I bought a CO2 powered Baikal Makarov MP654-K in 2005 and was instantly taken with it. I was therefore delighted to learn that Gun Heaven, a company based in Taiwan, had decided to make a blowback version; even more so since I already had their Nagant M1895 and was keen to see whether a semi-auto would come up to the same standard.
The Model 59 (aka Type 59) is essentially a licensed version of the Russian Makarov PM pistol which was adopted by the Chinese in 1959 (source: Wikipedia) and imported into the United States as the Norinco Model 59 (source: Makarov.com). The cartridge firing version is chambered for a special 9x18mm Makarov round.
Gun Heaven Model 59
The Gun Heaven Model 59 is a blowback replica of mainly metal (zinc alloy) construction with plastic grips. CO2 is retained within the drop-out magazine and tightened and pierced using the tab in the base of the magazine. The manual safety, slide lock and magazine release are all operational and work as per the original. The slide locks back when the last shot is fired.
Packaging and Presentation 3.5/5
The pistol comes well packaged in a robust cardboard box containing the pistol, one CO2 magazine, a small bag of unmarked 6mm balls and a canvas pistol bag with pockets for the gun and magazine. The bag is made to look authentic with various stencilled markings.
The box includes a canvas carrying bag (please note the exploded diagram inside the lid)
The outside of the box indicates some of the countries which adopted this pistol for use by their military and police services; the left-hand side indicates the calibre and colour whilst the right-hand side gives contact information for Gun Heaven in Hong Kong and Toubo in Taiwan. Although a manual is not included an exploded diagram is given on the inside of the lid.
In my opinion the pistol is well-presented and the inclusion of the carrying bag is a very nice touch. However, a 6mm cleaning rod would be useful and if 6mm balls are going to be provided then some indication as to the weight/ quality/ manufacturer would be good. Similarly, a manual would be useful although printing the parts diagram inside the lid is an excellent idea.
Visual Accuracy 7/10
The pistol comes in either a silver/ chrome or black colour; I chose the latter based on personal preference only. The “black” version is actually a durable dark grey paint which successful repels fingermarks and there have been no external marks on the frame due to the movement of the slide. The colour would appear to be closer to that of Parkerization rather than the blued-steel finish as found on my Baikal MP654-K.
“Parkerized” colour comparison against a Tokyo Marui 1911A1
Comparison between the Baikal MP654-K (4.5mm CO2 – left) and Model 59 (6mm blowback)
The grips on the “black” version are made of a brown plastic, but despite this quite closely resemble those fitted to the original cartridge firing pistol (which is hardly surprising as many of the Chinese Model 59s were fitted with plastic grips!). They are secured in place by means of a single screw in the backstrap; however, this single screw does allow for some very slight movement between the grips and the frame when the pistol is gripped tightly and aftermarket ones could well be worth considering.
The left-hand side of the slide is marked “MODEL 59”; the right-hand side has a serial number etched into the slide and a capital “F” stamped inside a pentagon on the frame under the hammer (to signify it complies with German legislation as having a muzzle energy of less than 7.5J). The hammer, safety selector, slide stop and trigger are slightly darker in colour to that of the frame and slide and in my opinion this adds to the overall appearance of the gun.
Both the slide and frame are constructed of a metal alloy. The gun is well balanced and weighs approximately 660g with the magazine and a CO2 capsule inserted (the cartridge firing version is a little heavier at 730g unloaded – source: World Guns).
The following pictures are a comparison with a Chinese Model 59 (source: Gunboards.com). As you can see, a lanyard loop is not fitted at the base of the grip on the left-hand side. The grips are ambidextrous, but of a different design to those shown. The CO2 capsule tightener in the base of the magazine, whilst folding-up to make it is less conspicuous, is still visible (but works well).
Due to the internal mechanism of the pistol (see below), the trigger does not move to a second stage when the slide is racked or the hammer cocked (see previous comparison with the Baikal model). The safety selector “dots” are coloured (red and white – as on the original shown), but are also marked with a discreet “F” and “S” respectively. The serial number is on the right-hand side of the slide and there is none on the frame.
