Classic air pistol review: Predom Łucznik Wz.1970

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Sometime in the late 1960s, at the Łucznik arms factory in Radom, Poland, an air pistol was designed, allegedly as a training tool for conscripts in Polish military service.  The design was based on the respected Walther LP53 target air pistol and the Łucznik Wz.70 was introduced in 1970.  Actually, “based on” is an understatement – the Wz.70 is a blatant copy of the earlier Walther design.

The Wz.70 is a break-barrel, single shot, .177″ pellet shooter.  Large numbers were produced and these later found their way on to the private market, and so lot’s of examples of this pistol can still be found for sale, many virtually unused and some still in their original packing grease.  They’re fairly cheap too (certainly if compared to prices for Walther LP53s), but the question is: do you really want a forty year old Eastern European air pistol?

One issue is what to call this pistol.  I have seen it identified as the “VS70”, the “WS70” and the “VS. 1970”.  The only marking on the example I owned (apart from a serial number and date of manufacture) was “Łucznik”.  However, later models carry the identification: Wz.1970.  So, I’m going to go with “Predom Łucznik Wz.1970“.  If anyone knows better, I’d like to hear about it.

Background

In 1925 Fabryka Broni Radom (Radom Weapons Factory) was founded in the city of Radom in central Poland to produce weapons for the Polish Army. Output from the factory included the service sidearm for Polish military forces and what is considered one of the finest handguns ever made, the wz.35 Vis pistol (also known as the Radom Pistol).  Following World War Two, the factory was re-named Zakłady Mechaniczne Łucznik Radom (Radom Archer Mechanical Works) and became part of the Polish Predom conglomerate of state-owned weapons factories.  The company was declared bankrupt in 2000 but was re-formed as Fabryka Broni Łucznik Radom (Radom Archer Weapons Factory) and continues to produce a number of firearms including licensed versions of the Walther PPS and P99 pistols.

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The Radom Archer Mechanical Works in 1975

Little is known about the development of the Wz.1970 air pistol.  A number of sources note that the pistol was produced specifically for use as a training weapon by conscripts in the Polish armed forces, but I have been unable to find any evidence that it was actually used in this way.  It does seem an odd design to use for firearm training – surely something closer in size and feel to a military handgun would have been a better choice?  The Wz.1970 was introduced in 1970 and production continued until approximately 1977.

Design and construction

The Wz.1970 is a break barrel design where two springs inside the grip are compressed as the barrel is rotated through approximately 90°.  The barrel, trigger guard and other parts are steel while the main body is cast alloy. The trigger guard acts as a lever arm which compresses the internal springs.  The barrel on the Wz.1970 is almost nine and a half inches long, but only the first six inches of the bore is rifled.  The last three and a half inches are counterbored to a slightly larger diameter and unrifled.  It looks as though this is intended to allow the use of a cocking aid similar to that supplied with the Walther LP53, but I have never seen a cocking aid for the Wz.1970.

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Walther LP53 (top), Predom Łucznik Wz.1970 (below)

The two concentric springs inside the grip are fitted one inside the other and move vertically through a fairly short stroke (around 2″) and compression is achieved via a 1″ diameter leather piston and buffer.   A fair amount of force is required to cock the Wz.1970: 30 – 35lbs depending on the condition of the springs and piston.  This is made awkward by the prominent front sight which digs into your hand as you push down on the barrel to cock.  Cocking would be much easier if a some form of cocking aid was provided (you’ll find a link at the end of this article to a website showing how one person made a cocking aid for this pistol).

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With the barrel broken, a pellet can be pushed into the breech and the barrel closed.  Latching is positive and precise.  No form of manual safety is fitted, so once the pistol is cocked and a pellet is loaded, the only way to make it safe is to fire.  A slotted screw just in front of the trigger allows the release point to be adjusted.

Other than the grips and some internal parts, the Wz.1970 is of all steel and alloy construction.  This gives the pistol a very hefty and robust feel, essential in a weapon designed for use and abuse by conscripts.  You could probably run over one of these in a T-72 tank and it would go on shooting.

The quality of casting, machining and general fit and finish on the Wz.1970 are fair, but notably inferior to the LP53.  Grips are some form of black plastic, though they are brittle and fairly flimsy.  The rear sight is fully adjustable using knurled fingerwheels for windage and elevation adjustment.

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The construction and function of the Wz.1970 don’t seem to have changed throughout its production run, though there does seem to be variation in markings.  My own 1973 example was marked only with “Łucznik” on the left side of the main body and showed the year of manufacture and a serial number on the left side of the rear of the barrel. Later models (from approximately 1975 on) are marked “Predom-Łucznik”, “Wz.1970” and “Kal. 4.5mm” in addition to the year of manufacture and a serial number on the barrel.

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Shooting

With the Wz.1970 cocked and loaded, you’re ready to shoot.  The sight picture is very good and the fully adjustable rear sight means that the point of impact can be precisely adjusted to match the point of aim.  The grip is wide, though not uncomfortably so, and there are no thumb rests on the grips so this pistol can be used in either hand.

