Old P-64 vs. Sig’s P365: Does the Polish “Walther” Stand Up?
I’m a proven sucker when it comes to old military surplus guns. Not because I get lemons, but because I just can’t seem to resist these old firearms. These guns were built to fill the hands of people facing particular moments in history.
Say what you will about military folk and their legendary bureaucracies. My experiences have taught me that’s a fair enough critique. However, some great innovations have also come from those who trust more than their lives to the guns they carry. These old firearms are invested with the hopes, fears, and pride of entire nations.
The Radom P-64 is no exception, but can an old gun like this really stand up to today’s modern micro wonders? Could you even find a modern holster if you wanted one?
Small Gun With Some Punch
Its quirks and perks reveal plenty about what was going through the minds of the designers. It might be old, but I think the P-64 still has some chops in the age of micro double-stack pistols like the Sig P365.
If you buy into the origin story of the P-64, it was a 100-percent homegrown design from Poland during the Cold War. Indeed, the gun is also commonly known as the CZAK after the names of the various designers, and it went through several variations that included a change to the hammer spur.
Personally, I find it hard to avoid the obvious similarities to the Walther PP series. Regardless of the genes behind this little blowback pistol, the P-64 owns plenty of respectable qualities.
The safety/decocker pushes forward and up, so it is the opposite of the Russian Makarov PM and the familiar 1911 safety. This is a bit annoying as an American shooter, but it’s nothing that can’t be trained around. The safety is smooth, positive, and tactile.
It also has a heel magazine release, which I don’t mind really on a small gun that has no business in a speed-reload race. In considering the pros and cons of a heel release, it is also worth remembering that militaries of the day experienced some problems with side-mounted button releases, and they sometimes preferred securing the magazine over quicker reloads.
What’s far more interesting to me is its size and caliber. The P-64 is a scant 6.3 inches in length and weighs just 1.33 pounds with an unloaded magazine. It also feels really solid in the hand. You can compare that to the Sig P365 length of 5.8 inches and a weight of 1.16 pounds. Now go back to the 1950s and try to do the same with an all-steel military gun.
No matter how you cut it, the Polish military went with a very small pistol. Frankly, it’s a shocking small military gun from a modern perspective, but it parallels the Hungarian PA-63. It’s also quite slim, with a slide that is just 0.82 inches wide (My Sig P365 is 0.91 inches). But that’s not the only thing that really stands out.
Yes, the P-64 only has a 6-round magazine. It also shoots the more underpowered 9x18mm Makarov instead of the 9x19mm NATO. But I can’t help like feeling they tried to equip an army of secret agents with a gun this small in the Cold War. There are some newer self-defense rounds made in 9x18mm, which is itself an interesting holdover from competing Cold War nations worried about logistics in an actual hot war.
Shooting the P-64
The P-64 feels nice in the hand, and that small pinky extension on the mag is a nice touch for a tiny old pistol. I say it feels nice in the hand … but, really, I mean until you shoot the thing. This gun has a snappy blowback. It bites your hand right in the crotch of the grip. But it was never meant to shoot thousands of rounds at an IDPA match. In fact, if you can take the punishment, it’s actually a really fun gun to shoot.
The 9x18mm round is also fairly potent for a simple blowback pistol. I dare say it was even pushing the tech of the time a bit to keep this gun so much smaller than its Russian counterpart, the Makarov PM. But there are some quirks that are unavoidable. For one thing, there is no external slide stop. It does still lock open on the last round with the magazine inserted. However, that’s not the quirk that really stands out.
OK, so now let’s talk about this trigger. It’s great, and it’s horrendous. I’m not even going to try and take a gauge on the double-action trigger pull again. Suffice it to say that it comes in around 25 pounds stock. It’s so heavy some people think the gun is broken when they try to shoot it in double action. But it is a solvable problem, and Wolff Gunsprings makes replacement springs that bring it down to a manageable level.
The single-action trigger is really quite nice, and it comes in at around 2.6 pounds with a short reset when I use my Lyman gauge. Again, the gun was built for a Cold War military. The concern was about igniting primers and preventing accidental discharges. Still, 25 pounds is … aggressive.
Here, I guess, I will let the target speak, because I do shoot the P-64 about as well as my P365, with its single-action-only trigger pull at 6.2 pounds. It’s extra impressive considering you are working with a 3.3-inch barrel and very simple notch sights.
Carrying the P-64?
There was a time when this little buddy piqued the interest of the concealed carry community in America. It was small, reliable, and cheap. Plus, before the great polymer pistol awakening, surplus guns like this offered options that didn’t include mortgaging your house. I would argue they still offer quality, effectiveness, concealability, and the kind of history that makes gun ownership one of the best hobbies out there.
Sure, it took a gorilla to break through that old double-action trigger. But the gun feeds and shoots anything you put inside it. It is heavy for its size, and it was a struggle to find a good Kydex holster for the P-64 for a while. But I’m pleased to report that companies like Vedder are giving old guns like this a new life with some modern holsters (I’ll do a review on what it’s like to carry an old gun later).
Yes, I carry my Sig by choice. Yet, even with its steel frame, the P-64 conceals and carries nicely. I think it’s too easy to turn your nose up on old guns. If you give them a chance, you might just fall in love.