Monday, December 4, 2017

A rusty and pitted CZ 70 in .32 acp - Part I

Several weeks ago I ordered a CZ-70 in 7.62 Browning, aka .32acp, from Classic Firearms and had it shipped to my local FFL I paid the extra $20 for a hand-selected example, based on my previous dealings with Classic, and assuming it would be in as good condition as the FEG 7.62 and the CZ 83 I wrote about earlier. That, it turned out, was an incorrect assumption. 

The gun that arrived was pitted and covered in rust. It was so rusted and gummed up that I couldn't even depress the magazine release, which it why you see it with the slide back in the above photo. My hand were covered in rust, as was the bag it arrived in. I took it home and sprayed it with plenty of my homemade Ed's Red to displace moisture and halt the rusting, and sent a friendly reply to Classic in response to their "how did we do?" email.

That was a week ago. Several days later, having heard nothing, I went to work on the gun. The first step was try try and disassemble it.  I began by removing the plastic grips and setting them aside. Using a brass punch and a hammer I managed to depress the magazine release, but the magazine still didn't want to come out. Using a rag and a pair of pliers I pulled it, and- no surprise- it was covered in rust, as was the inside of the frame.

Again using the hammer and punch I managed to depress the slide release, and completed the basic field stripping of the gun. Not having a good disassembly manual or exploded diagram I stopped there and set everything to soak in more Ed's Red. 

Over the next two days I went at the gun with solvents, #0000 steel wool, brass wool, stainless steel and bronze brushes, and 500 grit paper for rust inside the slide. I also cleaned the grips and gave them a quick buffing on a rag wheel. 

One of the most difficult parts was freeing up the firing pin, which was frozen solid. I seemed to be jammed with a mixture of heavily oxidized grease or perhaps cosmoline, and a fine grey powder- no idea what that was. I didn't want to completely disassemble the slide, so for now I flushed the firing pin with solvent, through the opening for the firing pin lock, until the pin moved freely, and then i filled the are with light oil for now. I imagine I'll eventually want to actually disassemble that area. There's a drive pin visible in this photo (upper left)  that I think holds the firing pin and spring in place. 

After several hours of work I managed to get rid of all the visible rust, but not the pitting, of course. That'll have to wait for some long boring winter nights when I'll feel like completely disassembling it and draw filing, sanding, buffing, and rebluing it. For now, though, I've arrested and removed the rust. It looks safe to shoot, with no obvious cracks in the frame, but I'm going to wait until I can do a really thorough teardown. 

UPDATE: Still working on the gun. I haven't fired it yet, as I'm not entirely sure if it's safe; there may be cracks in the frame. 

And a month after my email, I still have not received a reply from Classic Firearms. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The FÉG Model AP7.65 Pistol in .32ACP, Part I

I've been thinning out my collection, getting rid of guns I didn't actually shoot. The last thing I needed was another Soviet-era European pistol... and then I saw that Classic Firearms had received a shipment of FEG AP7.65 pistols... and was selling them at an attractive price. Hmm. I rationalized that I'd sold 5 guns this year and was planning on selling a few more, so there was room in the safe. Plus this pistol had several things going for it:

  1. It was in 7.65 Browning, aka .32ACP, and I'd never owned a pistol in that caliber. 
  2. It was based on the Walther PP.
  3. It has the classic sculpted lines that have disappeared in modern firearms. 
  4. It was only $219.

I ordered one and had it shipped to my local FFL I also opted to spend an additional $20 for special hand selection, which I think paid off:

The slide is in excellent condition, with no scratches or wear to the bluing. The only real wear on the gun is that seen on the barrel through the ejection port. The frame also shows some wear, but that could be expected as the anodized surface isn't as hard as the blued steel slide.

While waiting for the pistol to arrive I did the usual Google searches to learn some more about the gun, and discovered that there's some confusion out there as to the history of the gun. Classic Arms stated that these were police turn-ins, but that may or may not be the case. For one thing, countries under Soviet rule were generally constrained to using pistols firing the 9x18 Makarov, and either used the Russian pistol or developed their own gun in that caliber. The standard Hungarian police gun, developed to accommodate that mandate, was the Reddõrségi Pistoly R61, in 9x18 Makarov, which was based on the Walther PP. A commercial version was also sold in .380 (or 9mm Browning, as it is known in Europe.)

