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John Milewski explores a CO2 version of the iconic Baikal MP-658K Makarov in this review
The Baikal MP-654K Makarov has enjoyed an admirable reputation as a quality, well-made, rugged CO2 pistol. I’m reluctant to say ‘replica’ because the pistol is a CO2-powered variant of the cartridge-firing Makarov, rather than a copy. Despite having working controls and a movable slide, the MP-654K does not have a blow-back function, and with over two decades having passed since the pistol was first introduced, many enthusiasts believed there is a place for a blow-back variant of the Baikal Makarov.
After extensive R&D, Baikal first offered a blow-back variant of the standard Makarov in 2016 and by 2020. Two blow-back models were on offer; the MP-658K feeds on 4.5mm BB, whilst the MP-659K is a 6mm made for the airsoft market.
SAFE FOR INDOOR USE
Utilising the same thin frame as the service Makarov (Pistolet Makarova or PM), the Baikal website claims that the blow-back variant was created with the intention of being as authentic as possible to the combat pistol in appearance, materials, dimensions, assembly-disassembly technique and handling. Powered by standard 12-gramme CO2 cartridges, Baikal also claim that the 658K is intended for training and recreational shooting. Muzzle energy is just over 1 ft.lb., and the pistol may be safely used indoors if safety glasses are worn and appropriate precautions are taken to contain the shot BBs.
Dimensionally, the pistol is identical to the PM. The manual claims a weight of 730 grammes, which is the same as an unloaded PM firearm and a PM frame MP-654K, but in reality the MP-658K weighs nearer to 630 grammes unloaded. With a 12-gramme CO2 cartridge in place and a fully loaded 18-round magazine, this increases to 690 grammes, but is still short of the 730 advertised weight.
The MP-658K outwardly resembles the MP-654K non-blow-back Makarov with both having a similar matt parkerised finish to the frame and being fitted with polymer grips intended for the thin framed PM. The slide is made from steel and not from the alloys used on most CO2 replica pistols.
I was able to fit original Bakelite grips to the T20 on test, but not with a CO2 cartridge in place. Other grips intended for the PM frame were also a tight fit, some creating increased friction when inserting or removing the magazine. The black, factory grips made of polymer are a huge improvement over the PM-style plastic grips used on late PM-frame pistols and are made exclusively for CO2 pistols rather than firearms, to accommodate the wide CO2 cartridge.
On 2016 and ‘17 dated models, markings were etched on the left side of the slide and picked out in white, as on pre-2012 MP-654K pistols. The right side of the slide was marked ‘Made In Russia’ along with the Baikal logo. From 2019, model markings were stamped under the slide, with just the serial number etched into the slide and frame. As with the MP-654K, the first two numbers following the T prefix denote the year of manufacture, but unlike the non-blow-back Makarov, the next three numerals represent the model designation, i.e. 658. The final five numbers are the serial number of the pistol.
Baikal claim that the markings to identify the MP-658K as an airgun were displaced from the external surface of the slide to under the muzzle, to achieve maximum visual similarity to the airgun’s combat counterpart. Markings on post-2019 MP-654K Makarovs have also been moved to under the slide for the same reason.
Look closer and there are considerable differences between the two pistols. For instance, the safety does not act as a de-cocker as on the MP-654K, and although it locks the slide when set, the trigger and hammer may still be manipulated. The slide release catch can be manipulated, but the slide does not lock to the rear on the MP-658K.
An outline of an extractor is engraved into the right side of the slide, behind the ejection opening. Ideally, I’d have preferred a deeper more realistic-looking cut-out because otherwise it tends to look a little fake.
LOADING AND CHARGING
Operation is the biggest difference, and rather than the heart of the pistol being located in the magazine, the MP-658K’s magazine holds 18 BBs or lead balls only. Remove the magazine and this exposes the CO2 tensioning screw at the base of the grip frame. The polymer grips fit the frame in the standard Makarov manner, being secured by a screw through the backstrap. To charge the pistol with CO2, the grip must be removed by undoing its securing screw at the rear and sliding rearwards. Most grips seen have been black, although earlier examples from 2017 had brown grips.
With a standard 12-gramme CO2 cartridge in place and the magazine loaded, the grip is refitted and you are good to go. Most important of all, the pistol incorporates a system for simulating recoil through the blow-back of the slide when fired, thereby cocking the hammer for the next shot.
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