6mm CO2 Model 59 – note serial number on opposite side (and none on the frame)
Chinese Model 59 (courtesy of Gunboards.com)
Operation and Functional Accuracy 12/15
The CO2 capsule fits into the side of the magazine and is tightened via the thumb screw mentioned in the previous section. Capsules are pierced cleanly and efficiently and the magazine holds its charge well with no leaks, even over a period of some days. Two seals/ O-rings are visible, one acting as a piercing seal in the magazine and the other surrounding the firing pin in the rear of the slide. Both appear to be made of a durable (polyurethane?) material. I have seen spare O-ring seal sets available from WinGun, but I’d be surprised if they were ever needed.
Views of the magazine and rear of the slide indicating the two visible seals and firing mechanism
The magazine is made of some sort of durable synthetic material (nylon/ ABS plastic?) in which sits the CO2 capsule; on top of this is a metal/ alloy housing which contains the valve and loading mechanism. This is of a different design to what I have seen previously. The 6mm balls (or steel BBs in the case of the 4.5mm version) are loaded by either locking the follower in place and pouring them in or by keeping the follower pressed down with a thumbnail and loading from the top. Twelve 6mm balls may be loaded, the top one holding the little “loading bar” (for want of a better term!) in place.
The top of the magazine viewed from both sides
This pistol is in fact single-action only although the trigger, when pulled, does two things. First, it moves the “loading bar” forward which in turn seats a 6mm ball/ bb in the breech; then, continuing with the pull releases the hammer, the ball is fired and the blowback mechanism activated. One must therefore remember that if the slide is racked a ball/ bb is not loaded into the breech; only pulling the trigger will do this.
Even though this additional “work” by the trigger is unnoticeable, it does result in a rather long trigger pull. The hammer itself is reinforced where it strikes the firing pin.
Loading mechanism with the slide removed
This also means that if you wish to decock the pistol using the trigger then you will have to remove the magazine first otherwise a ball/ BB will be loaded into the breech.
Field-stripping is easy and is achieved by removing the magazine, lowering the trigger guard and moving it to rest against the frame (it stays in this position if it is moved to the right). The slide may then be taken off by moving it to the rear, lifting and then carefully sliding it forward over the barrel (as with a Walther PPK). Care must be taken since the (steel) firing pin and assembly is housed at the rear of the slide. There are no unpleasant surprises with springs going “boing” or bits falling out!
As with the original pistol, the slide is held in place by the recoil spring which sits around the barrel. There was about a quarter of an inch of “play” in the slide when it was forward and I therefore decided to replace the original spring with a slightly stronger one. The spring I chose – by good fortune – fits the barrel like a glove and the slide now moves forward with a stronger, more positive action (photo below, right… please note care must be taken to ensure that any replacement spring is not too long otherwise it may not be possible to remove the slide and that any decision to replace the spring rests entirely with the owner).
Images of the pistol field-stripped – on the left is the original recoil spring
The only thing that doesn’t work so well on my model is the safety catch in that, although it moves correctly, it does not decock the hammer and is easily overridden by pulling back on the hammer. It also quickly became loose, but this may be corrected by replacing a worn rubber O-ring with something more suitable (I placed a dental rubber band, as used for braces, between the selector switch and the frame and that holds it in place).
Bearing these comments regarding the recoil spring and safety in mind, I still feel this pistol deserves a good score for operational and functional accuracy in that, even though there are some differences in operation with the “real steel”, in my opinion these are justified and result in a solid, well made pistol and magazine. I also like the fact that with the magazine removed the pistol will not fire and no ball is left in the breech.
Once fitted with a magazine, the Model 59 may either be cocked by racking the slide (which simply cocks the hammer, it does not chamber a ball) or by pulling back on the hammer. Once loaded, the ball is held in place by a rubber washer or O-ring/ seal. I can’t see any kind of “hop-up” fitted which, IMHO, is a shame and something which could be addressed in the future.
There is a long, albeit smooth, trigger pull which at first had me pulling the gun down and hitting low on the target. There is quite a loud report and the gun really does “kick” in your hand! The slide locks back when the last round has been fired and may be released by either pulling back further on the slide or pushing down on the slide stop. The sights replicate the original; they are fixed and I have added a small “dot” of yellow paint to the front blade.
Two sets of targets are given. The gun was held using a two-handed grip with 0.25g FireFly ammunition at 6 yds. The first was shot last September with chronograph measurements indicating a muzzle velocity which quickly settled at around 115 +/- 5 m/s (about 1.65 J). Condensation was evident on the capsule after rapid shooting, but that is hardly surprising as it was 29 Celsius in the shade.
