Nagant M1895 Revolver

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What makes a “classic” pistol?  Numbers?  Longevity? Design excellence and/or innovation?  You could make an argument for the Nagant M1895 being a classic using any of these.  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 personnel employed 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.  Design wise it’s certainly innovative, but in a way that produced a horrendously heavy trigger pull, slow reloading and a requirement for specialised and hard to find ammunition.

So, by most standards, the M1895 is a true classic. Which perhaps makes it surprising that it wasn’t until 2012 that a CO2 powered replica of the M1895 was released. This replica is available in a number of parts of the world carrying the branding of several different companies in 6mm, 4.5mm and .177” form. However, all versions are technically and functionally virtually identical. The version tested here is a 6mm example produced by Hong Kong based distributor Gun Heaven but you can also find this replica with WinGun and Gletcher branding. In addition to a standard 4.5mm version, Gletcher (a brand of the American SMG Group) also offer the NGT R which fires .177” pellets through a rifled barrel and the NGT F, a 4.5mm version which incorporates a manual safety on the lower right side of the frame.

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.  As its name suggests, this pistol was first adopted for use in the Imperial Russian Army in 1895. It was initially produced in two variants: the SA only version was issued to NCOs while the SA/DA version was for officers only.  After 1922, only the SA/DA version was produced.

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Officers of the Tzar’s army practice with an M1895 before World War One

Throughout its long production history the pistol went though only one minor external change – the original 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.

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NKVD Officers training with Nagant M1895 revolvers during World War Two

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.

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7.62x38mmR cartridge

The pistol remained in production in Soviet Russia until 1953 when it was officially replaced by the Makarov pistol, though the large stock of existing M1895s remained in service for many, many years after this.  During the 1930s Poland also produced a licence-built version of the M1895 – The Radom Ng30.

The quirky 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 virtually 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.

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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 the original manufacturer is.  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). So, other than that it’s almost certainly manufactured in Taiwan, I can’t tell you much more about who makes this replica.

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The M1895 is all-metal with the exception of the brown plastic grips and is available in black or polished silver 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 is provided. And no, I don’t mean that the hop-up isn’t adjustable, there isn’t any form of hop-up rubber here at all.

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Most versions of this replica are also available in polished silver finish with contrasting black controls. This is the WinGun M1895.

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Packaging and presentation  2.5/5

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The version of the M1895 tested arrived in a simple cardboard box featuring a rather nice colour picture of the pistol on the outside and a useful exploded view inside the lid.  The M1895 came with 7 brass (or brass-like) 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?

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) other than for an additional screw on the right side of the rear sight on the replica.  Visually the only thing here 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. It’s notable that on this replica the hammer sits flush against the frame and firing pin when it is down, unlike several other revolver replicas on which the hammer sits back from the frame and firing pin.

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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.  The Gun Heaven 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 the Gletcher versions of this replica seem to have more painted markings and warnings.

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Gletcher branded versions of this replica seem to have more markings, especially on the right side. This is the Gletcher NGT R, a .177” version with a rifled barrel.

Overall, this is a 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 distorted 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.

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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 front edge of the chamber opening as the cylinder rotates.

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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 shroud to facilitate this).
  • Remove the cylinder from the right side of the frame.

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Removing the cylinder centre pin (arrowed)

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Other than the lack of forward cylinder movement, this is a generally accurate functional replica of the M1895.

Shooting  31/40

The first thing you notice when you pick up the M1895 is how small it is – it isn’t evident in photographs, but the M1895 feels somewhat dainty if compared to something like the Webley MKVI replica or even Dan Wesson revolvers (for example, the M1895 replica weighs just two-thirds as much as the Webley MKVI replica). This isn’t a failing of this replica – it accurately matches the dimensions of the original – it’s just that it does look and feel quite small.

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CO2 is loaded into the grip and pierced by removing the left grip cover and then turning the lanyard loop to tighten and pierce the CO2.  CO2 loads cleanly and without leaks or any major loss of gas.  The M1895 seems to retain CO2 over extended periods without leaking.  BBs are loaded into the shell casings and have to be pressed very firmly down into the plastic neck of the casings to seat correctly.  The shells are then loaded individually into the cylinder via the Abadie gate, and then you’re ready to go.  As per the original, there is no manual safety on the Gun Heaven M1895 though the Gletcher NGT F (4.5mm) model does include a manual safety on the lower right side of the frame.

