I was reading through one of the many airgun forums I drop into sporadically when someone mentioned that Apex Gun Parts had a few more Polish military air pistols back in stock. I didn’t know that there was a Polish military air pistol, but immediately clicked over to Apex’s site to see what they had. It was a reasonably priced (around $100) pistol with a curious resemblance to the Walther LP-53, a classic German air pistol of the 1960s and 70s.
If you’re old enough, you may remember this classic image from the Sean Connery era:
That’s an LP-53 that Connery is holding, and the story of why he’s holding an air pistol, and not the Walther PPK described in the Fleming novels, is an amusing one. It seems someone forgot to arrange for the pistol needed for the photo shoot, and someone on the crew said no problem, I’ve got a Walther, ran home, and came back with his Walther LP-53. This image made it into the poster for From Russia With Love.
The LP-53 was an interesting and popular pistol, available in a basic model and also in a more refined target model, with better sights. It was popular enough that the Poles took notice, and made their own clone at the government owned Predom Lucznik firearms plant, primarily for use in military training. (There are actually several different civilian and military versions with different model numbers- I’ve seen some marked Wz. 70).
Let’s take a closer look.
The sights are a bit crude in manufacture, as it the entire gun, when compared to the Walther, but fully adjustable and easy to use. As with the Walther, it’s a spring pistol gun with a novel design- the spring, piston, and cylinder are contained entirely within the grip. There’s a threaded cap at the base of the grip that allows for easy disassembly and rebuilding.
Like its Walther predecessor, the Wz. 1970 (which means “Model 1970”) is a spring air gun with an interesting break-barrel cocking system. The trigger guard is actually the cocking lever, as shown above, and compresses the piston and spring contained in the handgrip. It’s an old enough design that the piston and breech seals are made of leather, as you can see here:
Incidentally, the design of this cocking system is not original with Walther, but goes back to the Lincoln Jeffries pistol of the early 20thC:
A few test shots with the gun suggested that the piston seal was worn out or at least dried out. The gun is supposed to chronoograph at around 380fps with 7gr pellets, but the long delay between trigger pull and the sound of the pellet hitting the trap indicated the gun wasn’t putting out anything near that velocity.
Rather than disassembling the gun- it would have been a bit pointless as I don’t have a replacement seal- I decided to try adding a fair amount of silicone oil to the chamber. Modern synthetic piston guns shouldn’t be lubricated as all between rebuilds, but leather sealed guns needed to have the seals kept very wet, with regular reapplication of oil to replace what gets shot out. Luckily I had a bottle of 1970s vintage silicone oil on hand.
Using an improvised pipette I dropped perhaps .2-..3 mililiter directly into the chamber, worked the cocking lever a few time, and then left it to sit for a few minutes so that the oil would be absorbed by the leather piston seal. The improvement was immediate and obvious, with trigger pulls being immediately followed by a satisfying thwack! of pellet hitting metal.
About that trigger: It’s probably the worst airgun trigger I’ve ever encountered. There’s a sear adjustment screw but I’m cautious about turning it too far, based on experience with other airguns. ( I once spent several hours replacing the trigger adjustment screw in my Alfa Proj match pistol after I unscrewed it just a bit too far.) Even with it backed off to minimal safe sear engagement, it’s still a scratchy, unpredictable, release. Shooting behavior is rough, too; the unusual vertically recoiling piston means that there’s a lot of up and down movement before the pellet leaves the barrel. This is one pistol that requires a strong grip to shoot accurately.
Here’s my test target- a standard ISSF air pistol target, shot two handed at 10m:
My first shot went far to the left so I dialed a few clicks of correction in .The next four you can see strung vertically in the 5 and 6 ring. Another few clicks, and a little more experience with the trigger, and I put two shots in the black, still shooting two handed. Then I put the pistol down, picked up my Feinwerkbau LP100 and shot that 10-X one handed, just to remind myself that I still knew how to shoot 😉
The following day I tried shooting it offhand, as if it were a match pistol, using the same target. I’ve outlined the shots here in blue Sharpie:
It’s hard to see, but one of my shots was in the 9 ring, just above the shot I made with my FWB 1000. Interestingly, I didn’t shoot it that much better two handed. I’m going to keep practicing and see if I can find a way to get better groups. I may also try shooting it from some sort of rest to see what it’s capable of.
As you might guess, cocking is a bit difficult, as the short barrel doesn’t provide a lot of leverage unless you place your hand at the very end of the barrel. That’s where the sight is, of course, which doesn’t make for comfortable cocking either. With the Walther LP53 the makers thoughtfully provided a cocking aid as seen in the Walther illustration below:
This cocking aid consisted of a trimmed-down wooden ball with a recess cut in to clear the sight, and a rod that was inserted into the barrel. The last inch and a half of barrel were counterbored to the rod wouldn’t damage the rifling, and this feature is complied on the Polish pistol too, though I haven’t yet seen any evidence of a cocking aid being supplied by Lucznik. I’ll probably make something similar this winter.
It’s crude, difficult to shoot, and not terribly accurate. I like it.