Shortly after the Second World War, the Soviet Union reactivated its plans to replace the Tokarev TT33 self-loading pistols and Nagant M1895 revolvers. The adoption of the future AK assault rifle relegated the pistol to a light, handy self-defence weapon. Therefore, the TT30/33 was unsuited for such a role, as it was heavy and bulky. Also, the Tokarev pistols omitted a safety and magazines were deemed too easy to lose. As a result, in December 1945, two separate contests for a new service pistol were created, respectively for a 7.62mm and 9mm pistol. It was later judged that the new 9.2×18mm cartridge, designed by B. V. Semin, was the best round suited for the intended role. The lower pressures of the cartridge allowed practical straight blowback operation (reducing the cost and complexity of the weapon), while retaining low recoil and good stopping power.
Several engineers took part in the contest, including Korovin, Baryshev, Vojvodin, Simonov, Rakov, Klimov, Lobanov, Sevryugin, and Makarov. Special emphasis was placed on safety, user-friendliness, accuracy, weight, and dimensions. After stringent handling, reliability, and other tests, Makarov’s design, influenced by the German Walther PP,stood out from the others through its sheer simplicity, excellent reliability, quick disassembly, and robustness. During April 1948, Makarov’s pistol experienced 20 times fewer malfunctions than the competing Baryshev and Sevryugin counterparts, and had fewer parts. The pistol was therefore selected in 1949 for further development and optimization for mass production. Tooling was set up in the Izhevsk plant for production. After many major design changes and tweaks, the gun was formally adopted as the “9mm Pistolet Makarova”, or “PM” in December 1951.
As the new standard issue sidearm of the USSR, the PM was issued to NCOs, police, special forces, and tank and air crews. It remained in wide front-line service with Soviet military and police until and beyond the end of the USSR in 1991. Variants of the pistol remain in production in Russia, China, and Bulgaria. In the U.S., surplus Soviet and East German military Makarovs are listed as eligible curio and relic items by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, because the countries of manufacture, the USSR and the GDR, no longer exist.
In 2003, the Makarov PM was formally replaced by the PYa pistol in Russian service,although as of 2016, large numbers of Makarov pistols are still in Russian military and police service.The PM is still the service pistol of many Eastern European and former Soviet republics. North Korea and Vietnam also use PMs as standard-issue pistols, however North Korea has since switched to the CZ-75 made locally as the BaekDuSan pistol.
Although various pistols had been introduced in Russian service to replace the Makarov, none have been able to entirely supplant it; the MP-443 Grach/PYa is technically the Russian military’s standard sidearm but suffers from quality control and reliability issues. In September 2019, Rostec announced its Udav pistol went into mass production as the Makarov replacement. The Udav fires 9×21mm Gyurza rounds which are claimed to pierce 1.4 mm of titanium or 4 mm of steel at a 100 meters.