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« PRODUCT REVIEW: BERSA THUNDER .380 | Main | Firing Range Simulator for New Shooters »

April 23, 2004

WANT A MAGNUM FOR LESS MONEY? BUY A TOKAREV

Most people ignore the used gun market, but it can provide many low-cost alternatives for a shooter on a budget.

When it comes to their first gun, I strongly suggest that my students buy new. Minor problems that an experienced shooter can take care of with a minimum of effort and expense are complete mysteries to those without a background in shooting. ("It won't feed correctly? Oh, here's the problem. The spring in the magazine is all bent. Get a new spring and the problem goes away.")

Another plus with new guns is the warranty. It's an imperfect world, and sometimes even factory-fresh guns are flawed. Buy new and you can send it back to the manufacturer for repair or replacement.

But there's always the problem with expense. Most of my students are on a budget, and sometimes it's not a bad idea to explore the surplus gun market in order to get a reliable gun for less cash. I only suggest this for guns that aren't going to be used for their primary defensive arm, of course.

One of my ex-students wanted to check out Magnums. She wasn't sure if it was right for her, even though she shot my .357 and liked it. The main problem was that she just didn't much like revolvers. So how do you get Magnum power levels in an autoloader?

There's a variety of choices available. The .357 SIG is a very good round, for example. But it's difficult to find any guns chambered for this round for less than $500 USD. She wanted something a little less pricey.

So I suggested a Tokarev, like the one pictured below.

tokarev-01.jpg


Many people claim the the .357 was the first handgun cartridge loaded to Magnum pressure levels, or at least the first one that was meant for general issue and sale. Not so! It's the 7.62X25mm Tokarev round. The .357 made it's debut in 1935, and the Tokarev was first issued to Russian officers in 1933.

It's amazing when one considers that the Tokarev was built for such a powerful round back in the 1930's. The 7.62X25mm round compares favorably to the .357 SIG, although they both fall a bit short when compared to the .357 Magnum. And it's specifically made for an autoloader! Most handgunners consider autoloading Magnums to be a fad started in the 1990's.

This isn't to say that there's problems with the Tokarev. The grips are hardly comfortable, and I can't say that they're made for easy point-shooting. (I'll explain point-shooting in another post.) There's also the problem with accuracy. The sights suck, and since the front blade is a small nub of black metal it's almost impossible to acquire in anything less than full daylight. Most days I figure I'm lucky if I get a 3" group at 20 feet.

Production of the various Tokarev models was pretty much ended in the early 1950's, when the Russians adopted the Makarov as their standard issue handgun. The new gun was easier to clean, lasted longer, and was more comfortable to shoot. On the bad side it was less than 1/2 the power of the old sidearm, and it was more prone to jams since the necked-down shape of the Tokarev makes for very reliable feeding. Below are some pics of the 9X18 Makarov round along with one of the 7.62X25mm Tokarev so you can see what I mean when I say "necked down".

9x18.jpg
762x25.jpg

So the Tokarev has not been manufactured since the early 1950's. There's very few replacement parts available since, as far as I know, the only country that makes parts for the pistol is Pakistan. There's no after market grips or sights available, either, though it's easy enough to make do with generic stuff. It isn't very accurate and it's tough to use the sights that come with the gun in any sort of adverse conditions.

Added to all that is the fact that it's not a good choice for concealed carry. The small .30 caliber bullet it fires has very impressive penetration, too much to be firing the gun off in the city with any degree of safety for innocent bystanders. Available loads are rather limited, with no hollow points being offered that I've ever come across.

But there is a place for the gun. It's very inexpensive, and every issue of the Shotgun News has ads for surplus Tokarevs. It's also not a bad choice as a carry gun if you're going to go hiking in black bear country. A .44 Magnum would be the best choice, of course, but you could do worse than a Tokarev in an emergency. Added to that is the fact that they're so inexpensive that you won't mind carrying them through the wet and mud.

One last point. One of my students once asked what to do if faced with homicidal criminals equipped with body armor. I said to put a round through their hips in order to anchor them in place. I thought it was a good answer at the time, but Mad Ogre pointed out that the Tokarev was the only handgun that could be counted on to defeat body armor.

Many gunblogs have suggested that it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a trunk gun. A cheap rifle that could be ready in the trunk of your car in case the unthinkable happens and you find yourself facing off against a terrorist or someone wanting to kill as many innocent people as possible before the SWAT team takes him down.

May I suggest a Tokarev as a backup trunk gun? They're cheap and very powerful. You could do worse.

Posted by James Rummel