Gun Review: Nagant m1895 Revolver

There’s a fatal flaw in revolver design: the cylinder gap. It’s dangerous to the shooter, wreaks havoc with night vision, and bleeds off enough gas that it significantly affects the muzzle velocity. Thankfully there’s an ingenious pistol that eliminates this problem. What’s the catch, you say? It was designed in 1895 . . .

The Nagant model 1895 revolver is a seven shot, gas-seal revolver designed by Leon Nagant for the Russian Tsar. It’s chambered in 7.62x38R. Russian and Soviet troops used the pistol during both world wars. Despite being out of production since 1950, security personnel around the world still use the Nagant m1895 revolver.

While this pistol has a noble history, it’s best known in the United States for one reason: it can be purchased online and shipped to your door for less than $100 (with C&R ). Yes but—ammunition is nearly impossible to find and costs an arm and a leg. While I was at the NRA range, one RSO even leaned into my booth, pointed at the pistol and asked “is that one of those pistols where the ammunition costs as much as the gun?”

As I’ve written before, I find beauty in mechanical ingenuity. Some people may look at the Nagant and see the firearms equivalent of a Yugo. But it’s what’s under the hood that counts. Two major changes differentiate this design from every other pistol in the world: the ammunition and the gas seal system.

One of the reasons that ammunition for the Nagant revolver is notoriously hard to find: it’s notoriously difficult to produce. With just about every other cartridge in the world, the bullet protrudes from the front of the brass case. The crimp (if any) is at the bottom of the bullet. With Nagant ammunition, the bullet is seated so far down in the case that the case rim is actually in front of the bullet, and crimped over the round. The longer case means that the leading edge of the brass protrudes from the front of the cylinder.

On a normal revolver, this wouldn’t make any sense. The expanding gasses would most likely force the case out the sides of the cylinder gap making the spent brass impossible to remove easily. But instead of having a cylinder gap for the gasses to escape, the Nagant’s cylinder moves forward when the hammer is cocked, closing the cylinder gap and creating a seal with the forcing cone. The image below shows the cylinder gap on the Nagant revolver when the hammer is not cocked (left) and when it is cocked (right).

This is when the funky ammunition plays its role. The extended brass case bridges the gap between the front of the cylinder and the forcing cone (covering what’s left of the cylinder gap). It creates a tight seal, so that none of the gas leaks out. This seal increases the pressure in the barrel and makes the bullet fly faster. It also makes the Nagant m1895 the only revolver that can be suppressed effectively.

Do these mechanical improvements make the revolver a better shooter? Well, yes and no. Due to the lack of a cylinder gap, the pistol is as mechanically consistent as a bolt action rifle. But the trigger pull is so atrocious that it doesn’t matter.

In single action, the Nagant’s trigger is crisp and breaks cleanly. It’s still significantly more strenuous than the other revolvers I’ve played with recently. In double action, the Nagant’s trigger turns into a two-stage monster, with a heavy pull to rotate the cylinder and then an even heavier pull to move the cylinder forward into firing position.

As usual, I shot two targets, one in single action (left) and one in double action (right), to illustrate the point.

As you can see, the single action target has five rounds touching each other, with only two fliers. The double action target is all over the place (no more so than my SIG was in the last review, though).

There are one or two other minor issues with the Nagant revolver. First, like other contemporary revolvers such as the Single Action Army, the Nagant’s cylinder does not swing out of the frame. You have to load and unload one chamber at a time. There’s a latch to keep the rounds from falling out and as part of the timing mechanism, to ensure that the chambers line up with the barrel (another rather ingenious space and money saving idea).

Second, unlike its American contemporary, the Nagant does not include a fixed ejector perfectly positioned to knock the spent cases out of the cylinder when the loading gate is open. Instead, the same rod that locks the cylinder in place inside the frame unscrews, pivots, and doubles as the ejector. While this saves even more space, cost and production time, it means that getting the spent cases out of the gun is a relatively long and tedious process.

