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Case Histories: 7.62x25mm Tokarev

Case Histories: 7.62x25mm Tokarev

Whilst the Americans claim this prolific inventor as their own, German born Hugo Borchardt was based in Berlin when he developed the grandparent cartridge we are looking at here. His was the 7.65x25 Borchardt, developed for use in his Model C-93 semi-auto pistol.

Dimensionally identical but with more grunt the 7.63x25mm Mauser morphed out of this 1893 design. The third and final iteration is our topic for the month, the 7.62x25mm Tokarev. This multi-role, rimless, bottleneck pistol round was introduced to the Soviet military in 1930. Indeed, it was really nothing more than a stoked up version of the much older (1896) DWM Mauser design. The Russian connection went back to around the turn of the century as the Mauser cartridge had been widely used with imported models of their legendary C96 semi-auto pistol as the side-arm of choice for officers in the Imperial Russian Army. By the 1910’s the Russians were producing their own ammo under licence.


With technical advances in propellants, ballistics and firearms engineering it was inevitable that these Mauser products would be replaced. Furthermore, the post revolutionary USSR was on a dedicated course of self-sufficiency. The need to provide ammunition for new semi-automatic and sub-machine guns led to a proposal in 1929 to develop the Mauser cartridge. It resulted in the Model 1930 7.62mm Pistol Cartridge, aka 7.62x25 Tokarev. Its military nature was immediately evident with the first version based upon a Berdan primed, lacquered steel case fitted with an 87-grain FMJ bullet that achieved around 1400 fps.

The first pistol developed for this ‘new’ cartridge was the TT-30. However, as its nomenclature implies, it was soon replaced by the remarkable TT-33. I bought my first one in the early 1980’s and while visually comparable to the Browning Hi-Power, it owed more to the functionality of his other masterpiece, the Colt 1911.


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Typically producing 20% more grunt than its parent, the Tokarev is physically interchangeable with the Mauser; indeed, during WWII the German forces used captured TT-33’s with their own ammo.

However, the reverse process - using Russian ammo in the C96 – proved a potential recipe for destructive disaster. From the original cartridge, a raft of military and commercial designs evolved. Subsonic, incendiary, armour piercing and tracer variants now exist. Some are not as they appear, with copper-washed steel projectiles easily confused with traditional lead cored round nosed FMJ’s. Most now employ Boxer primers and use a range of bullets from 85 to 115-grains. Shootable ammo currently includes Privi Partizan, Sellier & Bellot, Winchester, ‘Red Army’ surplus, Wolf, Fiocchi and Romanian ‘spam can’ surplus.


If once fired brass from any of the listed ammo makers does not float your boat, then un-primed Starline brass is currently listed.

Mixing and matching brass is never a good idea but with Tokarev cases the capacity from one maker to another varies to a point of potential danger. For data and tools, Lee are the best bet, although RCBS also list a die set. Fast powders are the order of the day, Hi-Skor 700X was my favourite but Bullseye is also ideally suited. RN FMJ pills are best but hard cast lead will get the job done. So, what to shoot? Both the TT-30 and TT-33 pistols are of significance but holding and using them under Section 7(3) for Historical Importance or Technical Interest may be the only way forward. Do not despair, you can shoot the Tokarev in your bolt action rifle – well, some of them. For less than $25 each, chamber inserts are available for use in most rifles chambered for 7.62x54R and .303 British. As the inserts are a pressure bearing calibre change they will need a variation or grant.


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  • Case Histories: 7.62x25mm Tokarev - image {image:count}

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