In the last half of the 19th century, Czarist Russia was hot on the trail of a fast-shooting, reliable service revolver. In 1870, U.S. gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson agreed to supply Russia with three installments of its S&W No. 3 Revolver, what came to be known as the S&W Russian, chambered in .44 Russian. But the Czarists reneged on the deal and did to S&W what the Chinese later did to Russian assault guns-back-engineered 'em and made their own, and the S&W/Russia deal went south.

A pair of Belgians later entered into negotiations with the Czarists to supply Russia with their revolver, the Nagant Model 1895, designed in 1886-a 7-shot pistol chambered in 7.62x38Rimless with a unique gas-seal feature. The Model 1895 was the brainchild of brothers Leon and Emile Nagant.

The Nagant's shared history with the Czarists, having designed a gun for them earlier, the very popular Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 service rifle. The Model 1895 was first produced in Liege, Belgium and production was later moved to Russian factories in Izhevsk and Tula where 2 million or more copies of the Nagant revolver have been produced since the late 1890s.

The Nagant has a gas-sealed system where the cylinder moves forward when the gun is cocked, tightening the seam between barrel and cylinder, significantly increasing muzzle velocity. Other guns, like the stealthy Russian OTs-38 use similar suppression systems to contain gases and reduce decibels.

In addition to the tightened gas seal system, the Nagant employs a recessed bullet (i.e., seated below the casing's crimp) and a conical lip at the barrel's rear to engulf the mouth of the cartridge.

Using the barrel-cylinder and recessed bullet design, the Nagant gains upwards of 150 feet per second in muzzle velocity-making this gun extremely quiet. Because of its stealth capability, the Nagant was popular with Russian Secret Police, and suppressors were often added to this handgun.

The Nagant comes in single- and double-action, and each cartridge is loaded one at a time.

The Model 1895 was employed by special service police, and if the Nagant brothers ever had contract complaints or were unhappy with their Czarist partners, it is not known if they voiced them.

The Nagant Model 1895 saw considerable action in combat-in the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian Civil War, World Wars I and II and the Korean War, and in a skilled marksman's hands, the Nagant is capable of firing 21 rounds per minute with an accurate range of 75 feet and an effective range well beyond that. The Nagant Model 1895 has been around a long time, and if you have one in your gun collection-consider yourself extremely lucky. And if your Nagant Model 1895 has a Red Star on it, you are either a loyal Party member-or a man with a target on his forehead. Das vedanya.