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The Vault

Russian 1895 Nagant Revolver (Video)

One of the mechanically interesting guns that is really widely available in the US for a great price (or was until very recently, it seems) is the Russian M1895 Nagant revolver. It was adopted by the Imperial Russian government in 1895 (replacing the Smith & Wesson No.3 as service revolver), and would serve all the way through World War II in the hands of the Red Army.

As with its other standard-issue arms, the Russian government intended to manufacture the M1895 revolvers domestically. However, when the Nagant was officially adopted the major Russian arsenals were already working at capacity to make the relatively new M1891 rifle, so the first 20,000 revolvers were made by Nagant in Liege, Belgium. In 1898 space had been freed up to start production at the Tula arsenal, where they would be made until 1945 (Ishevsk put the Nagant revolver into production as well during WWII).

The common version available in the US today is a 7-shot, double action revolver chambered for 7.62x38mm. That cartridge is a very long case with the bullet sunk down well below the case mouth. The cylinder of the Nagant cams forward upon firing, allowing the case mount to protrude into the barrel and seal the cylinder gap, thus increasing muzzle velocity slightly. This also allows the Nagant to be used effectively with a suppressor, unlike almost all other revolvers (in which gas leaking from the cylinder gap defeats the purpose of a suppressor).

The Nagant’s 7.62x38mm cartridge pushes a 108 grain jacketed flat-nose projectile at approximately 850 fps (I believe a lighter 85-grain load was also used by the military later, but I haven’t fired any of it), which puts it roughly between .32 ACP and .32-20 ballistics. Not a hand cannon by any stretch, but fairly typical for the era (the 8mm Nambu and 8mm French revolver cartridges were both pretty similar in performance to the 7.62mm Nagant).

As far as being a shooter, the Nagant is mediocre, but reliable. The grip and sights are acceptable (but not great), and the cylinder loads and unloads one round at a time. The low pressure round doesn’t stick in the cylinder, at least. The worst part for a recreational shooter is the trigger, which is very heavy in double action. Single action is also heavy, but very crisp. Recoil is mild, and not uncomfortable at all. The design was simple and effective, and really a good fit for the Red Army and WWII fighting conditions.

Additional Resources

Nagant page at RussianRevolvers.com

29 comments to Russian 1895 Nagant Revolver (Video)

  • Leszek Erenfeicht

    It’s not only that these factories were working flat-out overtime, but every license-peddler likes to put a caveat in a contract to have a minimum order of guns manufactured at his plant, before he hands over the hen delivering golden eggs, otherwise known as the licensed design. The bigger the initial order, the more money company gets on top of later royalties, it’s as simple as that – and also it gves the licensee the stop-gap with which to wait until his own manufacture kicks in. The same was with Polish order for BARs from FN – Herstal only sold the license after 10 000 guns were ordered from them to start with.
    Anyway, Russia at that time was tooling up to manufacture 4.5 MILLION Mosin 91 rifles in just a decade – more rifles, mind you, than Russian Empire have ever manufactured to that date! They have ordered over 2000 machines from Greenwood & Batley to totally overhaul all three small arms industry centers: Tula, Siestroretsk and Izhevsk. The flipside was, that after they finished the initial re-armament phase in 1903, most of these went being used only at 10-15% capacity for all the years until the WW1 broke out – and that’s when the Nagant revolvers started to be manufactured in Russia.

  • Leszek Erenfeicht

    Not Polish military – they were used by the State Police, as well as Post Guards as govt users, and also by the private banking security etc. The Nagant 95 (known in Poland as wz.30 and manufactured at F.B. Radom) was never a regulation model used by the Polish MILITARY.
    Also, the Scandinavian (mostly Swedish and Norvegian) Nagants were not the Model 95 gas-sealed revolvers, but simple wheelguns with cylinders just rotating, not reciprocating. This feature was copied from 8 mm Pieper revolver and incorporated into the Scandinavian Nagant revolver to sell the revoler to the Russians. It was not needed anyway – Tsar Nicholas II ordered to buy this revolver out of hand anyway, so that Nagant Bros finally shut up and stopped saying unpleasant things about Russians after they had cheekiness to throw away their rifle (not before nicking several secondary features to be rolled into the Mosin rifle. They only shut up after being paid 200 000 roubles “inventors” award and much more for the revolver.

