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renegadecow

Raptor MP-443 PYa "Grach"

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I remember it was the early 2000s, the familiar screeching of a dial-up modem. I log in to world.guns.ru and there's a new entry by Maxim Popenker: the Pistolet Yarygina (PYa), MP-443 or "Grach" by its project codename. It was the 80s all over again. But still this was leaps and bounds considering the last official service pistol of the Russian Federation, the Pistolet Makarova (PM), dates back from the 40s and virtually unchanged. Nearly two decades later and they're still in the process of transitioning to the Grach mostly because they had made too damn many Makarovs. And it's only now that a gas blowback airsoft replica has been produced.
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The Raptor MP-443 comes in a regular version and a DX version which includes an extra magazine and a replica B-8 rail adapter. I got the DX version but I'm hesitant to attach the adapter just yet because it goes on so tight that it's bound to strip off most of paint off the dust cover. It's a full sized handgun with a 97mm inner barrel (most sites erroneously state it as 105mm), VSR-10 compatible hop-up, and a 25-round magazine. It features an ungodly stiff ambidextrous manual safety (more on that later), a button magazine release that can be switched to either side, and a big slide catch on the left side much like on an M9. The 3-dot sights are fixed with a wide front blade and a deep, u-notch rear. The barrel, slide and frame are constructed of aluminum and the wrap around pistol grip from fiber reinforced nylon. The recoil spring guide and transfer bar are made out of steel with most of the rest of the internals out of aluminum or zinc alloys. It has few markings that are laser engraved, mainly the serial number (not unique) on the slide and frame and the Izhevsk logo. A more stylized version of the logo is molded into either side of the grip.

As realistic as the externals are, one big feature that Raptor left out is the ability to fire in double action. This fires in single action only. On the real gun it gives you what is called a 2nd strike: in the event of a hard primer that fails to ignite, you can pull the trigger again to try and hit the cartridge a 2nd time before you have to resort to remedial action. In airsoft however, this doesn't really apply in a mechanical sense. If the gun is light striking, there's something really wrong with it that pulling the trigger another time is almost guaranteed to do absolutely squat. The gun, both real and replica doesn't have a decocker anyway so it's best carried cocked and locked and used dedicatedly in single action mode. Aesthetically however, while the replica is single action only, the trigger is left in the double action state with its long travel. If you're the type who can't get over this, it is possible to drill and insert a pin into the inside frame limiting the forward travel of the trigger so that it looks like it's in single action mode.

Now, more on that stiff af safety. It literally got my thumb bleeding and while it's in line with the Russian-tough appeal, I really like my thumbs so this has to be addressed before we move forward. Part of the stiffness is caused by the fact that the safety also locks the slide much like on a 1911. But the tolerances are so tight that you're fighting the slide forward as the safety is engaged. The other part is that the spring used for the detent is too hard and too long so that the end of it pokes out of the safety lever and digs into your thumb. With the help of a friend's idea (thanks Fred) the spring can be easily replaced with a paper clip bent and cut to shape providing a more reasonable amount of tension. But make sure the end of the paper clip doesn't stick out of the safety lever or it can still cut you.

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Taking down the pistol is a bit strange if you're used to, well, pretty much anything else on the market. First you need to take the mag out, then you need to pull the slide back enough until you can grab the recoil spring guide. The recoil spring guide effectively locks the slide catch in the frame so don't go hammering it out like some yahoos on YouTube! With the spring guide pulled forward, the slide catch slides out easily. Then you can pull the whole slide assembly out the front. Unhook the back of the spring guide from the barrel and it should come out with a little twisting/wiggling. Take note of the recoil spring as it is not captive. Lastly the barrel can be tipped down from the back and slid out. The hop-up adjustment is also strange, but none the less works. It's a simple wheel with its axis parallel to the bore and turning it manipulates the hop arm. Now, actually turning the wheel is another matter because it's on there really tight. It's guaranteed not to walk out of setting, but you'll also break a fingernail if you need to tune it on the fly. Using a small screwdriver to leverage it up or down is highly recommended.

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But before we go into shooting impressions, I have to introduce my trusty old WE Makarov. After all, the Grach is supposed to replace the PM so it's only fitting that I compare it in a head-to-head test. I've had my Makarov for years now, and while it's sporting "real" bakelite (I know, it's really phenolic resin) by Baikal, internally it's virtually stock with some repairs I've had to do through the years of rough use. The Makarov by WE is really a PMM with the double stack 16-round mags and ergonomic polymer grip. It has a working decocker and fires in both double and single action. The European style heel mag release is convenient in keeping you from losing mags, but the mag release on the Grach needs to be depressed deeply enough that you can't possibly lose a mag by accidentally bumping it with your hip. In double action, the Makarov trigger breaks at 4.7lbs. In single action, it breaks at 2.4lbs with a 5mm reset. The single action only Grach trigger breaks at (inhales) 6.8lbs with a 3mm reset. Take from that what you will, but personally I welcome the heavier trigger of the Grach with a hard wall and clean break. We've become so used to airsoft pistols with 2lb triggers that many don't know real ones come factory with over double that.

