Larry Vickers Takes a Look At The 5.45×18 PSM

Russian-small-arms enthusiasts will be pretty excited to watch the below video; trigger time on the PSM deep-concealment handgun, a pistol virtually unknown in the US as it is too small to comply with ATF import regulations (a similar obstacle prevents the importation of true Walther PPKs). Larry Vickers walks us through shooting the gun, which is chambered for a unique 5.45×18 caliber, capable of penetrating light body armor, while being in the same class as the .32 ACP:


The 5.45x18mm cartridge actually pre-dates the introduction of the larger 5.45x39mm rifle caliber that shares its name. However, the bore diameter of the 5.45x18mm caliber is slightly larger than that of the 5.45x39mm, and so far as I know the two calibers are not related to each other in any meaningful way.

The PSM handgun was designed as a concealed weapon for VIPs, dignitaries, and plainclothes agents, who might need to kill an attacker wearing body armor. While not as small in dimensions to some more modern guns in larger calibers, it is very thin, at about three-quarters of an inch. The small-diameter 5.45x18mm cartridge is key to both of these requirements, as it’s projectile has low frontal area, enhancing penetration.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • G0rdon_Fr33man

    Why does he sound so dramatic? He sound like a US Marines recruitment ad.

    • That’s just Larry.

      • sianmink

        L.A.V. get it right. XD

  • Giolli Joker

    I liked the honest reaction after discovering that the slide locks after the last round.

    • Komrad

      I almost wonder if the Russkies took a few cues from the Poles and their P64. P64 has a similar slide lock which is activated by the follower, but with no external slide stop to be manipulated.

      • dan citizen

        I loved my p64, though I added an external slide lock.

      • J-

        The Germans were a big fan of this too, the Walther PP and PPK use the lock back on an empty mag but have slide release lever.

        • Allen Herd

          Walther PP/PPK series pistols don’t have a slide release lever. If the slide is locked to the rear, one inserts a fresh magazine, and pulls the slide to the rear and then release it.

  • USMC03Vet

    Is that even legal? Russians just trafficking arms into the country? You can’t even fart softly less the ATF get wind thinking you have a suppressor and nail you with the NFA.

    • Tom

      I believe some were gifted by the Russian’s to US officials. Not sure what the ATFs stance is on that though.

      • Ken

        Yes, there was one on Gunbroker a few years ago being sold by the US Navy submariner who got it as a gift from the Russians on a goodwill visit.

    • Tiru Maru

      Who says the government needs to know??

  • ClintTorres

    I wonder how this cartridge compares to the .22TCM.

    • The 5.45x18mm isn’t even close to the .22 TCM. The 5.45x18mm has roughly .22 LR ballistics; its AP performance is merely the byproduct of projectile design. It wouldn’t shock me to find out that it was inspired by the stillborn .22 JGR. The latter was based upon chopped down .22 Hornet cases, and was intended for converting .22 LR firearms. It seems that the original performance claims based upon loads developed in converted Hornet brass didn’t quite carry over to the virgin production cases from Dominion.

      In the July/August 1977 issue of American Handgunner, Andy Barton published an article about a .22/32 ACP wildcat, named the .22 Flea.
      Designed by Dave Corbin (the bullet swaging tool guru), the .22 Flea
      was tested in a customized FN 1922 semi-auto pistol and a T/C Contender.
      Barton mainly used 37gr JHP provided by Corbin, but he also stated
      that 40gr .22 Hornet projectiles would also work. The loading/chrono
      data shows that the wildcat could exceed 1400fps, but the text doesn’t
      indicate from which test gun that was clocked. At the time of the
      story, Corbin could provide the dies, reamers, and bullets, but it
      appears that some of it may have originally come from RCBS.

    • iksnilol

      The .22 TCM sends a bullet of the same weight (3 grams) at double the velocity. 5.45×18 is a bit outclassed there. Then again .22 TCM has a much longer case (26mm vs 18mm).

      IIRC the 5.45×18 is made small, so that you can have a small gun (IIRC the PSM is about the size of a cigarette case). Having a powerful cartridge isn’t too good in regards to making the gun small.

  • petru sova

    Nice to see a review on a pistol that does not have a nauseating junk plastic frame. I wonder if the author is right about the pistol being to thin to be imported as even if it was not its my understanding that Russia has been banned from importing pistols into the U.S. that’s why even the very large new “Strike One Pistol” had to have its manufacture transferred to Italy to get it into the U.S.

    • G0rdon_Fr33man

      As a competition shooter, polymer is the devils work.

      • raz-0

        Which type of sompetition?

        Plenty of glocks, in compeititon. Also the 2011 does pretty well in a lot of competition and has a polymer grip.

        • G0rdon_Fr33man

          I like IPSC standard division. Weight negates recoil = faster double taps. I do local competitions (feltskyting) and weight is always a plus. Only polymer gun i own is a Mark23, and it´s frankly just a toy.

          • Bill

            This particular gun is purpose-built to fight with, as was the 1911, GLOCK 17 and H&K Mk23. None were designed to play games with.

          • G0rdon_Fr33man

            I know. What is your point?

    • DonDrapersAcidTrip

      “nauseating junk plastic frame”

      what are you 80 years old

      • dan citizen

        When I was young we had lightweight aluminum frames, and they were made of steel, which was actually cast iron.

      • petru sova

        Guys like you would not recognize a quality pistol if it walked up and shot you in the foot.

    • Ken

      Both reasons. Handguns may not be imported unless they meet a minimum number of “sporting use” points on a list of criteria. In addition, the only firearms that may be imported from Russia are the ones on another list.

    • Giolli Joker

      Strike One is designed by an Italian gun designer and manufactured in Italy from the very beginning, part of the money behind the company is Russian.

