The Commander's Model Nagant Revolver

A Shortened Nagant
A 1929 Commander's Model Revolver

The Commander’s Model or Shortened Model Nagant Revolver

Table of Contents for the Shortened Nagant

The Commander’s Model or Shortened Model Nagant Revolver

The Commander’s Model (Командирский наган) or the Shortened Model Nagant Revolver (Укороченный револьвер) is a reduced size version of the Standard Service revolver. These revolvers primarily differ from the standard revolver by having a shorter barrel and a shortened grip. The barrel is shortened to 85 mm from the standard length of 115 mm. The grips have been shortened so that the overall height of the revolver is 115 mm as opposed the 130mm of the Standard Service revolver. Additionally, the frame, sideplate, hammer and trigger guard have been modified to reduce weight and make the revolver “smoother”. This model was undoubtedly developed to make a revolver that was lighter, more concealable and easier to carry.

A pair of 1925 Nagants
A Shortened model revolver shown with a standard model service revolver. Both revolvers were manufactured in 1925.

History

The Shortened or Commander’s model of the Nagant Revolver was designed before the First World War. Official documentation says 1912-14 but a 1911 dated revolver has been observed (№ 7372 1911 production). Through out the Imperial period a small, but unknown, number of these were manufactured for police use. It is unknown when initial production was terminated during the First World War, but it was probably in 1914.

A 1911 dated short revolver
Serial № 7372 1911 production

After the revolution production of the Shortened revolver was resumed in the early 1920s. In 1923 the Weapons factory at Tula began to receive orders to deliver Shortened revolvers to various non-military organizations (militia, customs enforcement, etc.).

Due to the reduced size of the parts on the Shortened revolver, it was possible to use some rejected parts from production of the Standard Service revolver and the director of TOZ received permission to use several types of defective parts from Standard Service revolver production in the production of the Shortened revolvers thereby gaining a 10-20% increase in economy of manufacture. In his memorandums/notes he noted that similar models had been produced for police usage earlier.1

On the 26 July 1923 the Main Command for arming forces of the republic decided to manufacture 5000 Shortened revolvers (“revolvers of lightened type” - “револьверов облегченного типа” as ordered in the decision) for members of the militia. The first 200 Shortened revolvers for the militia were manufactured in May of 1924. In that year a total of 1436 Short revolvers were produced. 1

In the middle of 1925 TOZ received a new order – to manufacture an additional 800 Shortened revolvers for the members of the militia of the RSFSR (РСФСР). The total number of Short revolvers produced in 1925 is documented as 4,571 pieces, but serial numbers would indicate more, serial № 5831 of 1925 production is known. This is assuming that the Shortened revolvers were given their own serial number series and so far, the serial numbers of observed examples have fallen into the estimated production numbers.

A 1925 dated short revolver
Serial № 3810 1925 production. 1925 dated revolvers still have the tall front sight seen on the pre Great War examples

In the 1926 the number of revolvers produced was reduced, and in 1927-1928 the volume produced of Shortened revolvers was 36.5 % of the total number of revolvers produced 1. Estimated Standard Service revolver production for 1927 is around 21,000 and 1928 only around 14000. This would mean around 12,500-13,000 Shortened revolvers produced over the two year period. Serial numbers would indicate almost 10,000 made in 1927 and to date the author has seen no 1928 dated examples.

A 1926 dated short revolver
Serial № 1403 from 1926 production. This revolver has a non standard front sight. If it was a normal production sight, it would be the shorter half moon. This may be a test version.

The Shortened revolver was produced at the Tula weapons factory not only to fulfill orders placed by the militia, but for other organizations. In July 1927 2,251 were produced for the postal service of the USSR (СССР) (Наркомпочтель). In that same year Shortened revolvers were received into a department of the Union of government political directors (ОПГУ) of the city of Tula, and 9 revolvers were manufactured for the “Society of Atheists” (“Союз безбожников”).1

A 1927 dated short revolver
Serial № 9901 1927 production. Note the final version of the short front sight.

In 1928 the first 5 year plan was instituted, in which it was agreed to produce 9,375 Shortened revolvers in the 1928-1929 period. In subsequent years it was planned to continue production at a rate of 6,000 Shortened revolvers per year.

A 1929 dated short revolver
Serial № 2779 from 1929 production is a typical late production example

Production continued in limited numbers through 1929. Range testing of the Shortened revolver began in the late 1929 with intent of determining if it was possible to replace the standard revolver in service with the Shortened revolver. The testing criteria were accuracy and consistency of fire (grouping) at various distances. On 11 October 1929 revolvers with barrel lengths of 90 and 95mm were tested. In testing they showed acceptable accuracy and consistency of fire.

