First Look: the Gletcher Nagant Air Gun
Oleg Volk 08.25.17
For a while, the model 1895 Nagant revolver was widely and cheaply available as surplus. Priced under $100, these guns ranged from nice to rough externally, but were almost always fairly accurate in single action. The key to the accuracy was in the “gas seal” action, in which the cylinder cammed forward upon cocking of the gun, centering the unusual cartridge with a recessed bullet into the forcing cone.
The same action also gave the gun a creaky double action trigger pull around 20 pounds. As a military or self-defense weapon, it was less than amazing, being very slow to load and unload one casing at a time through the Abadie gate in the back of the frame. While the guns were cheap and surplus ammunition was available, many overlooked these concerns, especially since Nagant is fun to shoot, with low recoil and mild report. Thin grips make them work even for small hands.
Unfortunately, most of the surplus ammunition was corrosive. Eventually, even it dried up. Reloading the cases was quite difficult. More recently, new production non-corrosive ammunition became more widely available, but not inexpensively. The prices of revolvers went up as well, and soon it was no longer a budget friendly oddity, but an increasingly expensive one.
Stop-gap measures, like 32ACP replacement cylinders, were not very successful: they gave up both accuracy and gas sealing for the use of only slightly less expensive ammunition. This state of affairs is a real pity, as Nagants are fun and some were even accurate enough to set olympic records. Produced between 1953 and 1962, TOZ-36 based on the Nagant was made as a dedicated target revolver.
While in the US, Nagants are merely becoming less affordable, they are completely illegal to own in several European countries. Not surprisingly, a company from the gunless Taiwan produced an CO2 version of the Nagant for recreational use. It’s available in silver and blued finish, the latter looking rather more authentic.
The Gletcher .177 caliber Nagant is no powerhouse precisely to make it legal in countries like UK and Russia. Muzzle velocity with a fresh powerlet is around 425fps. Designed mainly for the authentic experience, this revolver uses individual pellet holders that look like Nagant cartridges. They provide easy loading and obturation.
Loaded one at a time, they also extract one at a time. Unlike the real gun which has a manual ejector on a swinging yoke, the Gletcher revolver has none and needs none. Without gunpowder residue, extraction is reliably accomplished by gravity.
Each CO2 powerlet lasts around 70 shots, or seven full reloads. I used it as a gallery gun at a party, and went through 140 pellets before the four shooters had enough. While Gletcher Nagant doesn’t use a camming cylinder, the barrel itself is spring-loaded and seals up the cylinder gap just as effectively. Being a smaller caliber insert, the barrel stops slightly short of the shroud, making the muzzle look like the real 7.62mm bore.
Although a smoothbore BB gun version is available for about $10 less, there’s no point in buying that when the much superior rifled variant is available. Unfortunately, the front sight only looks like a dovetailed, driftable blade. In reality, it is an integral part of the barrel sleeve, with no way to adjust windage. When shot at 7 yards, the gun was accurate enough and pre-zeroed well enough to ring 1 inch wide by 1.5 inch tall spinner consistently. At 15 yards, we had to aim at the left edge to hit center, but were still able to ring the miniature steel with most of the shots. That’s a very respectable result! Fortunately, the gun came with a variety pack of pellets. Test firings revealed slightly different points of impact both vertically and horizontally, and one of the four pellet types matched the windage of the sights.
Two handed firing position is unnecessary for recoil control, but this self-defense instructor adopted it out of habit. Hearing protection wasn’t needed, but eye protection is still a must.
A more authentic single-hand dueling stance puts the marksmanship skills to the test. The gun is reliably accurate out to 25 yards–good enough to hit pop cans about half the time at that distance–but accuracy drops off past that distance. It’s still plenty good to hit an IDPA silhouette at 50, provided the shooter knows where to hold it to compensate for the pellet drop. Overall, a fun, accurate plinker suitable for back yard or indoor practice, and with a mostly authentic manual of arms!
My sample was a loaner from Pyramyd Air, and I am giving a very serious thought to buying it out for permanent use as party entertainment that even kids can use.