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One day not too many years ago at Dragonman’s outside of Colorado Springs, I picked up a really nice Tula hex Mosin-Nagant 91/30 for $80 on a whim. Within firing the first five rounds I decided to start a collection of WW2 rifles and pistols. I intended to eventually own a rifle and pistol combination from every combatant nation in that time period, starting with Soviet stuff because it was easily the most affordable and accessible. I never really planned on carrying any of it for daily self-defense . . .

My interest in the Tokarev started after reading an interesting Shotgun News article about the TT-33 a few days later, and recalled that I had seen one for sale while buying that 91/30. I sped back to Dragonman’s, made a beeline to the case where I had seen the Tokarev, and felt a little sick as the spot where it had been was empty. Mel somehow knew exactly why I looked so crestfallen, and he had a little fun giving me a hard time before pointing out the TT which was temporarily moved to another case.  About 30 minutes later and for just a little over $200, I happily walked out with a well-made and maintained Tokarev, an issue holster, extra magazine, and a bundle of paper-wrapped surplus Russian 7.62×25.

Over the first couple months of owning it, I put a lot of rounds through the Polish TT. It always ran perfectly, though I eventually replaced the old springs with fresh Wolff springs. I started carrying the TT-33 and thought about getting a more modern pistol, but income and expenses being what they are, I still can’t reasonably fit a new handgun into the budget.

Since then, I’ve encountered disapproval (and sometimes outright derision) for carrying the gun. I’ve been told that the TT-33 is unsafe to carry locked and cocked (which I understand and don’t do), the trigger and import-added safety sucks, the 7.62×25 round is far too fast and small, it doesn’t have enough capacity, it’s too big, inaccurate, etc. I understand these arguments, with the most vehement being those against “Israeli-carry”/Condition 3; but I take into consideration that the Tokarev wasn’t designed to be carried otherwise.

So I practice at least weekly with the TT. I agree that the import-added safety sucks, but I’ve never relied on or trusted any mechanical safety. For me, the only “safe” firearm is one with an empty chamber. With the TT-33, it’s simply faster, easier, and safer to draw and rack than carry with a round chambered. Were it a modern pistol designed for carrying in Condition One, I would do so. I understand the Tokarev’s limitations, and operate within them.

When it comes to actually shooting, the SAO trigger isn’t match-grade, but I’ve spent some time smoothing out the rough machining in the FCG and replacing springs. The TT-33 has a half-cock notch which solidly locks the trigger and slide together, but using it requires that the hammer be thumbed back before firing. Instead, I keep the hammer fully cocked on an empty chamber, greatly reducing the force needed to work the slide, which helps with speed.

The TT rides in a simple leather slide IWB/OWB holster, which leads me to a big reason why I like carrying it — the Tokarev is a very slender pistol and I’m pretty trim, so it comfortably disappears under any shirt I choose to wear. Though it’s a full-size military handgun, it doesn’t ride like one. I keep it loaded with 85gr Prvi Partizan JHPs, as they are a far more appropriate self-defense round than standard FMJs. The bottleneck 7.62×25 greatly aids feeding in all conditions, and the large external extractor does it’s job without fail. When it comes to reliability, with new springs and new ammo, the Tokarev will do it’s job when I pull the trigger.

During the many conversations and arguments I’ve heard over the years about which pistol is superior/ideal for self-defense, the oft repeated maxim is that “the best pistol is the one you have/will carry”. This certainly is true for many who have limited budgets and can’t afford the latest compact wunderguns (and refuse to buy a Hi-Point or Jennings/Cobra), and for those who have been carrying and training with an older pistol for years and don’t feel like starting over on a new platform. My decision to carry the Tokarev TT-33 is a combination of these reasons, but mostly I just enjoy carrying and shooting a reliable, comfortable, familiar, 60 year-old relic from the Cold War. Besides, if it was good enough for Ivan, it’s good enough for me.

