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My WW2 Handgun Collection

Discussion in 'Weapons' started by George Patton, Feb 20, 2015.

  1. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I've finally gotten around to taking some decent photos of my WW2 firearms that I'll be posting over the next few months (I have a lot). I'll start off with my handguns.

    First up is a 1942 Radom Vis-35.
    [​IMG]

    Background:

    The Vis or Vis-35 (often incorrectly known as a Radom) is a 9mm single action semiautomatic designed in Poland in 1930. The pistol is based on the M1911A1, but has a decocker and uses a similar camming system to the Browning Hi-Power as opposed to the link used on the M1911A1. Chambered in 9mm, the pistol is thinner than the M1911A1 and the grip flares out at the bottom. It uses a single stack magazine that holds 8 rounds. It can be viewed as an interesting "hybrid" design between a M1911A1 and a Hi-Power, with the final design being thinner than both. I've seen it stated (although I haven't seen any primary sources) that the pistol was "one of the finest" combat handguns in the world. The Vis-35 was also slotted for a wooden stock, and in addition to a standard slide lock had a takedown latch to aid in disassembly.

    The Vis was adopted as the standard issue sidearm of the Polish Army in 1935 and production began at the state arsenal in Radom. An order was placed for 90,000 pistols but only 50,000 were delivered before the outbreak of war. Polish pistols were high-gloss rust blued and had the Polish eagle stamped on the side.

    Under German occupation, the Vis-35 was assigned the designation Pistole 645(p) and production continued until 1945. Approximately 350,000 were produced, and it is known that several hundred pistols were smuggled from the Radom factory to the Polish Home Army. The pistol was an issued weapon of the Waffen SS, and some also saw use by the Heer, Kreigsmarine and Luftwaffe. These German-produced pistols were similar to the Polish model, but as the war progressed the design was simplified to speed production time. Generally speaking there are three variations, known as Type 1, 2 and 3. There's some disagreement between collectors (some recognize four "types"), but here is the rundown:
    • Type 1 included all features of the Polish model (slide lock, takedown latch and stock slot). The finish is high-quality, although the pistol was salt blued instead of rust blued. Some of these have Polish-marked parts. This is the first "German" model.
    • Type 2 omitted the stock slot, and has a generally lower-quality finish. Metal polishing was reduced, and the salt bluing was of lower quality.
    • Type 3 omitted the slide lock, has very crude finish and some are phosphated. Many of these were made in Steyr, as the occupied Radom plant was evacuated there in response to the Soviet advance in late 1944.
    Production of the Vis-35 ceased in 1945, as the postwar Polish army was equipped with the Russian Tokarev TT-33.

    My Pistol:

    My Vis-35 is a "Type 2" model. Exact production dates are difficult to determine, but from what I know mine was produced in 1942. You can see how the finish is rough, and the bluing is thin. I believe this pistol saw little use, as wear to the finish is minimal. There is no pitting anywhere on it. All parts are matching. Overall this is a nice representative piece. The photos include two boxes of wartime German-production 9mm ammo and a Luftwaffe dress dagger. An SS dagger would be more appropriate, but I do not have one in my collection.

    A profile view. From left to right, the levers are the slidelock, decocker and the takedown latch. Note the grip safety and recessed hammer. Unlike the M1911A1 and Hi-Power, the hammer spur doesn't protrude much from the back of the slide. Waffenampts are clearly visible on the slide and frame.
    [​IMG]


    You can see the crude finish on the takedown latch. Its barely polished at all - the original machining and file marks are clearly visible. The salt bluing is thin -- note how it has nearly entirely rubbed off under the decocker.
    [​IMG]

    Interestingly, the grips are the exact same as the Polish prewar model -- with "FB" being the name of the state factory in Radom! Use of these grips continued until late 1944, when simple wooden stocks were used.
    [​IMG]

    How does it shoot?

