years old at time of writing, but in the field of covert operation, its timeless and comes into its own.

Suppressed Nagant M1895's have been used by assassins and in clandestine operations since its introduction and one can't help but think that's what it was subliminally designed for.  During the Vietnam war for example it has been recorded that several Viet Cong Guerrillas (Charlie) were found carrying suppressed Nagant revolvers.

A suppressed Nagant M1895 revolver is indeed almost completely silent when its fired, with only the firing pins strike being slightly audible.  Thus totally suppressed weapons are ideal for assassins, with escape and evade fixed in their minds after the dastardly deed has been done!

The original Nagant M1895 suppressor was made by the Brothers Mitny and was called a Bramit Device  and as far as I know, was a friction fit onto the muzzle.  For suppressors to adequately fit any gun, they have to attach quite firmly. The most common method is to cut a thread into the end of the muzzle so that the suppressor can screw on, as depicted below.

So unless that suppressed revolver is a Nagant M1895 that you see shooting the guy in the movie, its not authentic and couldn't be silenced. It would in fact still be quite loud.  The best handgun to suppress sound for ninety percent silence would be a semi-auto like a 9mm Berretta.

One of the most famous scenes in a movie where a suppressed revolver was seen was in the 1973 movie Magnum Force  where bad cop " John Davis "  played by David Soul used a suppressed  Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver to kill some criminals and another cop as well.  A screen grab from the movie is shown below, depicting the suppressor fitted to the  revolver.

In reality though, this revolver could not be suppressed to any satisfactory degree as too much blast (and sound) would emit from the sides of the cylinder...it would have been heard clearly, over one hundred yards away.

However with the Nagants ability at being suppressed, the Russian NKVD who were the forerunner of the KGB, Spetsnaz special forces and other agencies adopted it as their revolver of choice.

Just to note here that for any firearm to be successfully suppressed the ammunition also needs to be of the subsonic variety.  Subsonic ammunition does not exceed the speed of sound at one thousand one hundred and twenty six f.p.s and hence the bullet itself does not produce a sonic boom as it leaves the muzzle.  With a muzzle velocity of only  nine hundred and fifty f.p.s this is not an inherent problem for the Nagant M1895!

PRACTICALITY...

The weight of the Nagant M1895 is just over two pounds loaded, is ten and a half inches long and has a medium barrel length of four and a half inches.  The effective range of the Nagant M1895 was around thirty yards, which even though is slightly under par, is quite normal for a handgun.  In reality all handguns are classed as CQB close quarter battle weapons and are never deployed for long range shooting.  The sights were only designed for short range too, being a simple front post and rear notch affair as seen on the left.

The ammunition that the Nagant M1895 used was specially manufactured for this gun too, and cannot fit into any other type of revolver.  All other Russian WWII ammunition though, was the same caliber of 7.62mm and was interchangeable with other weapons.

Below are two images of the special Nagant M1895 ammunition, on the left a fired cartridge, showing the expanded neck of the case.  On the right a live cartridge, where the bullet is totally encapsulated within the case.  

The crimped in top of the cartridge actually enters the breech when the revolver is cocked, perfecting the one hundred percent gas seal.  The cannelure (crimp around the cartridge that helps secure the bullet in place) is almost halfway down the case, indicating yet another peculiarity with this gun.  Normal ammo is crimped nearer the top.

The caliber is specified as 7.62x38mmR and as 7.62mm (.32) handgun bullets go, they are not really that powerful. Any 9mm handgun would make the Nagant look quite puny in comparison, but for close up work it was more that suitable.

It has to be said here though, with reference to the Russians execution off prisoners and the coup de grâce (Fr; lit: act of mercy. the final shot) would likely have been delivered by a Nagant M1895 revolver.   The last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas Romanov II, his wife, son, four daughters, the family doctor, the Empress lady-in-waiting along with their cook, valet and even Jimmy, the family's cocker-spaniel were all massacred by Bolshevik revolutionaries on the night of July 16th/17th 1918.

Witnesses stated that they were all killed with revolver shots, it is thought most likely by the Nagant M1895. Whilst reading this webpage we must not forget that the prime ambition of any gun is to kill, as that is what they are designed for.

The Nagant M1895 took longer to reload than the majority of other revolvers available at that time.  A catch called an abadie gate  seen in image below, had to be swung down on the right side of the gun, the cartridges had to be loaded or unloaded one at a time.

This operation could be done quite quickly with practise though so was not deemed to be too much of a problem.  To eject seven fired cases and reload seven new rounds would take an experienced shooter about thirty-five seconds.  When the abadie gate was open, the fixed ejector rod under the barrel was pushed up to eject fired cases.

The fact that the cylinder did not swing out like modern guns, but was fixed in, made the revolver a lot sturdier.  In fact one Russian officer was quoted as saying..." If the Nagant ever went wrong, it could be fixed with a hammer!  "

To say the Nagant was bullet proof, would probably be a wee bit too corny! So I will resist that one!

THE LEGACY...

Even today there are still a lot of these revolvers about for the collector or firearms enthusiast and they sell for about two hundred dollars to four hundred dollars depending on their condition.  Indeed for collectors of World War Two weapons, a Nagant M1895 is an ideal choice.  Alongside the unique gas seal feature, this revolver also has one of the longest, most wicked looking firing pins ever seen on a handgun.  Features like this ad to the guns uniqueness and collectability.

This particular Nagant M1895 on the right, was manufactured in 1932 at the Tula Arsenal in Russia, it looks to be in great condition and I'm sure would be great fun to shoot down at the local range.

THE TOKAREV TT30 MUSCLES IN...

Around two million Nagant M1895 revolvers were manufactured, so they are not too hard to find and many of them would have some interesting history behind them.  The Nagant M1895 was the popular handgun of choice for the Russian army until the Fedor Tokarev came along to replace it, officially adopted in 1930 to become the TT30.  I note here that the Nagant M1859 was not signed off and was still the official service revolver until 1945.

The TT30 semi-automatic pistol fired a relatively powerful 7.62x25mm round at about one thousand four hundred f.p.s from its eight round magazine.  Interestingly the Tokarev TT30 used the same ammunition as all the Russian submachine guns used, so ammunition was widely available all the time.  It was also quicker to reload therefore having a faster rate of fire, so it obviously became more popular.

Below is seen the Tokarev TT30, one of one million seven hundred thousand manufactured Tokarev's including the TT33. The effective range of this pistol was twice that of the Nagant M1895.

Even though the TT30 and its improved variant the TT33 took off quite well with the Russian troops, the Nagant M1895 still saw a lot of action throughout WWII and still sees some sort of military service today.

The Russian transport police and authorities in remote areas of Russia and the Ukraine still employ the use of a trusty Nagant M1895.  At one time or another the Nagant M1895 has actually been used by almost every fighting force in the world, with around two million of them floating around though, its hardly surprising.

Today the Tokarev TT30 and TT33 (and Chinese copy the Type 54 ) are still employed by the Chinese and Korean police and their respective military.  No doubt it is still being employed in Russia too.  As I have stated on several of my firearms pages, if a gun is of a good reliable design that works well then why fix or change it?

Even a hundred years from now, I'll bet that a Nagant M1895 will still be found somewhere, firing off shots to the delight of its owner.

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Page created January 5th 2011. Updated January 19th 2012