The Nagant 1895 revolver (as seen in the movie Enemy of the Gates and Sherlock Holmes) is a peculiar weapon that caught my interest at the start of my Guntubing career. At the time these handguns looked brand new and were advertised for about 100 US dollars and I felt I could not afford to pass it up. But is the Nagant worthy of your collection?
History of the Nagant Revolver
Belgian gun designer Leon Nagant had invented solid frame double action revolvers that were adopted by various militaries such as Argentina and Ottoman Turkey. But when Czar Nicholas examined his latest work, what would be the Nagant service revolver, he was impressed by its unique gas seal design and thought it was worthy. In 1895, the world was moving toward smokeless powder ammunition that was more powerful and made the soldier harder to detect. The Russians were ultimately looking to keep up with the times by adopting the 1895 Nagant revolver chambered in a smokeless 7.62x38mm cartridge to replace its break top 44 caliber Smith and Wesson revolvers.
The 1895 Nagant revolver is a seven shot revolver that was available in a double action model for officers and single action model but after 1918 only the DA model was available. All Nagant revolvers feature an innovative transfer bar safety to prevent accidental firing if the gun is dropped while the hammer lies on a live round. It has a barrel a hair over four inches with fixed combat sights. It features a loading gate that frees the cylinder for loading and an ejector rod within the robust cylinder pin. When the hammer comes back, the cylinder moves forward and over the forcing cone creating a gas seal for more velocity and later, the ability to suppress (silence ) the gun. The grip is easy to grasp and is made of either wood or a bakelite material with a lanyard ring attached so the officer can attach a lanyard so not to lose his gun.
The Nagant revolver was already obsolete when adopted and very much an answer to a question noone really asked. Nevertheless, it was the standard issue handgun for Russia during World War I and would ultimately be the weapon used to murder the Czar and his family ending autocratic rule in Russia in 1918. It continued in service with Russia through the Civil War (1919-22) and was not fully replaced until after World War II (1939-45). North Korea, China, and Vietnam used them in their various wars afterward and are even encountered occasionally in Russia today.
Analysis and Shooting
I recieved my 1895 Nagant in May 2012 and got my hands on genuine military surplus ammunition. The gun was Communist era, having been made in the Tula arsenal in 1929. The ammo featured a 108 grain full metal jacket bullet enclosed in the case running about 1300 feet per second. While 32 Smith and Wesson Long can be fired in the Nagant and cylinders for 32 ACP are available, I wanted to shoot genuine military fodder because no one on YouTube had done it before and 7.62x38mm ammunition made today is about half the speed of the real stuff. So the Nagant has an undeserved reputation as weak. In reality it was more powerful than 32 caliber autos and revolvers in use at the time.
Shooting the Nagant was pleasant and done on numerous occassions using 32 Smith and Wesson Long and surplus 7.62mm ammo at distances between seven and twenty five yards. The loading and unloading process was quite slow even for firearms at the time the M1895 was introduced.
1) Open the loading gate on the left side of the gun. This frees the cylinder to rotate. Each round is placed one at a time into each cylinder. Seven times.
2) Close the loading gate and fire away.
3) When you are done firing, open the loading gate.
4) Unscrew the ejector rod beneath the barrel, pull it out and turn it to the right side of the gun.
5) Poke each each case out as you advance the cylinder. You must retract the rod after each stroke. Do this seven times.
Granted a military sidearm of the era was meant for personal defense only and as more than likely a badge of rank but at the time Colt and Smith and Wesson were coming out with modern revolvers we are familiar with today that ejected all the rounds at once with a swing out cylinder. Break top revolvers like the British Webley and even the Smith and Wesson 44 Russians could unload and reload with the flick of a wrist. The fact that the Nagant fires a gas sealed cartridge is irrelevant.
Having gotten over the reloading process, the trigger pull is aweful. The single action trigger pull (pulling the hammer back first before pulling the trigger) is doable but nowhere near as good as modern revolvers. The double action pull (just pulling the trigger) is a good twenty pounds but to be fair most military revolvers had such triggers to prevent the soldier from accidentally discharging the gun.
Recoil was snappy with military ammunition but not uncomfortable at all and with 32 Smith and Wesson Long 98 grain lead bullets there was no recoil at all. Accuracy with both rounds was paper plate worthy at seven yards but all over the target at twenty five yards despite my best efforts. My intention to reload the 32 SWL round for best accuracy out of the gun was shattered when I found the cases split while firing. That is unfortunate because I felt more could be done for the gun’s target performance.
Even though the 1895 Nagant came a day late and a dollar short I cannot help but marvel at the creative genius of Nagant for one of the few revolvers that can be suppressed. That by itself should be in your collection. But I see this handgun as a reloading project and a truck gun. If these handguns can survive war they will survive being under the seat of your pickup. While I did not get the chance to tease more accuracy out of the Nagant I say it is adequate as it stands. In short, accuracy is hum-ho. Recoil is not unpleasant. The gun itself is crude to the casual observer but tough as nails just like the Russians who carried it.
Photo courtesy of christiangunowner.com