M1895 Nagant Project – .32-caliber Love for the Soviet Motherland
M1895 Nagant Revolver and .32 Caliber Handload Project
Objective in Summation: Bore out the (allegedly stronger) aftermarket .32ACP cylinder to fit a .327 Federal Magnum and, assuming the pistol is in good shape, it’ll be safe to shoot full power loads in. Subsequently, wildcat designs that take advantage of the setup will be easy to use and provide a wealth of options.
AIM Surplus has Nagant M1895 revolvers on sale for $89-109 daily, and with an extra $10 “hand-picked” fee a impressively well-preserved specimen can be had. This pistol, though sloppy and, well, old Soviet surplus as it is, can shoot three different and popular cartridges as-is, making a conversion to even more rounds a distinct possibility. For a newcomer to handloaded stuff, this is the Honda Civic of milsurp: cheap, customizable and won’t drive you to tears if it breaks.
If it is indeed feasible to get a Nagant M1895 to fire ammo with pressures on the order of the .327 Federal Magnum smoothly, consistently and safely, it is a worthwhile addition to my (or any) arsenal of obscure yet fascinating weaponry. Asides from the history lesson it is, which is a whole story unto itself, this little Russian war toy is the perfect medium to try my hand at handloading and a bit of amateur gunsmithing for much less than I had ever expected.
Converting and developing a Nagant with higher internal pressure tolerances would initially allow me the opportunity to work with three different calibers (.32 S&W, .32-20 WCF, .32 H&R Magnum) right off the bat from a solid, if a bit clumsy, surplus WWII gun. This has been done by some on the Internet but seemingly never documented very well, if at all, so I’m sure my gun-wise friends will fast prove invaluable to my progress and well-being.
The quickly-spreading “nut trick” reduces the infamously long-and-horrible trigger pull from over 20 lbs. to about 5-6 lbs. in DA and 2.5-4 lbs. in SA. That’s completely acceptable for a M1895, and further tweaking of the action and components will ease the pull to be close to that of well-crafted modern revolvers.
End result? My own old-school, reliable, ugly and historical commie gun with seven round of pretty-much-a-.357 for less than $120. Score. This will be a reward around my birthday if (when) I have saved enough and gotten my client base up. Easy as shit, and a damn good way to get motivated. C&R licensed seven-shot Russian revolver with the familiar Russian “ergonomics” , a weapon of near-indestructibility and a historical piece that I can develop three, possibly four, maybe unlimited categories of custom loads for? Sounds like a deal for $120!
I started gleaning information and planning this in late January of 2012 (though I’ve liked Nagants for years) and hope to have it done by the end of March. I’m a completely neophyte, though, and fairly dim to boot, so perhaps this will serve as a cautionary tale.
All entries are uncensored and sometimes NSFW (I try to mark those), not to mention awful, awful ideas to begin with. Read on, brave seeker of DIY tragedy!
Cartridge Analysis and pre-Design Concepts
Using the .32-20 case wouldn’t allow for the pressures needed for a magnum load. I plan to blow out .223 Remington brass for use in .327 Federal handloads, as the webbing and brass are much stronger and can facilitate the C.U.P. needed for high-power .32 variants. I need to contact a few gunsmiths re: sizing rifle brass for smaller rounds, but it seems totally feasible. If I can get the headspace and rim all straightened out, I could fire form the brass and simply crimp and seat a .32 bullet. Probably wise to use a medium crimp and to take precautions against blown-out cases. Splitting and separation of the case walls when .32 H&R Magnum rounds are used in the pre-Soviet technology and of sometimes (but not terribly often) shoddy craftsmanship and questionable metallurgic quality control.
I optimistically believe that by modifying the more solidly-constructed aftermarket cylinder, as opposed to using the original one, will tolerate pressures around those of the Magnum levels, and if that alone can be safely achieved the possibilities for reloading, designing and analyzing new cartridges is limitless. Sources online have confirmed this cylinder modification as successful, but there’s always an inherent risk when messing with a century-old pistol.
I must repeat what can feasibly be used in this one old Russian hunk of steel: .32ACP, .32 S&W Long, .32 H&R Magnum, 7.62x38mmR (original Nagant design and the only case with the proper gas-blocking length and dimensions), modified and adapted versions of the venerable old .32-20 WCF (exact sizing of great importance) and hopefully the .327 Federal Magnum. Six, maybe more, interchangeable cartridges in one gun? For dirt-cheap at best and inexpensive at worst? And it doesn’t suck out loud as one might expect? Incredible!
The .327 alone would make this an ideal trail or truck gun, as it lends itself to such roles with rugged construction and good-old Soviet durability- not to mention the fact that a $100 military relic can give out seven shots of a round rivaling the .357 Magnum in almost all respects for any self-defense situation.
Dimensions and C.U.P. Rating of a Custom Cylinder
New cylinder, bored out to fit .327 Federals, and strong enough not to remove digits. This is the needed criteria for a new cylinder, and anecdotal and online advice says to just use the .32ACP conversion as a base. They’re pretty easy to find, work decently and let the aspiring gunsmith/prosthetic limb owner experiment with handloaded rounds using various .32-parent cases, bullets and data. Also, it’s a $120 pistol. Not a huge loss if the thing never works correctly in the long run, and it’s more of a tool in this sense anyway.
However, the big snag here is the cost of a .32ACP cylinder to swap out with the original 7.62. The goal is to firstly allow cheap(er) plinking with widely-available ammunition, and secondly (and more excitingly) to give a safer spot to shoot high-powered .327 Magnums as well as other similar sizes. A well-made and industry-standard cylinder runs about $150-200, immediately making the whole project WAY too expensive to justify. That’s a $300 “real” gun if spent elsewhere! So obviously it’s of utmost importance to somehow find a gunsmith able and willing to make the conversion for you.
If he’s cool, let him on your little death trap of a project; if he’s a nerd, tell him it’s for .32ACP plinking and nothing more. Ideally a solid block of steel, milled to the proper specifications and bored out by an experienced gunsmith, would make the best and strongest cylinder, but until a connection is made somewhere and a discount had it seems exorbitantly expensive to do on a budget.