 

81 Responses to TTAG Reader: What I Carry and Why – Anaxis’s ’52 Polish Tokarev TT-33

  1. I carry my Polish P-64 sometimes. It’s small and not that heavy. I’ve handled a Tokarev but never shot one. If it runs and you are good with it, I don’t see why it’s a problem. I want to pick a Tokarev up in the future but what I really want is one of those Bulgarian Makarovs!

    • I carry my Polish P-64 all the time 😉 Wouldn’t mind having a Tok myself. Then if I could get my Mak back, along with my Nagant 1895 I would have the Russkie issue pistols from WW1 to Korea (except for the full-auto Stechkin).

    • You will be pleased with the Mak. No regrets at all on mine except I didn’t buy a couple more when the chance was there.

  2. Cabela’s recently had the Walther PPS on sale for about $370.00. It is an excellent carry pistol for me, and you would be well-advised to check it out once you have the funds and are looking for something you can carry that’s more modern.
    That said, it’s cool you can run that particular pistol with confidence. Either way, be well.

  3. Hipoint might be “cheap” (as in inexpensive) but it doesn’t deserve to be in the same breath as Jennings/Cobra. I think the hands down best option for defensive piece on a budget is a decent trade in Glock. If that is still not an option, Hipoint is a viable option.

    (I don’t personally own a Hipoint but what I have seen on the Internet and from people who do own them; if you primarily target shoot, you’ll hate it, but if you are broke and in serious need of a defensive firearm it will reliably put rounds on target at usual defensive shooting ranges)

    • Unfortunately the high point is shaped like a brick and conceals like one too. Military arms are not bad a bad option for ccw.

    • Taurus also has several decent handguns for the budget-minded. You can get Millennium G2 for ~$200, for example, and it’s a very nice gun for the price.

      • The more I shoot my Millenium G2, the less I include the “for the price” disclaimer when I say it’s a nice gun… If it only had a more prestigious name than Taurus attached to it, it could sell for quite a bit more, and nobody would bat an eye. For $200, it’s definitely the best handgun bargain on the market right now.

  4. 7.62×25 is boss. The cartridge needs a modern single stack designed for concealed carry to become the stopper it can be and not a novelty round. Too bad the likes of Ruger, S&W, Kahr, or even Kel-Tec don’t want to look into making a 7.62×25 polymer gun.

    Think about it Ruger: a 7.62×25 in the LC9. You can call it the LC30 or LCUssr

  5. The 7.62×25 is a very hot round and can penetrate many types of soft body armor with ball ammo. Seems like that would be good enough for self defence for me.

  6. As I write this I have a Bianchi 100 IWB holster comfortably behind my right hip housing a CZ 82. This gun is reliable, ergonomic, ambidextrous everything, and cost about $250.

    • My brother has one, I think, or maybe it’s the 83 (it’s the .380, not the 9×18). Holds–wait, I forgot how many rounds, but it’s a double-stack, no?

  7. Having taught NRA defensive handgun classes for years, I’ve just seen too many antique pistols die at the firing line to trust just about any of them for carry. Possibly a Makarov, or an old 1911 if the springs were all replaced.

    I very much appreciate thrifty carry and lack of funds, but for a couple hundred bucks ther are better carry options.

    • I will say I saw a Russian comment that the Russian Toks tended to wear out after a lot of use due to those hot rounds. But if you get one of those barely used surplus models from Poland, Yugoslavia, or Romania I don’t think that would be a problem.

      • It might seem a small thing, but a gunsmith doesn’t actually make barrels. We chamber them, and install them on actions, but barrelmaker’s make them. It’s a specialty. Even most of the giant firearms factories buy their barrels from another supplier, who only makes barrels. It takes extremely expensive machinery to ream and rifle a barrel. So much so that one needs to keep said machinery busy most of the time. Enough so that it becomes a specialty all its own.

