Old Guns, Modern Ammunition

By olegv published on in Ammunition, Firearms

PPSH in action: sparks at the muzzle are fragments of steel bullet jacket

PPSH in action: sparks at the muzzle are fragments of steel bullet jacket

One of the major draws of old firearms used to be the availability of inexpensive surplus ammunition. Thanks mostly to the UN and our own government, much of the available surplus is now destroyed rather than sold. Modern surplus comes mainly from military production overruns designed to reduce per round cost to the government-run plants in Russia. One of the calibers most affected by this has been 7.62×25 Tokarev. The round is a higher-pressure variation on the 1896 7.63×25 Mauser pistol cartridge which, although minutely different in geometry, would fit the later Soviet guns. Due to the higher pressure of the Soviet round, it is not safe to use in the vintage Broomhandle Mauser pistols.

The Comblock use of that round began with TT30, TT33 and vz52 pistols and continued in PPD34, PPSh41, PPS43 (available now in pistol form) and the 1990s Bizon submachine guns. Bottleneck shape helped reliability in extraction. Generally loaded with 85-grain steel-jacketed (and often steel-cored) bullets, it quickly gained reputation for a flat trajectory and high penetration. With muzzle velocity ranging from 1200fps to 1550fps from pistols and non-deforming bullet construction, it was not surprising. Very low cost of surplus guns in that caliber and cheap ammunition made it easy to overlook the real down sides of using surplus. The minor down sides were abrasive jackets and corrosive primers, along with typically bright muzzle flash. The major down side was the uncertainty about past storage conditions and pressure. Certain batches of Chinese and East European 7.62×25 produced erratic velocity and caused considerable wear on the guns. One theory was that these were intended for submachine guns, but the same ammunition sometimes turned up on 8-round stripper clips obviously meant for loading pistol magazines. The Soviets of WW2 were fond of the high velocity because it gave extra range to their ubiquitous submachine guns. Though striking power of the 85 grain bullet was quite limited at extreme range, at least they could get hits where German 9mm or Lend-Lease Thompsons in slower 45ACP required considerable hold-over.

Unissued vz52 with original holster

Unissued vz52 with original holster.

 

Modern holsters (such as those by Dragon Leatherworks) are available for vz52

Modern holsters (such as by Dragon Leatherworks) are available for vz52

To me, this cartridge was a historic curiosity until the new batch of unissued vz52s showed up at Czechpoint. The idea of an old but unissued pistol with roller lock mechanism designed after the MG42 machine gun has appealed to me ever since I first fired that gun back in the late 90s. vz52 is quite a bit more refined than the Russian TT33 and much nicer to shoot. It’s long and tall but also very flat, making it easy to carry. In addition to the original flap holsters, a lot of modern leather is available. If Dieselpunk aesthetic appeals to you, an even more exotic looking Sterling pistol is now available in the same caliber. So I looked at the ammunition situation and discovered that 7.62×25 is no longer a boutique round. Winchester and Sellier&Bellot load ball and Magsafe offers a frangible in case you like high velocity but do not want the attendant penetration. All these are non-corrosive, so you can plink at the range and not have to clean the pistol at once to avoid rust.

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