The success of the R61 led to the a request by the Hungarian military for a similar lightweight pistol, and FEG responded with the PA-63, in 9mm Makarov (Piztoly 63 Minta, or PS-63M).  This served as the primary army pistol until the collapse of the Soviet Union, at which time it was replaced by the P93 in NATO standard 9MM Parabellum. That in turn led to the development of a variant of the PA-63, the AP7.65, as an export model.

Some commenters in forums claim that some of these AP7.65s were used by Hungarian police departments, perhaps in an unofficial capacity. Others stare that these were used by paramilitaries, border guards, or other security forces. One source says that they came from Israel, where they were used by the civil police, the Mishteret Yisroel.  Leaving that question aside, let's get back to the details of the gun itself.

The AP7.75 has a steel slide assembly and an aluminum-titanium alloy frame that can be found today in two different cosmetic versions. Mine, as you can see, has a blue or blue-black anodized finish, but it's also available in a "two toned" versions, with a reddish or yellowish anodized frame. I had a choice, and opted for blue, in part because I think it looks better ( and in part because they wanted an extra $20 for the color anodized versions.)

As noted earlier, it's based on the classic Walther PP- but with a very well thought out safety improvements by FEG. Both the FEG and Walther have a hammer block safety that's part of the safety/decocking lever, but the FEG adds a further firing pin safety to the PA-63. If you look at the firing pin of an AP7.65 or PA-63,, you'll note that the firing pin doesn't actually line up with the firing pin. It's only when you pull the trigger (or pull the hammer back on a fully cocked gun) that you'll see the firing pin tilt up so that it's in line with the hammer. That makes cocking very safe. Even if the hammer block fails, the gun will not fire.

Disassembly is identical to that of the PP series. It begins by pulling down on the trigger guard, which is hinged at the rear\. Pulling it to one side prevents it from springing back into the frame.

See that lug that goes into the frame when the trigger guard is in it's normal position? That stops the slide in its rearward travel under recoil. Once the trigger guard is out of the way, the slide can be pulled beyond its normal travel, the rear of the slide lifted to clear the rails it travels on, and then slid forward and off the gun:

Something I learned after first posting this article: The grips with the thumb rest were not a feature of the pistol originally, and were added for the US market. The reason for that dates back to the 1968 GCA, which established a points system to determine if a gun could be legally imported. The given reason was to ban small, inexpensive guns with "no sporting use." The thumb rest grips are considered a feature of target pistols. Some shooters don't like these, and replacements are available- including original grips removed when these were substituted. 

The bore was clean and shiny, and the ramp showed signs of either oil that had hardened from polymerization, or or perhaps some leftover cosmoline-type coating.  

Part 2 will be about actually firing the AP7.65, but that'll have to wait until (1) I find some .32ACP at a reasonable price and (2) I get to the range. Given that it's almost deer season, and everyone who hasn't fired their gun since last year is lining up to zero and practice, it may be a while before I get there. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More DIY lube: Make your own Ballistol

Ballistol has been popping up increasingly in stores, magazine articles, forums, and blog posts over the past few years- enough so that I thought I should check it out. I'm usually very skeptical of the CLP-of-the-month frenzy that preoccupies a lot of shooters, but Ballistol has been around since before the First World War. Products don't usually survive that long unless they have something to recommend them, so decided to check it out.

If you go to the commercial Ballistol web page you can read this breathless history of the product:

In 1904, Dr. Helmut Klever succeeded in producing the special compound, which he named “Ballistol” (from the words “ballistic” and “oleum”, the Latin word for “oil”).  It soon became obvious that this new “ballistic oil” had truly amazing capabilities, and in 1905 the Imperial Army tested and adopted Ballistol, which stayed in use until 1945.  By then, however, word had spread and within a decade, hunters, boaters, hikers, and outdoorsmen in Germany, Austria and Switzerland had converted to using this new “miracle oil.”

