Converting a 1911 to 7.62x25 Tokarev
August 27, 2015
The 7.62x25 Tokarev is a potent pistol cartridge. It originated in Russia in 1930 as an "improved" version of the 7.63x25 Mauser. It was chambered in pistols and submachine guns and, no doubt, contributed to the demise of many German soldiers in WWII.
The most well-known firearms that chamber the 7.62x25 Tokarev are the Soviet Tokarev TT-33 and Czech CZ-52 service pistols, as well as various submachine guns, the most iconic being the drum-fed PPSh-41. Surplus pistols have been available in the U.S. for years and have enjoyed some popularity because of their relatively low price and historical value.
The 7.62x25 Tokarev propels an 85 grain bullet to 1645 fps which provides a hard-hitting 511 ft-lbs of muzzle energy (Winchester's advertised velocity from a 4.75-inch barrel). That's more raw power than the .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm or .38 Super produce. This round is no slouch.
The 7.62x25 Tokarev is a bottlenecked cartridge, and like most pistol cartridges of this design, it produces high velocity for its caliber. The Tokarev delivers this performance via high pressure. The CIP maximum average pressure limit for this cartridge is 2,500 bar, which translates into 36,259 psi. (CIP is the European version of the U.S.'s SAAMI organization that sets industry standards for ammunition.) The Tokarev's pressure limit is higher than the 9mm Luger's SAAMI pressure limit of 35,000 psi, and nearly as high as the .38 Super's SAAMI pressure limit of 36,500 psi.
J&G Sales and Numrich offer 7.62x25 Tokarev conversion barrels for 9mm and .38 Super 1911-type pistols. A conversion barrel seemed ideal, since I had a .38 Super 1911 that I could use for this new caliber.
I purchased a J&G Sales 7.62x25 Tokarev conversion six-inch stainless steel barrel with a Wilson/Nowlin integral feed ramp. The J&G Sales kit is complete and includes a bushing, link and link pin. Numrich sells a five-inch stainless steel version with the conventional non-ramped design.
The J&G Sales barrel is advertised as a drop-in fit. The bushing dropped into my slide with ease, and fit the barrel very precisely. The barrel hood fit my Caspian slide only when forced into place, so I removed a thousandth of an inch or so from the sides of the hood in order to fit comfortably. I did not need to remove any metal from the length of the hood.
The slide did not want to go fully into battery without a little push. This meant the upper lugs were not cut deep enough to drop-in to my particular gun. The usual fix is to remove a little metal from the upper lug cuts. Another way around this is to use a smaller diameter slide stop. Mine measured 0.199 inches in diameter. I had several spares, so I reduced the diameter of one until it measured 0.197 inches. That was all it took.
These are really minor issues and the barrel might drop right into many other guns. The benefit of these minor adjustments meant that the barrel had a tight fit where it needed to be in order to maximize its accuracy.
I left the barrel at its six-inch length to see what sort of velocity it produced. The full-profile thickness of the barrel extended 2.25 inches from the muzzle which would allow it to be cut down all the way to Commander length (4.25 inches) to fit the same bushing inside diameter. That leaves the buyer with many options, including having it ported or threaded for a muzzle device of your choice.
I rounded up a variety of 7.62x25 Tokarev ammo from Fiocchi, Sellier and Bellot, Red Army Standard, PPU (Prvi Partizan), Winchester and Wolf. Winchester is the only major U.S.-based manufacturer that offers ammunition for this caliber, though on the box it says it is made in the Czech Republic, and it looks exactly like the Sellier and Bellot which is from the same place, only with a different headstamp. The Wolf and PPU JHP ammunition was the same ammunition from what I could tell. That is, the Wolf ammunition had the PPU logo on the box, was made in Serbia (like PPU), used the same HP bullet and was loaded in PPU brass = same ammo, different box. Bullet selection is limited; most all rounds of FMJ and JHP weigh in at 85/86 grains.
I limited my selection to non-corrosive ammunition. Surplus corrosive ammo is available for people who want to save a few dollars and who will be diligent about cleaning the gun immediately after shooting.
The 7.62x25 Tokarev is longer than the usual semi-automatic rounds for American handguns. The maximum length of the 7.62x25 Tokarev is 1.386 inches (35.20mm). That's 0.106 inches longer than the .38 Super's 1.280 inches. This additional length poses a problem because a 1911 frame and magazine are not designed for a cartridge as long as the Tokarev and this limits how many rounds will fit in a .38 Super magazine. One of my 10-round Chip McCormick .38 Super magazines would only accept four rounds of the Tokarevs, while another magazine would only accept five rounds.
