In the early 1930’s the Soviet Union made the decision that it needed to replace it old M1895 Nagant revolvers. At this time revolvers were giving way to semi-automatic pistols in military use, and it was important for the Soviet Union to keep up with the capitalist world. One design of note was a single action semi automatic created by the gun designer Feodor Tokarev. The new pistol visually was modeled after early John Browning designs, internally it used the short recoil dropping-barrel system from the famous Colt 1911, another Browning design. Feodor improved upon the design by employing a much simpler hammer/sear assembly and cartridge guides that provide reliable functioning. Under testing the Tokarev was found to be extremely rugged and able to handle the worst combat conditions. Soviet engineers also added several other features such as locking lugs all around the barrel. The magazine feeding lips were even machined in such a way that they prevented damaged to the cartridge due to misfeeds. More importantly the design was simplified to the point that Soviet industry could turn out thousands of the pistols without using significant time, labor, and resources.
The most interesting feature of the Tokarev was its ammo, a 7.62x25 cartridge that was bottlenecked to provide extra velocity. This cartridge was based off the German 7.63x25 Mauser. In fact during World War II the Germans issued a number of captured Tokarev’s because German ammunition could be used in the pistols. Feeding the pistol was an 8 round detachable magazine. The Tokarev had no safety other than a half cock feature on the hammer.
During World War II the Tokarev never fully supplanted the Nagant revolver, rather both were produced and issued concurrently. After the war the Tokarev became standard issue of other communist countries, such as the countries of Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, and Vietnam. They also saw use in pretty much every war fought from 1950 up to today. Below is a map of the various countries that at one point used or still use the Tokarev.
The Russian replaced the Tokarev with the Makarov in the 1950’s. Over 1.7 million were produced.