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Ukraine: Locally Produced Pistols Boost Trade

Kyiv, 22 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- By the end of 1998, every Ukrainian policeman should have a brand new pistol - and, for the first time - the pistol will be manufactured wholly domestically.

The Vinnytsya-based, Fort weapons factory will begin mass production of its Fort-12, 9 mm pistol this month. The weapon is to replace the Soviet-era Makarov 9 mm, currently standard issue for the country's police forces. But the new Ukrainian pistol is not just an improved version of the Makarov, according to the weapon's designers.

"We made twelve modifications to the inner mechanics of the pistol, with the plan to use purely Ukrainian-made parts," said Spetstekhnika State Engineering Promotion Center technician Volodymyr Mikhailov. "The pistol is more reliable. But more importantly we rebuilt the weapon so it can be developed further."

Rechambering the Fort-12 to accept a Parabellum 9 mm round is one planned improvement. More powerful than the current Makarov 9 mm round - because there is about 20 percent more gunpowder behind the bullet - the Parabellum cartridge would give the pistol more stopping power. But since Parabellum is international standard ammunition, while the Makarov round remains available only in the former Soviet Union, modifying the Fort to accept Parabellum 9 mm also makes the pistol specifically suitable for export.

"That's the main reason we're planning to develop a Parabellum pistol," said Mikhailov. "That way the weapon becomes marketable outside the country. And export is the only real source of income right now." Mikhailov and factory spokesmen declined to speculate on possible export volumes and prices.

The volume of the Fort-12 production run could reach tens of thousands over the next several years, Mikhailov estimated. He says the next generation pistol will be the Fort-14, an upgraded version of the Fort-12, featuring a longer barrel and two more rounds in the magazine than the current 13-shot version.