In terms of being an effective home defense or carry pistol, it’s best to look elsewhere. The 7.62x38R cartridge is 34 percent smaller in terms of mass than either a 9mm or .357 magnum round. It travels 13 percent slower than a 9mm and around 50 percent slower than a .357 magnum. Not exactly harmless, but in a carry pistol I’ll gladly sacrifice some added weight for speedier and heavier rounds.

In general, I’ve never liked revolvers and revolvers have never liked me. There’s just something about the cylinder gap that I find to be lazy design work. With the m1895, despite (because?) of it’s flaws, I’ve finally found a revolver that I like to shoot. The m1895 feels right in my hand, it’s reasonably accurate, and it has very little recoil. In my opinion it’s the best $99 I’ve spent in a long time.

Specifications
caliber – 7.62x38R
length – 10.5″
weight -28.8 oz.
magazine capacity – 7 rounds
Street price – around $99

Ratings (out of five)

Style *
Not winning any beauty contests with this, that’s for sure. Unless you’re a Soviet political officer.

Ergonomics * * * * *
A surprisingly comfortable grip and a slim body makes this gun a pleasure to handle and carry.

Ergonomics Firing * * *
The only issue is with the double action trigger pull. Besides that this is an awesome range gun.

Reliability * * * * *
It’s a revolver. Even though it’s completely rusted out it’s good to go.

Customize this *
There’s absolutely nothing to do to this gun. There are some guides online for making the trigger pull a bit easier and you can thread it for a suppressor, but it’s not like there’s an accessory rail for lights or tritium night sights available.

Overall Rating * * * *
It’s a great gun for the range, but taking into consideration home defense and concealed carry scenarios I think I’d prefer something with a bit more “stopping power”.

[All images courtesy Nick Leghorn for TTAG.]

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

59 Responses to Gun Review: Nagant m1895 Revolver

  1. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    I love revolvers, but you best keep your fingers and thumbs away from cylinders on the 500′s.

  2. avatarRalph says:

    Boo-yah, Foghorn! As someone who enjoys historic Russian things (except those stoopid nesting dolls), I’m a fan of the Nagant rifles, carbines and revolvers, among other Russky war toys. Once my C&R arrives (any day now?), this revolver will be my first purchase. A few objections, though.

    Muzzle velocity on the Nagant is about 750fps, so the 7.62 round is very weak compared to competitive period ammo. The gain in velocity that was thought to be achieved by the gas seal was perhaps 50 fps. In truth, the difference in energy between the 7.62 at 700fps and 750fps is negligible. So the gas seal system added a lot of complexity, tons of trigger pull and slow, intricate reloading for very little gain. The cylinder is also more difficult to clean and maintain in tip-top condition than the standard, run of the mill swing-out sister.

    And the upshot is: who cares? This is a piece of history that belongs in my collection!

    • avatarFoghorn says:

      At 12:01 AM on my 21st birthday I placed three envelopes in the mailbox of my college dorm. One was my C&R application to the ATF, the second was a copy for the CLEO, and the third was my PA LTCF application to the local sheriff.

      I can’t comprehend why this isn’t the first purchase every C&R owner makes, aside from the not so cheap ammo. This pistol is a blast to shoot, and has earned a place in my gun safe.

    • avatarTrevor says:

      Actually, muzzle velocity for the M1895 is about 11oo f.p.s. with 290 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy. The 700 f.p.s. is for the Pieper revolver, which doesn’t use the same cylinder sealing mechanism as the Nagant revolver. So, in the Nagant revolver, it does pack a bit of nice useable power :)

  3. avatarLance says:

    I was under the impression that, because of the gap sealing mechanism, this was the only revolver design that could jam. Aside from safety locks breaking a la Farago’s S&W.

  4. avatarDon Curton says:

    Given that there’s about a million other revolver designs without any attempt to seal off the gap, we can basically conclude that it’s a non-issue. Don’t get me wrong, I love obscure guns and mechanical complexity, but the gap is not worth worrying about.

