The M1895 Nagant: is it Collection Worthy?
By Brandon Wenschlag
Here at D4, we get a wide variety of collectors firearms, including an occasional M1895 Nagant. For some, this revolver is a curiosity but does not draw the interest of collectors like Colt, Smith & Wesson or Webley revolvers of the same era. However, the Nagant has an extensive history spanning from Imperial Russia to the Soviet Union. It is known for its unique features that set it apart from other 19th-century revolvers
At the time Léon Nagant, a Belgian industrialist, was designing the M1895 revolver, European governments were looking to upgrade their small arms to stay competitive. The American Colt Model 1892, British Webley 1897 and French Modèle 1892 were all being developed for their respective militaries.
However, Russia, a competing European power, had no such developments. The seven-shot M1895 caught the eye of Russia’s leadership and they approached Léon and his brother Émile in hopes of adopting their design to upgrade the Imperial military. Following their agreement, Émile helped develop the Model 1891 Mosin-Nagant, making the Nagant brothers a trusted source for future firearm designs.
The first M1895 Nagant revolvers had a seven-shot cylinder, chambering the 7.62×38mmR cartridge. It came with an officer’s double-action model and private’s single-action model following Russia’s traditionally rigid class structure. The most distinguishing feature of the Nagant was its gas-seal system. When the revolver is cocked, the cylinder slides forward, effectively sealing the gap between the cylinder and the barrel that most revolvers leave open. This results in a significantly increased bullet velocity. Although suppressors were most likely not a concept of Léon’s original design, the M1895’s sealing feature also unexpectedly allowed the handgun to be equipped with a suppressor, making it the first suppressed revolver.
Despite its appearance as an advanced revolver design, the Nagant M1895 was far from perfect. Ejecting and reloading cartridges was slow and cumbersome. The 7.62×38mm round was specially designed for the revolver, making it more difficult to find ammunition and produce interchangeable ammunition. The trigger was extremely heavy, especially on the double-action model.
By the time it was adopted it was nearly out of date as semi-automatic pistols like the American M1911 and the German Luger began replacing military revolvers before the outbreak of the First World War. The Russians stuck by their Nagant and even used it to execute Czar Nicolas II and his family, who was one of the revolver’s strongest advocates.
It continued to see service with the new Soviet regime and saw extensive use during World War II. It became a favored weapon of the infamous Russian Secret Police and Intelligence Agencies like the Cheka, NKVD and later the KGB.
Although they are not as recognizable in the United States as other revolvers of their time, the Nagant’s seal on the cylinder, unique ammunition and its low market value make it a decent revolver for collectors. Furthermore, the Nagant M1895’s status as the first (possibly only) suppressed revolver and its history with the Russian Imperial Army, Red Army and Intelligence Agencies give it a place in any historic firearms collection. Without a doubt, the Russian M1895 Nagant revolver is a collection worthy side-arm that also makes an enjoyable range gun.