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This Russian Model 1895 Nagant revolver was manufactured in 1944 at the Tula arsenal. It is a 7 shot, double action revolver that has been chambered for the 7.62mm Nagant cartridge. The M1895 is constructed of carbon steel and has a blackish finish. The revolver has a barrel length of 4 1/2 inches and an unloaded weight of around 26 ounces. The revolver utilizes a ramp front sight that is drift adjustable for windage.and a U shaped notch rear sight that is milled into the top of the frame. The rust colored grip panels are made from Bakelite and have a checkered diamond pattern on them. The loading and unloading of cartridges is done from the right side. Only one cartridge can be done at a time which makes it a laborious and time consuming process.

This is a neat pistol in the way it operates. In order to try and prevent the gases from escaping out between the front of the cylinder and the rear of the barrel, the entire cylinder actually moves forward to butt against the rear of the barrel. This action makes for one heck of a strong trigger pull, but the mechanics behind it is rather ingenious. Please see the pictures and text at the bottom of this page for a better description.

The Nagant M1895 revolver was designed by a pair of Belgian industrialists named Emile and Leon Nagant in the 1890's. The two brothers were well known in the Russian Tsar's court and military administration due to the important role they played in the design of the main Russian service rifle, the Mosin-Nagant model 1891.

Manufacturing of the M1895 revolver originally began in Liège, Belgium, but was soon moved to Russia. The pistol received its model designation when it was accepted by the Russian military in 1895. The revolver became the standard issue side arm for the Russian army and police forces. It later worked its way into some of the Russian special services such as the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs(NKVD) and the Committee for State Security(KGB). It has also been adopted in various forms by other countries such as in Sweden where it was used by their police and military but was chambered in 7.5mm and given the designation M1887. Norway's version was the M1893. Poland and France also adopted a version of the M1895 that was chambered in 8mm. Of these countries, it was only Russia that issued the revolvers with the gas seal system.

At one time Russia was manufacturing two version of the M1895 known colloquially as the Private model and the Officer’s model. The Privates model was in single action only while the Officer's model was double-action. After WWI the production of the single action model ceased and many of the remaining single action models were converted to double action. There are a few exceptions to this such as the examples that were manufactured for target shooting. In any event, this makes the older original single action M1895 revolvers some what rare.

In the early 1930's, Russia began to replace the M1895 with the semi-automatic Tokarev pistol. During the Great Patriotic War of WWII, the Russians produced the revolver in large numbers though. The revolvers name and distinctive shape helped it achieve cult status in Russia. During the early 1930s one of the greatest honors that could be bestowed on a Russian party member was to be presented with an M1895 revolver with the embossed Red Star of Russia on it.

Production and use of the revolver continued in Russia until the 1950's. This ranks it as one of the longest serving side arms in modern military history. It took the Webley Service Revolver (1887-1963) from England and the Colt M1911 (1911-1984) from the United States to top it as a longer serving sidearm of the military. The M1895 is still in use today with the Russian Railways and with some remote police forces and prison guards in various parts of Russia.  

The photographs on the left are of the front and back of the Russian M1895 revolver, while the pictures on the right show the top and bottom of the revolver. The unique grip panels on the M1895 extend to both the front and rear sections of the pistols grip. The revolver is equipped with a lanyard ring located on the heel.

The history of this firearm.

This is a Tula arsenal 1944 manufactured handgun. Some time during the post war years it went through a Russian rebuild process and was most likely placed in storage until being sold to a United States weapons importer. Besides the history of this firearm design and the country of origin, I can find no markings on this handgun to indicate it had any special history or served with any elite units. I can find no evidence that the major parts might have possibly come from another older revolver. It has the later produced simple sight notches that are cut into the circular blade on the front sight and the later Bakelite grips installed. As best as I can ascertain, this revolver was produced in 1944 with no special or unique attributes except for the style of Tula arsenal marking on the sideplate that was used only in 1944.

On this M1895 revolver the full serial number is found stamped on the left side of the receiver just forward of the cylinder, on the front of the cylinder, on the inside of the left side plate and it is etched on the top of the main spring. A partial serial number consisting of the last two digits is found on the left side of the trigger guard and partially hidden by the left side plate. The last three digits of the serial number is found scratched onto the inside of the left grip. The serial number consists of a two digit Cyrillic prefix. This revolver has also been import marked on the barrel by Century Arms International. Because of this, the English translations for the Cyrillic alphabet has been stamped above the serial number on the receiver for proper serial number identification.

This revolver has been stamped with numerous armory and other proof markings. As seen in the picture at the left below, it has been stamped with the Soviet marking of a large five pointed star on the left sideplate. This marking along with a hammer symbol which looks like the capital letter T inside the star indicates that the firearm was manufactured at the Tula arsenal in 1944.

Also found on this handgun is a firing proof which consists of the capital letter K inside of a circle. This mark is found in numerous places on this handgun and was applied to firearms after it was checked for pattering and point of impact. Another marking is a capital T and a sideways Y that are connected together inside of a circle which is a quality control stamp. This stamp is found in several places on this revolver. There is a capital letter H inside of a circle found on the back of the cylinder which indicates a final smokeless or nitro powder proof mark. On the right side of the trigger is a small 5 pointed star which could indicate a post 1929 Tula made part, and on the left side of the trigger is circle with a capital T and a sideways Y inside of it which is a quality control stamp. The 5 pointed star is also found near the muzzle on the left side of the barrel and on some of the smaller internal parts.

