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!