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Russian Tokarev TT-33 vs. U.S. M1911 A1: The Heavyweight Championship of the 20th Century!

M1911 A1

M1911 A1

Tokarev TT-33

Tokarev TT-33

Tokarev TT-33 vs. M1911 A1

Ladies and Gentlemen! In the blue corner, weighing in at 2.44 lbs. and having an overall length of 8.25 inches. A pistol that invokes vehement pride in Americans. A big raucous bruiser of a pistol with an intrinsically unique elegance that endears its owners dress it up as if it were a Parisian Dandy. With over 2 million produced, no other pistol in history has so many companies creating accessories and shiny new parts for it. The U. S. M1911 A1 ! (Crowd chanting USA, USA!)

Introducing in the red corner, pun intended, weighing in at 1.88 lbs. and having an overall length of 7.6 inches. The invulnerable, durable, and virulent red-headed stepchild of Browning-designed pistols, again…pun intended. A rather thin pistol, whose simplicity reeks of the Russian philosophy of functionality, reliability and ease of mass-production, with approximately 1.7 million produced. The Russian Tokarev TT-33! (Sound the U.S.S.R national anthem).

Ok, drawing an analogy between two geriatric pistols and heavyweight boxers might seem a little bit over-dramatic. Seeing that the 82-year-old Tokarev and the 101-year-old M1911 would probably look very un-imposing meeting in the middle of the ring with their walkers modified with bright green tennis balls. But, let’s face it. Both pistols are the heavyweight top contenders of their era and would be game opponents.


Both the Tokarev TT-33 and 1911 are very similar in design. Both are the brainchild of John Browning, the Tokarev being a Russian knock-off of Browning’s FN Model 1903. When you feel both of these weapons in opposing hands you really notice the size difference. If anything, the Tokarev feels more like a cruiserweight that just packed on enough muscle to compete with the robust natural heavyweight 1911.

Both pistols are Semi-automatic with 8 round magazine capacity. Both take down similarly by removing the Barrel bushing and slide stop. In this aspect, I give the advantage to the 1911, which is easier to field strip. On the Tokarev, a rod is needed to push in the barrel bushing to turn it and remove. I personally don’t like the idea of needing any tools to field strip any weapon made for the battlefield. Both use the short recoil dropping-barrel system. The TT-33 has a hammer/sear assembly. This assembly is removable from the weapon and includes cartridge guides that provide reliable functioning.

1911 Barrel bushing can be removed by hand.

1911 Barrel bushing can be removed by hand.

Tokarev needs a rod.

Tokarev needs a rod.

Other Thoughts

The TT-33 has locking lugs all around the barrel; the 1911 are only on top. Fedor Tokarev also made several alterations to make the mechanism easier to produce and maintain. The recoil spring is secured to the guide rod which does not depend on the barrel bushing to hold it under tension like on the 1911. Production even machined the magazine feed lips into the receiver to prevent damage and mis-feeds when a distorted magazine was loaded into the magazine well. The 1911 shoots a 230 grain .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) round. This round is slow but heavy. The TT-33 shoots an 85 grain 7.62x25mm round that is almost twice as fast but half the size. Overall, there are arguments on both sides of the coin about these two rounds. One fact is the 7.62x25mm has superior penetration capability.


I have shot both and I was completely caught off guard by the Tokarev’s out-of–the-box accuracy using ancient Bulgarian corrosive ammo. Although I haven’t shot a WWII era 1911 A1, I have shot several newer models such as Colt Gold Cups, Kimbers and other modified 1911’s. I will go out on a limb and say that the Tokarev out of the box is close to on par with a $1000 newer model 1911.


This is where the Tokarev really jumps ahead. You can purchase a Tokarev for between $180 and $220. Basic 1911’s run around the $500-$600 mark. As far as modified Tokarev’s, I haven’t found any so called “Super-Tok’s”. Although, it’s fun to think about a modernized version of this weapon it doesn’t look like that is in the cards.


If we are just comparing the very bare bones WWII versions of these two pistols I am going to have to give a close decision to the Tokarev TT-33. It is more reliable, as or more accurate and will penetrate obstructions on the Battlefield. I like that the Tokarev is lighter, and much thinner (less raw material) so it is cheaper to manufacture. It is simpler, with less safeties and moving parts. Its ammunition is smaller and lighter, this makes it easier to ship and for individual soldiers to carry more ammo. It has less recoil and a shooter can get a follow –up shot off faster as well. As far as the ammunition debate, that will have to wait till my next article. It is an age old argument of velocity vs. bullet weight and diameter.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 TokarevCzar


Mark Iannt on April 27, 2019:

I have compared an early model Polish Tokarev which was delicate to the Chinese Tokarev that had a flimsy ATF safety installed that falls away with the betting and the Cadillac of the Tokarev the CZ 52 is the best.

Fish on December 21, 2017:

BB is right. You don't need any special tools to strip the Tok at all. If you use method 1 (removing the barrel bushing before the slide locking lever), you a pin or punch might help depress the cap on the end of the spring but that's no different than depressing the spring cap on the 1911. If you use method 2 (removing the slide before the spring), you can use the end of the mag to slide the retaining clip to the rear. I find messing with the slide locking lever plunger on the 1911 trickier than the slide locking lever retaining clip on the Tok

legendarygraduate on March 11, 2014:

I love this World Heavyweight Title style of comparison! If you could write fan-fiction with this style, you would make a lot of boxing fans very happy, and I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you made fantasy matches and change history at that.

TokarevCzar (author) on November 27, 2012:

this is when I first got one, I haven't used tools since I started to take them apart regularly

TokarevCzar (author) on November 27, 2012:

this is when I first got one, I haven't used tools since I started to take them apart regularly

ib on November 26, 2012:

You do not need tools to field-strip the TT. I do not understand where people get his idea, and I've even seen special tools sold on e-bay. To take apart the TT you remove the barrel pin clip by using the front notch of the magazine. Then you slightly move the receiver back 1-1.5mm to release the return spring tension and take the pin out. The receiver slides off the frame together with the barrel - done!