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Hello. A time back, I did "range reports" on both the Bulgarian Makarov with the "Beast Slide" and Pearce grips and focused on shooting the pistol slow-fire for group to see what one might be able to do with these inexpensive, but not "cheap" pistols. I concluded in saying that while it might not be on my short list for defensive armament, it later occurred to me that it very well might be for someone else, either by financial necessity or simply preference.

I had not shot the thing in a while so today I opted to do some shooting more akin to what's needed in self-defense scenarios and see how the pistol handled in other than slow, deliberate firing.

The Pistol: For those who missed the original report, the pistol is a commerical Makarov that I bought new a time back. I had trouble seeing the sights clearly, particularly if trying to do anything besides slow-fire, so I opted to buy the then available "Beast" conversion through, which is merely a new Bulgarian slide fitted with Novak 3-dot fixed sights and refinished in what appears to be parkerizing or something like it. I'd also purchased a couple of's refurbished "concealed carry magazines." These are magazines that have been fitted with a brass floorplate that has a very slight finger extension as well as a new Wolff extra-power magazine spring and then the whole thing's refinished. I took the original magazine and the concealed carry one to use today and tried to shoot about an equal amount from each.

Here's the pistol and both magazines along with the ammuntion used exclusively today, which is Barnaul's 95 gr JHP. It averages about 1030 ft/sec from a Makarov. The magazine is the one on top.

Shooting: All shooting was done at 10 yards, standing, and with a 2-hand hold in a Weaver position. On the target pictures, you will see "rapid-fire." For this report, that means firing the instant I could get at least a semblance of a sight picture, what Jeff Cooper calls a "flash sight picture." In the case of the target in which all shots were fired double-action, the "rapid-fire" means that I fired but one DA shot as fast as I could get the sight picture. I then decocked the pistol and repeated this. In the SA firing, all rounds were fired with the pistol fully loaded with 9 rounds except for the last magazine to come up with the total number of rounds fired per target. This was done to check reliability off of a full magazine down to none. All of the shooting at least began with the pistol's magazine fully loaded and one in the the gun would likely be carried.

Single-Action: Twenty-five rounds were fired at the gray targets I usually use for 25 yard slow-fire. While I tried for the small yellow dot, if the sights were in the gray (roughly 5"), I fired. In this test, a two 9-round strings were fired, followed by one string of 7 for a total of 25 shots.

It's no surprise that the single-action mode was the easiest with which to get rapid, decent hits compared to either the DA or DA/SA tests.

Double-Action: Each of these twenty-five were fired double-action only as would most likely be the case for someone's first shot if using the pistol defensively. It was intended to see if the first shot necessarily would be way away from subsequent shots. Certainly, this is very dependent upon the individual shooter, but I wanted to see how far away it might be and figured repeating it 25 times would tell the tale.

Not surprisingly, the group is larger than that fired single-action exclusively.

DA/SA: Five strings of 9-shots each followed by one string of 5 shots for a total of 50 were fired with the first shot being fired DA. The subsequent rounds were fired SA, as would most likely be the case in a fight.

As expected, the group was smaller than the double-action group as more shots were fired single-action than double.

Observations: I did not note the "sharp" recoil mentioned in some writings on the firing of the 9x18mm Makarov. I did find the pistol extremely pleasant to shoot and there were zero failures to feed, extract and eject, or for the slide to lock back on the last round. Both magazines worked 100%.

The sights made a big difference for me over trying to do this with the standard factory fixed sights. Were I a bit younger, the difference might not have been so noticeable.

My eyes are NOT what they used to be; these larger sights were very helpful and well-worth the cost of the "Beast" slide.

While it was not as easy to shoot quickly and rapidly for me with this DA/SA pistol as with a 1911 or Hi Power, it was not "bad." It was easier than shooting accurately than my usual pocket companion, an S&W Model 642 that's loaded with Remington 158 gr +P LSWCHPs.

I still have concerns about this round having "enough" for protection use. With most rounds, 9x18 Makarov is similar to the warmest .380 ACPs where you get possibly too much penetration with FMJ and maybe not enough with expanding. I do think that for unobstructed frontal shots, the expanding rounds will go deeply enough, but have doubts should they encounter an forearm or should one have to fired from the side and punch an upper arm on the way to the vitals. I guess we all have to make our own decisions with regard to our own "ballistic comfort levels." That said, I'd rather have an accurate hit or two with the 9mm Makarov than a poor one from my .38 snub. While I practice with the snub fairly often, the Mak IS much more pleasant. This might count for something.

Though fired from a different Makarov, this Barnaul 95 gr JHP expanded nicely in water. It penetrated between 8 and 10," and might do less in 10% ballistic gelatin...or tissue. I don't know.

It is my view that these pistols, even though not a 9x19mm or .45 ACP in power remain popular with shooters because they can be shot and shot and shot w/o fear of wearing out the pistol, something that cannot be said for most other pistols in this price range. I think they're a bargain. Ammunition is also available for low-cost such that one can afford to practice with the gun.

Even this "custom" Makarov on a new gun costs less than some new guns of perhaps less long-term durability. You don't have to spend an arm and a leg for a reliable, dependable pistol....but, the caliber's just not the best in my opinion.

If by choice or necessity, the 9x18mm Mak is your defensive arm, you most likely already have met the first rule in a gun fight: "Have a gun" as they can be carried fairly easily. You also have a pistol that tends to be utterly reliable with most ammo, another tenet in defensive armament. It holds a goodly number of rounds and is easy to shoot. For a centerfire and using commercial ammunition, these are cheap to feed and serious users should be able to get "good" with them.

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