So what is Ballistol, exactly? The ingredients aren't secret. There's the MSDS, of course, and the formula hasn't exactly been kept secret for the past 113 years. Like all lubricants, it has as its base an oil- in the case of Ballistol, mineral oil. This is the same lightweight petroleum distillate that is used as baby oil, transformer oil, or microscope objective immersion oil. It's clear, nontoxic, and cheap- about 87 cents per pound in drum quantities. (Walmart has pharmaceutical grade mineral oil for $1.98/pint). It lacks the tenaciousness of polarized oils or greases, but if you regularly clean and lubricate a firearm it works just fine, which is why so many commercial gun lubes have mineral oil as their base.

The second ingredient is oleic acid, which makes up around 10% of Ballistol by volume. This is not a corrosive chemical, as the name might suggest, but a monounsaturated fatty acid. It's also a major component of many soaps, and when combined with mineral oil it allows the oil to mix with water in suspension. That means you can dilute it with water and make "moose milk," a favorite cloning solution for black powder shooters. When used undiluted as a CLP, it helps keep carbon and dirt in suspension so it can be flushed out.

The third main ingredient is benzyl acetate, which also makes up about 10% of Ballistol. This compound is commonly used as a component of artificial fruit flavors and aromas. It's also an effective solvent for nitrocellulose, which is why it's in Ballistol.

The last ingredient in Anethole, a plant extract that gives Ballistol its characteristic anise/licorice scent. Some find this scent very off-putting. I used in in my mixture for authenticity, but frankly, I'd leave it out as it doesn't contribute anything functional to the mixture. I suspect its presence in the original formula may have been for some assumed medicinal purpose as it was commonly used to clean wounds, according to some sources. I mixed up mine in a mineral oil bottle with a flip-up spout that I think was sold for applying oil to wooden cutting boards, but you could also use a spray bottle of the sort I used for my Ed's Red experiments.

Having mixed up all the ingredients, I wetted a few patches an pulled them through a .22 that had been to the range recently, and as you might expect, it left a clean and shiny barrel. I also used it to clean carbon deposits form the cylinder of my S&W 14-3 Masterpiece, and again, it worked just as well as the Break Free I usually use.

So there it is: Mineral oil, soap,  and nontoxic nitrocellulose solvent.  Total cost for a pint was under $3, which compares very favorably with $18 that Midway gets for a pint can of the commercial product. If you'd like to try mixing it up on your own, you can get mineral oil almost anywhere, and I've found vendors selling small amounts of oleic acid, butyl acetate, and anethol on both eBay and on Etsy. Anethole can also be found in health food stores and various new age apothecaries at ridiculously inflated prices. Shop around, as prices vary widely.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Williams WGRS-RU22 Peep Sight for the Ruger 10/22

I've experimented the stock leaf sight and with scopes ranging from 4x to 18x and various red dots on my 10/22, but never a peep sight- until now. Scopes are the default choice for almost all rifle shooters these days thanks to the availability of inexpensive scopes. But before rifle scopes were common, the shooter looking for accuracy used a peep sight. Those who've never used a peep might wonder how accurate a non-magnifying scope can be. They should take a look at the rifles used by high power competitors, who shoot targets at 300, 600, and even 1000 yards using only peeps. I had an adjustable William peep on my Beeman R7 pellet rifle for the first year I owned it and found it was as accurate as any scope at the 10-30 yards distances where a low powered airgun is most useful.

There are several peep sights available for the 10/22. One of the simplest and most rugged is the WGRS-RU22 from Williams, who have been making sights for around 90 years. The rear sight screws directly to the same holes used for mounting the scope rail:

There aren't any adjustment knobs or screws- just a pair of set screws for securing elevation and windage adjustments. There are some crude scales engraved in the sight, but basically zeroing this rifle involves loosening a screw, nudging the sight, and tightening the screw again. Elevation is accomplished by sliding the sight forwards and backwards along an angled rail. Windage is adjusted by moving the peep right or left. The sight uses a screw-in insert, so you can  remove the pinhole and use the mounting ring as a "ghost sight:" in low light.  As the sight sits a little higher than the leaf sight, Williams supplies a slightly higher front sight that can be installed with a sight pusher, or a brass punch- which is what I used:

This sight has the popular "fiber optic" insert which really does pick up ambient light and help the front sight stand out against a dark target. I was a bit sorry to remove the the stock sight as it has a  very traditional looking brass insert, but I have to admit the fiber optic sight is much more practical.

