A Nurse with a Gun

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bulgarian Makarov Review (2003)

A decade ago I made an error in judgment. In 1993 Makarovs were plentiful at any gunshow. Ammo was not all that plentiful back then, and a lot of people were claiming that .380ACP could also be shot through the Makarov. Back then, such a handgun did not sound like a deal to me, even though you could buy Russian and East German Makarovs for $100 apiece. I passed. I kicked myself for several years later.

Then, in 2003, the Makarov again began appearing on our shores, this time from Bulgaria. These ranged in price from excellent examples costing $124 to unissued, still in cosmoline pistols for between $150 and $180. The Bulgarian Makarov can be recognized by the "Circle 10" military proofmark beside the slide release on the left side of the pistol. In general, the Bulgarian pistol is considered to be high on the Soviet Bloc fit and finish scale. I found an unissued Bulgarian Makarov at a gunshow for $150. It came with two magazines, a holster and a cleaning rod. I did not make a mistake this time, I bought the gun.

The Makarov is a blowback operated, double action pistol of all-steel construction. A manual safety is located on the left side of the slide, and, when engaged, safely brings hammer down from cocked position, and then locks the hammer, sear and slide. The hammer can be cocked manually for the accurate first shot in single action, or it can be cocked automatically by the longer and heavier trigger pull in double action. Field stripping is accomplished by pulling down the trigger guard and pulling the slide to the rear, like a Walther PPK. The Makarov magazine holds 8 rounds. The magazine release is in the heel of the pistol's grip. The Bulgarian Mak is fitted with small military style sights. Unloaded weight is 1 pound 8 ounces. The Bulgarian barrel appears to be chrome lined. While other pistols may have more panache, the Mak has a well earned reputation for rock solid reliability.

My Makarov came with the red commie grips. These are my prefered grips. There are several grips available for the pistol. My Mak has the CAI buzzpen import marks on the right of the slide. The date code indicates my pistol was made in 1984. I detailed the gun, removing plenty of cosmoline, and revealing an unblemished pistol. I lubed it and took it to the range.

9X18 Makarov ammo is now plentiful. The Mak was designed for steel cased ammo, so Wolff ammo will not harm the pistol. I shot Wolff and Blazer ammo. I shot 300 rounds with no failures. The DA trigger was heavy with noticeable stacking. The SA trigger pull was creepy. Still, the gun fit my big hands well, and I achieved fair accuracy. I shot at 25 feet, and grouped shots between 2 & 3 inches. I was constantly pulling my shots due to the pistol's trigger. With less stacking in DA and less creep all around, I feel the pistol could have been more accurate in my hands. Recoil was controllable, but noticeable. Muzzle flash? Yes.

If a person needs a CCW pistol, and has less than $200 to spend, then the Makarov may be the best deal going. The caliber is the only potential drawback, as it is sandwiched between the 9mm Parabellum and the .380ACP. If the pistol still makes the cut after caliber considerations, the shooter will find it to be easily concealed, easy to use, and almost boringly reliable. Obviously a steel pistol's weight will be more than that of a polymer pistol, but with a good holster (and they are available for the Mak) the weight difference is easier to deal with. Novak type sights are available. Eventhough I do not carry my Makarov, I'm glad I did not pass it up again.


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Blogger Sterno said...

My Makarov is my daily carry gun. I love it. It disappears in a Bianchi 100 pro IWB under just a t-shirt. And you are correct, with a good belt and holster, the weight is not a problem.

The only problem I've had feeding my Mak was with some Hornady hollowpoints. But I use and carry the 95gr Silver Bear hollowpoints. They feed just like wolff ball ammo - flawlessly.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

Another Bulgarian Mak owner. Love it, and I've converted at least 3 fellows to the Church of Makarov. 2 more converts, and I get to wear a funny hat!

11:02 PM  
Blogger MauserMedic said...

We had a competitor shoot one of them at a club match. He did quite well with it.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Kingpin008 said...

