Staff Writer (Updated: 7/19/2014):
The Need Sparks a Movement
New small arms for the Soviet Army were the call of the day by 1930. As such, a new movement culminated in testing such systems for replacing the outdated stable of firearms then available to the Soviet soldier, particularly the Nagant M1895 series - a revolver with her own origins in the previous century, having served the Russian Tsarist Empire with distinction. Tests were conducted on several possibilities in early 1931 with the TT-30 of particular note.
At its core, the TT-30 resembled much of what made the Colt-Browning automatic pistols such a success, particularly the widely popular and oft-copied the .45 caliber M1911 (including its short recoil dropping-barrel system). Effective as the M1911 system was, it (and other Browning types) hardly made for cheap and easy-to-produce yet field-maintainable firearms for a war-ravaged Soviet Union. As such, Soviet engineers took to applying a few changes of their own to make the pistol a more robust system for the Red inventory. One of the more notable changes in the new gun became the machining of the magazine feed lips directly into the main receiver. This worked well to help prevent potentially damaging misfeeds of cartridges. The modular hammer and lockwork mechanism were grouped for easier removal from the frame as a single piece to help speed up cleaning and repair - this module accessed from the upper rear of the frame.
The TT-30 was a single-action, semi-automatic pistol developed by Feodor V. Tokarev in 1930, owing much of its internal and external design to the original John Browning FN Model 1903 automatic pistol. Tokarev designed several other weapons for the Red Army in his time, including other pistol types and automatic rifles. The TT-30 was devised using a simplified unlocked blowback operation system with a swinging link under the barrel, unlocking the barrel from the slide during recoil. Some 1,000 examples were ordered for further trials and the TT-30 was formally adopted as the standard sidearm of the Red Army. Production began at the Tula Arsenal in 1931 ("Tula-Tokarev" making up the "TT" designation in the "TT-30" and "TT-33" series). The TT-30 became the first Tokarev-designed pistol to see notable military service.
As promising as the TT-30 was, developments were already underway on improving the type already entering production. Within three years, the weapon was superseded by the improved TT-33 series, officially introduced to the Red Army in 1933.
The TT-33 existed as a further developed and modified form of the base TT-30. The TT-33 made use of machined locking lugs all around the barrel as opposed to the top-mounted lugs found on the TT-30 to help facilitate production. The sub-assembly was revised to an extent as was the frame and trigger. Like most other war-time equipment fielded by the Red Army, the finish of most TT-33s suffered even before entering combat. However, once in action, this rarely detracted from the functional stopping power of the TT-33 mechanism. The pistol proved relatively accurate, highly lethal, reliable and robust - handy qualities during the house-to-house fighting that raged throughout the closing days of World War 2. The selected round did prove something of note, however, for it was a high-powered projectile producing a fair amount of recoil and showcasing a high muzzle velocity - thusly deteriorating ranged accuracy to an extent - especially when compared to its contemporaries.