The Makarov pistol or PM (Russian: Пистолет Макарова, Pistolet Makarova, literally Makarov’s Pistol) is a Russian semi-automatic pistol. Under the project leadership of Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, it became the Soviet Union’s standard military and police side arm in 1951.
The PM is a medium-size, straight-blowback-action, all-steel construction, frame-fixed barrel handgun. In blowback designs, the only force holding the slide closed is that of the recoil spring; upon firing, the barrel and slide do not have to unlock, as do locked-breech-design pistols. Blowback designs are simple and more accurate than designs using a recoiling, tilting, or articulated barrel, but they are limited practically by the weight of the slide. The 9×18mm cartridge is a practical cartridge in blowback-operated pistols; producing a respectable level of energy from a gun of moderate weight and size. The PM is heavy for its size by modern US commercial handgun standards, largely because in a blowback pistol, the heavy slide provides greater inertia to delay opening of the breech until internal pressures have fallen to a safe level. Other, more powerful cartridges have been used in blowback pistol designs, but the Makarov is widely regarded as particularly well balanced in its design elements.
The chrome-lined, four-groove, 9.27mm caliber barrel is pressed and pinned to the frame through a precision-machined ring. The 7 kg recoil spring wraps around and is guided by the barrel. The spring-loaded trigger guard is pivoted down and swung to either side on the frame, allowing removal of the slide. The front sight is integrally machined into the slide, and a 3–4 mm wide textured strip is engraved on top of the slide in order to prevent aim-disturbing glare. The rear sight is dovetailed into the slide and multiple heights are available to adjust the impact point. The extractor is of an external spring-loaded type, and features a prominent flange preventing loss if a case should rupture. The breech face is deeply recessed in order to aid in extraction and ejection reliability. The stamped sheet steel slide-lock lever has a tail serving the purpose of ejector. The one-piece, wraparound bakelite or plastic grip is reinforced with steel inserts and has a detent inside the screw bushing preventing unscrewing during firing. The sheet-metal mainspring housed inside the grip panel powers the hammer in both the main and rebound stroke, the trigger and the disconnector, while its lower end is the heel and spring of the magazine catch. The sear spring also serves another function, powering the slide lock lever. Makarov pistol parts seldom break with normal usage, and are easily serviced using few tools.
The PM has a free-floating triangular firing pin, with no firing pin spring or firing pin block. This theoretically allows the possibility of accidental firing if the pistol is dropped on its muzzle. Designer Nikolay Makarov thought the firing pin of insufficient mass to constitute a major danger. The Makarov pistol is notable for the safety elements of its design, with a safety lever that simultaneously decocks and blocks the hammer from contacting the firing pin and returns the weapon to the long-trigger-pull mode of double action when that safety is engaged. When handled properly, the Makarov pistol has excellent security against accidental discharge caused by inadvertent pressure on the trigger, e.g., in carrying the weapon in dense brush or re-holstering it. However, the heavy trigger weight in double-action mode decreases first-shot accuracy. The Bulgarian-model Makarov pistol was approved for sale in the US state of California, having passed a state-mandated drop-safety test though the certification was not renewed and it has since been removed from the roster of approved handguns.