TOZ-81 “Mars” – Russian Space Revolver

As you may remember we’ve already talked about the Soviet “space guns” (firearms developed to issue to astronauts) in the past. Particularly we had a couple of posts on TFB about the TP-82. It was officially adopted and was issued to Soviet astronaut since early ’80s. In this article, we’ll take a look at another such firearm, which was not adopted, yet it is pretty interesting in terms of its mechanism and the history of firearms development.

So why they even needed a gun for astronauts? The main purpose of such а gun is the survival role. The need of such firearm became clear when in 1965 “Voskhod-2” spacecraft had to do an emergency landing. The two crew members of Voskhod-2 had to wait two days until they were found and evacuated. So when you land in the middle of nowhere, you need something to hunt with and defend yourself from predators. At that time astronauts were issued Makarov pistols, which didn’t fit the survival gun role very well. In 1979 Alexey Leonov (the same man who first was in the open space) officially pointed the need of such a gun.

Shortly after that, Tula Arms Plant (TOZ – Tulskiy Oruzheyniy Zavod) started the development of a revolver, which they called TOZ-81 “Mars”. The design idea of this revolver was offered by a famous Soviet gun writer and firearms historian Alexander Zhuk. You may have seen the “Illustrated Encyclopedia of Handguns” written by A.B. Zhuk, which almost entirely consists of firearm drawings with short descriptions. There is an English translation of this book. So the Tula factory formed a designing team, which would work on this gun. A. Zhuk and several firearms designers and engineers were the main members of that team. Zhuk drew the initial sketch of his idea of space revolver. Interestingly, the team first made a plastic mockup of the gun and submitted for final approval of the concept. Only after getting the design approved, they started to make the actual gun.

The early drawing of Zhuk’s revolver idea. It was not even called Mars yet. Instead, the designer initially called it “Topor” (means “ax” in Russian). The text on the image says that the revolver was to be used by pilots, astronauts, geologists and gamekeepers.

As you can see the Mars revolver has an unusual location of the cylinder – it is above the grip. This layout allows to have a better-balanced gun and efficiently use the overall length of the gun. In fact, the barrel length (10.25″ (260mm)) and chamber length (3″ (76mm)) combined almost equal the overall length of the gun (14″ (355mm)) leaving only 3/4″ of length for the breech portion. So it is something like a “semi-bullpup revolver” (feel free to criticize me for this expression). I just hope government organizations like ATF don’t adopt my nonsense firearm classification term.

Another drawing of Mars revolver by A. Zhuk.

Another distinctive feature of the revolver is the lower positioned barrel, much like in Chiappa Rhino revolvers.The lowered bore axis helps to fight the muzzle flip. The revolver was also a break action design and was chambered in two calibers – .410 bore and 5.45x39mm.

Mars revolver’s frame houses the trigger mechanism and the breech block (behind the cylinder). It has a very basic and simple double action only trigger. Mars has non-adjustable front and rear sights. The barrel and cylinder assembly has a wooden forearm and attaches to the frame by a pin, which becomes its pivot point. At the rear of the frame, right behind the breech, the gun has a stock mounting rail.

The stock consists of an aluminum alloy tube with the attachment slot. It has a wooden cheek piece and a polymer buttstock. There was also an emergency radio transmitter built into the stock, which once activated would send an SOS signal. The revolver had also a folding bayonet. It was folded and stored over the barrel and could be deployed to be used as a bayonet, knife or saw.

The barrel is made as a sleeve which is then inserted into the jacket. In order to break the action open, there was a lever right in front of the cylinder. The gun was equipped with two barrels. One barrel was rifled and another was a smoothbore one for 5.45x39mm and .410 bore respectively. The .410 shells were loaded with buckshot or single flechette projectiles (also possibly signal ones). The 5.45x39mm cartridges were loaded with special expanding bullets. Barrel change did not require any tools and could be easily done in field conditions.

