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On the drum: the legendary Nagan is still kept in army arsenals 

This pistol became the main revolver of the Russian Empire, a symbol of the revolution of 1917 and the Civil War and adequately “worked out” the Great Patriotic War

“Nagan” was the most massive individual small arms of the Russian army – from 1895 to 1945, more than two million revolvers were produced (in the USSR from 1932 to 1945 – 1 million 70 thousand). Competition in the domestic market in terms of the number of barrels produced by him was made by no less than the legendary PM-Makarov pistol.

Having lost military use in the army, the Nagan in various modifications is used as a civilian weapon of self-defense, and these revolvers have become a rewards weapon.

The marketing course of the Belgian brothers

The name of this weapon comes from the Latin word revolve (rotate) and reflects the main feature of the revolver: the presence of a rotating drum with chambers (nests), which are both capacities for cartridges, and a barrel of a barrel of a revolver. Turn the drum and feed the next cartridge with the chamber by pressing the trigger. And the “Nagan”, as it was somewhat forgotten, is the surname of the Belgian armourers Leon and Emil Naganov, who, in fact, developed this revolver.

Brothers Leon and Emil Nagan


Then, at the turn of the century, the Russian army needed a new reliable and quick-fire pistol – in place of smooth-bore and ineffective in close combat, which were used even during the Crimean War of 1853-1856. As an alternative, foreign models were considered to create their own production of revolvers.

Not bad was the French Lefosche, who bought for the corps of gendarmes, American Smith Wesson generally received a modification of the Russian First Model and was delivered to Russia in the amount of 131,000 pieces. An even larger licensed number of barrels of this weapon from the United States was produced at the Imperial Tula Arms Factory. By the way, “cowboy pistols” were produced in our country until 1949, and during that time they produced about 200,000. But the leader was still the “revolver”.

It is rumored that the arms brothers from Belgium went to a certain trick – their revolver with a caliber of 5.45 mm and a six-round drum had no special chance of winning the tender announced by the Russian military department. After all, the army needed a more powerful weapon. The Nagans increased the caliber to 7.62 mm and added the seventh cartridge, and then – the advertising engine of the trade, – produced two dozen revolvers and presented them to the Russian tsar, his ministers and military commanders. However, a significantly more important role was played by the fact that the trunks for revolvers coincided in caliber with the three-line Mosin, then adopted in Russia, and, therefore, two types of small arms could be manufactured using the same technology.

May 13, 1895 Emperor Nicholas II signed a decree on the adoption of this revolver in the arsenal of the Russian army under the name “3-line revolver system Nagan arr. 1985 “The Belgians delivered to Russia 20,000 revolvers of this system and helped to organize their production in Tula. Until 1917, about a million “revolvers” were manufactured there.

Nagan in the royal army


Light and powerful quick-fire

What was the “revolver” at the time of its appearance? If we compare the TTX of this revolver with the characteristics of revolvers that were in service with other world armies or adopted by them in service in 1895, it is immediately evident that the Nagan is the lightest and smallest of all modern army models. At the same time, it is also the most powerful in the initial speed of the bullet and penetrating ability. True, the stopping action of the 7.62-mm caliber is not very high, but at that time it was not understood and could not count. In addition, the officer “Nagan”, thanks to a self-cocking mechanism, is quicker than most revolvers, which at that time were in service with the armies of European countries.

As for the speed of recharging, the “Nagan” in this was equal to most of the revolvers of its time, really giving way only to the newest in this area: the British Bee, the French Lebel and the American Colt “New Armi”. And in a real battle situation, when a quick reloading of a revolver is a problem even for a system with a tilting drum or a “break”, the “Nagan” with its 7 charges was slightly winning over the remaining 6-charge samples.

A feature of the “revolver”, which allocated this weapon among other competitors, was a system of obturation.


Obturation – ensuring the sealing of the barrel bore in the shot, creating conditions in the barrel of firearms, in which the powder gases work as intended, expanding behind the bullet or projectile without breaking them in one direction or another, which increases the effectiveness and safety of the weapon.

This revolver consisted of pressing the drum to the barrel before the shot, as well as the special shape of the cartridge, in which the bullet was completely closed by the sleeve. When the shot was fired, the edges of the shell were “heard out” several times, closing the cracks and protrusions, and allowing the bullet to enter the trunk unhindered. Such a system allowed the use of powder gases without losses, strengthening the shot and increasing its accuracy.

Frontline workers valued for reliability

During the Civil War, the “Nagans” stood in service with both the White and Red armies. In the Red Army, this revolver remained the only standard short-barreled weapon until 1931, when the first batch of TT pistols (Tokarev) was manufactured. And although TT was adopted for service in exchange for the revolver, due to a number of objective and subjective reasons, both systems were produced in parallel until 1945. Only then did the Nagant finally give up their positions to Tokarev’s more efficient and convenient pistol.

However, many experienced front-line officers preferred the “revolver”. He had a number of advantages – he did not give any delay, he was always ready for shooting, in case of a cartridge misfire, it was easy to shoot the next shot. But the most important advantage, according to the recollections of the front-line soldiers, is the high accuracy of shooting from the “revolver”. Prikladisty, with a comfortable grip and a good center of gravity, the “revolver” always gave a high degree of accuracy. Unlike the TT, with its movable and shifting barrel when shot. The Nagan was also not afraid to drop into trench dirt or sand.

“During the filming of the White Sun of the Desert, I was armed with a revolver,” recalled actor Anatoly Kuznetsov (Red Army soldier Sukhov). – Used three-line, the English machine gun Lewis, some other weapon, but the “revolver” I somehow was closer and in the plot, and in format – it was comfortable in my hand. It is clear that the shooting used a dummy, or rather, a signal pistol, which shoots with empty cartridges. But it was an exact copy of the revolver, there was even an engraving that he released in 1939. And only later in one military shooting range in the suburbs I was offered to shoot at the target from a real combat “revolver”. Well, I’m not a very military man, and I can not call myself a sniper, but I shot quite decently, if not all bullets fell into the “bull’s eye”, then there were a lot of hits. So the accuracy of my Sukhov is fully justified,

Source: Zvezda Weekly 

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