    In short, excellent. It fits my hand well (its more comfortable to hold than any of my .45ACP M1911A1s since the grip is thinner and the flare at the bottom is a nice addition). The slide lock extends back far enough so that its easy to manipulate without having to adjust your hand. The decocker is a bit rough, but does the job. The sights are simple and are essentially the same as a USGI M1911A1. Being such a heavy gun chambered in 9mm, recoil is quite manageable.

    Here's a 20 yard target I shot with it using one full magazine. I make no claim that I'm an expert shot -- I'm a casual shooter (I'm usually only at the range on average once every three weeks) and have little interest in being the "most accurate" or "fastest shot" in the area.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    WOW! That's a nice Radom Alan!!! And superbly presented!
     
  3. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Great thread, GP ! I for one will be an avid and regular 'reader'....... :salute:
     
  4. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    I thought the 1911 was thin, and this is thinner? maybe I missed it, but is it the same weight? ....and 7 rounds does not seem like much in a combat situation......I fired the 1911A1 a lot,, and it was stable for me,......so it seems like the Vis would be more stable in 9mm...can't wait to see more!!!.
     
  5. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Nice! I'm out of salutes for the day. I've always wanted a Radom.
     
  6. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Thanks everyone. I (think) I only have 6 WW2-era handguns right now, so this thread won't be too dragged out. I'll keep updating it as I get new ones. The thread I'll eventually start covering my rifles will take much longer but before I get to that stage I'll have to figure out how to take some good photos of them.

    bronk: I made a mistake. Its actually a 8-round magazine. Yes, this is thinner than a M1911A1 (at least the .45ACP ones -- I don't think I've ever handled a 9mm one). According to Wikipedia, the unloaded Vis-35 weighed 950g, while the M1911A1 is 1105g.
     
  7. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Next up is my M1895 Nagant Revolver. I've covered this in a previous thread, but I have better pictures now and I might as well consolidate everything. I've taken the write-up from the other thread.
    [​IMG]

    Background:

    The Nagant was designed in the late 1800s in Belgium and is a double-action revolver that holds 7 rounds of 7.62x38mmR ammo. It uses a unique "gas seal" mechanism whereby the entire cylinder moved forward a few millimeters to lock the onto the barrel when the hammer was cocked. This increased the muzzle velocity of the bullet (as significantly less pressure was lost out of end of the barrel closest to the cylinder when fired), and eliminates the possibility of burns or injury from gasses expanding out the back of the barrel when fired. Loading is through a loading gate like on the old "cowboy" wheelguns.

    The gun was adopted by Russia in 1895 in both single-action and double-action and saw service through the First World War. Under Soviet control, the revolver was produced only in double-action and became a popular gun for Red Army officers. The more advanced semi-automatic Tokarev TT-33 began to supplement the Nagant in the 1930s, but the gun remained in production until 1945, primarily because it was viewed as a status symbol. Besides the gas seal, it has a few other interesting features. It is one of the few revolvers that can be used effectively with a silencer, and takes unique ammunition in which the bullet is actually fully enclosed by the brass casing. When fired, the casing protruded into the end of the barrel, creating the "gas seal". The Nagant was popular with the KGB throughout the Cold War and is apparently still remains in use with Russian Railways today.

    My Pistol:

    Although stamped "1943" there is a bit more to it than that. My Nagant started off its life at Tula Arsenal in late 1941. In the autumn Tula Arsenal was evacuated when it appeared as though the city would fall to the rapidly advancing Wehrmacht (in any event, it did not and Tula held). Partially-completed guns and gun components were transferred to Izhevsk Arsenal, while the plant machinery was relocated to Siberia. The Tula components were assembled into complete guns at Izhevsk. In short, this gun began construction in Tula during late 1941 just before the factory was evacuated and completed a year and a bit later at Izhevsk. Why do I know this? A few things:
    • When Tula returned to production in late 1942/early 1943 the factory stamped its guns with a new logo. Mine has the "1941" Tula logo of an arrow in a star. This was not used at any point after the factory was evacuated, dating the production of the frame to 1941 or earlier.
    • The "194" and "3" of the date stamp are clearly stamped using different punches.
    • The "1943" date is followed with an "r". Tula never used the "r" suffix but this was used by Izhevsk on every gun they made.
    So, in short, this is a mechanically unique gun with a direct connection to the Battle of Moscow.