My only testing so far has been in my basemt 10 meter range, with Aguila Colibri ammunition, and I have found that the peep is certainly very accurate there. It may not be as fast as a red dot sight, but a peep sight has the advantage that it doesn't use any batteries.  At typical small game hunting distances of 20-40 yards a peep is about as accurate as you need. Those looking for a rugged, reliable, sighting system for a 10/22, or for any rifle intended as a survival gun should certainly consider the peep.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Aimtech APM-11 scope mount for the S&W 422

The Smith & Wesson 422 is an accurate, reliable, fun to shoot pistol, with many of the features that make the more expensive Model 41 so good. You can almost think of the 422 (and its stainless companion, the 622) as an entry level Model 41- in fact, they share the same magazine. They both have a very low bore axis, just above the grip. The ejection port is at the top of the grip, and the entire slide is actually above the bore and the port. That low bore axis means that recoil is almost straight back- there's very little rotation of the gun when fired. 

The 422 came in two versions, one with fixed sights (which I have) and a nicer one with adjustable sights and wooden grips. You can't just swap sights, either, as you can with many pistols. While the rear sight on the fixed model is simply dovetailed into the slide, on the adjustable model, the slide is actually milled longitudinally for the sight. I thought about fitting a a sight from another gun onto my 422, but that leaves the problem of the front sight, which I think is an integral part of the alloy frame, and can't be replaced. You'd have to solder or epoxy some sort of extension on. 

That led me to think about putting a dot sight on it. There's no provision in the pistol for mounting a scope, though some have milled slots into the upper part of the frame, just behind the front sight, or mounted a short rail there. The simpler solution is to get an APM-11 mount from Aimtech, who make scope mounts for all sorts of difficult to scope pistols. This will cost you around $65-68 with postage, depending on where you order it. I paid $68 from Optics Planet, as while there were cheaper listings out there, they were all from shops I'd never heard of, and I'd done business with Optics Planet and trusted them. 

As you can see from the photo at the top of this article, the APM-11 mounts by replacing the right hand side grip. It's a very secure mount, similar to Aimtech's mount for the Colt 1911. The mount itself is made of thick, anodized, aluminum that doesn't flex at all. It's a very high mount, that leaves plenty of room between the gun and scope- enough to use the stock sights, if you like:

although it does help make the gun more top heavy. The scope and mount add enough weight that the combined  assembly is a lot harder to shoot bullseye style than the gun alone. I spent a few hours this afternoon shooting 3 foot-pound Aguila Colibri rounds into my basement pellet trap to get a feel for how it handles, and had a real preference for two-handed shooting with this setup. I may try it with a smaller, lighter dot sight. 

One thing that did strike me was the finish on this piece- it's rough. Take a look:

This isn't just an unpolished finish. It's as if part of their anodization preparation involves tumbling parts with  nuts, bolts and old metal roller skates. In fact, it got me to wondering if perhaps Optics Planet hadn't sent me a used unit, so I sent them a note asking about this. They replied with an apology, and an offer to send it back or accept an $18 price adjustment. I took the price adjustment. 

Overall, I'm impressed with the accuracy of the machining (and less so for the finishing) and how well it fits the gun. On the minus side, it's a bullseye sight mount that's not really a bullseye grip, though a clever gunsmith or shooter could screw or epoxy half a wood grip to it, I suppose. I can't imagine using it for anything other than bullseye or other target shooting at known distances, given how high the mount is above the bore axis. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ed's Red

What's your favorite all-in-one gun cleaner, lube, and protectant? An awful lot of shooters, as well as the US Military, use Break Free CLP. Some shooters like Ballistol, which was formulated for the German military around the time of the First World War.

There are also a number of expensive "superlubes" that show up on the market from time to time, like Fireclean, which sells for $15 per 2oz bottle ($7.50 per ounce) and promises to have all sorts of wonderful properties, like being biodegradable, non-toxic, removing baked-on carbon, and providing lubrication even when there's no visible lube left on the gun. Thanks to a number of dedicated Internet researchers, we know that Fireclean is mostly (or entirely) vegetable oil, which sells for about twenty cents per ounce at my local grocery. (If you follow this link, you can see Ian McCollum and Karl Kasarda frying eggs in Fireclean.)

