The Tokarev Pistol
UPDATED 16 July 2003
(Free permission to quote Church's articles is granted, as long as proper attribution is given. We request that if you use our work, you give us credit.)
This pistol is a rarity in my stable. I bought it new, an early commercial import, obtained from a long dead left coast importer. It now looks well used because it's been run around the track many times. This was in 1986, and was the first commercial "Tok" I ever saw. The unreliable ATF mandated thumb safety is the only hiccup on the otherwise classical, minimalist Stalin era pistol.
Finish on the pistol was inconsistent. The frame was well polished, and showed a nice, if ultimately fragile bluing. The slide was a different matter, and the front sight area showed a profusion of milling marks. Manufacturer markings on the slide were stamped about as crudely as possible.
Internally, there are plenty of milling marks, some fairly deep, mostly in places where they don't show, and all in places where they don't matter. Fit is very respectable, really much better than, for instance, my 1979 vintage Smith M39-2. It also displayed the admirable quality of working right out of the box. None of this "200 round break-in" business for this soldier of socialism. It arrived with its sleeves rolled up ready for labor.
The full and very interesting known history of the Soviet Tokarev is available from number of sources. My favorite is Remling's book " A COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO TOKAREV PISTOLS". Suffice it to say that in the late 1920s the Soviet military was looking about for a service weapon more modern than the intrinsically weird Nagant gas-seal revolver. This semiauto would need to be capable of manufacture on limited complexity machine tools, and reliable. Caliber was chosen based on positive experiences with the Mauser C96 "Broomhandle", though Soviet manufacture of the round is dimensionally a little off.
The Tokarev operates on the old familiar Colt-Browning principle of a dropping barrel on a pivoting link. The magazine release, slide release, and recoil spring guide are exactly the Colt 1911 style. One other interesting and useful mechanical touch appears to derive from the detachable hammer group in the Mauser C. 96. The Tokarev packages the hammer, mainspring, sear, disconnector, ejector and cartridge feed guides in a readily detachable subframe. This makes repair simpler, and allows the convenient performance of needed trigger jobs as the sear is even visible through a little window in the subframe. Mine went from 11 pounds to 5 1/2.
The sub assembly above the frame a top view of the little bugger
Many other small changes have been made to internal parts and the Browning 1903 like frame to expedite machining. "Small Arms of The World" or Remling go into much more mechanical detail for those interested.
The Tokarev was chosen in 1930, and service showed a few shortcomings. These were corrected in the 1933 model, and this was the primary Soviet semiauto pistol of WWII. Production continued, according to most accounts, until the early 1950s. Mother Russia tooled up a number of her slave states to produce the pistol, and this included the People's Republic of China (hereafter ChiCom or ChiComs).
The ChiCom manufacture apparently continues to this day, both for hard-currency export and for provision to "National Liberation" movements all about the 3rd World.
II THE CARTRIDGE
The Soviet 7.62X25 AKA Type P round is essentially a copy of the 7.63 Mauser. The loading is rated in a Soviet manual for the 1930 variant as firing a 5.52 gram (88gr.) bullet @ 420 meters/second. The variations of the cartridge from the Mauser seem to lie in a slight change in neck length, and in shoulder angle.
Interchange with the Broomhandle cartridge is a "usually" arrangement. The tiny quantity of old Winchester I located chambered fine. The first batches of Fiocchi .30 Mauser I ever tried wouldn't fully chamber, but the last few boxes would. I had a conversation around 1988 with Carlo Fiocchi at the Ozark Missouri plant on that point, and it would be gratifying to think I had something to do with it, but likely a change was already in the works.
For most users, the option will most probably be shooting surplus. First, a word of caution: The Czech ammo (brass cased, typically headstamped with BXN and a date) is loaded for the VZ52 pistols and Czech SMGs and is very hot (1610 fps. from my pistol), and should be fired sparingly, if at all, in new condition, stiffly sprung guns. This ammo is getting scarce-I understand that the ferrous jacket has caused the Batmen in Washington to classify it as "armor piercing", and have prohibited further importation. It was no great bargain anyway-erratic and very corrosive. This stuff will produce the most beautiful 11" ball shaped purple muzzle flash, and will ring your ears 'til the next inauguration. Possession of it is legally iffy-if you have it, don't advertise it. It also has, like most arsenal made ammo in this caliber, very hard open-bolt SMG spec primers. That full length firing pin is needed.
