A Nurse with a Gun

Monday, December 03, 2007

TOZ-35 Range Report

There is an old saying.......an inaccurate gun is a boring gun. There are handguns that have "combat accuracy," better known as acceptable accuracy. This is often a compromise between durability, portability, marketability, and of course, cost. Then there are handguns with "target accuracy".........two inch groups at 50 yards with the right ammo. Click to enlarge True, these pistols, usually semi automatics, are well above the average pistol in the ability to put holes in the black, but they are compromised by a reciprocating action that must return the barrel and sights to the same position over and over.

Finally, there are "free pistols".......The free pistol is a handgun built for extreme accuracy. A free pistol is easily identified by its grip, which may completely envelope and stabilises the shooter's hand, although it cannot reinforce the wrist. Regulations require only that a free pistol fires .22 calibre long rifle cartridges and has open sights. These pistols posses a longer barrel, and sight radius. Most are single shot pistols, or they use a modified magazine that can only contain one round.

Free pistol, a precision shooting event, has been part of the Olympics since 1896. Competitors shoot .22 caliber pistols from 50 meters at precision targets with a 5cm 10 ring. Competitors fire 60 shots in two hours. 600 is a perfect score, and 565 is considered world class. The top eight competitors advance to a 10-shot final round, with 75 seconds allotted for each shot. The final is scored in tenths of a point and added to the match score to determine winners. A perfect final score is 109. A perfect aggregate (Match + Final) score is 709 points. The free pistol is a no excuse precision hole puncher. The shooter of these handguns only has himself to blame is a shot flies wide of the bullseye.

I purchased my TOZ-35 from CDNN for $499 with the wooden case. Click to enlargeWith overnight shipping, the price came to $512. The outside of the case was pretty badly scuffed up and the top of the case was loose, but nothing a bit of wood glue can not repair. The felt lining was intact throughout. the wooden case had persevered and protected the treasure inside. Included with the TOZ-35 was an English version of the manual, and an odd bottle for lubricant. The rest of the package.......Tools and assorted sight leaves were missing. The absent items didn't really bother me that much, it was still a deal in my opinion. I immediately went online to research the pistol.

Designed in 1959, the Vostok TOZ-35 is still a worthy competitor against such names as Hammerli and Pardini. Click to enlargeAt the 2000 Milan World Cup, Bill Demarest won and set a new world record in Free Pistol of 676.2 points with a TOZ-35. The TOZ-35 won Gold, Silver, Bronze, and 4th place at the 1996 Olympic Games. Yes, it's still a competitive pistol without all the lightweight unobtainium high speed space age gyroscopic whiz bangs. Heck, I kind of like it's antique-ish flavor. I guess I'm just a walnut and blue kind of guy.

The grips of the TOZ-35 are adjustable walnut. The left grip fully encircles the thumb. The upper wing supports the firearm on the hand, while the adjustable lower wing supports it underneath. The lower wing would not adjust far enough down for my big ham of a hand, so I removed it for this range report. In the future, I will fabricate a bracket so the lower wing can be attached when I shoot the pistol.Click to enlarge

The action of the Toz-35 is not unlike that of the old Martini-Henry rifle. The breech is locked by means of a bolt rocking on its pin, which is actuated by a release lever extending beneath the grip. A single round is fed in, and the breech is locked. The firing mechanism housed in the bolt is simultaneously actuated by an accelerator mounted on a separate base plate. The accelerator is armed by deppressing the trigger cock lever on the left side of the pistol. Until the trigger is cocked, the trigger is unable to fire the pistol. The sight radius of the TOZ-35 is 375mm. The sights are about as far apart as possible. The crown is recessed into the muzzle.

The fittment of the pistol is quite nice. Although manufactured in the Soviet Union, the Russkies placed some craftsmanship into this firearm. The trigger mechanism itself is quite amazing. Click to enlargeIt appears complex with an array of very finely threaded screws to adjust it. The trigger is fully adjustable, for pull length, pull angle, angle of alignment, degrees of rotation towards the finger, and of course, pressure and creep. I do not know what this trigger is set at. The directions say it will adjust up to one pound. It is light........So light a butterfly fart could trip it. I'll be careful of butterflies, and not cock the trigger until I am prepared to fire. So, after a careful inspection and lube job, I packed up the TOZ and headed for the range. I took along a 550 round bulk pack of Federal .22 ammo. I also took my Ruger MKII to compare the TOZ with.

It was a cold, clear day when I arrived. Cold at least for Louisiana.Click to enlarge It was about 55 degrees. I removed my jacket to go to work. The sky was crisp and blue, a Bluebird kind of day. I read over the instructions again to familiarize myself with my new hole punch, and I removed the lower wing from the grip. I placed some targets out, my usual index cards with a spot in the center. I loaded a round into the TOZ chamber and raised the pistol, being mindful to keep my trigger finger extended. I reached up and cocked the trigger. I moved my trigger finger to the trigger. POP! SaZaaaam! WOW! I moved the release lever forward, extracting and ejecting the spent shell casing. Damnnnnnn, that was a light trigger!