Way back in 1947, retired US Major General Julian Hatcher published his"Hatcher Notebook,"  a collection of essays covering just about everything he knew about guns and marksmanship, and in that book he listed a formula for "Frankford Arsenal Cleaner No. 18," a mixture that dated back at least to the 1920s. Hatcher's formula consisted of equal parts sperm whale oil, Pratts Astral Oil, turpentine, and acetone, and optionally, some lanolin added.

Sperm whale oil isn't available today, but a modern substitute is: Automatic Transmission Fluid. Pratt's Astral Oil turns out to have been deodorized kerosene, which is sold today as lamp oil. Turpentine is expensive, can break down, and has a strong odor, but there's a modern substitute for that as well: Stoddard Solvent, also known as odorless mineral spirits. With all the plastic grips and other parts in guns today the use of acetone in a general purpose gun cleaner probably isn't wise. But the remaining ingredients still make for a good general purpose CLP formula, and in 1991 C. E. "Ed" Harris published his modernized formula, which has come to be known as Ed's Red. Very simply, it's composed of:

1 part ATF
1 part odorless kerosene or lamp oil
1 part odorless mineral spirits
200 grams anhydrous lanolin per liter of mixture. (optional)

Ed recommended adding 1 part acetone, as in the original formula, for removing plastic residue from shotgun barrels, or aggressive powder residue removal. I'd skip the acetone for the reasons I mentioned previously.

I mixed up a batch today from material on hand, although I did drop by my local hardware store to get a chemical-resistant spray bottle. Total cost worked out to be roughly $4 for 24 ounces, or 17 cents per ounce, making it even cheaper than Canola oil. If you leave out the lanolin it's cheaper still. The lanolin doesn't add any additional cleaning properties, but it does leave a more tenacious protective film against rusting.

So, you may ask, how well does it work? As good as any product Ive tried, I suppose. The truth is that just about any oil makes a fine gun cleaner and lubricant if you regularly clean and lube your guns. Rapeseed oil was used by the carload in large guns by the allies all through WWII. Ballistol is just mineral oil with some soap (oleic acids) and aromatic compounds. Use what you like whether it's some new wonder oil  that costs $40 for a tiny 4 ounce bottle, or canola oil that costs $2.75/quart at the Piggly-Wiggly. The important thing is to do the regular maintenance.

Footnote: More from Ian and Karl on magic formulas.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The CZ83 in .380, Part II: Shooting

Not too long after receiving my CZ83 I took it to a local outdoor range to see how it actually shot. I had a fair amount of .380 practice ammunition on hand, but as this was originally a Soviet-era pistol (the 9mm Makarov CZ82 version entered Czech military service in 1983) I decided to try some Soviet, or at least Russian, ammunition. I found steel cased and jacketed Tula for around $14/50 and decided to see how well that worked in the CZ. 

In brief, it worked perfectly. No failures to feed or to eject. Firing behavior is harsh, as you'd expect from a fixed barrel, straight blowback gun. It's not as unpleasant at a PPK in .380, which is what you'd expect, as this is a significantly heavier pistol (32 ounces to the PPK's 23.5) but it's certainly not enjoyable. A well-fitting set of grips would probably help, and I'm still considering ordering a set from grips4u. 

As for accuracy- it's pretty good for what is intended as strictly a self-defense pistol. I set up a standard silhouette target at 25 yards and as you can see below, I managed to keep all my shots on the target- roughly in a 10" circle. If you exclude my first few shots, taken as I was getting used to it, most of my shots fell within a 5" circle. With practice I suspect I could tighten my groups significantly.  I'd also like to compare the performance of the TULA ammunition with brass-cased ammunition. 

My shots tended to hit around 4-5" left of center. That may be due to the sights not being aligned properly, or it may be me pulling the shots left from poor trigger control. Regardless, accuracy is more than good enough for the purpose it was designed for. 