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Accuracy:

I shot 10 round groups for each gun in single action mode, seated,  at a distance of 20m. The Makarov did an 8" group while the Grach did 6", yes, despite the much heavier trigger. Now, it could be because the Grach has a longer barrel and longer sight radius, not to mention better sights and better ergonomics, but in practical terms, both are acceptable for airsoft gaming purposes. For long range shooting (>40m) neither are really good because they both shoot relatively slow; Makarov at 255fps and Grach at 250fps. The opponent could easily Matrix dodge bbs at that distance where they've decelerated significantly, and even if they connect, carry very little energy that they might not be perceived as direct hits. Note however that the Makarov by WE comes with a screw-on barrel extension + mock suppressor which bumps its output to 340fps. That configuration can reach out to farther targets using heavier bbs, but requires readjustment of the hop-up and just about doubles the overall length of the gun.

Recoil and gas efficiency:

This test I did at 32C noting the points where recoil begins to noticeably drop and when the magazine is completely empty. The Makarov has a very crisp and satisfyingly moderate recoil owing to its large nozzle diameter and cup design for a piston head. The slide is also very light so return to battery is equally brisk. Magazines hold 4g of green gas and a single fill of gas (pausing to reload bbs) fires off 30 rounds before going low and 35 until empty.

The Grach has moderate to soft recoil with the slide feeling a bit sluggish. This is despite the large 15mm nozzle and lightweight slide. Hammer tension is fairly stiff and you'll notice this when you first try to rack it and I suspect this is absorbing much of the slide's momentum. When firing, you'll notice significantly more gas blow-by, suggesting there's wastage of gas pressure somewhere. I also noted that the magazine became really cold quick when I had to reload it with bbs and failed to lock on the last round of the first load. Magazines hold 6g of gas and will start to decrease in recoil at 21 rounds before running out at 37. This came to me as alarming as it was effectively 53% less efficient than the Makarov!

Game over. We go back to serve the Soviet Union.

 

Or do we?

Something was obviously amiss and it's not my style to whine over a leaky mag when I'm more than capable in fixing it. The gun is well designed, parts well made with good materials but something went wrong on the manufacturing side of things in rushing the product for release. Closely examining the Grach I found that the nozzle to piston head fit was incredibly tight  from an oversized and overly hard o-ring. The nozzle won't even budge despite the dual return springs. This plus the heavy hammer spring likely caused the pressurized gas to find other places to escape as evidenced by the increased blow-by, wasting gas and Boyle's law kicking the gun in the nuts. So I go find a more appropriately sized o-ring (original 15mmODx2mmCS ?80D?, replacement 15mmODx1.8mmCS 70D), install it, and lo and behold, with a single fill of gas I was getting 45 rounds before the recoil started to weaken and 50 to empty. The recoil was also noticeably harder than before with the slide moving faster having less friction to fight against. FPS remained more or less the same, but because the cool down wasn't nearly as bad, the average bumped up to 255.

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So in the end, both guns have more or less the same muzzle output, same range, and same efficiency with the Grach having a higher bb capacity and the Makarov more style points. It's up to you if you want to be like 40s grandpa or 80s (but really in 2000s) chad. For me neither really wins over the other since I'll be fielding both at the same time like those few documented oddball SOBR and OMON guys carrying two pistols because reasons.

Edited by renegadecow
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Totally forgot to talk about external finish. The slide and frame are painted and very thinly so it's not going to take long for holster wear to set in. The frame in particular is pretty rough with seam lines and even flash from casting that I had to break off which is how I found about the paint thickness. The gray on the controls and magazine seem different however, almost like a phosphate finish and wear more evenly, but still relatively thin. 

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UPDATE: It appears there may be something off with the green gas (Guarder) I used being old and nearly empty when I did the tests as well as the chronograph being dirty (I use GBBs almost exclusively and silicone oil + dirt may have built up on the sensors. Having gotten new gas (Puff Dino 12kg) and cleaned the chrono, the Makarov measured 262fps while the Grach did 277fps on .20g bbs.

Also, decided to try out shortening trigger travel to resemble the position in single action mode. Instead of drilling the frame and inserting a pin to block the trigger, I simply fashioned a piece of abs plastic and glued it to the frame behind the trigger. The spacer measures 7x5x2.5mm.

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Very well done review. Certainly an interesting pistol and it's always nice to see something new brought out. I will certainly be interested in future, long term use reports.

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Awesome review. The choice of an o-ring instead of cup seal is where it shows their lack of experience with GBBs. I'm pretty sure this gun would greatly benefit from a cup seal, and a somewhat lighter hammer spring while we're at it. 

Giving a second thought on that, IIRC the Makarov nozzle is also 15mm, so maybe we could adapt WE piston head and shaft  to the Raptor Grach. 

Edited by Dimitri MdP

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