    All Soviet surplus guns you can buy here have been "refurbed". This involved replacing any damaged parts, and a rough rebluing process. This revolver has definitely been refurbished, but all the parts are matching. The Soviets didn't care much for "niceties", and would merely stamp (or electro-penciling) new serial numbers over-top instead of going to the trouble of scrubbing the original serial numbers first. The grips have been replaced as part of the refurb process, but are the correct "earlier" wooden grips instead of the later plastic ones.

    These photos include an SVT-40 bayonet (I actually paid more for this than I did for the revolver!), a couple rounds of 1944 Finnish 7.62x54R ammo and an unopened box of Soviet 7.62x38R ammo from the 1960s.

    Profile view. You can see the loading gate behind the cylinder and the reamer under the barrel. The reamer swings out so you can push out the casing in the cylinder aligned with the loading gate. This is a slow process.
    [​IMG]

    The other side. Note the interesting factory mark that ID's its unique origin.
    [​IMG]

    The grips are very nice, but as I said unfortunately refurbed. The entire revolver has the deep blue/black finish seen in this photo. The bright spots in the other photos are from glare. As expected with any Soviet refurb, the finish is close to 100%.
    [​IMG]

    How does it shoot?

    Ouch! The trigger pull is about 20lbs on double action and its not pleasant to shoot in this mode. When pulling the trigger back, I have a hard time holding it on target. Single action is a big improvement, with a 13lb trigger pull. Its a crude gun any way you want to put it. However, I don't know why anyone would ever buy one as only to use as a "shooter". For what it is, its a fun gun. Its definitely the most unusual one on the firing line and is fun to shoot. The grip is small (both in terms of thickness and length), and my hand is bigger than it. Reloading the cylinder is a laborious process since you have to unload one at a time using the loading gate and usually push out the empty casing using the reamer. If you shoot it in single action the accuracy isn't horrible. Recoil is very light. 7.62x38R is a light load (97gr bullet at 1000fps), and the revolver is a fairly hefty 800g. This isn't much compared to semiautomatic such as a M1911A1 or Hi-Power, but keep in mind that the revolver is smaller. Original Soviet ammo is loaded hotter than the new-production Fiocchi I'm used to shooting, but I can't say whether there is a substantial increase in felt recoil.

    Here's a target I shot at 20 yards. This was exclusively single-action. Its shooting to the left, but this could very well be from the way I'm pulling the trigger. I'm not used to such a heavy trigger, and I'm much more accustomed to semiautomatics.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    I've never fired a single action...must be a lot harder than a semi---I have a wartime CZ 27 and would not want to fire it....doesn't it degrade the value?
     
  9. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    It depends. My view is that if the gun has definitely seen use, firing it will not degrade the value. Use common sense and shoot it fairly. Remember that these are mil-spec guns not some fancy $100k hunting rifle, and you'd have to shoot one a lot to see any sort of degradation in quality. In short, I don't see it decreasing the value if you treat it well. If you shoot the crap out of it, then yeah, the value will definitely drop. I have a beautiful unissued Lee Enfield No4 Mk1* made by Savage that I've shot in the back fields a few times (maybe 80 rounds maximum) and I don't see this causing the value to drop.

    Its a different issue if the gun is "new". For any surplus gun, this is exceedingly rare. I don't mean "unfired by the owner" or "unfired since refurb". I mean unissued, fired only at the factory, and kept in storage ever since. The only genuinely "new" military surplus guns I've seen up here that meet this criteria are a few Lee Enfield No4 Mk2's that are still in the original factory wrapping. Unwrapping it and firing one of these definitely decreases the value.
     
