[This article was originally written for publication in the Linwood-Bay Sportsmans Club’s newsletter. Because of Forum interest in these old revolvers, it is reproduced here with permission of the author. Mark F's note: with a hearty thank-you to Stu Wayne!]
A few years ago, as a Christmas gift to myself, I ordered an M1895 Nagant revolver. The $80 dealer price was too good to pass up. The barrel length on the gun I received is about four and one-half inches and the bore chrome-lined. The grips have no grain visible and appear to be plastic. The gun also came with extras, holster, lanyard, cleaning rod, and a wooden-handled screwdriver with a reversible bit. The ad claimed one could shoot it with .32 H&R Magnum ammo “available everywhere”. “Olympic” target models were even offered through Century Arms International. There may be a .32 ACP conversion cylinder available, possibly from SOG (Southern Ohio Gun) or Gun Parts Corporation.
The Czarist-era Russian sidearm was first made in single action, then later as a double-action. The former are supposedly safer than the latter and likely to be scarcer. I lucked out and received a single-action which I believe is worth more than I paid for it! It was made in 1912 and has a 1916 overstamp.
This seven-shot revolver is sometimes called a “gas seal” revolver since the cylinder presses against the back of the barrel each time the hammer is pulled back. The designer believed that this improved muzzle velocity. The 7.62 Nagant cartridge is unique in that the wadcutter bullet is recessed inside the case neck. Before firing, the case neck seals over the forcing cone so the propellant gas doesn’t cut from the chamber as with other revolvers. When substituting other cartridges in the gun – like the .32 S&W Long – the brass casing is shorter and the bullet is seated normally. When fired, the bullet jumps the gap into the forcing cone just as if using a .38 Special cartridge in a .357 Magnum revolver.
Cartridges are inserted one at a time on the right side. Spent rounds are ejected by using the push rod under the barrel; turn the knob, pull forward, then rotate the collar to the right until the rod lines up with a chamber. Open the gate and push out the spent shell. If that’s too much to remember, just use the supplied cleaning rod to do the job.
This gun tends to fit Mark’s Maxim which states “The cheaper the gun, the scarcer the ammo!” as 7.62X38R ammunition isn’t all that available. If you can find it, you may pay $18 to $30 per box of fifty, rather pricey. The .32 H&R Magnum was tried but shot over a foot high at 25 yards. Some Russian-made ammo was found but still shot high. Then .32 Colt, .32 S&W and .32 S&W Long were tried and the last of this trio showed promise. PMC’s factory-loaded .32 S&W Long 100 grain lead wadcutter would have the old war horse shooting a 4 inch group from 25 yards without a rest – not bad! Recoil and report was understandably light.
I could make up handloads using .32 ACP dies and an appropriate shell holder. Topping a 1.5* grain charge of AA 100 Nitro powder with a 115 grain semi-wadcutter from National Bullet Company in a .32 S&W Long case produced a somewhat larger group.
Aside from its collector appeal, this surplus revolver may prove handy as a nightstand gun or a trapper’s gun.
(*Always use appropriate loading data from recognized sources for hand-loading ammunition and verify the safe condition of your firearm before using it! Neither the author nor the club assumes any liability for others using this data! )