What makes a “classic” pistol? Numbers? Longevity? Design excellence and/or innovation? You could make an argument for any or all of these, but judging whether the Nagant M1895 revolver qualifies as a classic is difficult. In terms of numbers and longevity, it’s pretty much unsurpassed – introduced to the Tzar’s army in 1895 it remained in production and service throughout the history of the Soviet Union and reportedly some M1895s were still in use by the Russian Federation as late as 2006. That’s over 110 years in service folks, with no major design changes. It is believed that around 2.6 million M1895s were produced, so not too shabby on numbers either. However, design wise it’s a quirky pistol that has a horrendously heavy trigger pull, is slow to reload and uses very specialised ammunition. So, should the M1895 be regarded as a classic? Fortunately Hong Kong based Gun Heaven have released a very realistic replica, so you can make your own mind up.
Real steel background
The Nagant M1895 Revolver is a seven-shot revolver designed and produced by Belgian industrialist Léon Nagant for use by the army of Tzar Nicholas II of Russia. The pistol was initially produced in two variants: the SA only version was issued to NCOs, the SA/DA version to officers. After 1922, only the SA/DA version was produced.
Officers of the Tzar’s army practice with an M1895
Throughout its long production history the pistol went though only one minor external change – the rounded foresight was replaced with a more angular version sometime during the early 1930s. Otherwise, late pistols are identical to original models. The M1895 was a prized possession in Soviet Russia – presentation of one of these revolvers with an embossed red star on the grips was just about the highest accolade a loyal party member could receive.
Border Guards Officer with M1895, post World War Two
Still from Král Šumavy (King of Sumava), 1959 Czech movie
The M1895 features a quirky “gas-seal” system, in which the cylinder moves forward when the pistol is cocked, closing the gap between the cylinder and the barrel. This avoids the loss of gas suffered by most revolvers and provides a modest boost to the fps of the bullet. To support the gas seal mechanism, the pistol uses unique ammunition: the 7.62x38mmR. This is a very long cartridge in which the bullet is deeply seated in the lipped cartridge case. Because of the gas seal mechanism, the cylinder doesn’t swing out on this revolver – rounds are loaded and unloaded individually via an Abadie gate on the right of the frame.
The pistol remained in production in Soviet Russia until 1953 when it was officially replaced by the Makarov pistol, though M1895s remained in service for many years after this. During the 1930s Poland also produced a licence-built version of the M1895 – The Radom Ng30.
The gas-sealing mechanism did provide one unforeseen benefit – this is one of the very few revolvers which can be effectively silenced. Despite what you may have seen in movies, on most revolvers the escape of gases between the cylinder and frame is so loud that it renders a silencer pointless. Not so on the M1895 – fitted with a silencer, this is claimed to be one of the quietest pistols around, with only the sound of the firing pin being audible. For this reason it became a popular assassination weapon for operatives from Soviet bloc countries.
Nagant M1895 fitted with silencer
The Gun Heaven Nagant M1895
The box in which my M1892 was supplied is labelled as Gun Heaven (a Hong Kong based airsoft gun distributor), but I have no idea who manufactures it. There are no markings on the pistol at all, though the base of the shell casings is engraved with “Gletcher” and the box mentions Toubo Co. Ltd, (a Taiwanese airsoft distributor). I have also seen these pistols identified as WinGun. So, other than that it’s probably produced in Taiwan, I can’t tell you much more about who makes it.
It’s all-metal with the exception of the plastic grips and is available in black or polished alloy finish. Shell casings appear to be made from some alloy which resembles turned brass. CO2 is retained inside the grip and accessed by removing the left grip. CO2 is pierced and tightened by turning the lanyard loop under the grip.
No hop-up adjustment is provided. The pistol was launched in 2012 and seems as if it may be the first in a series of replicas of older pistols – Gun Heaven have also recently released a 6mm replica of the Type 59 Pistol, a Chinese version of the Russian Makarov.
Calibre: 6mm (also available in 4.5mm)
Capacity: 7 shot cylinder.
Barrel length: 5″
Weight: 1½ pounds
Packaging and presentation 2.5/5
The M1895 comes in a simple a cardboard box. There is a nice colour picture of the pistol on the outside and a useful exploded view inside the lid. The M1895 comes with 7 brass shell casings and a small bag of unlabelled 6mm BBs. It’s a perfectly serviceable box, though not something you’d use to display the pistol. Mine didn’t come with a manual, though I’m not sure if this was an omission or whether they’re all like this.
One thing that is striking on opening the box is how small the M1895 is – it looks tiny and spindly when compared to replicas of more modern pistols like the Dan Wesson/WinGun revolvers. However it is an accurate replica which accurately recreates the small size of the original.
Visual accuracy 8/10
This is a replica of a Nagant M1895 produced sometime after 1930 (identifiable by the angular foresight). The profile and look of the replica are very close to the original – every screw and frame plate are in the correct place (though the screws on the replica are allen or cross-headed rather than slotted). Visually the only thing on the replica which isn’t a close match for the original is the hammer – the original has a long firing pin attached which is visible when cocked – this is absent on the replica.
Nagant M1895 top, Gun Heaven M1895 bottom
Finish on the black version is a semi-matt black which is a close match for the finish on some real-steel M1895s. The original M1895 came with very few markings other than an arsenal mark on the right of the fame above the grip and a few small proof marks. My M1895 takes this even further – it has no markings at all other than a serial number stamped on the right side of the frame above the trigger, though I have seen other versions of this replica which do include some painted “Gletcher” markings.
Overall, this is a very good visual replica.