The cylinder is a five shot one. Interestingly, chambers are numbered (1 to 5), which was done to see the amount of remaining ammunition in the cylinder. I assume this could only work if the loaded cylinder is dialed so that it would say the correct amount of ammunition.

The gun also had a sling and was kept in a box with the stock detached.

 

There was only one version of Mars revolver ever made (serial number N0001). The gun was tested, but the three barrel TP-82 was eventually chosen and adopted. It is not clear why it was exactly dropped from the trials. According to Alexander Zhuk, the problem was the .410 bore chambering, which was not too popular in the Soviet Union. That’s why they chose the TP-82, because it had smoothbore barrels chambered in 32 gauge, which was a far more popular cartridge. I don’t think it was the only reason, because who would care about the popularity of the caliber of such a rare gun, which would be made in very small quantities. I think it would be more attractive to have the gun in somewhat weird (for them) .410 bore, but with five shot capacity (plus probably lighter weight).

According to another theory, the simplicity and reliability were the main requirements. So, although revolvers are not complicated firearms, they are definitely not as simple and reliable as break action multi-barrel guns which TP-82 was. Anyway, the gun was rejected and the only made sample was sent to Tula State Arms Museum, where it is kept until today.

Sources:

www.topwar.ru

Tula State Arms Museum





Hrachya H

I was born and currently live in Armenia, where I work in a family business of leather goods manufacturing. Being a retired sergeant of my country’s armed forces and a lifelong firearms enthusiast, I always enjoy studying firearms design, technology and history. Also my knowledge of Russian allows me to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact me, feel free to shoot me a message at TFBHrachyaH@gmail.com


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  • Vhyrus

    Good lord I have a completely irrational desire for one of those in my safe.

    • Xanderbach

      Irrational? It’s a gun made for space! Seems completely rational to me! We won’t have another gun like this until settlers take AK74s to mars. (flat trajectory, low gravity… great combination.)

    • HenryV

      It is not irrational Jim……….

      I get a Thompson Center Contender feel…………….

    • William Elliott

      Indeed! Safe? Nah, Open carry 😉
      Send all the “butters” into fits AND be accused of colluding with the Russians [its the in thing now]

    • Zebra Dun

      My first thought!

  • Madcap_Magician

    That is an oddly attractive gun. But I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout lately…

  • mikewest007

    If it took more than one shot, you weren’t using a Jakobs!

  • Dickie

    Damn they need remake this

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Why didnt they just pack a couple of AK’s?

    • Hinermad

      Weight. When you’re going into space, every gram counts.

      I like the term “bullpup revolver.” I think it fits perfectly. And in this application it makes sense – longer barrel, easier to shoot accurately. (Especially with the low bore axis.)

    • micmac80

      If we are talking moon landing its at a tune of cca 2mio $$ per kilogram.on high 200km orbit depending o launch vehicle you are still looking at 20+K $/kg. So a weapon that is used on every manned flight costing plenty $$$ for each kilogram

      • CS

        Which explains why they chose 5.45 over 7.62×39

        • autofull– kevin horning

          i need one of these. aliens and bears oh my.

  • Major Tom

    All that’s missing is a screwdriver set, a can opener, and a spark stick and it would be a real Swiss Army gun.

    • int19h

      The article is actually missing some of the features. In particular, the butt of the stock was also supposed to house an emergency beacon, with the rest of the stock then functioning as a telescoping antenna.

      • Cymond

        “There was also an emergency radio transmitter built into the stock, which once activated would send an SOS signal.”

        • Zebra Dun

          Da, but where was Vodka carried?

    • Zebra Dun

      Don’t forget the genuine Police whistle!

    • Curmudgeon

      Gotta have a spark plug socket, too, so the Cosmonaut can rescue the snowmobile with the fouled plugs…

  • 10mmBestmm

    How hard would this design be to transfer to more typical revolver calibers? I would love a 6 inch barrel version of this in .357/.38 special.