Some of the other markings include a capital letter H with no circle around it. There is a capital letter M, a capital letter A, a capital letter A inside of a circle, the number 3 is found in a few places, a lowercase t or hammer inside of a circle as seen in the picture at the below left. There is also several markings that have either been weakly struck or have been partially removed when the Russians refurbished this sidearm. All of these numerous marks are about the same size as the one seen on the hammer in the top of the left picture below. These marks are most likely various inspectors marks or proof markings that were applied by factory workers after a certain part or a group of parts fitted together have passed inspection.  

The photograph on the left is a close up of the Russian Star and the date that the revolver was manufactured which is 1944. The hammer symbol which looks like a capital letter T inside the star indicates that the firearm was manufactured at the Tula arsenal in 1944. This year was the only time that Tula used this symbol. While difficult to see in the picture, under and to the right of the date is a square box with a vertical line running through it. This mark indicates that this pistol has been arsenal refurbished some time after WWII.

The photograph on the right is a picture of the rubberized canvas holster that was supplied with this revolver. It is shown here with the revolver slightly removed. The holster has a small storage compartment for ammunition, tools and cleaning supplies. The holster also has a storage means to contain a cleaning rod. The cleaning rod is a simple metal rod that has a loop at one end for gripping and a slot at the other for a patch. The handgun was also supplied with a screwdriver that consists of a wooden handle and a reversible blade for field maintenance. A lanyard strap made from simple leather with a chrome plated metal snap on its end was also receive with the package.   

In the picture on the left, notice that the cylinder is in its rearward position and that there is a gap or space that can be seen between the front of the cylinder and the rear of the barrel. Now take a look at the picture at the right. In the picture at the right, the hammer is back and the pistol is cocked. Notice now that the gap between the cylinder and barrel has disappeared and the cylinder is now in its forward position. This is normal and the pistol has actually been designed to operate in this fashion. This movement of the cylinder insures that the handgun has a hefty trigger pull and makes hitting the target while in double action mode difficult. I would not be surprised if most users of the Nagant pistol today fire it in single action mode when they are going for accuracy.

The Russian M1895 revolver design is really a classic example of over engineering that was applied to a problem that is largely imaginary. All revolvers will have a very slight gap between the front of the cylinder and the rear of the barrel. If this gap is not present, then the cylinder will not be able to turn, especially once it heats up and begins to expand from firing. Therefore a small amount of the high pressure and high temperature gases will escape from behind the bullet through this gap when the revolver is fired. Even the best built and most powerful revolvers of today have this gap and these escaping gases.

In the interests of accuracy, power and efficiency, the Russians were sold on the idea to eliminate these escaping gases. It has been proven that the loss of projectile velocity and ballistics from these escaping gases is negligible. The velocity of the bullet is increased by roughly 50 to 150 feet per second when the gases are not able to escape. This amounts to going to a lot of work for nothing in the way of manufacturing both firearms and the special cartridges that are required to complete the seal. What this pistol design did do was to allow for a silencer to be added to a revolver. Normally, the "bang" from the escaping gases in revolvers would make adding a silencer just about useless which is why handguns set up with a silencer are normally found as semi-automatic pistols that use sub-sonic ammunition.

When the hammer is pulled back either by the thumb or the squeeze of the trigger, the cylinder not only rotates but moves forward as well. There are recesses milled into the front of the cylinder that enclose the rear of the barrel. The 7.62mm Nagant projectile is deeply seated entirely within the brass cartridge case. The brass cartridge actually protrudes from the cylinder and closes part of the gap by fitting inside the conical section milled into the rear of the barrel. When the weapon is fired, the projectile expands the brass case as it moves through it and thereby completing the gas seal. To help illustrate the point, the picture below is of a loaded 7.62mm Nagant cartridge. It is actually quite impressive how the designers managed to accomplish all of this with such a modest number of moving parts in a revolver that is built as tough as a Russian tank. 


How to unload the revolver after firing.

I know what you might be thinking, who doesn't know how to unload a simple revolver? Well, hang in here with me as there is actually a unique way to preform this function that is some what reminiscence of the old cap and ball handguns. After firing, the spent cases will have expanded inside the chambers and in most instances gravity will not be enough to clear them from the cylinder. The inset picture below shows a fully loaded 7.62mm Nagant cartridge. Notice that there is no projectile protruding out of the front. The front of this cartridge will expand as described in the text above when the weapon is fired and the empty cartridge will not clear the cylinder chamber unless the following procedure is preformed.

1. Swing open the loading gate on the right side of the receiver.

2. Unscrew the rod underneath the barrel and pull it forward.

3. Rotate the housing that is around the barrel toward the right.

4. Position the cylinder so that the rod can push out the spent case.

5. Rotate the cylinder and repeat.

As mentioned in the text at the top of this page, this is a laborious and time consuming process and not the most efficient design by any means for a military sidearm.



The Mosin Nagant rifle by Terence W. Lapin

Handbook of military rifle marks 1866-1950 by Richard Hoffman & Noel Schott

Official guide to gunmarks by Robert Balderson 

The standard directory of proof marks by Gerhard Wirnsberger

Cartridges of the world by Frank C. Barnes  

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