Regular readers will recall that I covered this gun once before. At the time, I mentioned that I'd seen one in a Gander Mountain but passed on it. I thought about getting a C&R (Curios & Relics) FFL and ordering one from one of the importers, but that was a lot to go through for one gun. Well, I was buying targets at Gander the other day, saw another M1895, and this time it followed me home.
As I noted before, it's not terribly accurate, it fires a low powered, obsolete .32 caliber cartridge that's impossible to buy locally, and it has the worst double action pull I've even encountered. On the other hand, it's incredibly cheap for a real collectable, it's a real piece of history, and a genuine antique, being a 117 year old design. This one is late WWII (1943) production, from the factory at Izhevsk, one of two wartime producers- the other being at Tula. It's still almost 60 years old.
Yes, I'd like to have a Model 1917 S&W, but those cost ten times as much as a M1895. I'd also like to have an early British .455 Webley, but that costs $500-600 for one in decent condition. This gun has a lot of the charm and history of those two at a fraction of the price.
As you can see from this closeup, taken while I was cleaning out the cosmoline (or whatever the Russian equivalent is) from the gun, this is not exactly finished to the same level as a good S&W or Colt. You can see machining marks on the cylinder and scratches everywhere, both from manufacture and from handling. The flash illumination brings out every scratch and trace of rust, although the gun doesn't really look this bad to the naked eye.
I have the loading gate open here, so you can see how the gun was loaded. It's kind of like an old Colt single action: open the gate, which unlocks the cylinder, and you can insert the cartridges one at a time. But how, you may ask, do you eject the empties? That's kind of like an old Colt, too:
Twist what looks like the cylinder pin counter clockwise, pull it forward, and the entire assembly can now rotate clockwise, lining up the rod with one of the chambers in the cylinder! What looked like the pin is the ejector rod. The cylinder is still held in place by a tubular pin which can now be pulled forward to release the barrel for stripping and cleaning.
My gun came with a nice old holster, cleaning rod (which rides in the holster) and a screwdriver, all of which were issued with the gun:
Note that the screwdriver has a reversible blade, and the holster has loops for the cleaning rod. No idea where you're supposed to store the screwdriver. The holster has a pocket under the flap for about 14 rounds of loose ammunition- two reloads. Not a lot, but this was never supposed to be a primary weapon.
Ammunition is hard to find locally. Most stores that sell these (like Gander Mountain) don't stock ammunition for it. Some people have purchased it not realizing this, or thinking it's another, more common caliber. The clerk who sold me mine said one of her customers thought it was a .38 special. But Cabelas does carry the commercial Prvi Partizan load at $24.95/50, which I suppose isn't too bad for a specialized round that's not in high demand, but it's still not cheap. There's a Cabelas about 60 miles from my house, and that's where I bought two boxes (ouch):
My first trip to the range was not very successful. While the Nagant is fun and easy to shoot, at 25 yards, shooting from the bench, I put exactly one shot out of 14 on paper! Not very impressive. I'm no expert shot with a pistol, but I can generally put most of the shots from my .22 target pistols in the black at that range shooting offhand. Next visit will be to the indoor range, where I can start at a closer range and see where this thing is printing.
If I find out that the factory ammunition isn't very accurate, as some say, I'll buy a set of LEE dies and start reloading for it. You can't easily reload the factory brass with the gas seal, as the heavy crimp and expansion on firing works the brass so much it becomes very brittle, although it may be possible to anneal each case between loadings. Most reloaders skip this and instead start with .32-20 brass, trim it, and create a shorter round that doesn't have the gas seal. Some have experimented with reworking the .223/5.56 NATO brass, as there's a ton of that around, new and once fired.
If you're interested in identifying a particular example of M1898, there's a very good web site here that describes and has pictures of all the variants and their markings. I'd like to get one of the target models, or one of the .22 models, too.
UPDATE: I took it to my club's indoor range, where I tested it at 21' and 50'. Surprisingly, given my previous experience, it turned out to be quite accurate- and on target! The problem appeared to lie with the sights, which are difficult to use in daylight. The front sight has a very thin blade that's hard to pick out from the background and hard to center on the rear. I'm kind of tempted to see if I can't find a replacement that would fit.