Other stuff I've used, all corrosive, is the Bulgarian and the Polish. Both performed satisfactorily, with the Polish shooting pretty close to point of aim. Both are corrosive, and brass quality on the Polish is poor. Lotsa' case splits with this stuff. The "surplus" of preference is Norinco. This will be in crude commercial packaging, has copper washed steel cases, stab crimped bullets, and will show late '80s to early '90s headstamps. This is good stuff-reliable, and in what little chronographing we've done, startlingly consistent. It is advertised as being non-corrosive, but I somehow don't trust that. Included in the purchase was a small quantity of repackaged Interarmco imported ammo of late '40s Soviet vintage. True to a lot of the old ammo, it was filthy, apparently hot, and corrosive as can be. The Warsaw pact, believers in simplicity, do not appear to have been believers in flash inhibitors in their powders.
The Miles & I went by the JbarT Ranch range for targeting & velocity tests. We used my pistol & one of his. The following five round average velocities were obtained using a Pact chronograph, screens 10 feet from the muzzle. Air temperature, 75f. All loads with the 88gr fmj round nose bullet.
Two things were immediately apparent in the test shooting:
One, is that these are sighted in the 19th Century blackpowder big-bore revolver manner. Set up to shoot HIGH. This isn't a bad thing, as flash shooting with a rapidly acquired middle-of-torso sight picture will put you in the vitals. This isn't, however, a pistol for the SWAT type who will be doing head shots around hostages. The pistol was aimed at 6 o'clock on the bull @ 25 yards& here's what we got for our trouble. There is one saving grace to the sights. You have plenty of rear sight height to cut down to achieve a dead on hold.
We think you can hold dead on & get a 200 yard zero.
Two, is that the original slide and barrel of the pistol will group far better than the mail-order spares on my gun @ the time of firing. The spares aren't serial number matched to each other, let alone the rest of the gun. They functioned 100% right out of the box, but driving tacks isn't in the job description. It has grouped considerably better using the original slide and barrel, especially with the good Norinco ammo.
Brother Miles has acquired a genuinely neat El Paso Saddlery model 1920 Tom Threepersons rig for his pistol. It is likely the only lefthanded Tokarev Threepersons in captivity. The holster, belt and dedicated double magazine pouch are lovely and of superb quality. The rig was also much more expensive than the last dealer price of the pre-Clinton guns.
El Paso Saddlery' s "Threeperson's" rig
I like this pistol. It's fun to shoot through both sides of junked cars, and impress even Contender shooters with the muzzle blast. The hot cartridge and the 26 ounce dry weight notwithstanding, the little pistol is very controllable. It's not my favorite cartridge, but if I got caught in a fire fight with this gun, I'd not feel badly armed.
EMail me with comments, questions, complaints or Mexican Rice recipes at: email@example.com. And we DO get email here folks! AK likes to attach useful or interesting letters from readers to his articles. Please state in your letter if he may use your correspondence. He can do this with or without your name or address, according to your wishes.
NOTE: Author Church regrets that he is unqualified to do appraisal, and cannot establish a value on your gun.
Warning on BAD 7.62x25 ammo:
Test of a 7.62 to 9 mm conversion set: http://nationlink.net/sksman/access/tokarev2.html
Illustrates the not too common nickled Norinco: http://members.tripod.com/~g125/t213.html
Interesting piece on a Norinco 9 Mil commercial. Useful disassembly stuff, too:
From Tony B.
Hi just wanted to stop by for a second and say how much I enjoyed your page about the tt-33's, and to tell you about one hell of a great little pistol I have had the fortune to own for the last 4 years.
A few years back I purchased a Norinco made Tokarev called a model 213 B. this being the 9mm version which uses the narrow magazines. At first I was a little skeptical about it because of the estimated pistol life quoted in the owners manual of about 2000 rounds, but this pistol turned out to be one of the most accurate and reliable pistols I have ever owned holding just over 2" at the 25 yard line with groups eventually spreading to about 5" - 7" with WELL OVER that 2000 round estimate through it. The only modification to the gun being a drop of copper colored nail polish on the back of the front sight to make it easier to see against dark targets and a polishing of the feed ramp. At our local range it has even become a favorite must try among some of the regulars as well as the owner himself even outshooting guns costing several times the $100 dollars originally paid for it.
Shooting sessions from 1 to 3 times a week since 1997 at a minimum of 200 rounds per session has put this gun on its second barrel (the first having developed a tendency to gouge the lower portion of bullets just behind the nose and jamming open the action between shots) and it has easily 60,000 to 100,000 rounds through it total this including everything from light RNL reloads from the 3D corporation to several thousand rounds of +P+ and Winchester FMJ NATO ammo (which the pistol digests as if it was specifically made for it).
This gun has given Yeomen service with barely even a grumble. I can safely say without fear of being corrected that this is a pistol that I feel more than just a little comfortable staking my life on in an emergency. I have heard horror stories from many people about Tokerevs that have been converted to 9mm from 7.62x25 not wanting to operate properly but this particular gun has been nothing short of perfection. I honestly believe that as long as I continue to clean and oil it and occasionally replace the barrels at $40 a pop that this gun will outlast me and all of the current crop of high-tech plastic wonder guns currently in fashion. At $11 dollars apiece from the Federal arms Corporation even magazines for this pistol are a bargain compared to just about every other pistol I have owned. It might sound like I put way to much stock in this gun but I assure you it has earned every word of praise I can give it and more!