That's it. I HAVE to have a Makarov.

Been considering one for the longest time, and recently I've been seeing articles and posts about them all over the place. I just wish there were some in shops near me.

For a total noob - can anyone give me a bit of a guide to prices? What is the most I can expect to pay, without getting totally ripped off?

1:44 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Nowadays, for an excellent condition unfired Bulgarian Makarov, below $150 is dadgummed good. $150-200 is standard. Over $200 is excessive.

5:00 AM  
Blogger Sterno said...

In my neck of the woods(South Louisiana) I paid $175 for a very good condition Makarov (slight finish wear-pristine bore), a set of replacement grips, two magazines, and a cleaning rod. That was about 2 years ago.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous dan said...

a broken in gun should run with 380 ammo. It works surprisingly well. I still use mak ammo but in a pinch its nice to know you can improvise

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Jared McLaughlin said...

I knew a young man who carried one of these in another country. He was quite effective with it. I can understand buying these sort of arms for self protection when on limited funds. The surplus market has treated me well. I carry a CZ-52, and my wife carries a PA-63. Both are accurate and dependable.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Allen said...

I actually caved and snatched up a Russian IJ-70 a couple of months ago. The upside is that it's chambered in .380 and has adjustable sights. The downside is I bought it for almost double what the old Bulgarians were selling for.

6:03 PM  
Blogger lee n. field said...

Pretty fair review.

You might look at the East German military surplus grip. Same checkered hard plastic, but it's black and a little more rounded, and (in my opinion) looks nicer.

"For a total noob - can anyone give me a bit of a guide to prices?

Around here, look to be spending somewhere near $200 on your basic Bulgarian. Everything else is up from that.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

I paid $189 out the door in Kansas a year or so ago. Priced a decent Bulgarian for a buddy the other day at $229 locally.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Firehand said...

Now, one of these for $200 is a good deal from what I've seen.

The Pearce grips that Midway carries are worth the money. Much more comfortable to me, though they are slightly wider than the factory.

Shot one of the IJ70 Russian .380's a while back, and it's amazing the difference decent sights make on these. My Mak is quite accurate, but the sights flat suck.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Jp said...

I've got a Bulgarian Makarov and absolutely love it. I'd like to make it my carry gun. The problem I'm having is that it shoots low left. My latest test was from about 10-12 yards.

Anyone know of any good methods for correcting this issue?

I contacted Novak about getting new sites and they told me they don't carry sights for the Makarov.

2:55 PM  
Blogger viridari said...

I often carry a Bulgarian Makarov, and have been for years. Fantastic value! I only ever have reliability issues with it when I feed it expensive brass-cased ammo. Feed it the cheap ammo with steel or nickel cases and it is AK47-reliable. It's also amazingly accurate.

The only reason I've been considering "upgrading" lately is that it can sometimes be hard to find parts for them. Makarov.com sometimes has stuff but they often have issues keeping relevant stuff in stock, and they are just a single source.

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shooting low left would indicate you are jerking a bit when you pull the trigger. get a snap cap or put a spent cartridge in the chamber and practice your trigger pull. unless you have had a trigger job done this could be your problem. every mak I have owned shot dead ahead.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Yardy said...

Where can I get a NIB Bulgarian Makarov? Are there any vendors?

5:53 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

They are Mil-Surps Yardy, no NIB examples available. You can check the usual sources for mil-surps, but i don't think any have been imported for a year or so.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Yardy said...

Who are the usual Mil-Surp suspects?

8:18 PM  
Anonymous markojelen said...

Have you ever seen seen Bulgarian Makarov in .32ACP (7.65x17) caliber?

9:04 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Never seen that, but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Check Makarov.com.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Brett Rodgers said...

I loved this blog because Im trying to figure out what is the best bear ammo that I can get. I really love bear hunting and I finally got my own tags for this upcoming season. I am going to try to take my sons with me and we will go out and have fun. Thanks for the post.

9:24 AM  

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