polish cavalry to the rescue!

My personal candidate for the most depressing national idea is embodied in the Polish anthem, “Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła”, also known as “Noch ist Polen nicht verloren” or “Poland has not yet perished”. Arguably the best military handgun of WWII, Radom Vis 35 is probably its unluckiest small arm, with most of the remaining Polish Eagles vanishing into the Stalinist void as mute witnesses to the 1940 extermination of the Polish officer corps in Katyń. Nevertheless, on 19 May 1942, SIG included a Radom in its choice of five contemporaneous service handguns to test for accuracy in preparation for the development of their candidate for the next Swiss service sidearm, eventually adopted as the Pistole 49 and designated commercially as the P210. As documented by Erwin Armbruster, this is what they got in 8 shots fired at 50 meters:

  • Walther P38: 12.0cm from rest/14.5 cm offhand
  • Radom Vis35: 18.5cm from rest/17.0 cm offhand
  • Colt M1911: 30.0cm from rest/42.0 cm offhand
  • 9mm Luger 06/29: 5.5cm from rest/11.5 cm offhand
  • 7.65 Luger 06/29: 5.8cm from rest/9.0 cm offhand

The SIG P210 being my number one favorite sidearm of all times, I needed a Tokarev and a Radom to measure, test, and photograph for my P210 research. Last weekend’s Rock Island Auction sale featured the biggest selection of Radoms offered to the general public this year. Since karmic considerations foreclose my ownership of items marked with the swastika, I was limited to the choice of a costly pre-war Polish Eagle model, their values boosted by Poland’s provisional failure to perish. With their values tending towards five figures, I was highly motivated to get my hands on a good specimen of this last cavalry pistol before real collectors priced them out of my reach. And so this gun is coming to me for $4,000.00 + 15%:

As described by RIA:

Lot #: 1646
Estimated Price: $5,500 – $7,000
Scarce Pre-WWII Polish Radom Model 1935 Automatic Pistol
Serial #: 35428
Manufacturer: Radom
Model: Vis 35
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 9 mm Luger
Catalog Page: 55
Barrel Length: 4-3/4 inch round
Finish: blue
Grip: plastic Stock: N/A
Description: Produced only up to serial number 49400. The pistol has the polished satin blue finish and checkered black plastic grips. The grips have “VIS” molded into the right grip and “FB” into the left. This pre-war “three lever” pistol has the decoking lever, slide stop and takedown lever on the left side of the slide and frame. A stock slot is milled into the rear of the grip strap. The left side of the slide is marked Polish Eagle and “VIS-wz.35 / pat. Nr.15567”. The serial number “35428” is located on the right side of the frame above the trigger. Proof and inspection marks are stamped on both sides of the trigger guard bow and on the left side of the slide ahead of the decocking lever. The magazine has a blue finish and is unmarked. After the fall of Poland in early WWII the Polish Radom pistols became a secondary issue weapon used widely throughout WWII by the Wehrmacht.
Condition: Excellent with 98% blue finish overall showing edge and high spot wear with some minor thinning and spotting on the lower frame. The grips are excellent. Tough to find in this high condition.

Of course, $4,600.00 is a lot of money to pay for any gun. But the Radom Vis 35 is an expensive pistol to make. Its discontinued 1992 Lucznik reissue has long since sold out, priced at $2,300. And as regards its intrinsic quality, the Polish Eagle Radom will match any M1911 ever made, with top-notch custom specimens of the latter fetching that much or more these days. For that matter, if your taste tends towards pre-war Colts, consider this Colt National Match Government Model fetching $12,000.00 + 15% buyer’s premium, and this one going for a whopping $17,000.00 + 15%, in the same sale. So much for the economic downturn that affects us all.
    Back in pre-war Poland, this complete rig SN 8093 in a lower condition went for $7,500.00 + 15%, whereas this much touted early SN 0019 went for $4,250.00 + 15%. Even this postwar mixmaster SN 48915 went for $1,400.0 + 15%.
    But for me, last weekend’s surprise was this well worn, garden variety Tokarev TT-33 selling for $1,600.00 + 15%. Regrettably, U.S. laws forbid the import of pistols lacking a positive safety device. Hence the market conditions multiplying the value of a $300 pistol.

P.S. This gun sold for $4,312.00 in the James D. Julia Spring Firearms Auction 2008. I am heartened to exemplify the Greater Fool Theory, even if auction commissions caused the seller to take a loss in our transaction.

4 thoughts on “polish cavalry to the rescue!”

  1. I seem to remember you writing a piece about what it would take to make a sidearm more accurate. And here we have one that seems to have the function built in 😉

    I’d love a gun. Shame i live in the UK… makes it much harder to own… freely.

    As a response to your aside – i’m sure when times get tough there would be many willing to invest in a good sidearm. Because you never know.

  2. Though I was born in Poland, I had never actually heard of this Polish gun (or, hell, any others — never been my area of interest). I wish I had seen your post just a few days sooner. I was doing a rough translation of the WWII song known in Polish as Rozszumiały się wierzby płaczące for someone asking on Youtube, and came across the puzzling line: “Do tańca grają nam // Granaty, wisów szczęk“. What is this “wis”? And why does it have something to do with jaws (“szczęki”)? Only after a lot of frustrating Googling around did I figure out that “wis” seemed to be a kind of pistol, and that “szczęk” was a misprint of “szczek” — “bark”. Now that I’ve read your post I was finally able to find the real sources on the gun — spelled “VIS” (counterintuitive since Polish doesn’t use a V). There’s even a big Wikipedia page and everything! Thanks for this educational diversion. And now I’m actually thinking it’d be cool to try to shoot this gun at some point of my life, because of its historical context.

    1. Translation from Polish

      Caprinus: I am really surprised that having been born in Poland and having been asked to translate rather difficult song title you did not know what the word “szczek” means. Furthermore, spelling of VIS with V is not counterintuitive. Originally the abbreviation was WIS and represented first letters of the last names of the two designers of the pistol Wilniewczyc and Skrzypinski. The letter “i” in Polish means “and” – hence WIS. However, towards the end of 1933 the cutomer (Polish military) decided that WIS is close to the word VIS – in the Latin language it means power – hence VIS.

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