From Drikus K.
I have exactly the same pistol, but no one can tell me what model Tokarev this is. I also want to order new grips for it, but here in South Africa we don't get the individual grips, only the wraparound ones for the other Tokarevs. I also want to know if you get extended magazines for this pistol ?? Cheers and thanx so long for the help.
Author Church declaimeth:
A reader sent me a letter which I have inadvertently deleted. It requested information on conversion of the Tokarev to 9mmP.
Conversion from 7.62mm to 9mm appears in the one instance I have tried it to be a straight forward parts replacement issue. Change to a 9mm barrel, a 9mm magazine, and you have a 9mm Tokarev.
The reverse appears to carry a complication. I have twice attempted to convert 9mm Norincos to 7.62mm. Apparently Norinco (I do not know about other manufacturers) uses a different sub-frame or hammer housing on the 9mm pistols. The ejector appears to have been moved forward around six to seven millimeters to compensate for the reduced overall length of the 9mm round. This can play hob with ejection timing on the 25mm Soviet case.
Use of my 7.62mm sub-frame in the originally 9mm pistol functioned flawlessly with both rounds. It appears that use of the 7.62mm sub-frame is a prerequisite to reliable use of 7.62x25mm ammunition. It further appears to be problem-free in 9mm.
Persons wishing to convert 9mm pistols to 7.62mm should consider purchase of this sub-frame if their conversion causes ejection problems.
I have no experience with the uncommon .38 Super Tokarevs briefly imported by Keng's. Sub-frame sources are listed below.
(Added 28. VI .03 by Church)
I am currently in possession of a Sportarms imported 213 in 9x19. It is much different than the same pistol in 7.62 mm. Serial is in the 715XXX range, vs. Church's original gun, serialled in the 200XXX range. The breech face has moved forward approximately the length difference between the Parabellum round and the original 1930 Soviet round. A small lug has been added to the underside of the slide under the breech face, to aid feed. It will apparently not work with a 7.62 barrel, at least not so far. The magazine is shorter front to back, and the sheet steel spacer as described in the M213 link is present. Apparently the barrel bushing is caliber specific, at least it does not interchange with 3 other 7.62 guns. As described, the ejector is around 6 mm further forward. Nothing else appears different. I have converted it "back" to 7.62 mm. A new slide, used barrel, magazine, barrel bushing, and a transfer of pieces from the 9 mil subframe over to the 7.62 number appears to have served the job.
More on this as it develops. The pistol was a clean $125 pawn shop item, and I would have liked to retained easy caliber switch. But the availability of the magazines is at this time is problematic. I gave the nine-mil specific piecies to Miles Fortis.
We will keep you informed on what is learned as life allows.
If you have info regarding your experiences, which may well differ from mine, let me know. This stuff intrigues me all to bits.
(Added America's Independence Day 2003)
Today was spent at the range with 2 caliber-switched Tokarevs.
The first is my M213, converted "back" to 7.62x25. The slide was serialled to a Chinese military, the subframe pulled from my 200XXX range 7.62 pistol, and magazines were of unknown nationality, some seriallized, some not. Ammunition was from my dwindling supply of '80s Norinco commercial.
2 magazines I had earlier refinished in electroless nickle, and they have functioned well in #200XXX. Not in 715XXX, though. 2 bolt-over base failures to feed, one failure to eject. Three blued magazines were then tried and no malfunctions of any sort occurred. I was so concerned with function that I failed to really try shooting for groups.
The second was Mile's 7.62 gun, another Norinco serialled in the 415XXX range. It was very perfunctorily converted to 9 mm with the addition of the 9 mm barrel from 715XXX. A parts box bushing connected the barrel, the only 9 mil part used, to the 7.62 slide. The ejector was the shorter 7.62 type, and magazines were all the long 7.62 models. Ammo was loaded to the front, or to the rear, all variously. Function, feed, ejection were all flawless. Ammo was both S&B and Rem-UMC yellow box.
Grouping was acceptably tight at 2"-25 yards. Point of aim was 9 inches or more below the impact of the 9 mm projectiles, and Mile's had whittled his (7.62) rear sight to hit point-of-aim at 25 yards with Norinco 7.62 ball. So this is the one fly. Function was fine.
In blistering heat, the 9mm converted to 7.62 Tokarev was taken back to the range.
I had previously, in view of the Independence Day failures to feed, disassembled the plated magazines. All were found to have springs installed backwards. Which would have been done by me. Not a proud moment.