On 11 January 1930 at NIOP (НИОП) another test of revolvers with reduced barrel lengths of 90 and 95 mm and an additional revolver with a barrel length of 100 mm (three revolvers of each model) was conducted. In the process of testing it was determined that the best consistency (grouping) was shown by the revolvers with the shortest barrel length. It was also determined that the revolver with the 90 mm barrel length, 22 mm shorter in height and 70 g lighter with a shortened and lightened grip performed the best. This revolver was significantly different from the standard model of the Shortened Nagant. It had the same reduced weight, shorter barrel length and grip, but it was made of parts more like those of the Standard Service revolver and thus there were fewer differences in its manufacture and stripping from a standard production revolver. As a result of this test, the conclusion was reached that shortening the barrel by 25 mm didn’t affect the accuracy of the revolver, and the shortened grip didn’t affect the comfort of the shooter during firing.

1930 test version short revolver
1930 test revolver with 90 mm barrel

To complete the testing 9 Shortened revolvers were ordered on 22 April 1930, along with twice the usual number of cartridges (normal testing was 1,000 cartridges) for each pistol. Testing was conducted in May 1930 at the test station of the Osoaviakhim. The test was conducted with revolvers having the usual barrel length (№.s 25230, 24270), revolvers with the barrel shortened to 90 mm (№s 5573, 5877, and 6536) and revolvers with the barrels shortened to 85 mm (№s 5589, 5699, and 6071). In addition to the testing of the Shortened revolvers, a new rear sight groove with a width of 3 mm was also tested. 1

The testing showed that at a distance of 25 meters the accuracy of the revolver was not dependent on the barrel length. However, at a distance of 50 meters there was a definite loss of accuracy observed when firing revolvers with Shortened barrels and correspondingly shortened sight radius. This forced a decision, and on 17 June 1930 the 6th section of NTK decided that the short barreled revolvers were not acceptable and in the future all production would be of the standard 115 mm barrel length revolver. In accordance with this decision in 1930 production of the Shortened revolver was terminated. The last serial number that has been observed is serial № 1441 1930 production.

The approximate number of Shortened revolvers produced in the 1924 – 1930 period was on the order of 25,000 pieces. It is unknown how many were produced in the Imperial period, but total production probably did not exceed 35,000 revolvers.

Mechanical Differences

Mechanically, the firing mechanisms of the two models are identical. However, the method of accommodating and attaching the grip plates is very different and the frame, side plate and grip plates are all different. The most noticeable feature is that the frame and sideplate are machined further up toward the hammer to allow the use of larger grip plates than could be accommodated with a simply shortened grip.

Side plate comparison
Comparison of the side plates from a Shortened revolver (top) and a Standard Service revolver (bottom)

Since the grip plates come further up the frame, the side plate attaching screw and loading gate spring and retaining screw have to be located underneath the right grip plate. This forces the location of the right side grip plate screw to be accessible and is accordingly placed in the center of the grip plate.

grip and grip plate frame milling
Left: The right grip plate removed to expose the side plate connector screw and the loading gate spring retaining screw.
Right: Perspective view of the frame milling on a Shortened revolver.
Connector screws Inside of grip
Left: The side plate attaching screw of the Shortened revolver (right) has a flat head and is shorter than the corresponding part of a Standard Service revolver.
Right: There are recesses in the inside of the grip plate for the head of the sideplate attachment screw and the loading gate spring and screw. The lower hole is from the mainspring locator pin.
View of a short revolver
Right view of the Shortened model revolver. The grip plate attachment screw is visible in the center of the grip plate. Serial № 2779 1929 production.
Side pale off
Shortened model revolver with side plate removed. Serial № 3810 1925 production
Shortened revolver Standard Service revolver
Detail of the inside frame area of a Shortened (left) and a Standard Service revolver. Note the relative sizes of the hump or knuckle of the frame behind the hammer – it is significantly smaller on the Shortened revolver.

The butt plate on the Standard Service revolver is an assembly attached to the grip portion of the revolver frame plate. This assembly consists of two pieces; an attachment block and the round butt plate. The frame plate that makes the grip of the revolver itself comes down and the attachment block is pinned and soldered(?) to the frame plate. The round butt plate has a tongue which fits into a groove in the bottom of the attachment block.

The Shortened revolver is assembled in a similar fashion. Since the butt assembly is not an integral part of the frame forging, the butt can be located at any height on the frame plate making the short revolver easy to manufacture from normal service revolver components.

Butt Assembly Butt Detail
Close examination shows this to be the way all observed Shortened revolvers were made, even the pre Great War example. The edges of the assembled pieces can be seen in the detail on the left. They may be silver soldered or welded together as well as pinned?

Since the grip insert on the Shortened revolver is not held in place by a screw from the inside, the grip insert on the Shortened revolver is held in place by two locator pins which mate into holes in the side plate. The locator pins are sometimes, but not always, visible from the inside of the grip insert.