“Man in a Fedora” target courtesy of the UBC.
The second was shot more recently (January 2014) with much the same results, but this time the velocity was recorded in feet per second settling at around 370 +/- 15 fps (about 1.6J). About 60 good shots can be expected from a single capsule of CO2.
Based on these targets an average shot like myself should be able to achieve something in the region of 2 to 2 ½ inch groups at 6yds with the occasional “flier” at 3 inches; perfectly good for informal target shooting/ plinking in the back garden with the added excitement of the (quite realistic!) blowback experience to boot.
Quality and Reliability 12/15
The pistol appears to be both well made and well finished. I consider the replacement of the recoil spring to be an improvement (I did the same to my Umarex Walther PPK/S) and both the slight movement in the grips and looseness of the safety selector to be relatively minor points when compared against the general robustness of the pistol as a whole. I am particularly impressed with the quality and integrity of the CO2 magazine, although in my experience this is the norm with WinGun/ Toubo guns (I have owned a Series 7 revolver for about three years and their Nagant M1895 for nearly twelve months). 6mm balls are easy to load and I have not experienced any misfires or jams.
However, though I was generally happy with my Model 59, it wasn’t long before disaster struck! Basically, what I did was to break a fundamental rule of “amateur replica gunsmithing” – or anything else for that matter! – which is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it“!
I had loaded a CO2 capsule only to have it leak. I think this was either due to me leaving capsules in for long periods of time and damaging the seals or (more likely) because I managed to knock the capsule out of alignment as it was being pierced. A second capsule appeared to be fine, but never the less I thought it might be a good idea to open the valve assembly and have a look; after all, a chap with my experience should have no problem at all (doh!).
I carefully unscrewed the valve cover and brass cap… only to let the various parts fall onto the desk! Instead of leaving it to fix later on when I was a little less “excited” (“jai yen yen” as they would say in Thailand), I was impatient to ensure all was well and in putting it back together must have replaced something incorrectly (possibly part 7-12 the wrong way around?). This resulted in stripped threads of the valve housing when the CO2 exited in one fell swoop!
Talk about an unhappy bunny! I contacted Toubo in Taiwan receiving a reply that very same day, but although they kindly offered to send a replacement seal set informed me that spare magazines were not available at that time.
How I think the bits are supposed to go according to the parts diagram inside the box lid… obviously I did something wrong first time around!
What to do? Should I attempt a re-build (which I might still do at one point) or go the whole hog and get another gun (of which my local shop had none). I was happy with option two, for a reasonable price, as I thought it may be rather nice to have the silver Model 59 making a pair.
Silver Makarov Blowback with “Parkerised” version in an army/ police surplus Makarov holster (East German?)
Both pistols are identical except that the “Model 59” stencilling is missing from the silver version (I was pleased about that; I don’t mind it on the “parkerised” version, but think it would look out of place on the “chrome” model). Both feature proper serial numbers which in my opinion tend to give them more credibility, making them that little bit more authentic and more akin to a real firearm.
On first inspecting the silver version, I noticed a small blemish where the serial number had been stamped, but that seems to have all but disappeared with use. There is also a slightly rough finish on the inside of the upper part of the “ejection” port in the slide, but again you’ve got to be really looking for it (neither of these “blemishes” are visible on the photo above!). Both have minor scuff marks on the slide stop where the slide rides over.
All in all, I consider myself to be luckier than I deserve; not only have I managed to replace my damaged magazine, I have also been able to add a rather attractive pistol to my collection, not only to pair with my other Model 59, but also to accompany another favourite of mine… the Nagant M1895.
Overall Impression 12/15
I am very impressed with this gun and find that it has grown on me; it is reliable, has a realistic blowback operation and I am pleased to have added it to my collection. I certainly think credit is due to Gun Heaven/ Toubo/ WinGun in that not only have they decided to take the initiative and produce yet another “classic” pistol, as they did with the Nagant M1895, they have chosen to adopt a different loading/ firing mechanism to the norm; the result being a pistol that should appeal to both collectors and casual target shooters/ plinkers alike.
The chrome/nickel version is identical except for the colour and the lack of “Model 59” on the slide
Total score: 74/100
Review by Adrian. Adrian is also a moderator for the Umarex Boys Club Forums.