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Max Popenker on Russian Pistols and Ammunition: 7N21, 9x21mm, 9x18mm, and more

Note: If you have trouble understanding Max, turn on the subtitles (thanks to Stephen for transcribing them!).

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Today I am again joined by Max Popenker, Russian small arms historian and researcher. Max is explaining the basic history of Russian handguns and ammunition, starting with the adoption of the 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge to replace the Nagant revolver. This was satisfactory until the end of World War Two (the Great Patriotic War), when the Kalashnikov in 7.62x39mm supplanted the submachine gun in military service, this removing the need for a powerful handgun cartridge. Alongside this change, the 9x18mm Makarov cartridge was adopted to provide a 9mm diameter bullet, but at a low enough velocity to be used in a compact and simple blowback handgun.

Security service interest in armor piercing handgun ammunition grew as body armor became more widespread, however. This led at first to development of an AP 9x18mm cartridge – which was both quite unpleasant to shoot and also very rough on the Makarov pistol. A new 9x21mm cartridge was then developed, and armor piercing projectiles used. in both it and 9x19mm ammunition as debates over the importance of military vs police vs export requirements took place. We will take a look at the 7N21, 7N30, and 7N31 9x19mm loadings, as well as a few of the pistols (like the GSh-18) developed to use them.

Oh, and also a quick look at the PSM and it’s unique 5.45x18mm cartridge!

Thanks to Max for taking time to chat with me today! I apologize for the video an audio quality; I hope to have a chance to meet up with Max this year in person, so we can record some much better footage.

If you are interested in Russian and Soviet small arms, make sure to sign up for our email list at Headstamp Publishing, to get notifications when we are ready to release Max’s book, “The Story of the Russian Avtomat”:

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