      • iksnilol

        One of the designers is Russian IIRC.

        Dimitry Streshinskiy, Nicola Bandini are listed as the main designers. I don’t know any Italians called Dimitry.

        • Giolli Joker

          I guess he is more of a sponsor… although he might have played a big role in bringing Russian requirements into the design.

          • iksnilol

            I don’t know to be honest. I am a bit old fashioned so I don’t follow too much. Though the Strike One has caught my interest.

            Though I don’t have as many sources as you have.

        • Aleksey Dyukov

          I’m sorry, but you remember incorrectly. Dmitry Streshinskiy is an Ukrainian arms dealer, and as Giolli Joker correctly mentioned, he only provided money for the development. The pistol itself was designed by an Italian toy company and the only reason why it was pushed so hard into adoption by the Russian law enforcement units was the lobbying attempts of D. Rogozin, that populist buffoon, who probably wanted it to replace “unpatriotic” Glocks. Me personally – I’m happy with the fact that, apparently, those attempts were futile.

          • iksnilol

            What’s wrong with replacing Glocks with the Strike One? I mean, both are expensive but at least you get your moneys worth with the Strike One.

            Though I am not surprised I remembered wrongly, like I said, I don’t have good sources (at least for the legal stuff).

          • Aleksey Dyukov

            “What’s wrong with replacing Glocks with the Strike One?”

            According to the talk on some Russian forums, Glocks are far more reliable.

  • petru sova

    If some entrepreneur was really on the ball there might be a way of importing parts and building the pistols on an American made steel frame. Naa the greed mongers would make the frame out of junk plastic.

    • pat

      These are produced by a sanctioned plant/company. Imports are a no go.

      • Tom

        Its essentially a small Walther PPK nothing special other than the ammo so there is no patent or tech barrier stopping anyone making them.

        • pat

          The ammo is also unobtanium in the US so that would stop any sensible investor.
          You could change the caliber but than you would lose the small collectors market for guns like these.
          CCW guns have come a long way since this was designed.

          • Tom

            Thats the thing, the pistol serves no practical purpose. Sure it would do well on the collectors market, but only really if it were an original USSR made one.

            I am sure if someone really wanted to they could make them and the ammo but as you say small pistols have come along way and the niche the PSM would serve is so small to make this (IMHO) commercially unviable.

          • ATH

            The big choice you have to make with a small personal protection pistol is will your attacker be in a vest. I can’t think or a small case the is both good against a vest and bare flesh.

          • Tom

            My 2 cents. Its unlikely you will come across a hoodlum with a vest out to mug you and in an active shooter scenario (where you are not immediately threatened) you would do better to get out you and your family out of dodge or bunker down. So I do not see much point in going with something like the 5.45mm.

            Also I would think that any criminal that wears a vest does so because he really does not want to die, and pointing a 9mm or .45 at him will most likely make him reconsider whether you are suitable prey. Criminals do not tend to prey on those who can defend themselves.

          • Barry

            Yup, 99.9% of the time the person wearing the vest will have police/sheriff or some other agency patch. You better have a darn good reason to use this pistol. However, It’s pretty cool to have if you are a spy, but besides that I can’t see any reason this pistol should exist. Furthermore, It only penetrates soft armor, so it has no military application either. As a concealed carry pistol, it just can’t compete with the current offerings.

  • dan citizen

    Awesome article. A really uncommon gun on this side of the pond.

    I imagine a few minor mods and it would be importable, doubt it’s going to happen.

  • tony

    This thing was designed for defeating body armor. How about some penetration test?

  • Zebra Dun

    I inherited an old Galesi-Brescia in .25 acp from my aunt, who was quite small, I’ll never forget watching her shoot at turtles in the lake that were stealing her bait.
    I couldn’t believe how small that pistol really was.

  • Lance

    You can tell the gun itself was heavily influenced by the Makarov PM pistol though.

  • J-

    I could see something like this taking off in the US. There is are similar cartridges: the .32 NAA which is a 7.65 bullet in a necked down .380 and the .25 NAA which is a .25 bullet in a necked down .32 acp. Both of those will break 1100-1200 fps out of a NAA short barrel pistol. Based on the .380 acp, using a .224 cal bullet, if you could get 1250-1300 fps, I think you would be onto something. Especially using bullets designed to expand at lower velocity like those for the .22 Hornet or 22 WMR.

    • iksnilol

      But would that be usable in a compact blowback pistol?

      • J-

        The PSM is a compact blow back pistol, roughly PPK/S or SIG P230 size. If you based if off the PPK, which is a great gun, it should work nicely. Mine functions flawlessly with Buffalo Bore .380 +P so it should be able to handle a necked down .380 just fine. You could easily lighten the gun by using either an aluminum frame or a polymer frame with a steel chassis to support the barrel and slide.

        If Corbon can get a 60 grain .32 cal bullet moving 1250 fps from a necked down .380. I bet they can get a 45 grain bullet moving a solid 1350-1400 fps.

        • iksnilol

          I mean in regards to pressure, you can make a blowback .44 magnum but it would be unwieldy. Wouldn’t something like a .380 necked down to .25 have much higher pressure?

          Doesn’t mean I don’t like the idea though.

          • J-

            Easily. Remember that the NF Five-seveN pistol is a blowback. There is nothing locking it up and it is driving a 40 grain bullet 2,000 fps from a pistol. The .32 NAA is necked and it is blowback out of a much smaller pistol. I don’t think the pressure spike for a .380 necked to .22 is as high as you think it is to the point where it can’t be blowback.

          • iksnilol

            Not saying it isn’t possible, just that it could lead to extra weight. Then again, I am not a pistol guy.

  • uisconfruzed

    Nice collector item