I’m a sucker for a classic military firearm. I’m an even bigger sucker for a classic firearm that’s chambered, or in this case rechambered, for 9mm which is my favorite handgun caliber.
The TT-33 Tokarev is one of the more prominent handguns of the 20th century being found on modern battlefields around the globe despite the fact the aging pistol was designed back in the 1920′s by the Russian firearms designer Fedor Vasilievich Tokarev. The Tokarev pistol, as it’s been come known, was originally chambered in the potent 7.62×25 bottle neck cartridge. The TT-33 replaced the 1895 Nagant revolver in service in 1930 as the TT-30. Soon after its adoption a simplified version was released in 1933 and was thus named the TT-33. The TT-33 would serve the Russian military until the 1950′s when it was replaced by the Makarov PM.
TT-33′s have been manufactured in many countries including Russia, China, Romania, Serbia (Yugoslavia), Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, North Korea, etc. Some of these have found their way into the U.S. as military surplus firearms, mostly in the 7.62×25 caliber. At one time China imported the 9mm Tokarev Model 213 into the U.S., but those dried up years ago and today can be hard to find. With the shortage of surplus 7.62×25 ammo in the U.S., the Serbian gun maker Zastava saw an opportunity to import their M70A 9mm Tokarev into the U.S. At one time 7.62×25 was abundant and dirt cheap but those days are long since gone.
The M70A is for the most part a faithful clone of the original Russian TT-33, but there are some notable differences. I’ll start off with the most obvious difference, the M70A has a slightly longer grip than the TT-33 which allows it to carry one additional round of ammunition as compared to the Chinese 213 9mm pistol that features the standard length grip frame. The extended grip gives the M70A a very different feel than a conventional TT-33, I think it improves the feel and shootability of the pistol considerably. The TT-33′s grip is very short for my Yeti hands, not so with the M70A.
Next on the list of changes from the original TT-33 design is something I dislike, that being a magazine safety. If you remove the magazine from the pistol the weapon can not be fired. As with all things mechanical, this can be removed if you have the necessary skills, however I advise against removing factory safeties (that’s why my lawyer wants me to say).
One of the changes that can be viewed as good or as bad, depending on your point of view of course, is the addition of a safety. The original TT-33 lacked a manual safety of any sort and instead relied upon a positive half-cock position on the hammer. Personally, I prefer the original design, but then I’m goofy like that. While the slide mounted safety resembles a more modern hammer drop safety, it is not. With the hammer at rest the safety can be applied by pushing it downward at which time it rotates a simple firing pin block up and slightly pushes the hammer away from the pin. With the safety engaged you may cock the pistol but you can not fire it. You can also cycle the action of the pistol with the safety engaged. To fire the weapon, you simply rotate the selector lever up to the fire position and pull the trigger. If the pistol is loaded pulling the trigger will be followed by a loud bang and a hole magically appearing in something; hopefully the intended target.
Most everything else is pretty much the same as a TT-33 pistol. The entire gun is made from steel, you won’t find any Tupperware parts on this old warhorse with the exception of the plastic grip panels, which is excusable. The sights are dovetailed on both the front and rear. While this is usually a desirable trait, I’ve not had any luck finding high quality upgraded sights that fit the pistol. Like the pistol it is derived from, the M70A uses an external extractor and features familiar controls for U.S. shooters. The slide stop and magazine release are in the expected positions, both easily accessible with the shooting hand thumb. The magazine doesn’t drop free on my pistol and requires a slight coxing before it falls free. The magazine holds 9 rounds of 9mm ammo and features windows so you can tell how many rounds remain at a glance.
The overall fit and finish of the Zastava made pistol is far superior than most of the surplus Tokarev’s I’ve seen. It is much nicer than the Romanian pistols and it’s even nicer than my Chinese Model 213. It’s not HK quality by any means, but it is a substantial step up from the average TT-33 I’ve seen on the market.
Shooting the M70A is actually quite entertaining because for me it’s such a different feeling pistol than what I’m used to. The grip angle may feel a little off to you at first, but once you start shooting it I think you’ll agree it’s actually feels good in the hand. Recoil is mild and the trigger pull is about 6.5lbs. My pistol shot just a little low at 15 yards but was capable of producing tight groups using Federal 115gr range ammunition. The sights are typical military sights — they suck for target work. The front blade is small and the notch in the rear sight is both narrow and shallow making it hard to see in poor lighting conditions. The pistol functions well with ball rounds and hollow points, I’ve had no malfunctions of any type with my pistol.
Internally the M70A resembles a mixture of Browning creations including the 1911 and Hi-Power pistols. The locking mechanism and recoil system is clearly a Browning design. If you’ve ever field stripped a 1911 or Hi-Power you will quickly figure out how to tear down the M70A. The only real difference between the M70A and the Browning Hi-Power in how you strip it is the retainer clip used to hold the slide stop pin in place. To disassemble, check to make sure the weapon is clear then push the retaining clip back thereby releasing the slide stop pin. Slightly pull back on the slide, push the pin out and ride the slide off the frame of the handgun. You can then remove the recoil spring, guide rod, barrel and bushing much like you would with a 1911. The one difference is that the trigger group is modular in the M70A. Once you have the slide off the frame you can pull the sub-assembly holding the sear and hammer out as no pins are holding it in. This facilitates quick and easy cleaning and inspection of the trigger assembly, something I believe is an improvement over the Browning designs.
The Zastava M70A is being imported by Century Arms and has a MSRP of $299. I was able to pick mine up for about $260 making it one heck of a good deal, IMHO. Century is also importing the 7.62×25 version of this pistol and it’s being offered at the same price. If you’re thinking about picking up an affordably priced classic military pistol that could double duty as a defensive arm, you might want to give the Zastava M70A 9mm a gander.
|Operation||Short recoil with tiling barrel (Browning)|
|Sights||Blade front / notch rear|