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.
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.
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
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About the Author: Phillip Peterson is a federally-licensed firearms dealer with more than 20 years' experience in buying, selling and trading antique and collectible military weapons. He is also a popular columnist for Gun Digest the Magazine.
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