I reassembled them correctly, loaded them with Norinco commercial ball, and proceeded to have over 50 rounds of troublefree shooting.
I'm personally inclined to pronounce the garbled together M213 reliable and happy. Which makes me happy, if not reliable.
Miles has just turned a NIB M213, and will hopefully contribute his experiences.
Shooting in decadent airconditioned comfort, the re-calibered M215 was shot. All magazines functioned perfectly, ejection and feed with Norinco 86 grain ball was 100%.
The old nine-mil hammer group bits had earlier been swapped over to a 7.62 subframe. Miles got around to doing a trigger job, and this was nice-grouping was a usable 1.75-2" at 25 yards, maybe an inch left and a full half-foot high.
I installed a set of Tokagypt style grips, which are a great comfort improvement. I'd had a defective pair which would gradually shoot loose, maybe 10 years back. These didn't. They also are said to have a tendency to throw POI upward for some shooters. This was a non-issue for me.
I was standing next to a .357 Sig shooter. 2 higher intensity bottlenecked cases in one indoor range-the concussion was intense, and the Sig was perhaps no worse than the Tok.
I pronounce this project a success.
Sources fairly likely to have parts:
Omega Weapons Systems, 2918 E. Ginter Road, Tucson AZ 85706. 520-889-8895.
Exploded drawing, and link to another good parts source: http://www.marstar.ca/tokt33b.htm
The Dealer Warehouse, 4813 Enterprise Way Unit K, Modesto CA 95356 Phone 209.545.2800
Surplus Firearms has Tokarev parts too.
Report on a conversion set (7.62 to 9 mm): http://nationlink.net/sksman/access/tokarev2.html
NIB 7.62 Norinco Commercial
NIB M213 Norinco Commercial
LETTERS TO A.K. CHURCH
NOTE: Author Church regrets that he is unqualified to do appraisal, and cannot establish a value on your gun.
Added 29 Aug 2002:
Enjoyed your web page. I was interested in your reference to Remling's book. I have tried to find a copy for the last two years without success. Wonder if you know of a source or if it is small enough to copy, I would happily pay for even that.
Since no one has pointed it out on your web site, I'll mention that Drikus K's Tokarev is a cleaned up North Korean variant. Wonder how that got to such southern climate!
I shoot a Chinese and Polish TT for fun. Hate the safety. Have accumulated small piles of Soviet and Chinese military, including two with Vietnam capture papers. Always looking to learn more about these historic pistols.
Email received 30 Sept 2002:
had mine for around ten years now, and I've been very
pleased with it, especially since I only paid
found it to be very reliable and easy to shoot well,
once you get used to the sights and somewhat
Email received 30 Sept 2002:
I need a lot of your expertise and knowledge in identifying what appears to be a Tokarev TT-33 Pistol. I recently acquired this pistol, but it is unlike any of the Tokarev Pistols shown in any of my books. The gun is completely devoid of any makers marks, or. for that matter any importation marks. The gun has the serial number shown on the slide, frame, barrel bushing and internal parts unit. It also has what appears to be a Model number inscribed into the slide just to the rear of the ejection port, "M 20". The grips, what I surmise, are Black Plastic, vertically ribbed with a five pointed star in a circle on each. The magazine is numbered but not matching the gun. The slide does not have the usual Tokarev serrations for with drawing the slide. but rather has fine serrations much like those found on M1911 Colt ACP. The overall condition of the gun is virtually new with the few stampings standing proud which would preclude, I believe, any refinishing. The gun has a very fine polished blue-black finish much like those found on Smith and Wesson revolvers.
Any help you can give me on identifying this item would be greatly appreciated. I hope there in enough information to assist you.
(Name & email address withheld by request)
M20s are a "sterile" ChiCom made variation from the 1960s.
Added 07 Feb 2003:
quick cautionary tale about the Tokarev types in
general and the 213 in particular. I was dragging a
magnet along an old lock site on Alabama's Black
Warrior River - looking for the remains of a river
ferry - and found a very fresh and pristine Norinco
213. After reporting the numbers to the local
released the slide to chamber a round it fired -
twice! After several attempts at repair I gave up and
put the gun aside for several years, then finally
found the problem. The sear was incorrectly installed,
with the flat spring that holds the sear in contact
with the hammer notch unflexed.
Author Church presents a dissenting opinion. As with all hand loading, we assume no liability.
Added 21 February 2003:
tried to clear up some things, but I am just a voice
in the wilderness of the huge gun culture:
Most of that Com block ammo was intended for the
For all sorts of animated Tokarev amusement, click here.
Russian article on the Tokarev cartridge, click here (updated 6-2-02).
For oodles of syntax entertainment, AK Church recommends the following link (updated 7-7-02).
visitors since website crashed AUG 2003