April 02, 2020
By James Tarr
Surplus/trade-in European pistols have always been hot sellers in the U.S. market, and the make/type changes every few years depending on which organization is upgrading their issue pistols. Twenty years ago the market was flooded with 9x18mm Makarovs and 7.62x25mm TT-33 Tokarevs (my father-in-law bought one of those). A few years ago CZ 82s were everywhere and I bought one. The 9x18mm Polish P-64 pistol then hit the market and sold very well. Just like the Makarov, CZ 82 and Walther PPK it is an all steel DA/SA auto. The P-64 is chambered in the Cold War favorite handgun cartridge, 9x18 Makarov, and in size and appearance it reminds me quite a bit of the Walther PPK.
Because it is all steel the P-64, at 22 ounces, is a bit heavy compared to modern polymer-framed autos, but size-wise it is very concealable. Overall it is 6.3 inches long by 4.6 inches tall with the magazine (with fingerhook floorplate) in place. It is a very flat gun, about an inch thick at the widest part, the black plastic grips. The slide is thinner than that.
1975 is stamped into my sample pistol’s slide, so being a trained detective I’m going to guess that is the year it was made. The pistol’s serial number is on the slide and frame on the right side of the gun. On the left side of the slide is ‘P-64’ as well as ‘9mm’, just remember that ‘9mm’ in this case indicates 9x18mm Makarov, not 9x19mm Parabellum.
The pistol has a 3.3 inch barrel that appears to have a chrome-lined bore. It is also fixed to the frame, which does help improve accuracy. The hammer is small, skeletonized and triangular. Topping the pistol are very small sights. The tiny front sight is machined from the slide. The equally small rear sight is dovetailed into the slide. Between the sights the top of the slide is flat and checkered, style-wise a nice touch.
When fieldstripping a fixed-barrel pistol like the P-64, first lock the slide back and remove the magazine. Then pull down the front of the trigger guard. At that point, pull the rear of the slide back and up and it will clear the rear of the frame and slide off the front of the barrel. You’ll find one recoil spring wrapped around the barrel. Reassembly is just as simple, just do everything in reverse.
Controls on this pistol are simple, as there are only three—the trigger, the safety on the left side of the slide and the magazine release, which is on the heel of the pistol. The safety does drop the hammer. The grips come down on either side of the magazine release, protecting it. The P-64 magazines hold six rounds, and two were provided with the gun, both with fingerhook basepads.
The double-action trigger pull on my sample pistol was less than user friendly at a whopping 19 pounds. It stacked at the end, and no amount of lube could bring that number down. Research shows me this is not uncommon for this pistol. However, Wolff (www.gunsprings.com) does sell reduced power hammer springs for this pistol. I bet swapping out the +/- 24-lb factory spring for a 17-lb replacement would take a lot of weight off the DA trigger pull, but if you’re going to do that on a carry gun make sure it still provides reliable ignition. The single-action pull, on the other hand, was much nicer at a crisp four pounds.
Most places are selling P-64s for less than $200. The 9x18mm Makarov cartridge is somewhere between the .380 ACP and 9x19mm Parabellum in power, so it is suitable for personal protection. At .365 inch diameter it is actually wider than the standard 9mm/.380 bullets, which run .355. While most of the European ammo is FMJ, modern hollowpoints are available from several sources.
One thing I noticed shooting the pistol is that the lower edge of the slide is beveled forward of the serrations. This tells me that the designers of this pistol actually shot from time to time and didn’t want the users of their pistol to get slide bite. Just two weeks prior to picking up the P-64 I was out shooting a Walther PPK and the bottom edge of that slide cut the snot out of my hand. I didn’t have that problem with the P-64.
The gun is not sexy or flashy but being government trade-in pistols most buyers assume they not only function reliably but underwent some sort of regularly scheduled maintenance. Their used appearance means most buyers won’t mind the pistols bouncing around in a pocket or toolbox and their small size means they readily conceal almost anywhere. If you can deal with the heavy double action pull this pistol is a serious CCW contender for the budget minded, or a neat Cold War-era addition to your pistol collection.