Functional accuracy 12/15
Given that this replica features removable shell casings, the M1895 very closely replicates the function of a real revolver. The hammer, trigger, cylinder, ejector rod and Abadie gate all work on the replica as per the original. The ejector rod was essential on the original – the unusual lipped cartridge case often distorts after firing, wedging the casing in the chamber. This doesn’t affect the replica – shell casings will drop out unassisted if the gun is held pointing upwards while the cylinder is revolved with the Abadie gate open. However, if you do want to use the ejector rod:
- Push the ejector rod towards the rear of the pistol against the spring and turn through 90°.
- The ejector rod can then be pulled fully forward.
- With the ejector rod fully forward, the barrel shroud can be rotated approximately 20° anti-clockwise (as viewed from the rear of the pistol) until the ejector rod lines up with a chamber.
- With the Abadie gate open, the ejector rod can be used to push out the shell casing.
Using the ejector rod
The only functional element of the original not replicated is the forward movement of the cylinder when the hammer is cocked. Sealing is effected here (as in many other replica revolvers) by a sprung inner light alloy barrel with a rounded nose which locates against the chamber opening as the cylinder rotates.
Nose of the sprung inner barrel
The forward moving cylinder is one of the defining features of this revolver and it’s disappointing that it isn’t replicated here. However, the real M1895 had a notoriously heavy trigger pull due to this feature (the real steel double action trigger pull is over 20 pounds!), so perhaps this does help to make the replica M1895 a more pleasant shooter.
Field stripping the Gun Heaven M1895 is done in precisely the same way as on the original:
- Open the Abadie gate and empty the cylinder.
- Move the ejector rod to the fully forward position.
- Rotate the barrel shroud 20° anti-clockwise.
- Slide out the cylinder centre pin to the front (there are small lugs either side of the front of the pin which project on either side of the frame to facilitate this).
- Remove the cylinder from the right side of the frame.
Removing the cylinder centre pin
Other than the lack of forward cylinder movement, this is a very accurate functional replica of the M1895.
CO2 is loaded into the grip and pierced by turning the lanyard loop. CO2 loads cleanly without leaks or any major loss of gas. The pistol seems to retain CO2 over extended periods without leaking. BBs are loaded into the shell casings and have to be pressed very firmly to seat correctly. Shells are then loaded into the cylinder via the Abadie gate, and you’re then ready to shoot. As per the original, there is no safety catch.
The double action trigger pull is fairly heavy and long with two distinct stages – in the long first stage the cylinder rotates and the resistance caused by the sprung inner barrel seating into the chamber can clearly be felt. The second stage is short and light. The single action pull is light and crisp. The gun fires with a loud bang. The sights are rudimentary and non-adjustable as per the original. It’s easy to lose the narrow front sight against a dark background.
Given lack of hop-up, the only way to adjust the trajectory of the BB is by varying weight. I have found the M1895 to shoot best with .36g BBs, hitting at close to the point of aim and giving groupings of around 1½” – 2″ at six yards with no flyers. I have experienced no misfeeds or failures to fire while shooting with the M1895.
I have seen velocities of over 460fps claimed for the M1895 with .2g BBs. I don’t have a chrony so I can’t confirm this, but the M1895 certainly seems much more powerful than my other airsoft pistols – BBs from this pistol pass straight through several layers of padding which easily stop BBs from other airsoft replicas. It’s also notable that it often punches neat, round, BB sized holes in the target which again suggests that it has plenty of power.
6 shots, six yards, .36g BBs
Overall, power seems good, accuracy is fair and this is a nice pistol to shoot. Some folk may find the need for constant reloading a chore, but that’s all part of the revolver experience.
Quality and reliability 12/15
This feels like a generally well made pistol. Weight is close to the original (1.5 pounds for the replica, 1.8 pounds for the original) and the black finish looks reasonably well applied. I’m not so sure about the long-term durability of the finish – after very little use my M1895 is showing some signs of chipping and wear. However, the hammer and trigger action and cylinder indexing are positive and the metal shell casings are a nice touch compared to the plastic versions found on some replica revolvers. The removable grip fits well with no movement or rattles when it’s in place. I have read of some M1895s which have loose outer barrels, but there is no movement at all on my example.
I’m not aware of any reported problems with the Gun Heaven M1895, though this is a fairly recently introduced replica so long-term reliability is still unknown. The only concern I have is for the front of the cylinder, where the nose of the sprung inner barrel rubs against it. This is metal-to-metal contact and after less than twenty shots the paint has started to wear away on the raised portion of the front of the cylinder. I’m a little concerned that over time the barrel nose may also wear, affecting gas sealing.
Wear on the front of the cylinder after less than 20 shots. Note that the barrel nose is rubbing against the high-spots.
Overall Impression 11/15
This is nice replica, but perhaps not a great one. It’s good to see a replica of such a classic revolver, but a pity that the quirky gas sealing mechanism isn’t replicated. The overall feel of the pistol is good, and it does feel generally well made and put together. It’s also a nice shooter – fairly accurate, powerful and loud and it replicates the action of firing a real revolver. However, the finish doesn’t seem to be especially durable and long-term I’m concerned about wear to the nose of the sprung inner barrel. If this gets badly worn, gas sealing may be lost.
I like the Gun Heaven M1895. It looks and feels very like the original and nicely replicates using a real revolver. It is powerful though not especially accurate, but adequate for enjoyable target shooting.
I have concerns about long term durability but there aren’t many classic revolver replicas out there and it’s nice to see a manufacturer tackling this niche market. Now if only they’d do a Webley revolver next…
Total score: 76.5/100
You may also be interested in The Man Place. It’s a companion site to The Pistol Place and features articles on growing up in the UK in the 1960s. Topics include the toys, television, movies and games of the period.