The FEG PA 63 is a medium-frame semi-automatic pistol chambered in 9X18mm Makarov.
|Features:||Lightweight, simple field stripping|
|Frame Material:||Aluminum alloy|
|Twist:||1 in 9.45"|
A Simple Fix for a Decent Hungarian
If you’ve got one of these inexpensive Hungarian pistols, this may be of interest to you, especially if you’ve been experiencing problems with jams.
A customer recently brought in a FEG PA63 for repair. He had just gotten it and wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with it. He said he was thinking about making it a carry gun. At first, I could see that. It was a little gun with a black and silver Oakland Raiders look going on, and its obvious PPK heritage brings James Bond to mind, too. It makes me think about wearing a suit and tie – and a shoulder holster. The little gun gets a thumbs up for cool looks. But then the man took me out of my fantasy. He shook his head, threw his hands up, and said to me, “It stovepipes every third round.”
“Oh,” I said.
A stovepipe is when a fired, extracted case gets caught in the ejection port as the slide closes - looking like a stovepipe sticking up out of the gun.
I said, “Alright, let me take a look.”
The first place to look for the culprit is the magazines, but his were good. So I field stripped the pistol, examined the extractor and made sure it engaged a cartridge case properly. The extractor spring tension was good. Next, I checked the ejector, but all the edges were straight and flat. Then I recalled that when I field stripped it the recoil spring slid off of the barrel when it should have stayed on. I looked closer and noticed one end of the coil spring had a smaller opening than the other. The smaller end fit snugly on the barrel to hold the spring in place while the larger end did not. Someone had reassembled this pistol by sliding the larger end over the barrel – installing the spring backwards.
“Could that cause the stovepipes?” I wondered.
I reassembled the pistol several times, trying the spring installed both ways, and I noticed that when the spring was on backwards that it stacked just a little bit harder at the end of the slide stroke.
“This could be it,” I thought, “Was the spring just incorrectly installed?”
So I went to the range and found out why plus some other interesting things.
The Prescott National Forest
I headed just outside of town, at the very edge of Arizona’s Prescott National Forest, to the Prescott Sportsmen’s Club range. It’s a beautiful place where deer, quail and javelina routinely wander through. It faces north and has separate pistol, rifle and rimfire ranges with room for about a dozen shooters each.
The customer supplied three boxes of Russian ammo to troubleshoot the pistol’s problem. I was eager to solve the problem, not to mention getting some shooting done. Don’t you just love free ammo?
Let the Test Begin
Turns out I was right. All it needed was some rearranging of certain internal components and it functioned fine. However, its performance was a different story. The pistol is very lightweight due to its alloy frame. With reduced weight, the perceived recoil is increased. Even with its small cartridge the muzzle flip on the PA63 is quite pronounced. It tends to slap sharply backwards. It was totally controllable for me, but it may bother others. My advice, swap out the issue 13-pound recoil spring for an aftermarket 15-pound Wolff spring. The heavier spring would also ostensibly allow you to shoot “hotter” supposed self-defense loads in the pistol, but remember that alloy frame? Shooting that stuff is bound to cause trouble sooner or later, starting with feeding and ejection problems, and working up into, potentially, a catastrophic failure. If you want a good self-defense handgun and cartridge - this isn’t it.
I have medium size hands, and if the PA63s grip were a couple of microns shorter, and if the magazines didn’t have forward swells on the floorplates, the pistol wouldn’t fit my hand. But it isn’t, they do and it does. The back of the grip has well-designed ergonomics without sharp edges and, combined with the thumb rest on the left grip panel, it settles naturally in my hand.
Here’s another reason why this isn’t a self-defense choice, at least for me: I can’t reach the mag release with my right thumb unless I shift the pistol out of shooting position in my hand. Also, the magazines don’t drop clear after release, they stay in the mag well, complicating and slowing a tactical reload.
This is a blowback operated pistol, meaning the slide doesn’t lock closed. The recoil spring actually holds the action closed and Newton’s Third Law pushes the slide rearward as the bullet moves down the bore, compressing the spring, which then throws the slide forward again.
The hammer spring is a pretty hefty number, too, so when the hammer is down the combination of the two springs require the shooter to put some effort into retracting the slide to inspect the chamber. The slide serrations aren’t just cosmetic, they are a help in this operation.
Seven cute little 9x18s go into each mag, but be careful, the mag edges are a bit sharp. The magazines slide easily into the mag well, lock in with a satisfying click, but remember, there’s no slide release, so users must pull back on the slide to re-chamber.
The slide mounted safety is also a decocker. Some folks like them, some folks don’t. If you chamber a round, decock, forget to put the decocker back in the fire position and you’re only plinking, it can be irritating. If you do that in a self-defense mode, it could be fatal. (Dang – is my 1911 bias showing?)
The trigger is Double-Action/Single-Action. Decocking lowers the hammer on a chambered round. Now your first trigger pull is really long and weighs about 137,000 pounds – that might be a little exaggerated, but seriously it’s a stout pull. However, the SA trigger pull weighs a sweet 4 to 5 pounds, and you can actually press the trigger like you’re supposed to and hopefully shoot more accurately.
If I had four or five of these pistols it would be fun to sit around with friends and see who can field strip it in less than two seconds. It breaks down into three pieces: frame and barrel, spring, and slide. There’s no buttons, no screws, no bushings.
The PA63 is a decent enough pistol, certainly worth its under-$200 price tag my customer paid for it. It’s small, lightweight and easy to carry, but the power of its 9x18mm cartridge is a bit well, not powerful, falling between the 9mm Luger and the .380 ACP. There are better choices for self-defense, and I’ll bet the Hungarian police who still have to rely in the 9x18 wish they had them. As the pistol is not really suitable for fine target work or for hunting, I put it in the “fun gun” class.