    • demophilus

      Might make for a nice .22 mag or .30 carbine, or anything else that needs a little more barrel to shine. Might even make the 9mm a better varmint load, especially with a scope on that rail.

      Don’t know about a .357. Be hard to make a better gun than the best Rugers and Smiths.

  • SP mclaughlin

    Still would like to see a space Gyrojet that would let you shoot in zero-gravity without the recoil sending you backwards.

  • WFDT

    That’s pretty badass.

  • Squirrel

    For me, Russian space gun tech peaked at the one that used a machete for a buttstock. Just in case you wanted to amputate your arm at the shoulder.

    • roguetechie

      It does save you from having to sack up like the poor boy scout who spent a couple days cutting off his own arm with a crappy pocket knife…

      One trigger pull and BANG you’re done!!

  • Giolli Joker

    I love it.

  • Vince

    I think I am in love!

  • Would.

  • demophilus

    Can anyone figure out how they handled the cylinder gap? Seems having a kaboom that close to your hand would suck.

    • iksnilol

      Doesn’t look like it has a cylinder gap. That’s probably why they went with the break action.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Yep, there’s no pulling the trigger to turn the cylinder. You have to break the action and manually set the chamber you want to use each time.

        • iksnilol

          Seriously? They mentioned a double action trigger, I assumed it rotated the cylinder.

          Well, that’s a shame. You can easily avoid having a cylinder gap whilst not resorting to a special cartridge (a la Nagant) or having it be a single shot break action with a 4 round reserve (which this apparently is if I can trust you).

          • ostiariusalpha

            Oh, that cool telescoped hammer is definitely DA, but there’s no pawl and ratchet on the Mars.

          • iksnilol

            Comrade ostiariusalpha, please, stop crushing dream of this proletar.

        • some other joe

          Are you sure? It looks like there are cutouts for the ratchet at the front of the cylinder in the closeup pick of cylinder 5.

          • ostiariusalpha

            You mean the indexing notches? They just lock the cylinder in place and assure that the barrel is aligned with the chamber.

          • Zebra Dun

            Is to make nice Macho sounding click, click Click.

  • iksnilol

    Okay, I want one. Preferably in 7.62×39 but 5.45 is livable as well.

  • Tassiebush

    It’d be really interesting to know how accurate this was. Really love these ideas of compact lightweight survival arms. Seems like a lighter gun could be made with a compact bolt action with a skeletonised stock and a side mounted shotgun barrel that opens like an h&k320.

    • iksnilol

      But then we wouldn’t have a cool rifle caliber revolver.

      Du-doi 😛

      • Tassiebush

        Haha well I must admit it is very cool.

        • iksnilol

          It’d be a “magnum” revolver I’d actually consider for once. In 7.62×39 I mean, of course.

    • demophilus

      The old M4 and AR-5/MA-1 .22 Hornet bolt guns were very compact. Wouldn’t be too hard to put a slam fire or straight pull bolt action underneath.

  • jerry young

    I’m a big fan of space travel and Si-Fi but I’ve always found the need to bring a firearm into space a little disturbing, why do we think every alien is out to kill us? or we will need to restrain one of our rocket crew cause he went mad? or maybe for that hunting expedition on Uranus? on the other hand the gun is cool and I would like one

    • Giolli Joker

      It was given to Russian astronauts that had good chance to land somewhere in Siberia, having to wait several hours or days with the company of wildlife before being found by their government.
      It is not for space, it is for the aftermath.

      • jerry young

        It was sarcasm who cars where they land, all I know it’s a firearm and I’d like one

    • Getoffmylawn

      The reason we believe every alien would be out to kill us is, Cowboys and Indians or Spaniards and Mayans.
      Only, this time, we’re the Indians.
      Oh, I’m pretty sure no one wants to go hunting in Uranus. 😀

      • jerry young

        What part of my last reply “it was sarcasm” didn’t you get or didn’t you read it, how old are you that you think you have all the answers that you think us old retired people don’t know?