    Also, how is it that only Americans can design an attractive revolver?

  5. avatarNCG says:

    It’s a fascinating piece of mechanical design, and I kinda like the way it looks.

  6. avatarRalph says:

    It looks like every other thing that was Russian-designed, namely like a tractor part. That’s the beauty of it.

    • avatarE. Zach Lee-Wright says:

      Russian designed??? Better re-think that one Ralphie. This puppy was NOT designed by a Rooskie. And I am….. E. Zach Lee-Wright

      • avatardanny says:

        It was designed bij Leon Nagant, a belgian, for the russian tsar, just like the service rifle :)

        • avatarVlad says:

          Mosin rifle not designed by Belgian. Internal magazine designed by Belgian, all else from Mosin.

        • avatarRustam says:

          Rifle created by Mosin, every part excluding magazine. Actually, it is wrong to call it Mosin Nagant, nobody does so in Russia and ex USSR countries. We call it “vintovka Mosina” (Mosin rifle) or simply “trehlineika” which means 3-line rifle, because if its caliber.

  7. avatarMogg says:

    At one time, wasn’t there an accessory cylinder that would convert an m1895
    to a diffrent caliber ? .32acp mabye ?
    Or am I misremembering / showing off my dain bramage ?

    • avatarFoghorn says:

      The gun can technically fire .32 S&W Long or .32 H&R Magnum rounds, but it’s unsafe.

      There is a cylinder replacement to fire .32 H&R or .32 ACP, but I have never seen it.

      • NO NO NO!

        The .32 S&W Long may well sorta fit into the chambers, but it is not a good idea. The bullet diameter is slightly different. It’s a wimpy cartridge but it’s a bad idea to shoot this ammo in a Nagant.

        And never try to use .32 H&R Mag. in a Nagant! Same difference in bullet diameter with a whole bunch more pressure.

        I have the .32acp cylinder. They (Century Arms) warns you ahead of time that it might need some ‘smithing to get it to function properly.

        http://www.yankeegunnuts.com/2010/10/19/peace-dividend-part-4/

        • avatarTim Harton says:

          I found ammo for this gun at
          http://www.jgsales.com/
          A 14 round box was around five bucks. The salesman said they had a million rounds for sale.
          10 boxes and shipping from Arizona to DFW was around $62.

          Thanks to all for the comments about this pistol. I bought one here for $109.00 with cleaning rod and holster. Pretty cool gun due to it’s oddness.

          Timbo

      • avatarJohn says:

        Century arms has it.

  8. avatarTexas Deputy says:

    About 40 years ago, at a range in northern Virginia, when I was actively a competitive shooter, an older, rather rotund Russian lady wearing a military style uniform with red stars and other decoration took a M1895 out of a case, loaded it, and in an open match shot the pants off of all of us Yankees. Our jaws dropped at her personal demeanor and her outstanding performance

    I had my match grade home-built 1911 (not A1) with Bar-sto stainless barrel, micro match sights, Herter’s exotic wood hand-filling match grips, Vydex coated pistol, shooting match grade JWC bullets. I had previously won several matches with this weapon, but this strange lady took the trophy and prizes that day.

    After some smiles and nods, and a До свидания (dasvidaniya), she packed up her M1895 and left.

    Just an FYI, Fiocchi 7.62 Nagant factory ammo (Italian) is available, and not horribly expensive. I recently bought some from Sportsman’s Guide for $26.86 (club price) for a box of 50. It is listed on their website as Fiocchi® Specialty 7.62 mm Nagant 97 Gr. MC 50 rds. That was the best price I could find anywhere for the Fiocchi.

    MidwayUSA has the Prvi Partizan Ammunition 7.62mm Russian Nagant 98 Grain Full Metal Jacket Flat Point Box of 50
    on sale (currently out of stock, back orders OK) for $22.99.