  10. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    George, I just realized after reading this that the old Spanish Star Super pistol I keep rattling around in my car copies much from the Vis-35. It too uses the Hi-Power linkless camming system in a 1911 type frame.
     
  11. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I forgot about the Star. There were a few crates of surplus Model B's that came in about 2 years ago. They were WW2 pistols supplied under contract to the Romanian Bulgarian Army and later captured by the Soviets. I didn't pick one up -- maybe I should have.
     
  12. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    Great posts, George, keep these coming.

    I have a thread going on our sister forum about captured and non-standard arms used by the British, Commonwealth, and British Empire forces. I did not know that Romania used the Star Model B, but I have an old (1970's) edition of Smith's Small Arms of the World which reports that some Stars were used by the British in WWII. Smith gives no details and I have never seen anything else about British use of Star pistols. Do you know anything about that? The British did buy some Llama pistols during WWII and a handful of Astra C-96 types as well, but the exact models purchased are still somewhat mysterious.
     
  13. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    I can't say that I'm too familar with British use of the Star. This is the first I've heard of it.

    I made a mistake -- the Stars I was talking about were used by Bulgaria, not Romania. My apologies. Wartime European contract pistols are out of my area of "expertise" as you can tell!
     
  14. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The Star Model B is a pretty close copy of the 1911 and has the swinging link system. The Germans issued them to police and "certain military units." Doubtless that second category included some allied forces.

    The "Super" Model A and B began in 1946 and have the P-35 linkless system like the Radom.
     
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  15. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Time for the next installment: 1943 Walther P38
    [​IMG]

    Background:

    The Luger served the German Army well in WW1 and was a revolutionary pistol, but the design was dated by the 1930s. It was famously susceptible to malfunctioning unless kept clean and was both costly and time-consuming to build. In response, the Heer issued an order for a replacement pistol. What emerged was the Walther P38, a more "conventional" pistol with a slide and rear-mounted hammer as opposed to the complex toggle system of the Luger. Like the Luger, the P38 had a 8 round 9mm magazine but was a much more robust design and was both simpler and cheaper to produce. The P38 was double action, had a decocker which doubled as a safety and included a novel loaded chamber indicator. It was in many respects a "new" semiautomatic design, not based upon existing pistols.

    Production began in 1939 (three "zero series" production runs), but the design wasn't "finalized" until 1940. Mass production occurred at Walther (factory code ac), Mauser (byf) and Spreewerke (cyq), and lasted through 1945. A total of 1.2 million were made. The design of the pistol remained unchanged until the end, although as you would expect the quality of the finish decreased as the war progressed. In particular, 1945 Spreewerke ones are especially crude.

    Walther production of the P38 continued after the war -- initially under the same name, and then as the Walther P1 with an aluminum fame. Both of these had an aluminum frame. It was the issued sidearm of the Bundeswehr starting in 1954, and wasn't retired until 2004. The P38/P1 was adopted by a number of militaries and police forces around the world, and interestingly production at the captured Mauser factory continued until 1946 to equip the French Army. The P38 was a novel design, and elements have been used in the Beretta 92.

    My Pistol:

    My P38 was made by Spreewerke and was built on November 30th 1943. How do I know the date? The serial number of this particular one is 4714j, and the last one produced at the factory in November was 4720j. This pistol is all-matching, including the magazine. You can see that at this point production shortcuts began to be taken, as most of the machining marks on the frame have not been polished out. Although the finish looks good, it has definitely seen use. The bore is (conservatively) at 60%. However, functionally there are no issues.

    The photos include two boxes of WW2 German-produced ammo and an unissued 2nd Class War Merit Cross with Swords. As an aside, I've always liked the look of German WW2 ammo with the lacquered case and occasionally a black bullet.

