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Calibre history: 9x18 mm. A cartridge for the Makarov Pistol

29 November 2018
The history of the most popular pistol cartridge in Russia

During the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army used two main models of handguns: the Nagan revolver and TT pistol (Tula-Tokarev).


Should they have been changed for and for what?

Large or small?

As well as the two Russian models, a variety of other guns were used on the Eastern Front. Some of them were supplied in a "peaceful" manner, like the lend-lease M1911 or the Chinese Mauser C96 purchased by the intelligence services in Shanghai. But most of the variety of short-barrelled weapons in the USSR were trophies, thanks to the assiduous Germans who tried to adapt any shooting metal they obtained.

Such a wide range of models made it possible to identify two distinct patterns. Those soldiers and officers who would most probably use a pistol focused more on the combat characteristics of that weapon. Anything can happen in a war: it was not always convenient to carry a submachine gun and not everyone could obtain one when it got hot. For example, based on experience in the war, one of the requirements for a gun was the following:

"It must be reconstructed to allow for 15 cartridges by increasing (expanding) the gun handle following the example of the 1944 Belgian Browning with a clip for 14 cartridges (essentially copied from our TT-34 pistol) adopted for the officers of the former German Army, with one spare magazine".


This is clearly about the trophy Pistole 640(b), also known as the Browning High-Power, which was highly rated by Soviet test engineers.

However, even the regular TTs and Nagans were too large for many soldiers. Rearguard soldiers happily swapped them with reconnaissance scouts or trophy hunters for "women's brownings" or Walthers – compact guns that you can carry even without a regular holster.

"Do you know this thing?" continued Alekhin, taking out a small polished Walther.

After a positive response, he inserted a cartridge into the chamber and handed the locked pistol to the captain.

"Please... put it in your pocket."

(c) Vladimir Bogomolov, "In August '44"

In principle, the need for compact or subcompact pistols was obvious. The first Soviet pistol, the TK (Tula-Korovin), a small pistol designed for a 6.35x15 mm cartridge, appeared in the middle of the 1920s. However, the TK was not a very successful model, not least because of its weak cartridge.

Nevertheless, the idea of providing the commanding officers with a convenient pistol stirred the minds of these officers. In particular, at a meeting after the Winter War, the following dialogue took place:

"Regarding personal TT pistols.

Voronov: I'm for the Mauser, it's a good revolver.

Voroshilov: For our commanding officers, we need a pistol which we can put into our pocket, which can serve for self defence and which can shoot over a distance of 50 metres.

Bulba: A wide variety of cartridges were developed from 1938 to 1939. Both our Mauser cartridge and one for a new pistol were developed, although they tried to get a smaller cartridge.


9 mm is the best, as all countries have adopted this 9 mm gun, but we have not achieved a satisfying design for pistols, although in terms of design, our pistols were as good as foreign ones. I believe that the best medium-sized guns used by foreign armies are the medium-calibre Walther and Mauser for the high-level military personnel and the mid-ranking command staff.


Voroshilov: There are two proposals: one is to give our designers and industry two months to finally decide whether we can adopt our own models — one model; if they don't manage to do anything in two months, then we settle on production of a medium Mauser, without alterations.

The second proposal is to decide immediately, due to the fact that it can take a longer time to ask our Government to confirm our decisions on the production of a medium Mauser. Who is for the first proposal — 2 people. For the second proposal — the others. We will ask the Government to adopt the 7.65 mm Mauser."


As reflected by further events, the Government was not enthusiastic about the idea to adopt the "medium Mauser" (this probably refers to the Mauser 1914/34). A more important task at that time was to develop a new military-grade pistol to replace the TT, but taking into account the requirements of the Main Artillery Directorate of the Red Army ("bare" barrel for simplified shooting through slits of armoured vehicles). The Voevodin design was acknowledged as the best one, but war broke out and it did not reach mass production.

The subject of providing a pistol for commanding officers was resumed as early as 1944. The main cartridge at that time was the 7.65x17 mm (7.65 mm Browning or .32 ACP).

But after the defeat of Germany, a quick solution was no longer necessary. On the other hand, the army started using a 1943 model intermediate cartridge for the infantry's main weapons, which made it possible to decrease ballistic requirements, and this, in turn, made it possible to increase the


and reduce power, as the new cartridge should function properly in compact pistols with a free slide.

Since it was not clear when and to what extent the new cartridge would be successful, a Soviet model of the 7.65x17 mm cartridge was in development at the same time.

Creation of the "nine"

The development of a new 9 mm cartridge began in Experimental Design Office 44, led by B.V. Semin, who proved himself in the creation of the model 1943 cartridge. A case from a standard TT cartridge (7.62x25) was taken as the basis during preliminary works and was shortened to 18 mm.


Pilot tests of the new cartridges (noted as OP-1 cartridges in documents) took place at the firing range of the Main Artillery Directorate of the Red Army in 1947. Interestingly enough, the officers at the firing range used foreign experience in their test program development, in particular, the articles by Julian Hatcher, Major General of the US Army and Melvin Johnson, a designer. The new cartridges were compared with the Russian TT, as well as the German 9x19 (a Parabellum was used), and .45ACP and 7.65.

The results were quite predictable. For example, the TT cartridge came top in striking hard barriers, but it came behind the heavier .45ACP bullet in terms of penetration depth when shooting into clay (an analogue of ballistic gelatin). The new OP-1 was considerably behind the more powerful counterparts, beating only the "baby" 7.65.

Nevertheless, the tests showed that, even for the 7.65 mm, when penetrating bone, it could easily make a hole, or even break it, though less than the TT or .45, which could shatter everything at the point of entry.

Later, when testing a Stechkin pistol, which buttstock allows for precision shooting at longer ranges, the following conclusion was made, that: "the wounding power of a bullet is preserved at all ranges up to and including 300 metres".

Moreover, a steel helmet did not provide protection from Stechkin bullets at 15 metres. Military officers did not consider 6 strikes for 10 shots sufficient, so the works on creating a new cartridge with a steel core for a bullet of higher penetration were begun.

The 9x18 mm cartridge was adopted in 1951 and it became the main pistol cartridge both in the Soviet Army and in other enforcement agencies for many years.

On service

The specifications of the 9x18 mm cartridge were considered satisfactory for many years, both for the army and for the police, although the question of "if it could penetrate a bulletproof vest" arose as early as the 1960s. However, the secret services posed the most important question about new PM cartridge models – bullets with higher knock-down power (expansive) and armour-piercing action were designed for the special forces units of the KGB. However, "mere mortals" knew nothing about new cartridges for the Makarov for a long time.

Another effort to pour new wine into old wineskins took place as early as the 1990s and ended in full agreement with the Gospel of Luke: "the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined". A reinforced cartridge for the PMM pistol was repeatedly tried with old PMs, despite all instructions, provisions, orders, etc. In addition, the military were not satisfied with the specifications of the modernised model, as new works were being performed for 9x19 mm and 9x21 mm cartridges.

Nevertheless, the Makarov cartridge and its pistol are not planning to retire soon. New pistols enter into service with enforcement agencies quite slowly. In addition, it "suddenly" turned out that a large military grade pistol is, to put it mildly, not convenient to be carried all the time. People with a good old PM and a keen interest read the news about PM-443 developments – a pistol designed for 9x18 in PCM dimensions.

It can be seen that in the USA, where no one complains about powerful cartridges, even the most destructive, the most popular gun cartridge is still the 9x17 mm cartridge, the .380 ACP. We will tell you more about it next time.

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