    I have 2 M1895′s of different vintage, and they are a lot of fun to shoot along with my Moisin Nagant Rifle, Tokarev Rifle, and a ChiCom (VietNam bring back) Tokarev pistol.

  9. I was suckered into buying this revolver. I just couldn’t live without the revolver that can actually be suppressed!!! Turns out, I could have lived without it. Thankfully it wasn’t a very expensive mistake. The issue for me was (horrible grips and hard to find ammo). Oh, and it leaked Cosmoline all over my safe!

  10. avatararyan says:

    send me picture cartridge for pistol cal 9mm
    tanks

  11. avatarRichard Ho says:

    Hi Friends in the U.S. I have a couple of this Nagant revolver and would appreciate someone in U.S. to help me obtain a suppressor/silencer to fit onto the Nagant 1895 for experimentation. I will pay for the cost, postage, and fees to you. Please email to: gattonoo7@hotmail.com. Appreciate your response. Thanks!

  12. avatarCharonPDX says:

    Richard, you will not find someone in the US to sell that to you. In the US, suppressors are federally controlled items. You have to pay a $200 “tax stamp” transfer fee. Finally, to sell a device that is federally controlled (Called an “NFA” item, for “National Firearms Act”, the US law that made silencers and machine guns VERY difficult to get,) you must get permission from the US ATF to sell it, and in general must be a licensed dealer.

  13. avatarvincent says:

    well personally, i like the way it looks. i am thinking about buying it for a carry gun, the trigger pull wont bug me atleast i dont think. i at the moment have an H&R premier and the trigger pull on that is 10 lbs, the only think that concerns me about this revolver is safety. is there a safety mechanism? and will it blow up? it doesnt look like a very sturdy design. as for complicity its not. i saw a youtube vid of somebody taking it apart and putting it back together. its got like 5 parts and a monkey can put it together. so yeah let me know if you think this gun is unsafe. as for power, the premier is a 22 so….the nagant would be a trade up lol

    • avatarJDW says:

      As I understand these pistols are very robust. I think one should remember the Tsarist army was made up of farmers and serfs who might never have used a weapon before, and the red army was not much different, so like the Mosin Nagant they had to be “soldier proof”. There is at least one story, perhaps apocryphal that a Russian officer stated, anything that can go wrong with this pistol can be fixed with a hammer. I believe a weapon that can be constant use for over a hundred years must have something going for it.
      And I think the design is attractive, not unlike a New Service Revolver, at least thats my take.

    • avatarLiam says:

      I carry one loaded with Russian Surplus ammo. unless you find a really corroded one that won’t function, it aint gonna blow up on you. granted i don’t shoot .327 magnums out of mine, i stick to proper ammo or .32 s&w long for plinking, never had problems with either. the gun is about as drop safe as most modern guns, it’s designed so the firing pin can’t reach the shells unless the trigger is pulled, (which to do by accident would be quite the feat). getting rapid shots off on target can be hard because of the trigger, it’s kind of a two part double action pull, it’s hard to describe.

    • avatarTim Harton says:

      Vincent

      I sat my m1895 out in the Texas sun for about 4 hours to thin the kosmo out and broke it down for a good cleaning. the dbbl action works a little better but is still a boogerbear to pull. Took it to a local gunsmith and he told me if I wanted a smoother pull to join a gym and work out my gun hand. He said it doesn’t get any easier.
      I also shoot a black powder .44 cap and ball and think I can almost reload it as fast as the Nagant.

  14. avatarnickolai says:

    for some reason i read this in a British accent………….. i now see you as being British.

  15. avatarCarroll Land says:

    I enjoy all firearms and was given a Mosin Nagant Rifle which I find great but delving into 1895 Nagant Pistols has been a fun project ! I got one mi9ssing parts and with a .32ACP cylinder that was worn out and incapable indexing into firing battery except with manual hand help. Then ordered a Nagant in perfect operating condition, Shot some factory Privi ammo, and by trial and error and .30 Carbine Reloading Dies and a home made bullet seater made some suitable reloads of the Privi brass. The 1895 Nagant is and can be a great fun gun, its up to you !