I set the TOZ down to think about this a bit. I picked up the Ruger. The Ruger I had brought for comparison is a modified Target Government MKII. It wears a Nill grip, and cranks out .22 bullets using Volquartsen internals and compensator. Click to enlargeIt seemed heavy compared to the TOZ. It was heavy by comparison. I loaded up a magazine and warmed up with the Ruger. I blew through several magazines, controlling my breathing and trying to reach that tranquil and calculating place of zen shooting. Once I had reached that transcendental plane I returned to the Russkie gun.

I picked up the TOZ-35 and slipped it on my hand. That's right, I slipped it on. Like a glove. It immediately became apparent that you don't hold this pistol as I had the Ruger. You wear it. Like a well fitted prosthesis, it becomes a part of yourself. I loaded it again, raised it, cocked the trigger and aimed it. I touched the trigger and it placed a hole an inch low. I ran a few more rounds though it to make certain. The TOZ grouped them tightly. I removed the pistol from my hand and tried to turn the rear sight knobs to adjust. They were stiff with dried grease.

With a little dexterous persuasion and a squirt of Break-Free, I was moving the hits where I wanted them. I had the windage adjustment knob all the way to the left, so I compensated for that by loosening the sight leaf and moving it to the left. Click to enlargeThen I returned the windage knob back to place the rear sight centerline again.

I transitioned between the two pistols every fifty rounds or so, shooting offhand, and the difference was startling. I had thought the Ruger was the cat's knees before I shot the TOZ-35. The Ruger was a good, accurate pistol, but the TOZ out-classed it handily. In fact the TOZ plucked and fried that Ruger eagle and fed it to the MKII on Bolshevik china.

The TOZ-35 was a dream to shoot. I didn't have to think about shooting the pistol. I only had to aim it. It was as though I willed the hole to appear where ever I aimed. The TOZ-35 is a perfectly balanced pistol. It aims as though it were the finger at the end of your arm. The hole appears where you aim. What more could a target shooter want?


To prevent damage to the action, the TOZ-35 must be stored properly. If dry firing is desired, steps must be taken to prevent damage as well.

Placing the TOZ-35 into storage:
1. Check that the chamber is empty, then carry out the following procedure.
2. Cock the trigger set.
3. Using the action lever protruding beneath the grip, slightly open the action.
4. Fire the set trigger. This will release mainspring pressure.

If the action lever moves to the rear, it shows that the main spring is released. Check by slightly opening the action. Residual spring tension indicates that the mainspring has been released. The pistol may now be stored.

If the action lever is moveable without tension, the mainspring is still compressed. Repeat the procedure to release the tension on the main spring.

To Dry Fire the TOZ-35:
1. Open the action enough to check that the chamber is empty.
2. Make certain the mainspring is not under tension.
3. With the mainspring pressure released and the action lever locked in the rear position, the set trigger may now be cocked and dry fired without damaging the mechanism.

Parts are available at Larry's Guns in Maine.

TOZ-35 Manual

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Blogger JR said...

That just moved to the top of the list of firearms I need to get. For what you described, the price is quite the bargain.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Jerry The Geek said...

You're liking your new toy, aren't you?

Good for you. If it isn't fun, why bother shooting it?

9:27 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Dang you Xavier! Now I want to buy one! Looks like fun, but I doubt I can get my wife to bite!

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the lubricant/cleaner bottle is typical of soviet block guns. my mosin nagant rifles and hungarian ak47 all came with one like yours.

george orr

2:06 AM  
Anonymous Blackwing1 said...

You mentioned: "The shooter of these handguns only has himself to blame is a shot flies wide of the bullseye." But how about low?

In shooting regular-quality .22 ammo with an un-modified Ruger 10/22, I'm able to get about 1/2" groups at 25 yards. But I will get, every once in a while, a round which was noticeable lightly loaded. Instead of the usual "whip-crack" of the .22 in a rifle, it will be more of just a sharp "crack".

I always go through the squib-round drill, and make sure that there's nothing in the barrel before setting it aside and checking the target. And there, usually a couple of inches below the nice clover-leaf I've been making, is the stray round. The lightly-loaded round had enough of a lower velocity to print way below the rest of the holes.

This hasn't happened often. The last time my wife and I were at the range, I had two rounds out of a bulk-box of 525 (Remington, copper-plated JHP) that did this.

Have you notice this phenomenon when shooting your free pistols, with commercial-quality ammmo?

7:01 AM  
Blogger Matt G said...

To really find out what it can do, you're going to have to try it with some good quality pistol target ammo-- that bulk Federal stuff is for plinking.

Are those 25 yard targets, or did you do the deal at the regulation 50? If they're the former, they're good.

If they're the latter, they're superb.

Also-- shooting one-handed, or two-handed?

