GSh-18 - production version, left side
GSh-18, same production pistol, right side
GSh-18 with the slide locked back by slide stop; multiple locking lugs are clearly visible on the barrel.
Gsh-18 compared to the famous Makarov PM pistol
9x19mm PBP armour-piercing ammunition, developed for GSh-18
Type: Double Action Only
The GSh-18 pistol was developed in mid-to-late 1990s in Russia, by the KBP (Equipment manufacturing Design Bureau) in Tula. The GSh stands for Gryazev and Shipunow - a chief designers of the pistol, who are famous for their aircraft cannons, bearing the same name (GSh-23, GSh-301 etc). 18 stands for magazine capacity.
GSh-18 was developed as a military sidearm, capable to defeat current body armour. To achieve good penetration, designers of KBP first developed a special, very hot version of the 9x19mm Luger / Parabellum round, with light and fast bullet with hardened steel core (4.2 gram @ 600 meters per second, or 65 grains @ 1970 fps), called 9mm PBP. PBP ammo can penetrate 8mm plate of mild steel at 20 meters, or any Class III bulletproof vest at the same range. Early prototype pistols of the KBP were known as P-96 but they were unsuccessful, so new pistol was developed about 1998. It went to official military trials in 2000 and passed it successfully. It probably had been purchased in small numbers by some Russian law enforcement and Internal Affairs ministry units, and also offered for export. The opinions on this pistol are somewhat mixed, from very high to almost disappointing, and, due to official adoption of the PYa as an official Russian army sidearm and availability of the more powerful 9x21mm SR-1 "Gyrza" pistol (which is quite popular across Russian special forces), it is doubtful that GSh-18 will ever appear in large numbers. But, anyway, this pistol is interesting enough to be mentioned here.
GSh-18 is a recoil-operated, locked breech pistol. It uses short recoiling barrel that rotates to lock and unlock from the slide. Unlike the other rotating barrel pistols, barrel of the GSh-18 has multiple (10) locking lugs, and rotation angle is as low as 18 degrees. The frame is made from tough polymer with steel inserts and slide rails. Slide is stamped from the steel, with pinned locking insert and detachable breech block. The trigger is Glock-alike - striker-fired, with pre-cocking during the recoil cycle and manual full cocking by the pull of the trigger. When striker is half-cocked, its rear portion [protrudes from the back of the slide for about 1 mm, giving an visual and tactile indication that gun is ready to fire. GSh-18 is equipped with automated, Glock-like trigger safety and additional firing pin safety. Ejection port is located at the top of the slide with ejection straight up and to the back. Magazine is a two-column type without transformation to the single column at the magazine exit for increased feed reliability. The latest variants featured removable front sight and rear sights mounted on the breech block (not on the slide, which is a bad idea by many opinions). Sights feature white-dot inserts for faster aiming. One of the most discussed features of the GSh-18 is a slide that is open at the front. Critics said that the dirt will easily go into the slide interior via this opening and pistol reliability will be decreased at least. Designers said that it is OK and dirt will not pass deep into the gun interior. Probably designers has all the reasons to say so, because GSh-18 successfully passed rigorous military trials, but only the future and actual field reports will tell us the full story.
GSh-18 can fire any commercial or military 9mm Luger/Parabellum and 9mm NATO ammunition, plus Russian armour-piercing, high-power (roughly equivalent to 9mm +P+ or even hotter) ammunition, 9mm 7N21 and 9mm PBP. GSh-18 is reported as accurate and comfortable to fire, and very light for its class, but it is still to be seen if it has any significant future.
I had the chance to hold this pistol (pictured above) in September, 2003, at some local Russian Law Enforcement competition event, but did not fired it, pitifully. Out of the three latest Russian military / LE pistols (GS-18 itself, Yarygin PYa and Serdjukov SPS / SR-1) the GSh-18, in my opinion. has the best and most comfortable grip shape. It also fits perfectly into the open-top police-type Makarov holster. Sights are not the best, but acceptable, and the trigger pull is relatively heavy, but short and consistent.
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