The Makarov is a classic pistol which has been represented by a number of replicas. However, none of them have been entirely satisfactory for a number of reasons. So, when I saw that Gletcher have produced a new, CO2 powered, 4.5mm Makarov replica, I was excited. Is this the Mak replica we have been waiting for? Let’s take a look…
I have already covered the history of the Makarov PM (Пистолет Макарова or Pistolet Makarova) in my review of the Baikal MP-654K (you can find a link at the end of this article) so I won’t repeat that here. Instead, I offer an interesting fact. Can you guess what is the only handgun to have been regularly taken into space? That’s right, that would be the Makarov.
You see, on board every Soyuz spacecraft was a Granat-6 survival kit. Along with the usual stuff like a first aid kit, there was also other survival gear in case the capsule came down in an uninhabited area. This included a compass, machete, fishing gear and a Makarov pistol and ammunition.
A Soyuz survival kit complete with Makarov pistol.
This is, as far as I’m aware, the fourth CO2 powered Makarov replica in 4.5mm, though all the previous versions had issues. The first was the Baikal MP-654K which was introduced in 1998. Not so much a replica as a CO2 version of the original firearm, this is produced in the same factory as the firearm version. It’s a heavy weight replica, but it lacks blowback and all versions are designed to shoot steel BBs through a rifled barrel, which means that all are woefully inaccurate.
In 2009 Umarex launched their new Legends range with a Makarov replica. This was a CO2 powered, 4.5mm pistol and it’s a pretty decent shooter. Unfortunately, it lacks blowback and parts like the slide release are moulded in place. In 2014 another Makarov replica joined the Umarex Legends range, the PM Ultra. This version had blowback, but it also had an unsightly CO2 loading tab which projected below the grip and it used a moving barrel system to fire which meant that it lacked a true single-action trigger.
The Gletcher PM 1951
Gletcher is a brand owned by US company SMG (Sports Manufacturing Group, Inc.). Under the Gletcher brand, SMG sell a number of 4.5mm replicas of historic handguns. Generally these are rebranded versions based on Taiwanese 6mm replicas.
The Gletcher PM 1951 appears to be a 4.5mm version of the Taiwanese KWC Makarov PM airsoft replica. It’s pretty much all metal with only the grips and some internal parts being made of plastic. This is a blowback replica and the slide operates through a full range of movement and locks back on empty. There is a slide mounted manual safety and a slide release, both on the left side, and a magazine release in the heel of the grip.
Up to 16 BBs can be loaded into a full-size, drop-out magazine which also holds the CO2 cartridge. Unlike the original (which is both double and single action) this replica is single action only. The inner barrel is brass and has a fixed hop-up rubber.
Packaging and presentation (2/5)
This replica comes in a simple card box with a single magazine and a hex key for tightening and piercing the CO2. No manual is provided but inside the lid of the box there is an exploded view of this replica.
The box states “18 Month Warranty” but there are no clues as to what this means or how one would go about making a warranty claim.
Visual accuracy 6/10
At first glance, the Gletcher PM looks fairly much like a Makarov. However, when you look a little more closely, there are several discrepancies. First and most obvious is that the grip is too long on this replica. On the original, the overall height from the top of the slide to the base of the grip is 125mm. On this replica it’s 140mm. I assume the extra length is to accommodate the CO2 cartridge, but, just like the Umarex Walther PPK/S, this looks a little odd because of the extended grip.
Makarov PM (left) and Gletcher PM 1951 (right)
Next there’s the trigger guard – this is much too thick and I don’t know why. Just as on the original, the trigger guard on this replica is hinged at the rear and must be swung down to allow the slide to be removed. Some people have suggested that the trigger guard on this replica is thick because a hinged zinc alloy trigger guard of the correct dimensions would be too fragile. However, both the earlier Umarex versions have hinged zinc alloy trigger guards of the right size, and I’m not aware of problems with these breaking. Whatever the reason for it, the trigger guard on this replica does look odd and not at all like the original.
Then there’s the hammer. In the fully forward position, it looks sort of OK, but when it’s cocked, you can see that it’s a very strange and unrealistic shape.
You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned the magazine base extension which projects below and in front of the grip base. This makes the already long grip look even longer and I assume that this is also done to accommodate the CO2 cartridge, but it does look a little strange – most Makarovs have a magazine base that’s flush with the base of the grip. However, some versions, especially export versions for the US market, do have this type of magazine extension, so I’m not going to mark it down just for that.
This replica also lacks any sort of accurate markings. The only markings here are PM 1951 on the left side and some Gletcher markings on the right. All markings are laser-etched in fairly obtrusive white text.
Functional accuracy 13/15
Functionally, this is pretty good. It has blowback over a full range of movement, a full-size magazine and the magazine and slide release are located and work just as they would on the original. One small discrepancy is that this replica is single action only whereas the original shoots in both double and single action. This replica can be field stripped in the same way as the original. There is a sleeve which fits over the outer barrel. Initially, I thought this was plastic, but I believe it’s actually some form of light alloy.
