This guest post authored by Andrey Ulanov.
In the USSR, the issue of choosing the main pistol cartridge was dealt with twice. For the first time, this was done by a commission in the early 1930s. Back then, a number of Soviet and foreign pistols and submachine guns were tested. In addition to other characteristics, lethal force was also tested. Shooting was carried out at bulls and horses.
The following conclusion was made:
CONCLUSION ON THE CARTRIDGE.
Moving on to the question of the cartridge, the commission considers Mauser’s 7.63mm cartridge to be undesirable for the following reasons:
- A large charge with a relatively light bullet, which provides a high initial velocity and great flatness, at the same time significantly increases the recoil of the system in comparison with systems for other cartridges (for example, 9 mm Parabellum cartridge.). The latter circumstance makes it very difficult to design both small pistols within a certain specified weight, and, in particular, the design of small pistols and submachine guns for a single cartridge (also within a specified weight), since with a large recoil, which strongly shakes the entire system during automatic fire, maintaining the aiming line is impossible and accuracy is negligible, which was confirmed when testing domestic submachine guns chambered for 7.63mm Mauser, which will be discussed below.
- In addition, this cartridge presents great difficulties in production, due to the bottle shape, which also complicates the production of the cartridge chamber. On the other hand, the caliber of the bullet makes it possible to use the 3-line (.30 inch) barrels already in service, which simplifies and standardizes production.
When comparing the characteristics of the Mauser cartridge 7.63mm and 9mm Parabellum cartridge. It can be seen that the Mauser cartridge (see Appendix Nos. 8 and 9), having a charge that is 50% more than the charge of the Parabellum cartridge and the bullet that is 48% lighter, gives an initial velocity that is 25% more than the Parabellum cartridge, while having approximately the same punch action as it. At the same time, due to the smaller caliber, its lethality must be considered significantly inferior to the lethality of the 9 mm Parabellum cartridge. Looking through the weapons of foreign armies, it can be seen that in almost all foreign countries the caliber of pistols is 9 mm and higher. At the same time, due to the smaller charge, the recoil of the system under the parabellum cartridge should be considered less for a given weight of the pistol.
Therefore, the commission considers the 9 mm Parabellum cartridge to be more suitable for adoption, especially since no significant alterations to the Tokarev pistol system, replacing the barrel with a large-caliber barrel, according to the designer’s statement, will be required. As to the cartridges Nagant 7.62mm, Parabellum 7.65mm, and Colt 11.43mm, the commission considers them less suitable for adoption.
As can be seen from this document, the Soviet military in 1930 considered the 9×19 cartridge to be the best for themselves. But at that point, production considerations were more important. In 1930, the USSR was just beginning to industrialize. The necessary tools were available for the 7.62 mm caliber. For the 9mm, they would have to be remade. Therefore, the TT pistol and Soviet PPD submachine guns received a 7.62 mm cartridge.
The second time, the question of the pistol cartridge in the USSR was dealt with after the Second World War. The army’s transition to the new cartridge 7.62×39 mm meant that the submachine gun would no longer be the main weapon of the infantry. As well, the Soviet military wanted a more compact, convenient, and reliable pistol.
In 1947, pistol cartridges were tested at the GAU KA shooting range:
- 7.62 mm TT pistol cartridges manufactured in 1945.
- 9-mm Parabellum (model 08) of German production. Brass sleeve, ordinary bullet. The cartridges were manufactured in 1943.
- 9-mm experimental pistol cartridges of the OP-1 batch, developed by NII-44, manufactured in January 1943 (future cartridges for Makarov pistol 9×18 mm)
- 11.43mm American-made pistol cartridges (aka .45 ACP). Steel sleeve, ordinary bullet. The cartridges were manufactured in 1943.
- 7.65-mm Browning (aka .32 ACP) German production “Geco”. Brass sleeve, ordinary bullet.
American readers will be interested to know that when compiling the test methodology, Soviet officers carefully studied the opinions of American specialists. Here is a list of the methodological literature used in the preparation of:
YS Filatov. Abstract on the stopping and lethal effect of bullets.
The American Rifleman, June 1946. “The Army Is Studying German Pistols”
Ibid, S. Hatcher. “Someone else always seems better.”
The American Rifleman September 1946. “Technical consultation”. S. Hatcher “How stopping action is defined.”
Army Ordnance November-December 1945. Melvin M. Johnson “Are American Weapons the Best.”
V.L. Aleksandrov. Technical hydrodynamics. Ed. 1946.
In the USSR, it was decided to carefully study the effect of bullets. Several target options were used. First, they fired at clay slabs of varying moisture content (an analogue of ballistic gelatin). A slice of clay made it possible to study well the behavior of bullets after being hit.
At the second stage, shooting was carried out at fresh bones of animals (calves) covered with a 5 cm layer of clay. A series of tests was performed with bones of various types and thicknesses.
The test report is over 100 pages long, not counting the tables in the appendix. Therefore, I will confine myself to brief conclusions.
The 11.43 mm bullets gave the deepest penetration and destroyed bones well.
7.62 mm bullets gave good penetration, but quickly lost speed inside. On the bone, they acted worse than 11.43mm, except for the cases when the bullet hit the bone in the lateral position. However, it turned out that the 7.62 bullets quickly lost stability and began to snarl, causing a significant amount of damage.
Bullets 9×19 mm were slightly inferior to both.
Bullets 9×18 mm were inferior to the first three. But even here, the gap was not very significant.
7.65 mm proved to be significantly worse than all the others.
As you know, soon, the USSR received Makarov and Stechkin pistols chambered for 9×18 mm. The Makarov pistol is still very common in the Russian police, although the army replaced it with a 9×19 weapon.
I will allow myself to comment on the conclusions of the officers of the training ground with observations from personal experience. As a shooter, I often have to talk with Latvian police officers or employees of private security firms. After 1991, many of them changed the Makarov pistol for various pistols or revolvers (9×19 or .38sp). The Glock 17 became the standard police weapon but after several years, some officers returned to the Makarov pistol or purchased compact models under the .380. Note that in Latvia the use of expansive bullets for self-defense is legally prohibited, only FMJs are allowed. Nevertheless, many believe that for practical use 9×18 mm or .380 is quite sufficient.