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. 

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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!





Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The New Walther PPK/S in .22


Back in the early days of this blog I wrote about my .380 Walther PPK built under license by Smith & Wesson. I've always been a big fan of the PP and its various derivatives, as it was the model for so many guns that followed. All the Russian Makarov autos are really clones of the PPK  as are just about every other fixed barrel double/single auto pistol. But as much as I liked it, I sold the PPK as I just couldn't get used to the sharp recoil. The PPK was designed around the .32 ACP (aka 7.62 auto pistol) and that's the best cartridge for that gun.

I've been looking for a .32 PPK since then, and then the other day I spotted what turned out to be a used PPK/S in .22 at a very attractive price- and in what looked like unused condition. This is a relatively recent gun from Walther that differs from the earlier .22 PP-type pistols in one significant way. The original guns were of all steel construction, like the centerfire PPs and PPKs, but in order to make the slide light enough to operate with .22LR levels of energy, it had to be thinned to the point that failures occurred at weak points. For this new version, Walther has chosen to use Zamak, a zinc alloy that's lighter than steel and allows Walther to make the slide as thick as the centerfire versions.

Zamak has gotten a lot of bad press, mostly because it and other zinc alloys have long been the choice of makers of very cheaply made guns. But used properly it's a good material that should hold up in use, and in the years this pistol has been in the marketplace there haven't been any reports of slide failures. 

It looks and functions just like any PP-family gun, it's accurate enough for plinking, and it's fun to shoot. Downsides? The single action trigger pull is redidulously high, the double action trigger pull is one of the highest of any gun I've fired (including the Nagant revolver!) and it's not really a true historic PPK. I'll keep it for a while, put some more rounds through it, and eventually sell it and move on to something else.

Footnote: If you're confused by the PP. PPK, PPK/S nomenclature, its really pretty simple. Walther designed the original PP (Polizepistol) in 1929. This was followed in 1930 by the PPK (Polizepistole Kriminalmodel) which was not for criminals but for detectives- those in the kriminal division. 

The Gun Control Act of 1968 banned the import of the popular PPK as it was too small to qualify for import under the (somewhat arbitrary) points system implemented by the law. Walther responded by creating the PPK/S which combined the shorter barrel of the PPK with a longer grip- just long enough to earn enough points for import.