Gun Collecting: Tokarev’s TT-33 and Its Clones

Tokarev TT-33 Stripped Down

The New Safety

Importation of surplus military arms was banned by the gun control act of 1968. In 1986 the law was modified to allow import of military surplus that was at least 50 years old and classed as a “Curio & Relic”. So, U.S. importers applied for import permits for C&R qualified Russian TT-33’s as well as Tokarevs made in other nations. At some point the BATF found a regulation regarding importing firearms that they must have a manual safety. None of the military issue Tokarev models have a safety.

The safety requirement over rides the C&R import regulations that the gun must be in original configuration. So, the importers and their overseas sources had to add new safety devices to the TT-33 in order to import them. A variety of levers have been used that block the sear or trigger from movement. All guns are milled and drilled to accommodate the safety components. Of course this damages the collectibility of the pistol. At this time any TT-33 pistol without the added safety will sell for about three times what the U.S. import altered version will. The safety issue was straightened out and some surplus Russian made TT-33 pistols with an added safety were brought in.

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Then the Clinton administration banned the import of many Russian made firearms, including the TT-30 and TT-33. Thus as of 2011 there are no Russian made TT-33 on the U.S. market but there are currently Polish, Romanian and Yugoslavian made guns available. Recently imported TT-33 with the added safety currently sell in the $200-300 range for most variations. A pre 1968 import without the added safety will sell for $500 and up. I have seen a few nice WWII issue Russian pistols top $1000.
The TT-33 is an easy gun to strip for maintenance.

1. Remove magazine and inspect the chamber to verify that the pistol is not loaded.

2. As done with the Colt 1911, press down on the recoil spring plug, rotate the barrel bushing clockwise to the 12 o’clock position and remove to the front. Be careful here as the spring is under tension. Lift the spring and plug out.

3. Set the pistol in the Left side. Push the flat spring that holds the slide stop pin to the rear. It may be tight and require a tool to tap it off the pin recess. Remove the slide stop to the Left.

4. Remove the slide, barrel and recoil spring guide to the front.

5. Lift the hammer/sear assembly upward out of the frame. Reassemble in reverse order. Be sure that the barrel link is aligned with the hole when you insert the slide stop pin through the frame.

Finally, the grips are held in place by metal catches that are riveted inside each grip panel. To remove the grips a flat blade screwdriver is inserted into the magazine opening to move the slide catch off the frame. I do not recommend removing the grips unless necessary. They are made from bakelite and can chip or break easily.

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The TT-33 is a fascinating pistol for the arms collector. Lots of variations and history involved. And they’re fun to shoot, as well.

This article appeared in the March 28, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to learn more.

Resources for Military Gun Collectors

Standard Catalog of Military Firearms, 6th EditionThe Standard Catalog of Military Firearms

The Greatest Guns of Gun Digest

Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values

Gun Digest 1944 – 2009 3-DVD Set

Gun Digest the Magazine

Gun Digest 2011

5 thoughts on “Gun Collecting: Tokarev’s TT-33 and Its Clones

  1. doc_coffin

    Be careful, telling people that the Tokarev and Mauser cartridges are dimensionally identical can get someone HURT! The simple FACT is, they are NOT identical, dimensionally or otherwise!
    Being similar to one another, many authors assume this based on what they have read from other dubious sources. Just because something is published. it isn’t necessarily true.
    The Mauser and Tokarev cartridges have different brass lengths, the Mauser brass being approx. 20 thousandths longer.
    The neck of the Tokarev cartridge is also 5 thousandths shorter and the sholder length is also shorter by 20 thousandths. When the slide of the Tokarev closes on a Mauser round, the brass is thin enough to form to the Tokarev chamber. This means 25 thousandths of excess length of Mauser brass, when fired in a properly cut Tokarev chamber, may rip loose when the brass is ejected and foul the next round as it enters, with disasterous results. Using the Broomhandle standard load could also seat too far forward, pushing the bullet back into the case, or jam it into the rifling, raising initial pressures, although probably not over that of a stiff Tokarev load..
    Also, some early factory Mauser ammunition is loaded with .309 and .310 (and .311!) diameter bullets, and could raise chamber pressure in a .308/.309 dia. Tokarev to dangerous levels, here again courting disaster.

    Conversely, the shorter factory Tokarev cartridges vary widely in their power levels, depending on when and what they were loaded for.
    Also, please be aware that some of the older surplus ammo on the market was hot loaded for the PPSh 41 submachine gun, and may disassemble the Tokarev pistol in your hand when you pull the trigger if your pistol is not up to snuff.

    These measurements and statements are facts, measured by myself and most are verifiable by SAAMI standards, and can be looked up or measured for yourself easily.

    Please do your research before making flat statements like this in the future. I (and many others, I’m sure) would like to see factual data from sources like this, not comments based on prior supposition and heresay.

  2. Tribune6

    There was also a conversion kit made by Norinco with a new barrel, recoil spring and instructions for modifying feed rails for .38 Super.

    1. NICKKER

      the little 7.62×25 digests cheap corosive 1950′s ammo without a hitch.

      you can buy new ammo that is loaded a little hotter.

      i use this as a sometime carry gun. the best part of this pistol/caliber combo is the 7.62×25 will defeat level 3 body armor. it won’t expand but it will punch holes in kevlar all day long.

      wear hearing protection because this pup is LOUD!

      neat take off on the original john browning design.

      NICKKER

  3. hp-hobo

    Thanks for the article, it was very interesting. I recently purchased an M-57 in 95% condition for under $200. Once I got all the cosmoline off/out of it, it turned out to be a fantastic shooter and is now being used as a carry gun. Why would you want a 1911 when you can get two of these plus a case of ammo for the same price?

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