The Corner

Re: Bullets and Heads

The definitive reader post on this, and TOTALLY the last word. Strong

stomach required towards the end.

“Ye gentle reader cited is not correct, the Makarov was developed after WW

II … and thus, while very likely used to commit executions since the days

of Khruschev, was not the tool of choice for killers such as Yagoda.

“The two common handguns in the 1930’s would be the Nagant revolver,

developed under the Tzar in the 1890’s, and the Tokarev autopistol, based on

the work of John Moses Browning. Both fired a .30 bullet, the revolver out

of a curious tapered cartridge in which the bullet was seated all the way

into the brass, the automatic in .30 Tokarev, a cartridge very similar to

.30 Mauser, the cartridge pioneered in the C-96 or ‘broomhandle’ Mauser

(Churchill carried one at Omdurman)…

“The NKVD cellar executions involved a close range shot to the back of the

head, as your book tells you. The autoloaders would likely not be used

because there’s no need for more than one or two shots, and the revolvers

would do; plus likely the autoloading Tokarevs were symbols of rank, and not

to be handed out to executioners. Thus the most likely handgun is the .30

Nagant revolver.

“Legend has it that the Lubiyanka executioners sawed off about 2 inches of

the barrel of their Nagant revolvers, since the front sight wasn’t needed

and sometimes hung up on the victim. They also might need to grab and hold

their victim if he or she got desperate at the very last instant, so the

short barrel was considered a requirement. Again, this is legend, not


“IIRC the Nagant fires a 90 grain bullet at 1000 f/s or so (7,000 grains ==

1 pound, typical 9×19mm bullet today is 115 grains), a metal-jacketed bullet

from such a gun might well go all the way through a human head, but a lead

bullet would likely deform enough that it would remain within the victim.

“The executioners already had the older handguns, likely they had the older,

lead-bullet, slower-velocity ammo as well. So it is likely that indeed the

executioner had to chop open the heads of Kamenev and Zinoviev in order to

dig out the bullets for Yagoda.”


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