In my original post on this pistol I mentioned that it was one of a batch of pistols that was recently imported, and I decided that if I had any interest in it I ought to jump on it before they disappeared and prices went up. Well, it's been just about two weeks since I ordered mine, and none of the suppliers who were offering them two weeks ago have any in stock. More may be coming in eventually, but for the moment, if you want one, you'll probably have to pay more than you did two weeks ago. 


Since writing this, I've learned that the Czech police phased out the CZ 82 (the 9x18 Makarov version of the pistol) from service after discovering that it's not drop safe. Even though the  rebounding hammer cannot normally hit the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled, it is possible for the slide to bounce in such a way that it brings the cartridge into contact with the firing pin. The Czechs ordered that CZ 82s should be carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber until they were all removed from service

Friday, June 9, 2017

The CZ83 in .380, Part I

In a competitive marketplace, products tend to converge over time into a small number of optimal designs. Ever notice how alike cars look these days? Guns are no different.  Military and police pistol designs have all converged  onto the polymer framed, double action only, striker fired, style pioneered by the H&K VP70 and popularized by Glock. (Yes, H&K's VP70 proceeded the first Gaston Glock design by a good six years.) There's good reason for this. Striker fired, polymer framed,  DAO pistols are simple, straightforward, relatively cheap to make, and require much less training to use than a complex gun with safeties  that switch mode from DA to SA and can be tricky to de-cock. The problem with them, though, is that they're all ugly. That doesn't matter to the military, but it does to collectors. (I do own a polymer framed, hammer fired, double action only pistol- the LCP- but only because it's about the smallest and lightest .380 there is.)

What I prefer to collect for the aesthetic enjoyment are pistols that look like they were crafted by gunsmiths rather than engineers, and were milled, not injection molded. They should have hammers, if at all possible. Lately I've been intrigued by older military and police guns that have been sold off by armies and police forces switching to the newer guns, and by guns used by the former client states of the USSR. These guns tend to show up in batches as they're imported, and usually go pretty cheaply until the supply dries up, at which point the price rises. The Polish LP83 I wrote about last month certainly fits that description, as does the Nagant Revolver I wrote about some time ago. I paid $120 for the Nagant, and now they're trading for $275-350, depends on the year and condition.

Last month I discovered the CZ82 and CZ83 pistols, which have shown up on the surplus market in the last year or so. CZ is of course one of the better gun makers in Europe, and have supplied military, police, and civilian markets with both handguns and long guns for not quite a century now. The CZ82 and 83 are really the same gun, the 82 in 9mm Makarov being the military and police model (where it was known as the Vz.82), and the 83 in.380 or .32ACP  being the civilian model. The different models are pretty much identical other than the barrel and the magazine. Reportedly, the 82 and the .380 83 can swap magazines, which is not surprising, as the cartridges are very close in diameter and only vary in length by 1mm. Both 9mm Makarov and .380 variants can be loaded with 12 rounds. The .32ACP model will take 15.

It's a far cry from today's popular pocket .380s or even the PP and PPK. Thanks to the double stack magazine it has a fat grip that feels very comfortable to my hand and should help distribute recoil better than skinnier guns like the PPK. Everything about gun suggests classic design and quality. It's not a light gun; at 32oz empty it's 9oz heavier than the PPK and over 22oz heavier than my LCP. That's because it's made of steel, of course, and in a straight blowback gun, weight is your friend. It helps slow recoil velocity and better distribute the energy over time. The only other similarly hefty .380 I can recall in recent years was the Beretta 84, which was essentially a .380 version of the well-known Beretta 92. (Surplus ones were selling for $240 not too many years ago, and I should have grabbed one then.)

The CZ83 is a classic Double Action-Single Action pistol, like the Browning Hi-Power or the PPK. If the hammer is down, the gun is in double action mode. Once fired, the gun is in single action mode, and the safety can be applied so that it can be carried in Cooper's "condition one": Cocked and locked. There's no decocker lever, so safe decocking is a two handed affair:  Place the weak hand thumb over the hammer, and pull the trigger. Lower the hammer off the half-cock notch, releasing the trigger as you do. There's a hammer block that's connected to the trigger, so once the trigger is no longer depressed, the hammer cannot strike the firing pin if accidentally released of if the gun is dropped.

