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Pistolet wz.35 Vis (Radom) Semi-Automatic Handgun (1938)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 12/14/2014

The Polish Pistolet wz.35 Vis semi-automatic handgun proved one of the best of her kind though the Soviet influence over Poland in the post-WW2 world signified her end.

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The Polish wz.35 pistol was one of the finest semi-automatic handguns of her era, appearing just shortly before the German invasion of September 1939 to officially begin World War 2. The Browning-based weapon proved exceptionally reliable and of great production quality though not many were available at the time of the invasion and subsequent occupation. Production continued under German control though quality suffered as a result of war time stresses and limitations. Surviving the war after the Soviet liberation of Poland, the wz.35 was not brought back as the standard sidearm of the Polish Army for Soviet influence dictated use of its Tokarev TT-33 series.

Prior to World War 1, Polish territory was claimed by the powers of Prussia, Russia and Austria (the Kingdom of Poland was forged in 1025 and dismantled as the "Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth" in 1795). It was not until the end of World War 1 in November of 1918 that modern-day Poland (as the "Second Polish Republic") was reborn. With its independence now formally recognized, authorities moved to establish a viable land army for the primary purpose of self-defense and, to this, the daunting task of outfitting its personnel was brought about.

For decades, the Polish Army relied on outside sources to stock its inventory. As such, it became a mixed assortment of surplus goods varying in origin (German, Austrian, British, American, Russian) and caliber. It was under this arrangement that the Polish Army fought its victorious campaign against Ukraine in the Polish-Ukrainian War of 1918-1919. The follow-up Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921 netted a Polish tactical victory and little else. During the war years, the Polish Army had peaked at 737,000-strong and made due with whatever was on hand.

In the 1930s, a move to standardize Polish arms was reinforced by a 1935 trial to select the primary sidearm of the Polish soldier. Engineers Piotr Wilniewczyz and Jan Skrzypinksi submitted a Browning design which centered around the tried-and-proven qualities of the Fabrique-Nationale "High-Power" (HP), a semi-automatic pistol started by fabled American gunsmith John Browning himself prior to his death in 1926. The Polish engineers introduced a slide catch that controlled the hammer and allowed the operator to carry the loaded handgun in relative safety. The catch was used to slowly release the hammer with a cartridge residing in the chamber, requiring a manual re-cocking action (managing the hammer with the thumb) to make the pistol "ready-to-fire" once more (a grip safety remained the primary safety facility) - this addition made the wz.35 one of the first pistols to utilize a "decocking" lever. During the action, the barrel was initially locked to the slide and then separated by a cam in the frame prior to the stripping of a fresh cartridge from the awaiting magazine. Polish authorities selected this in-house design as the standard Polish Army handgun in 1935 under the designation of "Pistolet wz.35" ("wz" standing for "model" and "35" for the year of adoption - 1935). It is notable that the move to semi-automatic pistols from revolver types was something of a world-wide event for many national armies.

With help from Fabrique-Nationale, lines were set up at the Fabryka Broni w Radomiu facility for local serial production, this helping the Poles begin to achieve arms independence at a crucial time in European history. Due to its manufacture location, the pistol came to be recognized as the "Pistolet Radom wz.35".However, the handgun was more appropriately recognized as the "Pistolet WiS wz.35" - "WiS" recognizing its two designers by initials. The "WiS" designation eventually evolved to become the "Vis" designation, Vis translating to "force" in Latin.


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Specifications for the
Pistolet wz.35 Vis (Radom)
Semi-Automatic Handgun


Country of Origin: Poland
Manufacturer: Fabryka Broni w Radomui - Poland
Initial Year of Service: 1938


Overall Length: 205 mm (8.07 in)
Barrel Length: 115.00 mm (4.53 in)
Weight (Empty): 2.09 lb (0.95 kg)


Caliber*: 9x19mm Parabellum
Action: Recoil-Operated; Closed Bolt; Semi-Automatic
Feed: 8-round detachable box magazine
Muzzle Velocity: 1,150 ft/sec (351 m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire: 24 rounds per minute
Sights: Iron front and rear


* Listed caliber(s) for firearms may be model dependent if more than one model type/chambering was produced. Always consult official manufacturer's information or a licensed dealer.


Variants:
Pistolet wz.35 Wis - Original designation using initials to credit original designers Piotr Wilniewczyc and Jan Skrzypiński.


Pistolet wz.35 Vis - Revised designation signifying "Force" in latin.

Pistolet wz.35 Radom - Alternative designation signifying place of origin (the Radom Armory).


Operators:
Nazi Germany; Poland