  16. avatarStuka says:

    could you fire 30 carbine through this thing?

  17. avatarPeteH says:

    Migod, NO !! Having seen at least one prototype .30 carbine pistol self-destruct, I can’t imagine what might happen in this puppy.

  18. avatarWilliam Parnell says:

    CRAP!
    This pistol is crap!Took it to the range and kept pulling trigger.Hammer would fall only after several attemps.The shells expanded past the cylinder and had to use needle nose pliars to pull some out.Junk!

    • avatarLiam says:

      use the extractor built in to the gun and you wont have issues. it’s supposed to expand in front of the cylinder, thats the whole point of the design. sounds like you might have some bad/broken springs. Look up The Nagant Man on youtube, he has great videos on tuning these up and basic repairs that anyone with a little technical savvy can do.

  19. avatarcuate says:

    I have 2 1895 Nagant pistols now, the last from J&G Sales, refurbished to like new. I love to shoot and reload the ammo for this pistol and have fired literally hundreds of rounds but not Russian Berdan primed surplus. I shoot Privi ammo and reload it with .30 Carbine dies, Lee, from MidwayUSA. Not it isn’t a bear killer but mine are very accurate and I shoot Hornady XTP 85 grain JHPs resized to .309 diameter. I have a couple of pistols I would prefer against zombies or bears but my Nagants are real honeys and I love ‘em !

  20. avatarBob says:

    I just bought a Nagant 7.62X38R and I am interested in adapting a sound suppressor to it, without having to thread the barrel of the gun-
    What thread adaptor would you recomend
    What suppressor would you advise for this cal.
    Thank you.

    • A 9mm silencer would do the job quite nicely, and you can still use it on other 9mm hosts. There are dedicated 7.62mm silencers out there, but they’re designed for rifle calibers and may be slightly overkill for something like this.

  21. avatarRight! says:

    “On a normal revolver, this wouldn’t make any sense.”
    This sums up the Nagat nicely, it was the product of Cronny Capitalism ment to replace a superior Smith and Wesson.
    Think back to the Colt SA which came out 2o years earlier and is still in production, it was the product of a Free Market. Nobody complains about the cylinder gap in a Colt, Ruger, Smith et al, it is a “Problem” that does not need fixing, also the ammo is still cheap enough that a shooter can buy 500 rounds at a whack.
    The Nagat was an obsolete failure the 1st day of production, even the older 11.75mm Montenegrin was a superior arm but it died with the Austrio Hungarian Empire.

  22. avatarJohnny says:

    I see a lot of complaints, I have to say that this gun is better than no gun at all.

  23. avatarJason brown says:

    Hey, I have heard their is a rare french production m1895s that have swing out cyclinders for reloading

  24. avatarSCOTT SURGNER says:

    THANKS FOR THE FAIR REVIEW OF A PISTOL THAT SOME LOVE AND SOME HATE. IT IS A SHOOTER FOR A PAIR PRICE.

  25. avatarAndy T says:

    Like the Nagant. I’m crazy about the Makarov.

  26. avatarArman A says:

    I have in my house several pistols and revolvers.
    I have 2 revolvers Nagant 1895, made in Tula in 1919 and 1914 and this is most trusted and most reliable weapon I have.

  27. avatarRuss Bixby says:

    Hmmm…

    There seems to be to be a reasonable compromise that’ll work both for the range and defence.

    Use the newer, anemic ammunition at the range, and have all the fun you care to at 750 FPS or thereabouts.

    When you get home, insert some nice, reliable corrosive military ammunition in the beast and it’ll stop ‘most any nasty to come along.

    While the coroner is cutting a swatch from your living room carpet, you can be doing a thorough cleaning on your li’l helper.