The 7.62x25 Tokarev drives bullets fast, and some loads produced a noticeable muzzle flash on the overcast day I was shooting, while others did not. Recoil was not bad and was halfway between that of a 9mm Luger and a .38 Super based on measuring how far the Ransom Rest moved from the recoil. Velocity was measured as the average of 10 shots over a Shooting Chrony chronograph at about 10 feet.
The velocities varied quite a bit depending on the ammunition with the slowest being the Fiocchi running at 1471 fps and the fastest being the Sellier & Bellot at 1642 fps from the six-inch barrel. The corresponding muzzle energies are 408 ft-lbs and 509 ft-lbs, respectively. These ballistics are in the same range as the .327 Federal Magnum, another very potent cartridge.
All brands of ammunition cycled reliably with a 14 pound recoil spring. I experienced no feeding malfunctions, but did have two failures to extract with the Red Army Standard ammunition. One of these was seriously stuck and had to be pounded out with a cleaning rod. The primer of this round was flattened and pierced, suggesting unusually high pressure. This ammunition is loaded in lacquered steel cases, while all the other ammunition was loaded in brass.
Accuracy was tested with three five-shot groups at 25 yards from a Ransom Rest and was good-to-outstanding, depending on the ammunition. Only two groups of the 21 groups fired measured over three inches. The overall average group size with seven different brands of ammunition was 2.09 inches. That's pretty good.
The PPU jacketed hollow-point ammunition was scary accurate with an average group size of 1.14 inches. One five-shot group measured 0.75 inches. Wondering if those groups were a fluke, I also fired a 10-shot group with this ammunition. It measured 1.06 inches. My goodness, this cartridge can shoot! The Wolf JHP load, which is the same ammunition from what I can tell, had a slightly larger average group size at 1.54 inches.
Shooters with 1911 pistols might be tempted to push the bullet deeper into the case to make them a similar overall length as the .38 Super so more rounds can be loaded in the magazine. Do NOT do this! This will dramatically increase chamber pressure to potentially dangerous levels. I tested this practice by pushing the bullets deeper in 10 rounds of Winchester ammunition so that all 10 rounds would fit in my .38 Super magazines.
Increased pressure was evident as a 52 fps increase in velocity, but more importantly, the primers showed very dangerous pressure levels. Primers with the shorter overall length ammunition were completely flattened and six of 10 primers were pierced. None of the 15 normal length Winchester rounds fired had pierced primers, and they were not as flattened.
QuickLOAD internal ballistics software (version 126.96.36.199) was used to estimate the pressure increase from seating a 85 grain bullet deeper in the Tokarev. My seating indicated an increase of 5,958 psi. This is greater than the 3,500 psi increase between the standard 9mm Luger maximum pressure of 35,000 psi and the +P limit of 38,500 psi. That would make the 7.62x25 Tokarev a +P+ load and risks damage to the gun and serious injury to the shooter or bystanders. This is a very good reason to leave the factory loads at their normal length.
Same as 7.63X25 Mauser?
Some sources claim that the 7.62x25 Tokarev is dimensionally identical to the 7.63x25 Mauser (aka .30 Mauser, but not to be confused with .30 Luger). This is not correct. Cartridge dimensions at the CIP website and the Hornady Reloading Handbook show that they are different, albeit very similar. The Mauser round has a slightly longer case but a shorter cartridge overall length, and their shoulder geometry and extractor groove are different. Moreover, they have different maximum average pressure limits: the 7.63x25 Mauser has a lower limit of 2,250 bar (32,633 psi).
Some sources also state that the Mauser round can be fired in Tokarev pistols. PPU 7.63x25 Mauser rounds fit in my Tokarev conversion barrel, though they might not fit in all Tokarev chambers. As a test, fifteen Mauser rounds were fired for velocity and accuracy from the Tokarev barrel. The 85 grain FMJ Mauser bullets averaged 1429 fps, which is slower than the PPU Tokarev ammunition (1494 fps), and produced an average 5-shot group size of 2.25 inches. Two of the primers were very flattened. None were pierced. I did this as a test and report the results here but am not endorsing this practice. One should absolutely never shoot 7.62x25 Tokarev ammunition in a gun chambered for the 7.63x25 Mauser because the Tokarev is loaded to higher pressure.
The 7.62x25 Tokarev is a fun cartridge to shoot. It has plenty of power with modest recoil, propelling light bullets at high speed. It lacks nothing in the accuracy department, producing match-grade groups with some ammunition. The Tokarev would be dandy for small game, since it shoots flat and hits hard and might also do well for self-defense with hollow-point bullets.
Whether you buy a surplus pistol or a conversion barrel, the 7.62x25 Tokarev is a terrific round.
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