    Profile shot. The grips are a pleasing brown bakelite. Grip colors were generally black or brown. Under the grips the name "W.W. McCool" (or something like that -- the writing is horrible) is scratched in. I haven't made any attempts to identify this beyond some Google searches, but this was not the name of the man I bought it from. There's a chance it could be a vet bring-back but I don't like to speculate.
    [​IMG]

    While you can see that shortcuts were already taken in the production of Vis-35 I posted, Spreewerke finished their guns to a higher quality. You can see scuff marks on the barrel and near the front of the slide -- indications that this pistol didn't spend the war sitting on a desk. Its a bit hard to see but note how worn the muzzle is.
    [​IMG]

    Unlike the Luger, the P38 has the magazine release button in the standard "European" way at the bottom of the mag well. This is different than the "North American" standard of just below the corner of the trigger guard, and is more awkward to use in my opinion.
    [​IMG]

    How does it shoot?

    I like it. The grip is not as ergonomic as the Luger that it replaced, but the P38 shoots more like a "normal" gun. Recoil is what you'd expect from a modern 9mm semiautomatic. The overall feel is similar to a Beretta 92 -- not a surprise seeing as how the locking mechanism and open-topped slide were copied from it! The sights are also easy to use. The front post and rear notch are much higher than the Luger (or even a USGI M1911A1) so acquiring a sight picture is quicker. The slide lock is easy to work, and the decocker is less crude than that of the Vis-35. I don't have any range photos of it but it shoots well -- only a bit more poorly than the Vis-35 I posted, which is to be expected given the barrel wear. But as I said before, if you're used to the "North American" magazine release, reloading takes some getting used to.
     
  16. bronk7

    bronk7 New Member

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    looks like a super solid, simple pistol..was this the standard pistol for Germany??......may I ask if you display them, or lock them up in a safe??
     
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  17. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    It was to be the standard pistol of the German Army but due to insufficient quantities it was supplemented by other pistols. Notably, the Luger was produced until 1942 and saw widespread service throughout the war. Even the old C96 saw use. Foreign-produced pistols like the Vis-35 and FN (Browning) Hi-Power also saw use in high numbers. Then you get into some of the more interesting pistols, like the PP/PPK and HSc favoured by officers or the Femaru 37M and Sauer 38H favoured by the Luftwaffe.

    Handguns have to be locked up in Canada, so these are unloaded and in a safe at all times. I keep my rifles in the safe as well, but there isn't an explicit legal requirement to do this (you can keep a rifle - unloaded - with a only a trigger lock on it). I'm looking to get a nice big walnut or oak gun display cabinet so I can display some of my rifles in my office but I haven't gotten around to that yet.
     
  18. Ken The Kanuck

    Ken The Kanuck Member

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    Hi George,

    Very nice. I certainly appreciate the great write up/information you have also presented. That truly makes your posts the very best I have ever read.

    I believe that it is the history of the milsurps that make then so enjoyable to collect. I do not have any milsurp pistols except for a Tariq which came from the sandbox in a later conflict.

    I do have some milsurp rifles, of particular interest to me are those marked with the "C Broad Arrow" as I am sure you do too. I will be looking forward to your future posts.

    Thanks very much for your hard work and effort that have done to share with us.

    KTK
     
  19. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Hi Ken,

    Nice to hear from a fellow Canadian gun guy. Thanks for the kind words.

    I've wanted a Tariq for a while. I almost jumped on the last one I saw for sale online a few years ago but I hesitated missed out. I don't have any Canadian guns, believe it or not. The closest I have is a Savage No4 Mk1* that never left North America (see picture below). I suppose I'll have to pick up a Long Branch at some point, but right now an Inglis Hi Power is high on my "want" list and not just because Keith keeps talking about Hi-Powers and I'm sorry to say that I've never shot one! My collection is fairly diverse, so I don't have a particular focus. I have a soft spot for Finnish guns and need a Lahti L35, M24 and M28 to finish off my collection.

    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I'd have given the P.38 post a 'salute +' as it's very much my kind of thing. I'll also say here that I like the memorabilia photo set-ups in the style of the French 'Gazette des Armes' magazine ; I'm always a sucker for those ! :salute:
     

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