Rus­sia’s seven-shooter

Philip White­man finds this replica re­volver both fas­ci­nat­ing and fun

Air Gunner - - CO2 -

Aseven-round cylin­der is one of the least un­usual fea­tures of the Gletcher NGT R .177/4.5mm CO2 re­volver. Closely based on the M1895 Na­gant Ser­vice re­volver, ef­fec­tively Rus­sia’s Webley, the NGT R is a gate-load­ing, dou­ble-ac­tion pis­tol with a rod ejec­tor mounted on a cuff that piv­ots around the bar­rel.

While it looks like a slightly hump- backed Smith & Wes­son, the Na­gant’s cylin­der does not swing out for reload­ing, al­though it can be re­moved for clean­ing af­ter pulling out its axle pin, the tabbed end of which is ex­posed when the ejec­tor rod is swiv­elled into its oper­at­ing po­si­tion.

If your head is spin­ning with this, it gets weirder: there is no half­cock po­si­tion – the cylin­der can be hand ro­tated for reload­ing, or even re­moved for clean­ing, with ham­mer down. Clev­erly, the seven- cham­ber ge­om­e­try al­lows car­tridges to be in­serted with­out half- in­dex­ing the cylin­der, as you have to with a sin­gle­ac­tion Colt, and when closed, the spring- loaded gate bears on notches around the cylin­der, serv­ing a dou­ble func­tion as a stop ratchet.

GAS SEAL

To­day’s CO2 revolvers all feature ‘gas seals’. You might not have no­ticed it, but they all have spring- loaded in­ner bar­rels that seat snugly on the for­ward face of the cylin­der, min­imis­ing the amount of pro­pel­lant gas – and thus en­ergy – lost through the gap that oth­er­wise ex­ists.

De­vel­oped by Bel­gian gun­smith, Leon Na­gant, from an orig­i­nal de­sign by his coun­try­man, Pieper, the M1895 was unique among firearm revolvers in that it had a gas seal sys­tem. The cases of its spe­cial­ly­made 7.62mm car­tridges ex­tended be­yond the bul­let, the pro­trud­ing sec­tion be­ing forced into the ta­pered breech end of the bar­rel by the cylin­der be­ing moved for­ward as the ham­mer was cocked. The last stage of the cock­ing ac­tion drove a wedge be­hind the cylin­der, pre­vent­ing it be­ing blown back­ward as the round was fired, and the bul­let ex­panded the case to make a gas- tight seal.

SER­VICE RE­VOLVER

While this sys­tem gave the Na­gant a small hike in muz­zle ve­loc­ity – and made it the only re­volver that worked sat­is­fac­to­rily with a sup­pres­sor or si­lencer – it also made the dou­ble­ac­tion trig­ger pull no­to­ri­ously heavy and un­even. How­ever, the Rus­sians, who adopted it as their stan­dard ser­vice re­volver in 1895 and pur­chased the de­sign rights in 1902, came to value the Na­gant as a ro­bust and re­li­able weapon in much the same way as the Amer­i­cans re­garded the sin­gle- ac­tion Colt.

Made ob­so­les­cent by the Tokarev au­to­matic pis­tol, the M1895 nev­er­the­less sol­diered on in Soviet army use un­til the 1950s and was still be­ing used by se­cu­rity per­son­nel in some for­mer East­ern Bloc countries as late as 2017 – an as­ton­ish­ingly long life for any ser­vice pis­tol.

HIS­TORY

This won­der­ful his­tory fully jus­ti­fies Gletcher’s de­ci­sion to make a CO2 replica of the Na­gant part of its ‘Rus­sian Leg­ends’ se­ries. Im­ported by Armex, it is avail­able as a BB or pel­let- firer, in black or ‘nickel- plated’ fin­ish. Air Gun­ner tested the pel­let ver­sion in nickel, which has an at­trac­tive satin fin­ish.

To make any sense of how the NGT R is op­er­ated – it re­ally is most un­like any re­volver we have seen be­fore – you do have to look at the in­struc­tion book. As al­ready de­scribed, there is no half- cock po­si­tion, nor any need for one. Nor is there a safety be­cause the re­bound­ing ham­mer is locked when the trig­ger is re­leased, so the gun will not fire even if (per­ish the thought) it is dropped on the ham­mer.

Un­usu­ally, the beau­ti­fully ma­chined cylin­der lacks the usual ‘de­ac­ti­va­tion groove’ ma­chined through the cham­bers. I think some­one has been very clever here be­cause this pis­tol’s dummy car­tridges are both smaller in di­am­e­ter than the .38 ones used in other CO2 revolvers and are ta­pered so that no one could cham­ber a live round.

COM­FORT­ABLE GRIP

The NGT R’s curved Smith & Wes­son- style grip sits well in the hand. It is am­bidex­trous, too, al­though left- han­ders will be aware of the pro­trud­ing screw heads un­der their thumb on the right- hand side of the frame. A close fit within the nar­row grip – which snaps shut tightly, with very lit­tle play – the CO2 cap­sule is se­cured with a cou­ple of twists on the lan­yard ring. The gun points very nicely, the nar­row fore sight lin­ing up with the rear V notch al­most au­to­mat­i­cally in the nat­u­ral hand po­si­tion. How does it shoot? Well, it cer­tainly ap­pears to be good and ac­cu­rate, and con­sis­tent when fired sin­gle- ac­tion in clas­sic, one- handed, tar­get- shoot­ing style. Weigh­ing 700g (ap­prox­i­mately 1lb 7oz in old money) it is just the right weight to be held out nice and steady at arm’s length. How­ever, the dou­ble- ac­tion pull seems to be about as hor­ri­ble as leg­end holds the orig­i­nal Na­gant’s to be. ( In­ter­est­ingly, two Rus­sian mod­els were made; a sin­gle- ac­tion for the troops and a dou­ble- ac­tion for of­fi­cers.) You can loose off rounds at a rapid rate, at the risk of spray­ing them all over the shop, but this is point­less, be­cause the grip is so good that thumb­ing the ham­mer for quick and ac­cu­rate sin­gle- ac­tion shoot­ing is a plea­sure with this un­usual and beau­ti­fully made pis­tol.

Whilst there are purists who de­cry these CO2 repli­cas as mere toys, the Gletcher NGT R is so well made, and so faith­fully recre­ates the ec­cen­tric­i­ties of the Na­gant M1895, that it of­fers shoot­ers and col­lec­tors a real chance to ap­pre­ci­ate and en­joy this very dif­fer­ent pis­tol from a past era. We were very im­pressed with it.

ABOVE: A fine fin­ish and a deeply evoca­tive pro­file

LEFT: The grip is sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able

BE­LOW: The du­al­func­tion load­ing gate is highly un­usual

ABOVE: The field strip­pable de­sign adds to the re­al­ism

LEFT: Ac­cu­racy was ex­cel­lent in sin­gle­ac­tion mode

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