        • OK, Gunsmiths, can a barrel blank be deep-drilled and chambered for that round?

          geeze…

        • We could probably sleeve a standard Glock barrel down to whatever smaller diameter a customer might find necessary, but I’ve never done that with other than a rimfire. The only criterion would be:
          1. the overall length and width of the cartridge, and whether it will fit in the magazine/well.
          2. The pressures of the cartridge, and whether or not the action will safely contain such pressures.
          I can’t find any data for the pressure spec on this round, but if a glock can take a 357 sig round at 40K PSI, it should be fine with the Tokarev round. I can’t find the spec, but I doubt it will be that high. Probably more like 35K, the spec for 9 X 19. Even the 9mm+P round is only 38,500. Glocks shoot them fine.
          A lot more research would be needed before starting, as it would probably be an expensive conversion, and one that I have never seen an example of. One would have to start with reaming out a standard glock barrel to take a .257 diameter sleeve, then fit the sleeve, chamber that for the cartridge(and the reamer might be hard to find). That alone would be a 400 dollar job.
          There could be other issues too. The angle of feed might need adjusting, for example. Also, one would probably need to change out the extractor, as the Tokarev round has a thicker rim. You might also have problems finding a magazine, since glock mags are plastic, so one cannot fool around with the angles on the feed lips. The round is really close in size to the 9X18 Makarov, perhaps a standard 9P mag would work fine.

      • The cartridge oal is too long. Longer than a 45 acp or even a 10mm. Same issue as the 22 tcm. Another high velocity pistol round.

        • Not so sure here. OAL length for the Tok is spec’d at 1.34″, or 34mm.
          The 10mm OAL is 1.26″ or 32mm.
          I don’t have any Tok ammo to try and fit in a 10mm Glock mag, but it looks to have the room.
          Now I’m very curious…

    • Last time I visited Dragonman’s was in ’09. I can understand why it’s gone downhill; his wife was killed in a pyrotechnic accident during filming for a cable show back in ’11, IIRC. Mel’s wife did the paperwork when I bought that first Mosin, she was a really cool lady. Sad.

        • It’s questionable. Obviously, a half-cocked hammer is not resting on the firing pin; but the only thing that holds hammer in half-cocked position is a notch in it. It can and will wear down with time, and so the ability of the gun to remain half-cocked will degrade. Given that most of these are milsurp to begin with, I wouldn’t trust it. Soviets (as most militaries) in the time period the gun was designed used “Israeli carry” as standard procedure, so making it safe to carry while chambered simply wasn’t a major design consideration.

        • If at half-cock, it is drop safe. The Russans did their own thorough torture-testing, and couldn’t get it to fire without pretty much destroying the pistol. But it locks the slide and requires that the hammer be lowered first on a loaded chamber, and then be thumbed back to fire. It’s a lot faster & safer to carry on an empty chamber with the hammer already cocked.

        • >> If at half-cock, it is drop safe. The Russans did their own thorough torture-testing, and couldn’t get it to fire without pretty much destroying the pistol.

          http://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?307372-Stumbled-into-a-way-to-safely-test-the-Tokarev-half-cock

          Now yes, he didn’t manage to fire it. But he did manage to drop the hammer from half-cocked position, and have the pin strike the primer – just not hard enough to set it off. Would you trust it to do that every time? With every brand of ammo? With non-surplus ammo possibly having softer primers?

        • Oh man, so glad for this thread. Didn’t realize you couldn’t go directly from half-cock to full-cock. I had a translated Russian manual for the Tok and Nagant, but my wife moved it and a lot of other stuff out into the garage, from whence it may never be recovered. 🙁

        • The half cock does lock the slide, but the hammer can be thumbed back to full cock and the pistol will fire properly. You do not have to lower the hammer to the firing pin in order to cock it from half cock.
          As the half cock locks the slide, you cannot use it while in condition 3 carry – either carry it cocked on an empty chamber or the hammer resting on the firing pin.
          Based on the design features, it appears it was intended to be carried chamber loaded, on half cock.

