Sunday, February 25, 2018

An Interesting Makarov Pistol - Open to Conjecture

Hopefully the readers of this blog can provide further insight in identifying the origin and history of the following semi-automatic pistol that was purchased at the Orange County Gun Show, in Anaheim, California, in 1988.

The pistol is a Chinese made Pistol, Type 59, essentially identical to the standard Soviet manufactured Pistol, PM, 9x18mm, Makarov, in the same caliber cartridge, and probably manufactured by Norinco (China North Industries Group Corporation). The weapon is unique in that it is in pristine condition (apparently unfired), and is solely marked with the matching pantographed serial number, ZZ270071 on both the slide and receiver frame. There are no other markings visible on the weapon’s exterior. All exterior surfaces have been measured by micrometer in order to preclude any possibility of grinding, polishing and re-bluing. The back surface of the trigger, i.e. towards the magazine has the numbers '071' roughly scratched on it. The the back surface of the magazine has the numbers '597-2' roughly scratched, and barely discernible. No numbers are discernible on any other visible exterior surfaces of parts. Have not further field stripped the pistol in order to protect it's pristine finish. Essentially while displaying all the characteristics of Chinese origin, it is effectively "sanitized". At time of acquisition in 1988, the seller alluded to it having been allegedly captured in Grenada in 1982 by an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper, and brought back as a souvenir. An alternate conjecture was it was manufactured by the Chinese, and shipped to the Afghanistan Resistance (Mujahedeen) during a period when relations with the Soviet Union were "extremely strained". Personally consider both of these scenarios highly dubious due to the virtually new condition of the weapon. Note that the holster and leather lanyard are contemporary Soviet Army standard issue, and did not come with the pistol. The holster being marked as made in 1979, the year in which the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

For purposes of direct comparison the following is a photograph of a Soviet manufactured PM, 9x18mm Makarov made in 1967. Note difference in size and shape of the grip pad.

There was an article in “Firepower Magazine” (now defunct), January 1989 on pp.58-63 discussing specific reference to both Russian and Chinese (Type 59) Makarovs as “war trophies”, as unique and demanding a premium in value. Another interesting factor is that the pistol was purchased in 1988, a full year before any commercial Norinco models were imported into and available in the United States.

The author also remembers seeing a contemporary article in The National Rifleman magazine showing a photograph of a Norinco Makarov with a serial in the ZZ2700xx range, but with many additional markings.

Over a span of time the following additional information has been gained:
Chinese Military Serials range from;
2017738 to 2034952 series
4043024 to 4062625 series
Chinese Export (Commercial or Otherwise) Serials range from;
(CSI) ZZ270428casco,nc to ZZ273503
Not import marked ZZ270093 to ZZ270514+ (2724xx)
 (Beta) A00392 to A24594
(Beta) B00142 to B11309
Triangle zz(Casco) 260046 to 260128

Military model features serial numbered safety. Grips are star/shield or Eighth, First emblem. Marked with Triangle 66 and 59SHI. Only 2million and 4million range reported in some two dozen examples.

Export models are star in circle grip. ZZ first observed in 1988, no factory symbol (triangle). Both import marked and unmarked examples recorded.

A and B prefix from Beta arms. Imported approx. 1992 to 1995. Triangle 56 factory symbol and thumbrest grip.

The pistol was shown to Fred A. Datig, an acknowledged expert and author on Makarovs, at the time, and he was unable to render any definitive judgement. See: The History and Development of Imperial and Soviet Russian Military Small Arms and Ammunition 1700 -1986, Vol. 16, Soviet Russian Postwar Military Pistols and Cartridges 1945 -1986,  Fred A. Datig, 1988, Handgun Press, Glenview, IL, ISBN 0-945828-03-9, pp.30-32, 46 and 67.

Further research on the Internet has provided a 14 April 2012 gun forum thread initial entry as follows:

"Yesterday I received a Chinese Makarov and holster I purchased on the net. The pistol is 100% Mint/New as is the holster. Beautiful blueing, with the only markings being the serial number, (ZZ prefix), on the slide and frame, nothing else. The grips are non thumb rest, being I guess what I would call: Import Chinese Military with the center star, (NOT SHI or POLICE!). This style of grip has a higher hump at the top that the Russian/Bulgarian style of grip. Now for the unusual, #1, No markings whatsoever other than the serial number on the slide or frame, #2 the sear, hammer, safety, trigger bar, firing pin, and the trigger itself has the three last digets of the serial number. The trigger has the number on the back side of where you would place you finger. Both magazines also have the last three numbers, & 1 & 2."

All of these three digit numbers were applied by electro-pen including the magazines. (Chinese Military Magazines are stamped I think).
The trigger bar number is on the back side of the bar rather than being on the front side as a DDR. And our Senior and more Advanced Collectors will have to tell me if they have ever noticed a firing pin with the last three digits of the pistol's serial number." 

The consensus of opinions responding in the forum thread was that the weapon had been originally imported into Canada before 1988, subsequently Canadian Gun Laws changed regarding minimum barrel length, and it was transported to and sold in the United States by a private party. Canadian Gun Laws currently stipulate; Civilians are not allowed to possess automatic firearms, except those registered before 1978(50), handguns with a barrel of 105mm or less in length, and specifically modified handguns, rifles or shotguns(51). The Makarov has a barrel around 90mm, slightly longer, which would make it illegal to own. An alternative possibility, but extremely remote, was an individual who had heard of one ZZ Prefix being purchased in Pakistan via Afghanistan. This was written about in a 1988 firearms magazine.