1911 Grip insert 1925 Grip Insert
Detail of the grip inserts on Shortened model revolvers. Left the pre WWI grip insert. Right a 1925 dated example. Note the two alignment pins in the grip insert on the right – the 1925 example. These pins fit into corresponding holes in the side plate to hold the grip insert in place. The third hole in the middle of the plate is probably for fixturing during manufacture. The pre WWI example (left) has 2 visible holes, both probably for fixturing with the locator pins not coming clear through the grip insert..

Since the wood of the grip insert is very thin in the corner, after 1926 there is a cross grained piece of wood inserted in to the grip insert to keep it from breaking. The earliest observed example of this insert was found on a 1927 dated example.

1927 Grip insert
Detail of the butt of a 1927 dated Shortened revolver showing the reinforcing insert in the wood of the grip insert. This picture also nicely shows the alignment locator hole and the “extra” hole from the Standard Service revolver manufacturing process. The alignment locator hole in the sideplate is the small hole to the right in the picture. This hole accepts the locator pin which also locks the threaded lanyard ring holder. The larger hole to the left would have been the grip insert retainer screw hole on the Standard Service revolver. Since this hole is ALWAYS present on Shortened revolvers it would indicate that the sideplates (and frames) were originally Standard Service revolver parts.
Sideplate Comparison
Comparison detail of side plates of the Shortened and Standard Service revolvers The screw holes in the sideplates holding the left grip plates are in different locations - the grip plate retaining screw location is higher in the Shortened revolver, but the pilot holes for the grip plate and grip insert retaining screw of the Standard Service revolver are still present but unused in the Shortened revolver. Note also that the “hump” at the top of the grips is reduced in size in the Shortened revolver reducing overall size and weight.
Labeled sideplate
Detail of the inside of a side plate from a Shortened revolver with the grip insert removed. Note the grip insert alignment holes and the left over, unused grip insert screw hole. The small hole to the left at the bottom is the locator hole which matches up to the pin holding the lanyard ring screw and pins the butt plate assembly to the frame plate.

In addition to the differences already shown, close examination will show that the top strap and rear of the frame have been reduced in height to remove weight and make the profile of the revolver smoother. Since the top strap is cut down it lowers the location of the rear sight groove, so the front sight had to be made correspondingly shorter – about 1 mm shorter. In late 1925 or early 1926 the front sight was shortened ever further. The top of the hammer has been reshaped to make it smoother, and the trigger guard has been made a bit smaller as well to reduce weight.

Standard Service Hammer Short Revolver hammer
Note the difference in the contour of the rear of the frame where the hammer fits into the frame, the lowered top strap area and the shape of the top of the hammer, Commander’s or Shortened model on the right.
Shortened revolver hammer
Hammer from Serial № 9901 1927 production showing the rounded top typically seen on the short revolver.

Pre First World War and 1924 and 25 dated examples have a 7.0 mm tall front sight measured from the top of the sight blade to the sight base. These sights are shorter than the 8.0 mm tall Standard Service revolver sight, but shorter than the later short revolver front sights. After 1925 the front sight was further shortened to a height of 5.8 mm.

Barrel if the 1911
Serial № 7372 1911 production. The pre WWI version of the tall 7.0 mm sight. Barrel of the 1925
Serial № 3810 1925 production. This sight measures 7.0 mm as does the pre WWI example, 1.0 mm shorter than Standard Service revolver. Barrel of the 1926
Serial № 1403 1926 production. This experimental sight measures 6.5 mm. Barrel of the 1927
Serial № 9901 1927 production. This sight measures 5.8 mm. Barrel of the 1929
Serial № 2779 1929 production. Again 5.8 mm Standard Service revolver barrel
Serial № 1455 1928 production Standard Service Revolver. These measure 8.0 mm.

The Shortened revolver trigger guard is lighter in all respects, but is interchangeable with the standard trigger guard. The area where the guard blends into the rear of the trigger is noticeably thinner. The front lip on service revolver trigger guards can be several mm thick but the front edge of Shortened revolver guards are always of minimal thickness. The actual thickness of the strap to the trigger guard hinge and the trigger bow are both slightly thinner as well.

Triggr Guard Comparison
Difference in the trigger guards.
Short Revolver Trigger Guard Standard Revolver Trigger Guard
A short revolver on the left and a Standard Service revolver on the right. Note the contour difference at the rear of the trigger where the trigger guard blends into the shape of the trigger.
Front edge of a shortened trigger guard
Serial № 1403 1926 production. Front trigger guard lip on a short revolver. Note how thin the edge is where the front of the trigger guard meets the frame.

Continue to Part Two

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1 Руский Наган С.А. Колдунов St. Petersburg, 2004