Philip Whiteman finds this replica revolver both fascinating and fun
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.
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.
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.
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.
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