The Russian 5.45 PSM – Diminutive (Soft Armor) Penetrating General Officer’s Sidearm

Where most firearms enthusiasts are familiar with the ubiquitous Makarov series of handguns, few are familiar with its smaller, thinner (and arguably better looking) cousin – the PSM. While its reputation is as an assassin’s firearm, Ian over at Forgotten Weapons has the truth – which as he puts it, “The truth is rather more mundane.”

The PSM was designed as a General Officer’s weapon for when the Makarov was a bit too big. As such, the PSM was designed to be as small and unobtrusive as possible. By using the co-developed 5.45x18mm cartridge, the pistol is extremely thin, much more so than the Makarov or many modern self-defense firearms such as the Glock 43.

The 5.45×18 cartridge is ballistically similar to the .22 LR, just as bottlenecked centerfire .22. It derived its reputation from a spitzer style FMJ loading that had a steel core – more for getting the needed bullet shape than armor penetration. The 38.6-grain load travels at around 1,000 FPS, or right in the middle of the .22 power curve.

Still, Ian and is able to put the small weapon to the test against soft armor to confirm or deny the reputation. Turns out the weapon does indeed penetrate soft armor at short distances.

Based on the wood, there is not much energy left in the round after penetration, but I still would not want to get shot by it!



Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • valorius

    Would KILL for a modern double stack service pistol in 7.62 Tokarev.

    • BattleshipGrey

      Would you kill with your old single stack 7.62 Tok?

      • valorius

        Since i don’t have any Mk7 16″/50 rifles i guess i’d have to. 😉

    • PK

      Same here, to the point I’ve spent far too much time looking at Pakistani handguns. They have quite a few options for double stack 7.62x25mm.

    • Edeco

      That’d be neat… CZ52 but striker fired so one could choke up naturally and double-stack.

    • Mister Blaster b

      There’s a Chinese Sig 226 clone chambered in 7.62 Tokarev called the P762. If you really want one, you’ll have to do something far worse than killing; become a Canadian.

      • Mike

        I want one

    • Brett baker

      Would they be as pricey as an FN 5.7?

      • valorius

        Norinco made (or makes?) a Sig 226 clone in 7.62mm tok, but it’s not imported to the US.

    • Sermon 7.62
      • valorius

        That pistol is unobtanium in the United States.

        • Sermon 7.62

          Yes. In Europe too. But it must be good.

      • Mike

        Long barrel, short grip, 7.62×25. I WANT

        • Sermon 7.62

          Four calibers, 9mm Luger, .45 ACP, 7.62×25mm and .40 S&W. You can change the slide, barrel, and magazine, and it can fire all the four calibers.

          And it looks so nice 🙂

    • Mike

      Me too.
      Come on Ruger, S&W, Glock, Springfield, or Kel Tec

  • Blake

    Theyd’ve been better off with hot 22LR, & eliminate the need for developing a custom caliber…

    • BillyOblivion

      .22 LR is rimfire. Rimfire is perceived as being unreliable.

      Self-defense pistols need to be non-un-reliable.

  • BrandonAKsALot

    I wonder if that is Vickers’? I thought he had the one and only here. I don’t care if it is ballistically similar to .22lr, I would love to have a gun in 5.45×18.

    • Al Wise

      There are many in the US. I knoww one collector with 4.

  • RazorHawk

    I love this cartridge. Its like a centerfire .22 LR. But i guess 9mm has taken that role now.

    • int19h

      If you want a centerfire .22, there’s .22 TCM. It’s not like a centerfire .22 LR though – it’s much faster…

    • Art out West

      I assume this is basically a 9×18 necked down to .22 cal. With that in mind, I don’t understand why the velocity isn’t a lot higher. 1000 fps is basically what 9×18 will do with a 10 grain round. With a 40ish grain round, it seems like the velocity should be around 1500 fps. That would be slick.

      • AlDeLarge

        It’s closer to a necked down 25 ACP case, just 2.43 mm longer and 0.54 mm wider.

  • .45

    For when the Makarov was a bit too big? What? Their officers carried concealed and wore t-shirts and those dive shorts three sizes smaller than James Reeves would?

    I mean, I’m sorry, I just can’t see how an officer carrying in a typical military style holster would find a Makarov a bit too big, so that’s my only conclusion…

    (I didn’t use up data on my phone watching the videos, so if Ian explains it, then fine, whatever…)

    • int19h

      This is for the generals and the like.

  • Guest

    It looks like Ian hit the soft armor body side first. If I recall correctly the weaving of the fabric differs strike side versus body side.