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The trigger has two distinct stages.  The first is fairly long and light, though the shorter second stage is heavy.  There is a distinct and consistent release point which can be adjusted by using the slotted screw in front of the trigger (though if you adjust this too far, it can interfere with getting your finger on the trigger).

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Trigger adjustment screw

The Wz.1970 fires with a fairly subdued crack, but the feel is unusual.  The piston and springs move vertically within the grip, causing the pistol to jerk upward as it’s fired.  It’s a distinct, uncushioned and not especially pleasant feeling.  Shooting the Wz.1970 has been compared to having a rat-trap go off in your hand.  It’s not painful or uncomfortable but if you’re used to the relative sophistication of CO2 powered replicas, it does feel a little harsh.  However, I’d guess that the pellet has already left the end of the barrel before the pistol jerks upward because accuracy is consistent and very good.

A Wz.1970 in good condition should be capable of consistent 1″ groupings at 10m.  This pistol seems to happily accept any type of .177″ pellet.  I generally used RWS CO2 target pellets in mine, and these worked without any issues.  My example chronoed at 290 – 300 fps after lubricating the piston and depending on pellet type, though I have seen over 400fps claimed for these pistols.

Quality and reliability

The Wz.1970 is a relatively simple design and is very robustly constructed, so very little goes wrong with these pistols.  The rear sight, for example, is notably stronger than the notoriously fragile sight fitted to some models of the Walther LP53 though I have seen reports of rear sights coming loose on the Wz.1970.

The most notable issue is that the packing grease used on these pistols can dry out after time, leaving a hard, brown residue which looks like rust.  This residue must be cleaned off carefully (silicone spray works well to soften and remove encrusted residue).  This is particularly important on the leather piston and buffer, which can also dry out and shrink, considerably reducing power.  There is a great deal of debate on the best lubricant to use on leather air gun seals, but I found that soaking the piston and buffer from my Wz.1970 overnight in silicone oil improved flexibility and sealing.  However, some people claim that silicone oil can degrade leather seals and suggest that only products specifically intended for leather (such as leather stretcher) should be used.  After extended use the leather piston can become worn, giving a fluffy appearance, though pistols in this condition don’t seem to lose a great deal of power or accuracy.

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Removing the springs and piston is simple. With the pistol uncocked and discharged, the spring retaining cap at the base of the grip is unscrewed until it releases.  There is relatively little tension on the springs, and these will project only around 1″ when the cap is removed so no special tools or precautions are required.  With the cap removed, the springs, piston and sleeve can be extracted from the grip.  Take care to note how the end of the trigger guard engages with the sleeve and piston assembly to ensure correct re-assembly.

Other than a tendency for the leather piston and buffer to dry out and encrustation of old packing grease, I’m not aware of any major problems with these pistols.  They appear to be well made and finished and give the impression that they will last a very long time if properly maintained.

Buying a Wz.1970

There are lots of examples of the Predom Łucznik Wz.1970 around, so finding a good one shouldn’t be too difficult.  Large numbers were produced and I suspect that there are probably still warehouses in Poland where boxes of unused examples are lying in their dried-up packing grease.  Pristine examples do appear for sale fairly regularly.  Prices vary depending on condition and use, but expect to pay around 25% – 50% of the cost of an equivalent Walther LP53.

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Many Wz.1970s come with holsters (mine was supplied with a rather nice leather holster).  I have never seen a boxed Wz.1970 or a manual or any tools for these guns.  All you tend to get is the pistol and in some cases a holster.

Very little goes wrong with these pistols, though you should assume that the leather piston will probably need attention if you buy one which has been stored for any length of time.  I’m not aware of any source of spares for these pistols, so I’d tend to be cautious of buying one with any known faults.  There are so many about that it’s probably better to go for a working example.

Conclusion

Is a Predom Łucznik Wz.1970 a cheap alternative to a Walther LP53?  Not really.  The LP53 is a beautifully made and finished piece of German precision engineering, designed to satisfy the most demanding and discerning target shooters.  The Wz.1970 is a robust and reliable air pistol designed and built to survive extended use by untrained conscripts.  They may look similar, but these are very different air pistols in concept and execution and the Wz.1970 is simply not of the same quality as the Walther.

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However, the Predom Łucznik Wz.1970 is an interesting and fairly accurate air pistol and it’s cheaper than most target pistols from the 1970s.  Cocking is (literally) a pain and the unbuffered jerk from the piston and springs when firing can be a surprise, but if your air gun collection includes elderly target pistols, you may well enjoy this piece of Polish history.

Related pages:

Classic replica air pistol review: Smith & Wesson 78G/79G

Classic replica air pistol review: Crosman Wild West revolvers

Classic replica air pistol review: : Crosman 38 series

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Making a cocking aid for the Predom Łucznik

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