Training with the P-64
While sight alignment and trigger control are universal concepts, people need to be aware that there is an inverse relationship between the size of a handgun and the ease with which it can be employed. The smaller it is the easier it is to carry, but the harder it will be to shoot fast and accurately. But it is specifically because of how much harder it is to shoot these smaller/lighter/heavy trigger pull guns most people choose to carry that people need to make a point of practicing with them. The P-64 is a perfect example of this.
DA/SA (double-action first shot, single-action for subsequent shots) actions are perhaps the hardest type of handgun trigger systems to master specifically because of the vast difference in trigger pulls between the first and second shots. The long heavy double-action trigger pull for the first shot in function acted as a de facto safety. I have a few recommendations for learning to shoot the P-64 (and pistols like it) efficiently and accurately. The first is to practice with your pistol until you have learned its controls. If you’re going to carry a pistol with a heel-mounted mag release, practice with it until you stop trying to drop the magazine with your thumb. If you’re going to carry it with the safety on, practice disengaging the safety when gripping the pistol.
Most people will carry the P-64 in a bag or a pocket rather than a holster, so practicing a ‘draw’ isn’t nearly as important as practicing your presentation—i.e. getting your sights on the target. Get used to how the pistol points and what the sights look like. Finally, with any DA/SA pistol of this type, getting used to not just the longer/heavier double-action pull first shot but the transition between it and the subsequent single-action shots is very important. Your first DA shot shouldn’t be a throwaway.
The simplest way to practice this transition is to use a target that doesn’t allow for much error and yet requires real-world accuracy. For this I recommend either paper plates or IDPA targets as they have round center A-zones about the size of paper plates. Shooting at realistic defensive distances (3-10 yards), you should practice quickly firing the first shot double-action and the second single-action. Then decock the pistol and do it again, and again. If both shots aren’t hitting the paper plate/IDPA A-zone you need to slow down and focus on your trigger control. Only hits count.
The P-64 has some positive features as well as negatives. It’s small, easy to conceal, inexpensive, chambered in a fairly common cartridge, has a decent single-action trigger pull, is acceptably accurate and reliable. On the flip side build quality is only so-so, the sights are small and very hard to pick-up at speed, the double-action trigger pull is truly dreadful and recoil is noticeable. An interesting piece of history you’ll want to consider a P-64 if you fancy oddball Combloc pieces.
Sidebar: History of the 9x18mm P-64 pistol
As ‘Iron Curtain’ pistols go, the Polish P-64 isn’t nearly as well-known as some. In part this is because compared to many designs very few countries (other than Poland) ever adopted it. The development of the P-64 began in the late 1950s in Poland, and it was officially adopted in 1965 by the Polish army, police and security forces to replace the 7.62x25mm TT-33 pistol. The Tokarev design was nearly thirty years old when engineers began working on the P-64. Apart from Poland, the pistol only saw use in small numbers in Lebanon and Vietnam.
The P-64 was only ever manufactured by Factory 11 in Radom Poland, and my example bore this famous code number. Factory 11, today known as Fabryka Broni Lucznik (Arms Factory Archer) Radom was originally founded in 1922 and has gone through many reorganizations and management changes (including being run by the Germans during World War II). It has made dozens of different firearms over the years as well as sewing machines and typewriters.
The P-64 is no longer being produced and is being replaced in service by the WIST-94 pistol chambered in 9x19mm NATO, which entered service with the Polish Army in 1997. Due to this decommissioned P-64s are gradually making their way into the U.S. FYI, Poland seems to have a preference for only fielding weapons designed there, as the WIST-94 is a Polish made semi-auto pistol designed in the early 90s.
Fabryka Broni Lucznik
- Action: DA/SA hammer-fired semi-auto
- Caliber: 9x18mm Makarov
- Magazine Capacity: 6+1
- Barrel: 3.3 inches
- Overall Length: 6.3 inches
- Overall Height: 4.6 inches
- Width: 1.0 inch
- Sights: Post front, notch rear
- Trigger Pull: 19.0 pounds DA/4.0 pounds SA (as tested)
- Safeties: Lever on slide
- Weight (empty): 22 ounces
- Accessories: Two 6-round magazines