  • Fidel Feederle

    FWIK the cartridge is sealing the cylinder gap to improve accuracy (by forcing bore axis alignment) and not so much to help retain the velocity across gap (simply adding a fraction of a grain more powder does just the same).
    Re MTs-4 target conversion:
    http://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?196918-Russian-and-Soviet-Nagant-Target-Revolvers

  • Leszek Erenfeicht

    And why didn’t you fired it SA? It almost looks like it was a DAO, which it is not – it’a SA/DA mechanism, with terrible DA pull, and just workable SA, quite accurate actually. The cartridge is mild at best, like 32 Colt/SW Long actualy, so the recoil is very temperate. If not for the terrible DA pull and skinny broomhandle-like grip, that would be a quite pleasant pistol to shoot.
    The SA Nagants were given to the NCOs not because they were not to be trusted with all that firepower (if so, they’s be given shovels and not let anywhere near the guns, except from the wrong end of the barrel…), but these were just cheaper – and NCO weapons were paid for by govt, not by the officers, like the SA/DA model. After WW1 all guns were govt property anyway, and that’s why they were all SA/DA – there was no longer need for a cheaper model for peons.
    Actually, the SA mechanism cured most of the M95 ailings, being a very accurate revolver – all the sporting and match Soviet revolvers were based on the SA Nagant model (TOZ-36 and TOZ-49, which shot quite a bunch of gold medals for the Soviets, to name but two).

  • Beryl Barnett

    The heavy barreled target versions that were imported here in small numbers are very pleasant, accurate and fun to shoot. I have two different barrel configurations. I think there were several other minor variations that I do not have.

    • Earl Liew

      When you say “here”, are you referring to the United States or the United Kingdom? I don’t mean to sound presumptuous, but my best guess in the light of what little information I have points in the direction of either country.

  • D. Hide

    That IS a really simple cylinder rotation mechanism. I think I have a cheap toy cap revolver somewhere with a similar mechanism lol…

  • Mike

    One should not forget the Russian Winter when considering the Nagant 95. From my reading the Nagant would keep working in conditions that made many other pistols nonfunctional. A pistol that shoots even with a terrible trigger and weak round is better something that won’t work and becomes an ill shaped club.

    As an aside this is about the only type of revolver that can be suppressed. Something utilized by the Vietcong for assassinations.

  • K..M.V.

    Hello-

    I just wanted to let you know the M1895 is still in service today with rail troops and many rural police agencies in Russia, as well as in Ukraine as a less-than-lethal version firing a rubber 7.62x38R rounds at about 120 meters per second. In Chechnya, many rebels were found to be using versions with improvised sound suppressors, and it was not uncommon to see units using them in action. I myself was trained in their operation as part of a weapons familiarization course

    • Earl Liew

      That’s really interesting, K.M.V. — thank you for sharing the information. Older weapons often maintain their utility for certain purposes ( depending on a variety of external factors ) in spite of the availability and advent of more modern ones. And, sometimes, the older guns are actually better-suited to their intended roles than their newer counterparts.

  • Andrew Marcell

    The Nagant 95 is reliable and with good ammunition accurate. It is a great trail gun being both lite and easy to use. In Russia it is held in the same esteem as our 1911 Colt.

  • Big Al

    In Russian military ammunition, the mouth of the case is crimped down around the bullet (photo here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:76238comparison.jpg), unlike commercial ammo which uses an un-crimped case. Crimped in this manner, the case would not protrude from the chamber.

  • Rizal

    nice gun bro…

  • Big Al

    I wonder if it could be possible to rejig this revolver to incorporate a swing-out cylinder with a star extractor like a Colt or Smith & Wesson?

    • Denny

      That would be super project, Big Al. Relating to those crimped vs. un-crimped shots, would you think that the crimped ones might entail greater pressure and possibly greater velocity?

      • Big Al

        It seems like a logical hypothesis, greater velocity generated by the bullet overcoming the grip of the case mouth. Seems like it would make an interesting experiment.

  • Turk

    One of those great “Oh why didn’t I”‘s of my life is not buying the SA match target model Nagant a buddy of mine had in his shop for around $200. It’s currently sitting in a police evidence locker with close to a thousand other of his guns. His shop was raided by local PD for “irregularities” Much ugliness on both sides. I currently 0wn 2 Nagants, one of which has a .32 ACP extra cylinder….

  • Earl Liew

    The sealing of the cylinder gap would probably also reduce the weapon’s visual signature during night firing ( less peripheral flash ).

  • Strongarm

    1895 Nagant revolver is one of the most durable and safest wheelguns ever made.
    Currently made ammunition are intentionally charged low powered to use in these
    handguns as youngest being of them of seventy years old. Normal muzzle velocity
    is over 1000 ft/sc. Actual gain in velocity is somewhat of 20 percent.

    Camming mechanism to forward the cylinder also works as a safety in a manner to
    block the hammer movement without taking the trigger to rearmost position. This
    construction is known oldest ın its class.

    The revolver can be taken down into individual parts very simply even using a
    case mouth and needing no tools. It is one of the most simple and strong revolver
    ever made.

