The Troubles in Northern Ireland represent one of those rare armed conflicts that seem to have been peacefully brought to an amicable conclusion. After three decades of wanton bloodshed, the war finally transformed into a stable peace. The sundry armed factions willingly surrendered their arms under the supervision of international observers in accordance with what has become known as the Good Friday Agreement.
The final tally of surrendered weapons included more than a thousand assault rifles, seven unfired surface-to-air missiles, twenty RPGs, seven flamethrowers, more than twenty heavy machineguns, around 100 handguns, and three tons of Semtex plastic explosive.
For three decades before the 1998 cease-fire, the war in Northern Ireland turned otherwise unremarkable citizens into seasoned guerrilla fighters.
Lamentably, old habits die hard. Once a man gets comfortable with killing, it can sometimes be tough to stop.
Gerard “Jock” Davison was a senior commander in the Provisional IRA operating in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In this capacity, it is generally understood that he had a hand in planning and executing armed activities against British forces operating in the area. On January 31, 2005, he was also involved in a most unfortunate bar brawl.
As so many of these things do, this dustup began with something trivial. A friend of Robert McCartney named Brendan Devine purportedly made either a gesture or comment that was felt to be insulting a woman present at Magennis’ Bar in Belfast’s city center. A conflict ensued and McCartney intervened on behalf of his friend. Many of those on the other side of the altercation were purportedly IRA regulars with extensive combat skills. McCartney was subsequently attacked with a broken bottle, dragged outside, and beaten with metal bars. In the process, he lost an eye. Before the dust settled McCartney was eviscerated and had his throat expertly cut.
There were around seventy witnesses to the attack, all of whom claimed to have been in the bar’s toilet at the time of the attack. The pub’s restroom measures a scant four feet by three feet and has been dubbed the TARDIS as a result. (This is a reference to the time machine from the Dr. Who series. The TARDIS is much larger on the inside than it appears from without.) Among those suspected of being directly involved in the attack was Jock Davison.
McCartney was a 33-year-old father of two and by all accounts a not-unlikable bloke. The IRA acknowledged the unsanctioned involvement of several of its members in the attack and actually offered to execute those responsible. In the end, three members of the IRA were expelled, but there were no official convictions.
After the ceasefire between the Provisional IRA and the British government, Davison became involved in a program called Direct Action Against Drugs. This undertaking directed former IRA soldiers possessing appropriate tactical skillsets against known purveyors of illicit drugs operating in and around Belfast. This led to at least a dozen extra-judicial killings of drug dealers. While Jock Davison had devoted his later years to respectable community work, his previous involvement in nefarious stuff such as this no doubt made him more than a few enemies.
One of those with whom Davison worked was one Kevin McGuigan. The father of eight children, McGuigan was an experienced IRA hitman with plenty of blood on his hands. McGuigan played a large role in the Direct Action Against Drugs operations. Ultimately Davison and McGuigan had a falling out over a particularly vicious attack on a man who had injured one of McGuigan’s family members. McGuigan also undertook a remarkably brutal assault with a claw hammer on a group of vandals who had damaged his house.
As a result of their rancorous disagreement, Davison ordered McGuigan be subjected to a “six pack.” This involved being shot in the ankles, knees, and elbows. This is obviously the sort of thing that might sour one’s affection for a former friend.
The Killing of Jock Davison and Its Aftermath
At around 9 am on May 5, 2015, Jock Davison left his Welsh Street home in the Markets area of Southern Belfast en route to a local community center where he worked. He was subsequently shot multiple times with a compact handgun and died soon thereafter. A Makarov pistol was recovered at the scene.
The police had no obvious leads in the attack, but former IRA toughs strongly suspected Kevin McGuigan. Three months after the killing of Jock Davison a pair of masked gunman confronted McGuigan around 9pm on a dimly-lit Belfast street and pumped a dozen bullets into him. McGuigan made it to the hospital but died in fairly short order.
The Pistolet Makarova (PM) was the brainchild of Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov. Designed in 1948 and adopted for service in 1951, the Makarov was intended to replace the Tokarev TT30 and TT33 pistols as well as the M1895 Nagant revolvers then in Soviet service. Designed from the outset to be rugged, reliable, and easy to produce, the Makarov represented a significant philosophical departure from Western combat handguns.
The PM drew direct inspiration from the Walther PP-series pistols, and the familial relationship is obvious. The gun fires a curiously stubby 9x18mm round via an unlocked direct blowback operating system. The Makarov was a full twenty times more reliable than its closest competitor during the Soviet military acceptance trials in the late 1940’s.