9:02 AM  
Blogger jon spencer said...

Now you have to start the search for the ammo that the gun likes.
That bulk pack stuff is fine for seeing if the gun works, but not for repeatable accuracy.
All you can do is hope that it does not like the really good (read expensive) ammo.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Laughingdog said...

How exactly do you fire .22 pistols offhand when the grips you have are so clearly designed for a right handed shooter?

11:13 AM  
Blogger dropdownstairs said...

I love your prose.
Hey found a odd story of a fart almost leading to deaths.


11:33 AM  
Anonymous Mike M. said...

A few pieces of advice.

First, get yourself some mid-quality match ammunition. RWS Target is fine - you don't need to put the bucks into Eley Tenex. But bulk Federal is not the kind of fodder for a free pistol.

Second, get a good pair of grips. Rink Grips tend to be the favorites, but Morini grips are also OK. I'm not sure if Nill makes grips for a Toz-35.

Third, shoot the thing at the proper distance...50 meters (or yards). Frustrating? Yup. But you'll learn how to REALLY shoot a pistol.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Blackwing: With the Federal ammo I haven't found many if any light loads. I'm sure match ammo would be more exacting, but I'm not sure my skill level merits it.

Laughingdog: By offhanded, I mean fired one handed using the right hand to hold the pistol, body at a 45 degree angle to the target, left hand in the left trousers pocket.If there is a better term to describe this old stance, let me know and I'll change it in the piece. I thought I was correct on the terminology.

Mike: To me "really shooting a pistol" is defined by self defense shooting, as simulated in IDPA competitions. A pistol as it was originally intended is a portable self defensive tool. It's use in any other role is that of a toy in a game. While some may see 50m Pistol as the epitome of shooting sports, I do not. I see hitting multiple targets on the run, avoiding obstacles and friendlies, and doing it all under stress and time as the ability to "really shoot a pistol." Others may differ, and that's OK. To me a free pistol is a toy in a game. It's not a serious endeavor for me. Never the less, the pistol is interesting, and the accuracy game is fun. Moving the targets closer so I have a decent chance of hitting it rather that being frustrated seems perfectly fair unless I am engaged in competition. I'll look into the Rink grips, although I really want to keep the originals.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Mulliga said...

I like the Wolf match ammo. Hey, the gun comes from Russia...

Great review, Xavier. Thanks.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I dry fire my .22's with a dummy shell or empty brass case in the chamber. Steel on steel firing will eventually take its toll on either the firing pin, the rim of the chamber, or both.
Heck of a gun,though. Would love to shoot one sometime!

4:24 PM  
Anonymous singleshotcajun said...

I am a certified Vostok rifle nut. I really want a Toz free pistol but I wonder if my great big ole hand will fit. Volquartsen standard MKII target grips work well for me. Can you give me any insight as to if the Toz grips will adjust big enough.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

As you can see in the lower pic, i had to take the lower wing off to fit my hand. The lower wing fits my son perfectly.

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great gun, the TOZ. I am buying one for under $AUS300, which is damm cheap.
With my larger hands, I found that I could wedge top of the the lower wing where it fitted to the grip.
This which allowed my wider hand to fit rather well. No other mods were needed. Try it.

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I have just received mine, definitely, that piece is another league....

Enjoy it!!!

6:35 AM  
Anonymous PhilOhio said...

Xavier, Guys,

I also bought my TOZ-35 about 5 - 6 years ago from CDNN, with the empty wood box, which I filled with some accessories I made and scrounged. The pistol was in near mint condition, probably because the Vostok factory had mis-fitted the breech block lockup, so the firing pin would strike nearly 1/32" in from the case rim, causing misfires half the time or more; it probably sat on some Russian arms room shelf, unused and unrepaired, for years. And the three grip pieces were in new condition, having never been fitted to anybody's hand.

It took me until yesterday, 6 August 2015, to figure out the firing pin strike position fix. I removed a few thousandths from both camming arm surfaces of the cocking lever top end, so the breech block now locks slightly lower, putting the firing pin dead on, covering the rim edge, where it is supposed to be. No more frustrating misfires. For the first time, the gun is really fun to shoot, and dead on, always. Even with common sporting ammo, the TOZ-35 is far more accurate than anything else that most of us can ever own. And that set trigger pull is beyond wonderful. I think that Xavier and I can agree to recommend that if any of you are so fortunate as to find one of these available in good condition, at an affordable price, you will never be sorry you bought it. There will always be newer free pistols out there, but probably not more accurate ones. It's a joy just to handle one of these, and watch the expressions on friends' faces when they try the trigger pull and shoot it for the first time.

But stay on top of your TOZ-35. You can always embarrass yourself by forgetting to cock the set trigger lever after you step up to the firing line; or not fully cocking the striker spring before that. You have to think about the whole shooting cycle carefully, every time you fire one of these. But oh, what fun they are. The neighborhood squirrels will treat you with great respect.

4:17 PM  

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