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Gletcher NGT F – a 4.5mm version of the M1895 replica which includes a manual safety on the right below the Abadie gate.

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 gas sealing shroud 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 and it is rather easy to lose the narrow front sight against a dark background.

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Given the lack of any form of hop-up, the only way to adjust the trajectory of the BB is by varying the weight on the 6mm version (though of course you don’t have that option on the 4.5mm version).  I have found the Gun Heaven 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 did most of my shooting on this replica in single action. The long double action pull isn’t terrible, but it does get tiring after relatively few shots.  I have experienced no misfeeds or failures to fire while shooting with the M1895. I haven’t tried the pellet shooting version of this replica which has a rifled barrel, but I assume that it’s likely to be a little more accurate than either BB version.

I have seen velocities of over 460fps claimed for the 6mm 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 usually punches neat, round, BB sized holes in the target which again suggests that it has plenty of power.

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6 shots, six yards, .36g BBs

Overall, power seems good, accuracy is fair and this is a pleasant 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  11/15

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.

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I have no justification for including this picture here, other than that it made me laugh. Sean Connery demonstrates ideal classic revolver shooting attire in the 1974 film Zardoz. Of course, you don’t have to dress like this to enjoy shooting the Nagant M1895 but you never know, perhaps it might enhance the experience? And yes, I do know that isn’t a Nagant…

Some owners have reported an odd issue with this replica where it slips from single to double action. The hammer cocks further back in single action than it does when shooting in double action. In some cases, when the hammer is cocked for single action and the trigger is pulled, instead of firing, the hammer drops to the double action position and the trigger jerks forward. This is almost certainly caused by wear to the sear and it’s notable that many internal parts of this replica do seem to be made from fairly light alloy.

I also have concerns for wear on the front of the cylinder and the rear of the inner barrel. 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, potentially affecting gas sealing.

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Wear on the front of the cylinder of the Gun Heaven M1895. This picture was taken after less than 20 shots from new.  You can see that the barrel nose has been rubbing against the high-spots on the front of the cylinder.

Overall Impression  11/15

This is decent replica, but perhaps not a great one.  It’s good to see a replica of such a classic revolver, but it’s a great pity that the quirky gas sealing mechanism of the M1895 isn’t replicated. Like many other BB shooting revolver replicas, the M1895 uses a light alloy inner barrel which is sprung so that it engages with the front edge of the cylinder. This isn’t a design I particularly like. The action of the inner barrel rubbing against the front of the cylinder is metal-to-metal which causes wear and makes the revolving of the cylinder feel graunchy and notchy. I have even seen some well-used revolver replicas which use this system where the inner barrel has been so worn that effective sealing has been lost. I’m disappointed that whoever made this didn’t take the opportunity to enable the cylinder to move forward as it indexes. This would have allowed the shell casings to seal directly against the rear edge of the barrel, just as they do on the cartridge version.

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The overall feel of the replica is good, and it does feel generally fairly well made and put together.  It’s also a nice shooter – reasonably 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 on the Gun Heaven version tested the brown plastic grips do look rather too much like brown plastic to be convincing – I’d have liked something that more closely replicated the look of wood grips.

Conclusion

In many ways I like the Gun Heaven M1895.  It looks and feels very like the original and nicely replicates shooting and loading a classic revolver.  This 6mm version is sufficiently powerful though not especially accurate, but good enough for an enjoyable target shooting experience.

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However, it’s disappointing that it doesn’t replicate the forward moving cylinder of the original and given the issues that some users have reported, I do have concerns about long term durability. But the simple fact is that there just aren’t many classic revolver replicas out there and it’s good to see a manufacturer tackling this niche market.

Total score: 75.5/100

Related Pages:

Webley MKVI Service Revolver

Gun Heaven Model 59 (Makarov PM)

WE Tolarev TT33 review

Home

Pellet shooting replica reviews

6mm replica reviews

4.5mm replica reviews

Links:

Umarex Boys Club forum post on issues with the Nagant M1895

Gletcher website showing standard Nagant M1895 4.5mm version here, 4.5mm version with manual safety here and .177” version here.

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