Book Review: “The Makarov Pistol” by Henry Brown and Cameron White

Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on Forgotten Weapons dot com. Today we’re taking a look at a book that has fairly recently come on the market; “The Makarov Pistol – Soviet Union and East Germany” and this is co-written by Henry Brown and Cameron White. In fact, the way they co-wrote it is that Henry Brown wrote the section (the first half) on the Soviet Union, and Cameron White wrote the second half on East Germany. Up until now, really, the one good reference material — good reference book — on the Makarov has been Fred Datig’s book, which is volume 16 of a proposed series that he, alas, passed away before he could finish. but this particular volume covers all Soviet post-war pistols and cartridges from 1945 to 1986. This has a bunch of information in it; unfortunately, it is somewhat limited by the fact that it was published in the late 1980s, and thus, was done before the Soviet Union collapsed. With that political collapse we have access to a lot more information today about these guns and their production. So, in fact, something that would have been maybe kind of unheard of in the 1980s; I’ve actually got a pair of Makarovs here, and neither one of them was all that particularly expensive. I have a PMM, a modernized Pistolet Makarova (*tries different pronounciations*), which is the double stack version of this one in .380, unfortunately, but there it is. Also an actual 1983 Russian Makarov. It’s interesting that, fairly recently, there’ve actually been a fair number (I think it was probably one big batch) of Russian Makarovs that came into the country. This one is actually marked with East German import markings, but it is, no doubt, a Russian manufactured pistol. So, with these around, not to mention the East German guns, the Bulgarian guns, and some other Makarovs, a lot of people are interested in them. It’s about time that we had another resource more up-to-date than, virtually, the manufacture of this particular one. So, that’s where we get “The Makarov Pistol” by White and Brown. There’s pros and cons here. The good news is this is an inexpensive book. The list price is $30 (USD) and it has a decent amount of good information in it. What limits this book is that it appears to have been done (I can’t say that I’ve actually talked to the authors about it) by, basically, collector observation of samples of guns that have been obtained. Which is a good source of info, but not quite as good as actual firsthand Arsenal records, or manufacturing documents. I don’t know how available or unavailable those are. Certainly, access to them in the U.S. is going to be hampered by the fact that they’re going to all be written in Russian and there aren’t a ton of people here who read Russian. So without actually going to Russia and digging through archives (which, I understand, would be difficult), you’re left with the next best option, which is: they’ve imported a lot of these guns to the US — what can we tell just by observing those guns? The answer is actually quite a lot. For example, pretty much everything we know about Arisakas comes from this sort of observation, because most of the Japanese factory records were destroyed by bombing during the war. We can come up with a lot of good information that way and this is an example of it. So, for example, this book does include explanation of production timelines, production markings, what years go with what serial number prefixes, approximately how many guns were manufactured each year and with each prefix. There’s good information in here about the actual development of the Makarov in the Soviet section; ‘how did this gun develop?’ It was developed to replace the Tokarev, of course, but what was the process? What were the prototypes like? Perhaps more potentially of use to the collector here; what are the differences between the very early guns and very late guns? How did the parts change? Which parts changed? For example, one interesting bit that I hadn’t realized was the very early Makarovs actually had an automatic slide release that, when you inserted a new loaded magazine, it would automatically drop the slide. Kind of an interesting feature. However, very early in production, that was dropped; and so it’s not something you’re likely to find here today, but that mechanism is explained and described in the book — pretty cool. If you want to know what other parts changed over the course of production, Brown and White have that. They do also have, of course, this is half about the Soviet Union (which is obviously the country that developed the Makarov), and half about the guns as they were manufactured and used in East Germany. So, we have some systematic information about how the guns were manufactured in East Germany, what time period, how many, as well as accessories that went along with pistols from both countries. So there’s good information in here but it’s not quite up to the standard of, say, a collector gradebook. There’s certainly still room for someone to do an exhaustive treatise on the Makarov. The other issue with this is that it is limited by the fact that it’s clearly a self-published book. The photography shows the details that it’s intended to — it gets the job done, but it’s not the really top-notch, glossy, perfect photography that you might come to expect from big hardback extensive reference books. Now of course, I understand that self-printing is a way that you can actually make it economical to print a book like this, and do you really need super-perfect glossy photography? No, you really don’t — not to get the information across. I’m the first one to know that a lot of my pictures leave a lot to be desired, but I always try to get the details across — and that’s what has been done in the photography here. If you are a photo connoisseur you’ll notice that it has all the hallmarks of a self-printed book. So if you’re looking for the information, and I would call this a ‘collector’s handbook’ I think, rather than, say, a ‘technical reference’ or an ‘exhaustive reference’ — if you’re looking to get into collecting East German or Soviet Makarovs, or you just want to know more about the one, or two, or three that you have, definitely it’s the reference worth picking-up. It’s not going to be the end-all, be-all, and you’re getting about the price that you’re paying. I think I mentioned it’s retailing for $30 (USD) on Amazon. Kinda cool; you can also get it on Kindle, which is a nice change of pace. I believe it’s, at the moment, $10 (USD) for the Kindle version, so if you’re the sort of person who likes their books in electronic format there you go. You can get this electronically for a third of the price, which is excellent. I hope I’m not sounding like I’m coming down too hard on this book, because I don’t want to. It’s a good book within its limitations, and those limitations are basically that: it’s self-published; and that it’s limited to what can be ascertained by a collector’s observation (albeit to very dedicated collectors with a wide sampling of pistols). I have no doubt that the information in this book is correct, but it’s not quite the same thing as having actual Arsenal documentation telling you ‘we built this many on this day of this month of this year,’ and ‘these changes occurred on these dates,’ and ‘here’s the original memos explaining why.’ You don’t get that level of detail in here, but you do get the functional changes, serial number data, production timelines — that type of information. So if you’re looking for a collector’s handbook on the Makarov, this is it. Definitely worth getting for that purpose. If you’re looking for something like Leonardo Antaris’ books on the Astra and the Star, this isn’t up to that same level. So, with that in mind, definitely take a look in the description text below; you’ll find links to it on Amazon (both the Kindle and paperback version), and I hope you enjoy it if you decide to add this to your own reference library. Thanks for watching.

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