    Mainspring force is intentionaly held strong to retract the cylinder from barrel
    cone if the case mouth stuck thereat. This can be seen on some rusted guns which
    is normal for Russian climate. Retraction is made by a little upward lug on top of
    trigger and works pushing rearward the cylinder against the back annular section
    where rotation stop notches cut.

    There is another model known as M1910 with speed loading/unloading features with a
    rightside swing out cylinder, but, though it was equally strong with solid frame
    version, some intriqued construction stopped its reaching to popular use.

  • The Smith that was replaced by the Nagant was a better gun. The Czar made the switch for purely economic reasons.
    Dean

  • Two simple reason.
    A) Reloadability.
    B) Faster ejection of the spent cartridges.

    If you were sitting in a dugout in Port Arthur and the enemy starts coming over the top you would know what I mean;)

    “Case in point from later part of history was swap of Tokarev for lighter and compact Makarov”.
    You seem to have forgotten
    A) At that point in history officers no longer went into battle carrying a saber and pistol.
    B) The USSR adopted a new pistol cartridge to go along with their new pistol.

    • strongarm

      “russian revolver.com” states, “individual extraction especially wanted to keep
      the revolver all loaded with obtainable rounds in an isolated situation”. that
      is; if ejected simultaneusly, the user might not find time to fetch up the thrown
      cases and select the live ones to use which were in short supply.

      This means, Russian intentionally selected a revolver to be reloaded individually.

      Regarding to the reliability, it reminds another Russian saying about the Nagant
      revolver that is; “So durable and strong this revolver that, in an emengency, a
      plain soldier could mend it with a hammer”.

      An experiment of taking down the whole Nagant into tinniest pieces and putting them
      together in minutes will make the person believed about its durablity and reliability.

  • “russian revolver.com” states, “individual extraction especially wanted to keep
    the revolver all loaded with obtainable rounds in an isolated situation”. that
    is; if ejected simultaneusly, the user might not find time to fetch up the thrown
    cases and select the live ones to use which were in short supply.”

    I have to call the BS card on this one.

    If you’re worried about picking up lose cartridges from the dirt, you might as well stick the barrel in your mouth.

    No one has ever called the Smith an unreliable/fragile weapon.

    Any Soviet nostalgia over Nagants is purely having to use what was on hand because there was nothing else to use.

  • strongarm

    Pure Russians. They have never had the chance of
    handling a swing out wheel gun with its ejector
    rod unscrewed by cylinder rotation and unusably
    locked it by cause of barrel shroud gave no access
    to reach to the loosened piece.

  • Robert

    A very interesting history. However, I would not want to have to use this in battle. Time consuming to load and especially unload. The spent cartridges stick in their cylinders and it takes alot of jamming with the rod to extract them. It is nearly impossible to do so without touching the hot barrel which can cause burns. Have fired it in 100+ degrees and below freezing and cartridges are much easier to extract at below freezing. Not accurate at all and it is not the shooter as I was a sharpshooter in the Army. However, it really is a joy to shoot. Not much recoil at all; smooth firing; comfortable to handle; rugged; and easy to clean. I have alot of fun with it at the range and very glad I bought one.

  • Doby

    My Nagant has been utterly reliable, and has never given me any problems over many, many rounds downrange. It is a joy to shoot single action, which is how they were meant to be fired except in an emergency. Most Americans do not understand that these were DESIGNED basically as a single action that has double action capability. This is the opposite of an American style DA revolver that is designed to be shot double action in anger, and only in single action for precision. Spend some time learning about a Nagant, its intended purpose for being, and its targeted users – and it no longer seems awkward, ugly, or complicated. It has only 5 moving parts, and is a far superior design in real world use than the S&W .44 Russian that it replaced. Ha7ving owned and shot many of the original .44R S&Ws, I can say that they most definitely were NOT as reliable as my current Nagant. I can strip the Nagant down to the last part, clean it, and reassemble it in under 10 minutes. Try that with a .44 Russian! (Wait, just kidding – DON’T try it with a .44 Russian! You might have to call a gunsmith.) At any rate, I can shoot .32S&W, .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Mag, 7.62 Nagant, and .32-20 from mine with zero case splits and good accuracy to 25 yards with most loads. I love the beauty of the S&W large frame single actions. But the break-open unloading would not be a good enough reason to avoid using a Nagant in Russian mud or snow. The Russians made the right decision -for their circumstances- when they adopted the Nagant in 1895. America by then had adopted a double action Colt .38 that was nowhere near as good a combat revolver as the Nagant in my opinion. We tend to think of the SAA and the Model 1911 as the quintessential US military arms of that period. Blissfully, we have forgotten that the earliest Colt DA revolvers were unreliable while pretty, they were almost useless in the Phillipines. The .38 Colt as adopted in 1889-1911 period was anemic at best. Just some ramblings…I like my Nagant.

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