Friday, April 28, 2017

The Polish P83 Wanad in 9x18 Makarov - Part II

In my last post on the P83 Wanad three months ago I talked about the gun itself, its history, and how it disassembles. Today I finally managed a trip to the range with the pistol (and a few others). As you can see above I took a few boxes of Geco 9x18 Makarov ammunition that I chose in part because it was the cheapest I could find. After all, a reliable pistol designed for combat use shouldn't be picky about ammunition- and this one wasn't picky. Every shot fed and ejected perfectly. As to accuracy...

Fixed barrel pistol like the P-83, P-64, and Walther's PP family are (or should be)  intrinsically more accurate than delayed recoil pistols like the John Browning designed 1911 pistol. In a 1911, the barrel  moves rearward and down with every shot, and depends on the mainspring and the tight fit of the moving parts to return to its initial position. Tiny difference in position on successive shots  can make a big difference downrange, which is why the gunsmiths who tune the 1911 for bullseye competition spend most of their time tightening up all the tolerances and polishing barrel bushings. The fixed barrel on the P-83, on the other hand,  is in exactly the same position for every shot.

The target above was shot outdoors at 50'. It was a moderately windy day, around 66 degrees. My first shot missed the target entirely. You can see a few shots on the bull,  a few below, and many more high and to the right. The gun was shooting about a foot low and 8 inches right at 50', and I had to walk the shots onto the bull, starting in the upper right corner of the silhouette target. That's not really a big issue as the sights can be moved or filed. I'd like to get it shooting to point of aim at 25 yards.

Firing behavior was sharp, but not terribly uncomfortable. My hands weren't at all sore after 50 rounds fired slowly over half an hour. Double action is heavy but smooth, and single action is light and crisp, with no creep at all on my sample. The safety/decocker is difficult to reach, but the heavy DA pull means that this pistol, like the PPK, can safely be carried uncocked with the safety off.  The grips look and feel rugged enough, but their shape doesn't make it easy to get a good, repeatable, hand position. I'm thinking of ordering a set of wood grips ($69) from, where they have wood grips for 122 different classic European and American pistols.

On the whole I like this pistol a lot. It's very reliable, and ammunition isn't expensive- the Geco can typically be had for $15-16 a box of 50, and the steel cased Russian Brown Bear and Silver Bear can usually be had for for between $8 and $9 for a box of 50.  Its good enough to be issued to Russian troops, so I assume it's reliable. The P-83 is not only reliable enough to use as a carry piece, it's also a great historic collectable, and I suspect the price will go up when the current supply runs out- remember when Nagant revolvers were selling for $119? Next time out I'm going to work on zeroing the sights and then I can test for accuracy.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Polish P83 Wanad in 9x18 Makarov - Part I

There has been a good supply of Polish made P83 pistols in the last year or so, and I've been contemplating getting one as they're  very inexpensive- $219 from most distributors. What finally convinced me was the thought that there's not an infinite supply of the out there, and when the current supply runs out (which granted may not be for a while) the price will be going up. Consider that when I bought my 1947 Nagant revolver they could be had as cheaply as $99 from the C&R dealers, and now they sell for $250 to $300. I found mine at Gander Mountain for $229, plus $25 shipping, which is about what would cost if I'd ordered from the distributor and had it shipped to a local FFL.

Mine arrive in well worn but, it appeared, mostly unfired condition. The bore is nice and shiny. There are a lot a shallow scratches but the only appreciable wear to the bluing is right around the muzzle, which is exactly what you expect to see on a gun that has been repeatedly unholstered and reholstered without being fired. 


So what is a P83?

In 1958 the Poles needed a new sidearm for the police and military, and as a client state of the USSR that meant whatever they chose had to chamber the Soviet standard 9x18 Makarov cartridge. Unlike the Bulgarians and other client states, they didn't license the standard Makarov pistol design. Instead, they designed their own pistol, called the P64. It was a beautiful little pistol, with all machined parts, and it was very expensive to make, so in 1983 they replaced it with the P83. 

Like the P64, the P83 is heavily influenced by the design of the Walther PPK. It's a straight blowback design with a fixed barrel that is double action on the first shot, and single action on successive shots.   Unlike both the PPK and the P64, the P83 made largely of stamped and welded pieces. It's also significantly larger; take a look at the P38 next to a modern PPK/S in .22: 

 It may not be as elegant looking at the PPK or the P83, but it's a rugged, reliable pistol. Let's take a closer look at some details.

The magazine release is the typical European heel release. It's easy to operate, and magazines are firmly elected thanks to a spring above the magazine. There's also a feature seen on many if not most military sidearms: A ring for a lanyard.

Another interesting feature of the P83 is its loaded chamber indicator- the recessed pin seen above the safety/decocking lever:

It's a pin that sticks out when there's a round in the chamber- like this:

How it works is very simple. If we look at the other side of the gun, we see an unusually long extractor:

The extractor rotates around a pivot about midway along its length. When a cartridge is chambered, it pushes the front part of the extractor out a fraction of an inch, which pushes the rear half inward- which in turn pushes the loaded chamber indicator pin out the other side. Simple. 

I mentioned that the P83 is heavily influenced by the PPK, and that's clearly visible in the safety/decocker lever. But the P83 safety works in a very different manner. Like the PPK, pushing the  lever to the safe position drops the hammer without firing the gun. In the PPK, that also rotates a large internal block that stops the hammer short of striking the firing pin. In the P83, it performs two different functions. First, it blocks the firing pin from moving. But it also prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin in a clever manner.

Note the position of the firing pin in a gun with the safety off:

When you activate the safety/decocking lever, this happens:

Note that the firing pin has tilted downward. How does that keep the gun from firing? 

As you can see, there's a recess in the hammer. If the firing pin is in the down position, the it fits into the recess and is not struck by the hammer. Even if something strikes the firing pin, it's still locked from moving. 

Disassembly is similar to most fixed barrel, straight blowback pistols: Unlock the detent that keeps the slide on the receiver when it recoils, pull the slide back, and remove. On the PPK, you do this by pulling down the trigger gear, which is a very elegant design feature but a bit clumsy in practice. On the P83, there's a detent mounted just above the trigger guard:

To release it, just pull it down:

And pull the slide back and off in the usual manner:

In Part II, i'll discuss the firing behavior of the P83. But they'll have to wait for warmer weather and a trip to my club.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Customized 10/22 Target Stock

This is a customized 10/22 target stock that a friend of mine put together and that I used in my own custom 10/22 build. Right off you can see the adjustable cheek piece he made from Kydex, which is often used for making holsters. 

The really important part is what's inside. This stock has a dual epoxy and pillar bedding system:

There are two brass pillars epoxied into the stock to provide solid anchor points.  Two? Yes, a lot of serious 10/22 tuners drill and tap a second hole at the rear of the receiver to provide a more stable stock-to-action connection.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Great customer service from Champion Products

Almost 30 years ago I bought a Champion .22 bullet trap for indoor pellet shooting. This is a solid, welded steel trap, and it's a lot better than any of the cheap bolted and riveted copies on the market. It handles magnum pellet rifles with no difficulty, and after all these years it is still in like new condition. Unfortunately two years ago, during flood cleanup I lost the metal bracket that targets clip on to. I called Champion hoping to order a replacement- and they sent a replacement out at no charge. Now that's customer service!