Poor Man’s PPK: the Polish P-64 Pistol
By David Tong
This article is a short review of the P-64, a caliber 9x18mm Makarov semi-automatic handgun fielded by the Polish military and police during the Cold War. It was designed by a number of Army officers at the Polish national arms factory at Radom, the same manufacturer that produced the 1911-like 9x19mm of the 1930's that colloquially goes by the same name. The P-64 greatly resembles the Walther PPK, save for the P-64’s Makarov-style heel-clip magazine release. The test pistol was imported by Inter-Ordnance of Monroe, NC. Their lasered moniker appears on the left side of the slide, which is otherwise adorned only with original manufacturing and proof marks. It was built in 1967 and served the Polish military until the mid-1980s.
Of all steel construction, refreshingly free of plastics (save for the two-piece wraparound grip and a magazine floorplate/finger extension) and castings, the P-64 fieldstrips the same way as a PPK, by unhinging the trigger guard and racking the slide to the rear and up/forward. The same right side mounted trigger draw bar, left side mounted ejector/internal slide stop and circumferential recoil spring around the barrel are all PPK hallmarks, though there are some slight differences in the way the P-64’s trigger return spring operates, as well as a “pop-up” disconnector plate, which prevents full-auto firing. The hammer’s mainspring offers some tension to the magazine release and the barrel bore is hard chrome plated.
The manual-of-arms is also similar, in that it is a DA/SA pistol with a left slide mounted safety/decocking lever without hammer block. The sights are smallish, in keeping with the then current thinking about the viability of sights on pocket pistols. The rear sight is drift-adjustable for windage. Metal finish is polished blue, with some minor polishing shortcuts that do not affect function.
The single column magazine holds six rounds of 9X18mm Makarov, the same capacity as a PPK in the ballistically similar.380 ACP. 9X18mm is capable of sending a 95 grain pill at 1,050 fps, which is still nowhere near a full power 9X19, although comparable to a .38 Special snub revolver. Overall, like the Russian Makarov, it is a somewhat simplified take on the venerable German PP design.
The first shot, with the extraordinarily heavy double action trigger is problematic to say the least. The pull is well over 20(!) pounds, which might be explained by the safety needs for a mass conscript army with no firearms experience, but it sure makes the pistol difficult to fire accurately on that first round. This is the worst double action trigger pull of any auto pistol I have ever shot, which is saying something given the number of designs I’ve shot or owned over the decades.
One difference between the PPK and the P-64 is that the P-64’s trigger position does not move between double and single action, so there is a bit of a learning curve if one is used to shooting a “traditional” DA auto pistol. Usually, a DA auto pistol’s trigger moves to the rear slightly for successive SA shots.
The SA trigger pull has approximately Ľ” of take-up and breaks at approximately four pounds, with notable over travel. It is quite easily managed. Interesting to me is that the P64 may be better shot from an empty chamber, military-style (Condition Three), due to the DA pull; it would be more accurate and not much slower. (Of course, as with most SA/DA pistols, the whole issue can be avoided by manually cocking the external hammer for the first shot. -Editor)
Cartridge feeding is non-controlled; there are two projections at the bottom of the standing breech which push the rounds into the chamber. The extractor, a plunger and spring hinged unit, is typical of ComBloc designs in that it is huge, possibly encompassing one-fourth of the case rim, for reliability. The pistol has both a frame and barrel feed ramp system and the magazine positions the rounds in a proper “nose-up” attitude to enhance feeding reliability.
I suspect that JHP bullets designed to function in a Soviet “Pistolet Makarova” will work fine, though I did not shoot the pistol with anything besides Sellier & Bellot generic hardball. There were no failures of any kind, as might be expected.
All rounds hit within a 3 inch circle at 25 feet, which is adequate for the type of use to which one might put this pistol. Recoil is rather stout, as it always is for a blowback auto firing a .380 class cartridge; locked breech designs are notably softer in the hand.
Wolff Springs in Pennsylvania offers a reduced power mainspring and a higher-powered recoil spring. I am told these lighten the DA trigger pull and provide a proper balance for reliable function on a blowback-operated auto, as the hammer compressing the mainspring does minutely retard slide recoil. If I were to own this pistol, these spring changes would be necessary.
Ergonomically, the P-64 slightly differs from the PPK template and the Russian Makarov. The area just below the rear of the trigger guard is raised to allow for a higher handhold and the lower rear corners of the slide have been beveled to reduce the tendency of the slide to slice into the web of one’s hand on recoil, especially with the P-64’s short rear frame tang. Other than this, no real surprises here.
I see the P-64 as a decent back-up pistol. (I am not one to carry something with this little ballistic potential as anything but as a back up.) One never knows when one’s primary sidearm might go Tango Uniform, run out of ammo, or be damaged. The flat and relatively light P-64 might just do the trick in such a circumstance.
Overall, at the $200 price point for which these pistols can be had, the P-64 offers a good combination of proven construction techniques, small size and flatness that endears it to the shooter who wants a reasonably compact pistol.
Copyright 2011 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.