    Oh, for what it’s worth, the Mosin rifle was a Russian “inwenshion”; the entire contribution of Nagant consisted of attaching the floor plate to its spring and the use of stripper clips.

    Cheers,

    Russ

  28. avatarJeff says:

    Actually, the ammunition is NOT hard to find. AIM Surplus sells it relatively cheap. Just browse the internet instead of relying on assumption.

    • At the time, it was. However, since new companies have come online and tooled up production since the review was published, ammo is actually now more common than 9mm.

  29. avatarRodger says:

    I have 2 Nagant pistols and I smile every time I take them out to shoot. Both are very accurate (at reasonable ranges) in single action mode. I have never fired actual factory ammunition through mine though. If you can load your own, very suitable ammo can be made with 32-20 brass. Lee dies sells a three die pistol set with the correct shell holder. My load is a .312 diameter 76 grain LFN bullet, over 2.5 grains of TrailBoss powder and a CCI small pistol primer. I seat the bullets so they just poke out the end of the recess in the cylinder. The first loading of the brass looks kind of funny, but it fireforms nicely in the cylinder at firing. After fireforming, it’s like loading .38 special (easy). I’m yet to chrono my loads (though I’d guess them at about 800 ft./sec.). Recoil is mild. The downside is the cylinder gap is not sealed on firing. I doubt you’d notice the difference.

  30. avatarDebra Lee Thompson says:

    I believe my father left me one of these revolvers, except, this particular one has marks as follows: Acier Fondu; 00 1; and a crown with the following marks beneath it: R, star, C. I took it to a gun shop and they thought it might be an origional. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      Hmmm…

      Crown over “R” sounds like a Belgian pre-acceptance proof from 1894, with rifled barrel and tested with black powder, although smokeless-capable.

      The serial number will be 1968 or lower.

      A very rare piece; treat it well and be proud.

      He didn’t happen to leave any SPAM cans of 108 grain ammunition with which you’d be willing to part…? ;)

  31. avatarRB says:

    I would LOVE to see one of these re-chambered to accept 7.62×35, aka 300 AAC Blackout!

    It would be GREAT to have both a rifle and a non-AR pistol that would shoot this round.

  32. avatarzeprin says:

    Just a couple of quick comments about the 1895 NAGANT:
    1. One of, and maybe the primary reason, for the gas seal action was in 1895 and later, even today, powders don’t burn the same in sub-zero temps. The gas seal was an attempt to squeeze the max performance out of the revolver in the depths of the Russian winter.

    2. It would be safe to say that (modern) American revolvers are Double action that the average shooter insists on shooting SINGLE ACTION. While the NAGANT is a single action that can be, as (if) needed, fired double action.

    Thought it was interesting. If a bit late.

  33. avatarWoolf says:

    I have 5 of these pistols, and I love all of them. I am now shopping for certain years. I think they are a blast to shoot, and collect.

  34. avatarRuss Bixby says:

    Wow… The article that first brought me to TTAG; it just keeps going and going and going.

  35. avatarL Brothers says:

    I have 250rds of 762 Nagant 98gr loaded ammo that was a miss order. This is brand new reloadable brass. Asking $125.00 plus shipping. grizzly.killer at I cloud. com
    State compliant please. Willing to trade for 762×25 or 9mm makorav ammo of equal value

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      Brand?

      • avatarL Brothers says:

        New PPU I believe

      • avatarL Brothers says:

        Russ this is the best I can do on them I have about 3 more days to see if they sell if not its back to the place I ordered from as it was there mistake. This will come in at my cost nothing added I’m eating the shipping costs from factory to me and will only charge the exact amount of shipping cost to where I ship them. I’m losing money on this but its easier than dealing with an ammo return to a supplier.
        Thanks
        Les

        • avatarRuss Bixby says:

          I could send you a money order on the 21st, but not before; I’m overextended on some fire alarm parts just now.

          If that good, good; if not, no worries.

          Thanks…

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