My attention was directed to a story in the British press today about a movie memorabilia auction featuring some rather iconic items, like a complete Darth Vader outfit. More interesting to readers of this blog was the news that that the gun held by Sean Connery in the poster for From Russia With Love sold for an astounding 277,500 pounds Sterling- about $437,000 US. Regular readers should reorganize the gun right off, and wonder why a spy with a license to kill would be holding it. It’s a Walther LP-53 air pistol, one of the great classics of late 20th Century air pistols.
As a match pistol it’s no great shakes. Velocity is a modest 300fps with match pellets, and the curious vertical recoil (the piston’s in the grip) makes it much more difficult to shoot than, say, a FWB 65 of the same era. Still, this is one of the most beautiful air pistols ever made. It’s very similar in appearance to Walther .22LR target pistols of the era, and I’m told it even uses some of the same accessories, like barrel weights and grips.
As a collectible it’s still not terribly expensive. Although I’ve seen sellers ask as much as $425, I saw one recently go for under $200. If I saw another under $200 I’d probably jump on it.
In case you’re wondering why Connery was shown holding an air pistol instead of the Walther PPK that James Bond carried in all the Ian Fleming novels, it seems that one of the production crew forgot to bring the PPK to the photo shoot, and the LP53 was the next best thing they could find.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this classic airgun in a toy store last Wednesday- and in Ann Arbor, of all places. (Michigan residents will understand.) Even better, this is the original, cast metal design- not the plastic ones that seemed to replace them in recent years. This gun has a real heft to it, and the sense that you’re connecting to the past.
Operation is simple: Stick the muzzle into a potato, twist, and break off the little cylinder that’s stuck in the muzzle. Give the trigger a sharp pull, and the barrel retracts, compressing the air contained within it and forcing the piece of potato out with a sharp “pop.” For added excitement, you can cock the hammer and insert a paper cap. On firing, the hammer will strike the cap, adding to the realistic potato gun experience.
I’ll be posting test targets and velocity/muzzle energy figures later, once I figure out how to get the potato projectiles to fly straight over my chronograph. In the meantime, if your local airgun supplier doesn’t carry these, you can find them at Amazon here and here.. They also have the plastic potato guns, which actually work better, but just don’t have the same charm.
Here’s another gun from the back of the cabinet that hasn’t been out in the field in a long time. It’s an original Beeman C1 carbine in .177 that I bought used in the late 1980s from a fellow airgunner who’d done some tuning on it- I think he relubed it and did a little trigger tuning. It also had a pellet reservoir mortised into the stock- a handy feature for hunters:
But the most unusual modification on this gun is one that was done after I acquired it. I was writing for US Airguns magazine around 1988-89, and I was contacted by gunsmith Kevin Knight of High Performance Gunsmithing, in Hamilton, Montana, who’d read some of my articles. He was in the business of making custom muzzle brakes for firearms, and wondered if there’d be interest in the airgun community for these brakes. Was I interested in having a gun modified for test?
Well, sure. I mailed him the barrel from my C1, and when he returned it, the end of the barrel had been turned down and threaded, and a matching muzzle brake had been fabricated that looked like an extension of the barrel:
Subsequent testing showed that the brake did, in fact, result in a small but statistically significant improvement in the accuracy of the C1- though at $200, it was a lot more expensive than any of the functional muzzle brakes available from Vortek and others at the time. I wrote up the article, US Airgun ran it, and whether anyone else had their airgun done, I don’t know.
Regardless, it’s a neat custom touch to the gun, and I think a lot sharper looking that the typical Beeman non-functional “muzzle brake” often found on these guns. And since it hadn’t been fired much in the last decade, I decided it was time to sell it, and buy another interesting gun to write about, so off it went. Maybe I’ll around get to restoring the other C1 that’s sitting in the back of the safe.
Looking through my past postings, I was surprised to find that I’d never featured my Hy-Score 814 pistol. If you’re familiar with the English-made GAT pistol and rifle, this should look very familiar, as it uses the same sort of push-barrel design. To load, you push the barrel backwards, until it locks. This b rings the loading port into view at the rear:
The knob at the rear- which part of a long needle-like object- is unscrewed, a pellet inserted, and pushed forward and sealed into the barrel. When the trigger is pulled, the barrel jumps forward, compressing the air between the barrel and the receiver tube, which is routed into the barrel, where it propels the pellet forward at perhaps 300-350fps.
Hy-Score imported these from Germany in order to round out their line of US-made pellet pistols with an inexpensive “entry level” gun. They’re very well made for an inexpensive pellet gun, with highly polished, blued surfaces. While they may not be too exciting to shoot, they’re great collectibles.