        • Getoffmylawn

          Actually Jerry, I didn’t see your reply stating it was sarcasm when I wrote my reply. I never said I had all the answers, I simply made a statement with a bit of humor in it. Or didn’t you actually read it? As for my age, I’m 49, so I have learned a thing or three. Don’t go getting your bloomers in a bunch over nothing. Have a glorious day brother serviceman. 😀

      • Zebra Dun

        SIBERIAN POLAR BEARS EAT COSMONAUTS The headlines never would read LOL Ya had to type in Uranus, ya just had to go there.

  • Blake

    Everything about this is completely awesome. 5.45×39 in a 10″bbl is PDW territory.

  • Stephen Paraski

    How long until we see a copy?. But really, it is a cool concept and would sell in today’s market, minus the radio transmitter.

  • John Micheal Stacey

    Might come in handy if Space Pirates try to take over the ISS.

    • anonymous

      > if Space Pirates try to take over the ISS

      Or Space Terrorists, such as the Islamic State In Space.

      • Getoffmylawn

        ISIS on the ISS? That calls for the SAS, so better send an SOS ASAP! 😀

        • anonymous

          > That calls for the SAS

          Don’t you mean the SSS — Special Space Service?

          • Getoffmylawn

            I stand (float?) corrected. LOL

  • nate

    wasn’t there a space battle in a james bond film once? maybe the soviets saw that movie and thought, holy crap the west is planning on invading us in space, we need guns in space!

    • ostiariusalpha

      “Moonraker” was the film; the depiction of artificial gravity was typical ridiculous Hollywood. They used lasers for the final battle.

  • anonymous

    > So why they even needed a gun for astronauts?

    In case the cosmonauts land on that Planet of the Apes.

  • UCSPanther

    This looks like it would make a great backpackers’ survival firearm.

  • oldman

    Where can we get one? I say we because my guess is there are quite a number of people out there that want one.

  • David B

    The bayonet is what got me. Before that it had a pretty cool and interesting vibe to it, but a rifle caliber revolver with a folding bayonet over the barrel? That’s the best thing I’ve seen in a long time.

  • greasyjohn

    Ruger could make something like this with their rotary magazines. And they should.

  • Old Vet

    I want one, anyone for a road trip to the Tula Museum?? Any good burglars out there??

  • Backdocbh

    This was not to be used in outer space where the recoil would spin the astronaut around and send him into orbit around the sun. It was to be used on the ground in a survival situation. The only gun for outer space was the recoiless Gyro jet rocket gun.

  • Zebra Dun

    DANG! A Bullpup revolver, shotgun and assault rifle caliber with a folding stock and bayonet, that would drive the anti gun weenies insane LOL

  • Curmudgeon

    Um, no one has mentioned the problems of firing bottleneck cartridges in revolvers? I have fallen asleep at night mentally working out details of how to reduce the case stuck against the recoil plate problem. No one remembers the S&W Model 53 in .22 Remington Jet? Young punks not talking enough with us old fogies….muttermuttermuttermuttermuttermuttermuttermuttermuttermutter…

  • aldol11

    where can i buy one of the russian space revolvers?

  • ThatOneChap

    To be honest, I like the concept of a bullpup revolver a lot; I think it could be quite good as a British LBR as you could fit the 12 inch barrel in there and save about four inches of barrel length from the front. The extension rod would have to be longer, but for target purposes, that’s not really an issue.

  • Amplified Heat

    Needs a long-recoil action like the Mateba and a DA/SA trigger. Also needs a grip safety and thumb-release latch (lack of safety hurt the Mateba’s utility). Have it advance chamber the return stroke, and those striations on the cylinder can be used to draw back the action. Some kind of recoil-dampener device or even integral silencer volume above the barrel in lieu of a bayonet. This thing manages to make even 5.45×39 look concealable.