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The Chinese Type 54 Tokarev Pistol

Ensign Chekov of the StarShip Enterprise boldly proclaimed; every exciting technology encountered was Russian! We can say the same with Fedor Tokarev. This Comrade blended innovations from other autoloaders and triumphantly declared it was Russian.

The Tokarev 7.62x25mm Semi-automatic pistol was a prolific design, built by nearly every Warsaw Pact country. Some firearm enthusiasts, assume the Tokarev was crude and under-performing. This is a false assumption.

Russia does not mass-produce a firearm of any type, with polished slides or barrels, unless it is absolutely necessary. Russian firearms are mostly stamped steel frames and parts, and the firearms operate precisely as intended and last forever. 

Tokarev designed his pistol in the early 1930s as a replacement for the 1895 Nagant revolver. The Tokarev beat out many lofty competitors, including Walther and Luger. Through the decades, they have manufactured the Tokarev in multiple countries, and each country has given the pistol its own special treatment.

Kirk and the crew would have been Proud!

Major Influences to the Tokarev 

Browning’s locked-breech was a significant influence, keeping the swinging link system of the Colt 1911. Production simplicity also influenced Tokarev’s design. Magazine production was simplified by eliminating the feed lips and machining them into the frame. Safeties were also done away with. Chekov would have been proud!

Russian firearm design principles revolved around production efficiency and easy maintenance on the battlefield. One feature many shooters like is that Tokarev built the hammer assembly for easy removal and cleaning. Given the harsh conditions in Russia, this was a necessity. 

The Black Star or Model 54 Tokarev is an interesting variant of the Soviet version TT-33. This pistol got its unique name by its large embossed star on the black wooden grips.

Tokarev pistols were built around the powerful 7.62x25mm cartridge.

We have an outstanding lot of “Black Star” pistols. These Chinese Type 54 Tokarev semi-auto pistols are chambered in the original 7.62x25mm caliber. Built by Norinco (North China Industries), they are in Very Good to Excellent condition. The Tokarev’s are C&R Eligible, and come with an 8 round magazine.

Chinese Type 54 Tokarev Pistol - C&R Eligible

7.62x25mm Cartridge 

Russia developed the 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge as a replacement for its long-standing C96 Mauser. The 7.62 is a powerful round with different muzzle velocities ranging from 1300 to 1800 fps. Experts consider the 7.62 an “over-penetrating” round for most home defense applications, which means the round may remain lethal even after penetrating its intended target

AllOutdoor gives this review of the 7.62x25mm, “The plus side of the load is its high penetration, sufficient to defeat car body panels and lower-level body armor. The downside is its high penetration, almost guaranteeing that the bullet will exit an unarmored opponent and keep going. That’s a liability. 

Despite this potential problem, quite a few people carry pistols in 7.62×25. They are relatively inexpensive, robust, and have a dieselpunk style to them. The two most popular models are CZ vz.52, a roller-lock delayed blowback Czech pistol, and a TT33, a Soviet locked-breech design with very simple lockwork.”

Romanian TTC Tokarev - C&R Eligible

 

 

History and Tokarev Copies

After World War II, the Soviets began their search for a compact pistol to replace the Tokarev. In 1951, they adopted the Makarov.  Warsaw Pact countries used the Tokarev for several years, which led to production outside the Soviet Union.

Classic Firearms offers several fine examples of Tokarev pistol chambered in 7.62x25mm cartridges and produced outside of Russia, including:

  • Romanian TTC Tokarev Pistol, 7.62x25mm. Mfg. by Cugir Factory in Romania at Good to Excellent condition.
  • Pakistan Tokarev, 7.62x25mm. Mfg. by Badar and Brothers-Peshawar Plant, Pakistan.
  •  Polish TTC Tokarev, 7.62x25mm, Very Good to excellent condition. Mfg. in Radom Poland. Safeties may have been added for import regulations.
  • Yugoslavian M57 TT Tokarev, 7.62x25mm. Pistols are considered in Good condition. Mfg. at Zastava Arms, Kragujevac, Serbia. (your spell checker may blow up) 

Type 51 Tokarevs were built with a combination of Russia and Chinese parts in China. It is likely the Soviets supplied much of the production machinery to China. Any type 51 pistols are those that were likely brought home by GIs during the Korean War.

Type 54 pistols were built entirely in China. Production of the type 54 appears to have started around 1955 and continued until 1985. It is logical to assume (Spock raises his pointed ears at this assumption), single acquisition, Type 54 pistols found in the United States were manufactured between 1966 and 1967. Most of these Tokarevs were VietNam War Trophies.  

China and North Korea’s relationship extended to the manufacture of Tokarevs. These pistols have designations of either Type 66 or 68, and closely resemble the TT-33. However, slides are shorter with a beavertail extension at the rear. North Korean Tokarevs incorporate linkless systems, similar to the Browning High-Power.

We rarely see North Korean Tokarevs in America; if one does show up, collectors snap them up in a time-warp. 

Another Tokarev for collectors to look at, the Tokagypt. (I am not making that name up) Tokagypts were manufactured in Egypt, and by all accounts were well-made and very reliable pistols. The original contract called for 30,000 pistols; however, only half were delivered. Significant differences from the TT-33 model; Tokagypts were chambered in only 9x19mm, and featured a thumb safety and a wrap-around grip.

The Yugoslavian M57 TT Tokarev Pistol

Final Thoughts

The Tokarev is an impressive handgun, given the fact it is almost 100 years old. The pistol is an excellent value for the money; with good build quality and excellent durability. This economical pistol is designed for hard military use, and is perfectly capable of being used for recreational shooting. 

Externally, the Tokarev looks very similar to the Colt 1911, with many shooters thinking it is just a modified version. There are a few significant differences. Hammer and sear is simpler than the 1911, with the hammer being external. The feed ramp is machined into the receiver, rather than part of the barrel, among other differences.

Tokarev’s 7.62x25mm round usually performs best with light loads, the 85 to 90 grain work best. The cartridge is fast and has a lot of energy. The 7.62 is a level 2 armor piercing round, but like I said earlier,  it can over-penetrate with higher loads. The 7.62 is hard to compare with other ammunition, but overall it is a very good round.

Tokarev’s design, like many others of the day, has lasted decades and is quickly moving into its second century as a firearm that is still effective and viable. Firearm inventors of the day felt function over form was the key to a great firearm and history has proven them right. A great design never goes out of style.

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