Handloading makes the 9×18 Makarov a cost-effective training round for Eastern Bloc pistols like this Hungarian FÉG PA-63. Today there are excellent 9mm Makarov JHP rounds from Barnaul and Silver Bear, making weapons like this viable for self-defense.
The Soviets developed the 9x18mm Makarov to be the most powerful cartridge that could safely operate in a light blowback-action pistol like this FÉG PA-63.
Using high-quality carbide dies like this RCBS three-piece die set will make reloading easier. Not all 9×18 Makarov dies are carbide, so be sure to look for that when you’re purchasing your dies.
Author used an RCBS Reloader Special 5 as his single-stage-pistol ammo press. It is a compact press that is well suited for pistol cartridges.
The finest gun in the world can’t save your life if you can’t reach it. As a young kid in the 1960s, I saw a news report of a Kenyan farmer who was killed by Mau Mau insurgents while he was taking a bath. His pistol was in his bathrobe pocket, hanging out of reach on the bathroom door—that made quite an impression on me. I keep several weapons strategically placed and secured about the house. However, picking up several pistols for this plan can be rough on the pocketbook. A good option can be military surplus pistols, such as the Bulgarian Makarov or the FÉG PA-63—both chambered in 9×18 Makarov. Pistols like this from redundant Cold War arsenals are excellent buys and are available from time to time from Century Arms. You can get a time-tested, combat-approved handgun at a cost that makes having a defensive gun safely staged and ready to go on each floor of your house feasible.
There was a time, due to the lack of good self-defense ammunition, when I would have considered a 9×18 Makarov pistol as a suitable plinker—and nothing more. But these days it is easy to get excellent 9mm Makarov JHP rounds from Barnaul and Silver Bear, making such a weapon viable for self-defense with more power than similar-sized .380-chambered guns, though still well below the power of a 9×19 Parabellum. The Makarov round was developed by the Soviets after World War II as a replacement for the 7.62x25mm Tokarev round. Where the Tokarev round required a locked-breech pistol, the Makarov round was designed for blowback actions. The Russians intended the Makarov to be the most powerful round that could be safely shot in a blowback design. To that end, the Makarov is essentially a pirated version of the 9×18 Ultra round designed by the German military at the end of WWII.
But the Soviets threw in a curveball, complicating life for all reloaders: Wanting all their military ammunition to be incompatible with ammunition used by NATO, whose 9×19 bullets were .355 or .356 inches in diameter, the 9×18 Makarov bullet was designed with a whopping .363-inch diameter. Therefore, in the event of a war with the West, captured Soviet ammunition stocks could not be turned against Red Army forces. And, just as the wily Reds intended, you can’t substitute in any .380 ACP or 9×19 Parabellum bullets when loading 9×18 Makarov rounds. For us reloaders, that simply cuts down on the bullets available for this cartridge…
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The finest gun in the world can’t save your life if you can’t reach…
by Michael Humphries / Sep 10, 2013