This replica weighs almost precisely the same as the (unloaded) original, which is always nice to see.
Loading the magazine with BBs on this replica is a little fiddly if you have large man-fingers like me. You have to hold the follower down with a thumbnail and the drop BBs in one at a time into the wider opening at the bottom front of the magazine. CO2 loads cleanly and without leaks using the hex key provided. When you re-insert that magazine, you have to use a fair amount of force – the spring on the catch is very strong. When I first started shooting this replica, the magazine dropped out of the grip a couple of times because I hadn’t pushed it in firmly enough. Getting it back out again is also a bit of a chore – the deeper and extended magazine base makes using the release in the heel of the grip a little awkward and this is definitely a two-handed job.
With the magazine inserted, you must rack the slide for the first shot. This also cocks the hammer. If the manual safety is engaged, you can’t rack the slide. There is no decocker – the only way to safely de-cock is to remove the magazine and pull the trigger. With the slide racked and the first BB in the breech, you’re ready to shoot. The sights are simple – just a notch and post arrangement with no white dots, but they’re clear and easy to read.
The trigger is reasonably light and short and true single action – all pulling the trigger does is to release the sear and allow the hammer to drop. The Gletcher PM is moderately loud and the blowback action provides fairly strong recoil effect. Balance is good, but I didn’t especially care for the grip. The rear of the grip has a pronounced corner or edge at each side. This isn’t particularly uncomfortable, but it is noticeable and I’m sure that other Makarov replicas I have owned weren’t like this.
I ran a number of shots from the Gletcher PM over my chronograph and, in fairly warm temperatures, I saw readings of between 265 – 280 fps. Perfectly reasonable, but well down on the 328 fps claimed by Gletcher. I found that I was able to get 50 – 60 full power shots before power started to drop off. Faster shooting uses CO2 more quickly. Like some other KWC replicas I have owned, cooldown is an issue if you’re shooting quickly. You can actually feel the cold permeating the grip if you shoot several times in quick succession.
In terms of accuracy, this is adequate. Groups are around 1.5 – 2” at 6m, but it does do one thing that I particularly hate – it shoots low. At 6m, it hits around 2” below the point of aim. Now, there are a number of things that you can do about that (and I may look at this in another article) but looking at other reviews of this replica, it does seem that out of the box, it’s likely to shoot low. I find that very frustrating. Obviously, I prefer a replica that shoots to the point of aim, but I can just about tolerate one that shoots high. What I definitely don’t like is a replica that shoots low. There is a hop-up rubber here, but it is non-adjustable. This replica’s airsoft roots can be seen in that there is a slot for a hop-up adjustment wheel in the outer barrel, but the wheel itself is not provided.
There is one other slightly odd thing about this replica. The slide locks back, but generally not when you fire the last shot. It locks back when you fire the shot after the last BB is fired. So, if you have 10 BBs loaded, you shoot all ten, but it isn’t until you pull the trigger for the eleventh time when the pistol is empty that the slide locks back. This happens nine times out of ten. It’s not a major issue, but it is odd and in the course of shooting around 500 rounds, this has been completely consistent.
Below you can see a short video showing a shooting test for the PM 1951. You’ll note that in this video, the first shot was so low that it completely missed the target – I don’t know why and this isn’t usual with this replica. You’ll also note that the slide locks back after the last shot is fired, which is also unusual.
Overall, the Gletcher PM is a perfectly pleasant shooter, but not an outstanding one.
Quality and reliability 13/15
Overall, quality and finish look reasonable. The semi-matt finish seems to be fairly hard wearing and is showing no signs of wear though, like every Mak replica I have seen, there is a scratch on the slide where the bearing for the manual safety moves. It was notable that, out of the box, my Gletcher PM was completely devoid of lubrication.
Other than the issue with the slide usually failing to lock back until the shot after the last BB, I haven’t seen any faults with my PM and it shoots reliably and without misfeeds or misfires.
Overall impression 11/15
I like compact replicas and I like classic handguns, so I should really love this replica. The fact that I don’t is down to a combination of several minor factors which separately don’t amount to much, but which combine to be a little frustrating. I don’t care for the extended grip or the corners on the rear of the grip. I don’t like look of the oversized trigger guard or the oddly shaped hammer. And I do hate the fact that it lacks a double action trigger and that it shoots low.
None of these are show-stopping issues and they are partly offset by decent finish, good weight and the fact that it’s a reliable shooter. But overall, if I’m looking in the gun cupboard for something to provide half an hour of shooting satisfaction, this usually isn’t the one I’ll be reaching for.
It looks as though we’ll have to wait a little longer for the definitive 4.5mm Makarov replica. This is close to being a good visual and functional replica, but it’s not quite there. However, it is relatively cheap and it seems to be reliable and fairly frugal with CO2 usage.
If you want something that looks and handles like a Makarov, you’ll probably still be wanting a Baikal MP-654K. If you want something that looks like a Makarov, has blowback and shoots well, I’m afraid you’ll most likely be looking at the 6mm WE version.
Not the best visual replica.
Shoots low and lacks a double action trigger.
Seems well made and finished.