        • @ Al–That’s what I was thinking. Come to think of it, I think that’s what the manual indicated–after firing, the instruction was to put it at half-cock and re-holster. Glad you cleared that up, anyway.

  8. If you went w/ “Tokish” M57 you could get around the import safety and you would get extra round in capacity.

    One of the supposed advantages of tok chambered firearms is they can defeat soft body armor if loaded right. That is nothing to scoff at and I would not want to give that up for hollow points.

    Serious question for home gunsmiths & combloc gun lovers: can you do a mag mod on a true tok (not M57) that will allow you to get an extra round in the mag?

    • A long time ago I came across some TT magazines that had an extended finger-rest floor plate, which allowed for an extra round. But I haven’t seen anything like that since. IIRC they were rare Tokagypt magazines.

    • The better answer to defeating body armor: shoot them where it aint. Pelvis or upper chest (above the plate, below the neck). Take your pick.

      • Better, except it makes your target areas significantly smaller and harder to hit–or, in the case of the pelvis, somewhat less likely to stop the fight.

  9. I had a TT-33 when the iron curtain was still in place. The cold war was anything but cold and a lot of us did not trust the m16. We procurred as many back up weapons as possible.

    Finding ammo was the problem and I traded it for a NIB Colt dicks special.

    That tt-33 worked and it allowed a scared kid a little more confidence when the fecal materiel was impacting the circular oscillator.

    • Mental picture of bearded hipster, skinny jeans, ironic glasses, and a Tok just made me eject coffee from my nose.

  10. TT-33 is actually a pretty solid cc pistol, IMHO. Yeah, no cocked and locked. But it’s extremely reliable mechanically…you point it, pull the trigger, it goes boom and hits where you point. And I know several people who have seen action in the Middle East…they will testify that the 7.62×25 round from the TT-33 will drop a human target like a rock. And, personally, I feel more comfortable trusting my life to a weapon design that’s successfully performed in a war.

  11. I have an original 1934 model TT33 and an imported 1953 model. The 1953 has over 500 rounds thru it without cleaning and not a failure yet. Great pistols, flat shooters. With just little work very reliable to carry. You could do worse with other pistols.

    • The original magazine springs in mine were getting a bit weak, along with the recoil spring. It never caused the pistol a FTF or FTE, but I got a replacement set from Wolff anyways. Compared to the original 60yr old springs, they still definitely made a difference.

  12. I guess its better than a rock, but something modern and plastic will out shoot it. If forced to carry vintage a Walther would be my first choice.

    • I don’t have anything against modern polymer pistols; I simply prefer simple, vintage single-stack steel guns and shoot them well. I do very much like old Walthers, but the name comes with a higher price. But if at some point I can justify buying a newer handgun, it’ll probably be a CZ or Bersa.

      • Good for you. Stick to a perfectly fine choice.
        A certain segment of the population just ‘feels’ that they are ‘entitled’ to showcase their worship of all things plastic, so long as they have the word “modern”, or “new and improved”, in the title, directly in the face of all ‘unbelievers’.
        Proselytizers have to Proselytize.

    • I reckon a few thousand commie officers and a few thousand people shot with the TTs carried by those commie officers, would agree that the TT is “better than a rock:. For cryin’ out loud…

      • What did you expect? It was invented by Russians so it is automatically inferior didn’t you know?? /sarc

  13. I’m shocked that someone that seems so know knowledgeable about firearms would carry a gun that would require them to carry without a loaded chamber. Shame on you!

    • Aside from Int19h’s valid point, the Tok does not necessarily “require” that you carry it empty-chamber. If I were to get one, I would probably carry it at half-cock on a loaded chamber, after determining that the half-cock was fully functional.

  14. Not everyone subscribes to the religious notion that the only proper way to carry is with a round in a chamber.

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