The trigger itself is very smooth. Published figures put the SA pull at between 3 and 6 pounds, and DA at 13 pounds. Using my fish scale (I don't have a proper trigger scale) I measured both about 50% higher, but until I can borrow a friend's trigger gauge or a set of weights, I'll go with the published numbers.

The slide locks open on an empty magazine- classic John Browning:

It can be manually released, or, if the magazine is replaced with a loaded one and the slide is pulled back, it will automatically release.

Disassembly is very much influenced by the Walther PP/PPK- after removing the magazine and clearing the gun, you pull down on the front of the trigger guard. This takes significantly more effort than on the Walther guns, but when pulled down it locks into position with a solid and satisfying  click:

With the guard pulled down,  the slide can be pulled back, lifted up at the rear, and slid forward off the rails as with the typical blowback pistol:

Next: Shooting the CZ83

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Burris 4x Mini

I hesitated a bit before posting this as the Burris compact scopes aren't well known, but the word does seem to be getting out, as prices have been rising lately. I currently own three: A 6x mini with adjustable objective that's mounted on my Theoben Sirocco, and two fixed objective 4x minis, like the one above. This one cost me $150, with shipping, and the previous one I purchased last fall cost $125. The 6x AO scopes have been trading for $275 and up on eBay.  There's also a 3-9x fixed objective mini, and a 4-12x AO mini. 

There's a real craze these days for high powered "Sniper" scopes with magnifications as high as 32x or 40x, but for most uses it's overkill. There are instances in which you need high magnification, i.e., in which the target is very small, or it's a high precision event, like bencherest.  (I shot airgun field target with a 6-18x scope, and that's a game where you need to keep your pellets inside of 3/4" at up to 50 yards. Some guys used fixed scopes up to 40x). But for hunting and most recreational shooting, unless you're a varmint under taking our groundhogs at 600 yards, more modest magnification is called for. When I started shooting in the 1960s most scopes were in the 4-6x range.

4x is, I think, the best all-around magnification for .22s,  deer rifles East of the Mississippi, hog rifles, and the like. They give you fast target acquisition, a wide field of view, and more than enough accuracy for hunting. The 20mm objective on this scope looks tiny, but it's more than big enough- a  20mm diameter objective divided by 4x magnification  yields a 5mm exit pupil (the size of the bundle of light exiting the rear of the scope into the user's eye) which is more than enough for daylight use. In fact, the U.S. Army determined sone years ago that a 5mm exit pupil was ideal. Your pupil isn't going to get any bigger than that in daylight. [For some reason most fixed 4x scopes today are 4x32, which makes no sense. That gives you an 8mm exit pupil, and even the youngest shooters don't have pupils that big, except maybe after an hour in  a completely darkened room.]

Burris scopes are extremely well made, with thick wall tubing and excellent glass, and Burris still services every scope they've ever sold. They'll even adjust the parallax. The 4x and 6x non-adjustable minis have the parallax set at 100 yards, I believe, but they'll set them to 40, making them excellent .22 scopes.  If only they'd bring back the minis, I bet a lot of shooters would happily fork over the dough to buy one.

Caldwell Stinger Rifle Rest

Caldwell makes a lot of different rifle rests, from sand bags on up to their Rock BR Competition bench rest. I have a Rock BR that I've modified, according to ideas gleaned from on-line bench rest fans, adding nylon bushings and thrust bearings to reduce stiction and play. It's a lot of rest for under $200, especially when compared to the $500-1000 rests from Sinclair and Ransom that many serious competitors use. This rest- the Stinger- falls in the middle of their range. It's designed for sighting in rifles, and it's particularly well suited for AR-type carbines, though it'll fit just about any rifle. 

Vertical adjustability is good, although obviously not as good as on the Rock BR. There's a coarse adjustment up front, under the forearm rest:

...and a fine adjustment in the rear:

Unfortunately there's no traversing adjustment, so you're left with nudging the butt to effect any left-right corrections. But it's a good, solid, rest for zeroing in at hunting distances, it'll accommodate most any rifle, and for around $100 at Amazon it's a pretty reasonable deal. 

If you want a serious bench rest at a budget price, Amazon has about the best price on the Rock BR and you can find some excellent ideas for customizing it here.  

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 guard, 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 that will have to wait for warmer weather and a trip to my club.