The 9x18mm round was the brainchild of a Russian designer named B.V. Semin. The cartridge is one millimeter longer than the .380ACP and one millimeter shorter than the ubiquitous 9mm Parabellum. As a result, the PM finds itself a wee bit larger than a pocket pistol but somewhat smaller than most Western combat handguns.
Trigger Time on the Makarov PM
The magazine release is on the heel of the butt after the European fashion, and the gun is stupid easy to use. The slide locks back on the last round fired, and, unlike the German PP that inspired it, there is a manual slide release catch on its left aspect. On the PP you simply give the slide a quick snatch to the rear to drop it over a fresh magazine. With the PM you can use the slide release catch in the manner of a 1911.
There is an exposed hammer in the back and a manual safety located on the left rear aspect of the slide. Oddly, this catch operates exactly backward from that of the PP. Press the catch down to release the safety. Activating the catch upwards safes the action and automatically drops the hammer.
The sights are small, steel, and unmarked. The top of the slide sports a series of machined grooves to cut down on glare. The one-piece plastic stocks include small bilateral thumb swells and are retained via a single screw. The skeletonized magazine holds eight rounds.
Recoil is snappy as the gun operates via unlocked blowback, but it is still not unpleasant given the modest size of its cartridge.
My Bulgarian copy shoots unnaturally straight, consistently printing less than an inch at twelve meters. The long double action trigger pull is both heavy and horrible, while the shorter single action version includes some predictable takeup and a little crunchy creep, at least on my sample. Should you ever have to use the gun for real you would never notice any of that. My piece produces the occasional light primer strike, but the gun is old.
Disassembly involves clearing the weapon, removing the magazine, and returning the slide into battery. Pull down on the hinged trigger guard and then retract the slide back and up to free it. Let the slide ride forward and remove the recoil spring. The barrel remains fixed to the frame.
In 1990 the Russians fielded an upgraded version of the Makarov called the PMM. This gun feeds from a 12-round magazine and includes a fluted chamber to aid extraction. It also includes more ergonomic grip panels and the capacity to fire hotter ammunition that produces 25% higher gas pressures and subsequently higher velocities.
In 2003 the PYa MP-443 Grach formally replaced the Makarov pistol in Russian military service. The Grach is a fairly conventional high capacity combat pistol chambered for the 9mm Parabellum round.
The Makarov PB is a highly modified sound suppressed version of the PM.
Back when the Makarov hit the streets the Russians viewed their handguns differently than did we.
American forces saw the pistol as a serious combat tool to be used for close quarters battle. By contrast, the Russians considered the Makarov to be more a badge of rank. The gun’s small dimensions and modest power made it an effective implement for motivating recalcitrant troopers or service in an undercover role, but it lacked the combat acumen of the Colt M1911A1 or Beretta M9. Despite the gun’s few shortcomings, it has seen widespread distribution literally all over the globe. It was illicit importation, likely from Libya, which brought Jock Davison’s assassin his Mak. Wherever men kill each other, the Makarov will remain a fixture for decades to come.
A friend was forced to resign from the military for smuggling a Makarov pistol back from the first Gulf War. That same gun was available for $135 at a local gun show, but the toxic combination of stupid rules, poor judgment, and a vindictive ex-wife effectively conspired to ruin his career. It is in our nature to bring back mementos from our overseas military service. To push back against this is to fight millennia of hard-wired military tradition.
The sordid bloodbath that characterized the brief 47-year life of Gerard “Jock” Davison stands in testimony to the difficulty killers sometimes have positively channeling their violent impulses. Davison initially killed for a cause he thought righteous, but the bloodshed continued through the vigilante assassination of a dozen drug dealers and a particularly sordid bar fight. This trail of tears finally came to rest after Davison died in a hail of bullets from a Makarov pistol and his purported killer was himself shot to death on a bleak Belfast street. The end result seems somehow to be a fitting legacy of a life so thoroughly characterized by death.
8-round Detachable Box Magazine
Blade Front/Drift-Adjustable Notch Rear
Makarov PM 9x18mm
Group Size (inches)
Velocity (feet per second)
Wolf 94gr FMJ
Group Size is the best four of five shots measured center to center fired from a simple rest at twelve meters. Velocity is the average of three shots fired across a Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph oriented ten feet from the muzzle.