Prepping is not a cheap thing to do, and with most of us on budgets, we can’t always afford the things we desire. This is especially true when it comes to firearms—guns and ammo get pricey pretty quick. You hear this a lot when it comes to the Mosin Nagant rifle. It’s a cheap rifle with cheap ammo, but is it the best choice? No it’s not, but if you need a gun and you don’t have the funds, the Mosin is a reliable, powerful rifle. What do we do about a sidearm, however?
The ability to conceal a weapon is important and that’s why a handgun is a must in a disaster scenario. However, we need to admit that carrying a weapon around after SHTF can make you a target for both police and criminals or cause undue panic by civilians. So if you’re on a budget, what kind of handgun can you buy? Well there is the always the option of a cheap .22 revolver like a Rohms, or even a .380 Jennings, but do you trust your life to cheap, under-powered guns? There is a difference between “cheap” and “affordable.” Plus the ammo can be hard to find and expensive, especially during a SHTF situation.
So how do we combine affordable, reliable, and powerful? The answer is similar to the Mosin Nagant—surplus, Eastern European weapons. They aren’t pretty, but they do work. Plus they are affordable; the ammo can be bought cheaply, in bulk, off the Internet or at most gun shops. The two weapons I’m talking about are the TT-33 and the CZ 52. Each of these handguns was built to be chambered in the 7.62 x 25mm, also known as the 7.62 Tokarev.
The cartridge was produced in Russia in the early 1930s for uses in a multitude of different weapons, including the sub-machine guns PPD-40, PPSH-41, and PP-19 Bizon, and of course the handguns TT-33 and the CZ 52. This round is lightweight and has an incredibly fast velocity. A hot load with an 85 grain FMJ round can reach speeds of over 1600 feet per second; an average load is around 1220 feet per second. This round is renowned for piercing soft body armor, military issue helmets, and offers excellent penetration against obstacles. The round is light and small, but transfers a lot of energy—360 foot pounds of it from a standard load. Not bad at all.
The rounds used to be dirt cheap, but with the recent ammo shortage of 2012-2013, the price has gone up to around 31 cents a round. I still have a 1260 round case I bought for one hundred twenty dollars in July of 2012. I expect the price to come back down once everything returns to normal, but that still adds up to about half the price I’m seeing 9mm ammo go for.
Be aware the majority of these cheap rounds are corrosive, which means some of the components can cause corrosion in your weapon. Any time after firing, make sure to thoroughly clean the weapon. The ammonia in window cleaners is excellent for cutting out the corrosive salt. Now let’s talk about the ugly girls at the Royal Ball:
TT – 33
She sure isn’t going to win any beauty contest, that’s for sure. This is the ugly sister the 1911. Fans of 1911 may see some slight resemblance and there is a reason for that. The pistol was, in some respects, based on the 1911. Most Russian satellite countries adopted the weapon and it has seen use in China as well. The different variants are all pretty much the same, except the Yugo version holds an additional round in the magazine.
As I mentioned, the weapon is not pretty, but she functions. The gun is very accurate and surprisingly flat shooting for a pistol. The sights are very simple, small, not too efficient, but they work. Spoiled American shooters like me will not be very impressed by them. The weapon’s grip isn’t particularly comfortable, but it’ll do. I mean, it is a grip right?
The weapon is single action and the trigger pull will vary from gun to gun. My model was a little bit spongy, but I have fired TT-33s that have truly wonderful triggers. The TT-33 was originally designed without a safety, the common practice being to carry the hammer down on an empty chamber. The good folks we all know and love at the BATF regulated safeties on all imported guns, but these safeties should not be relied on. I advise against locked, cocked, and safe as a method of carry.
These safeties can fall off, refuse to stay in the fire position, or refuse to go on safe. The best thing to do is to take the gun apart, remove the safety, and take it back to its original configuration. For naysayers who think that’s terribly unsafe, I counter with the most important safety is between your ears and behind your eyes.
The TT-33 ain’t pretty, but like the proud heritage of mass-produced, tough-as-nails Russian weapons, it’ll work when you need it to. It hits hard and fast, and is incredibly accurate. The gun does have a lot of negative aspects when reviewed through the eyes of an American shooter. View this weapon through the eyes of someone who can only afford it, and the story may change. If you already have a modern pistol, I’m not saying you need one, but if you don’t, it’s better than a sharp stick and harsh language.
Now we move on to the Czech CZ 52. This one is a little prettier than the TT-33, but kind of odd looking. It’s almost like a weapon from a futuristic pulp movie. The CZ 52 is a magazine fed, single action, semi-automatic pistol. The weapon uses an odd operating system. It utilizes two rollers that lock the barrel and slide together with a cam block. This weapon is pretty unique.
While it’s a lot better looking, it does have a few design flaws; this doesn’t make the weapon ineffective. The main design flaw is the ergonomics which places the barrel high above the grip and causes an increase in felt recoil. The weapon’s slide also locks back after the last round is fired, but lacks a slide release. So you have to pull the slide back and let it slingshot forward. Aftermarket slide releases are available, but it’s kind of like putting makeup on a donkey. Save the money, buy ammo.
The hammer on this weapon will be more familiar to western shooters. The safety is mounted just in front of the hammer and slides up and down. The safety is also a de-cocker. This safety is much better than the TT-33 tacked on safety, as this weapon was designed to have a safety.
The grip isn’t much more comfortable than the TT-33. It’s a slight bit friendlier, but also very wide, with some ugly grips. This weapon features great inherent accuracy but is hampered by a stiff, heavy trigger and minimalist sights. The magazine holds eight rounds but the problem with this gun’s magazine that I’ve experienced is the magazine release. It’s the typical European mag release place on the bottom of the grip. You push it back and the mag falls out. What’s the problem? Well the mag has a removable floor plate that slides off. If you’re not careful, the mag release can slide back into place as the magazine is coming out. The mag catch hits the sliding plate and pushes it off. This will send your mag spring flying into next week.
I’m critical of these weapons, but I far from hate them. I believe these offer people who don’t have the means for a better weapon a way to defend themselves. I wanted to give an accurate look at them. They aren’t great fighting pistols by any standard. They are very outdated, but you know what else they are? Around 200 bucks. These weapons are much more powerful and reliable than a Rohm, a Jennings, or a Raven.
These weapons are loud and breathe muzzle flash like a dragon. They’re fun to shoot, snappy little pistols. The ammo is cheap and available. These weapons also have one nifty little feature; they can be converted to 9mm with little more than a new barrel. These barrels sell for around 30-50 dollars online. So now you can fire two different rounds from Ivan’s old service pistol—a cheap one and a common one.
These weapons are also perfect if you want to have a few handguns around to pass to trusted friends and family who are a little less prepared than you. Or use them as bartering tools. I usually don’t agree with trading guns, but you gotta do what you gotta do, and guns will have a lot of trade value. Or have them for affordable backups, or honestly, the answer for a lot of us is just a new, fun to shoot, cheap little gun to plink with. Whatever your reason, I’d get one now. Like Mosin Nagants, the price is slowly rising and like .303s, the surplus will dry up eventually.