By Kurt M.
Being a military surplus aficionado (and a cheap one at that) it was pretty natural for me to look for a CCW from among the ranks of pistols coming out of the former communist bloc. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer an all steel gun over the polymer guns on the market; a view reinforced by the blood my Dad’s LC9 will draw if I’m not being careful. The P-64 naturally drew my eye. They’re a well-made pistol, every example I’ve seen has great bluing and the machine work is very well done. As an example the top of the slide is machined so that you don’t get glare between the rear and front sight. It’s the little things that draw me.
That, and for under $200 you can get a pistol that has similar lines to a PPK. (It’s actually a hair bigger; the PPK is banned from importation because it qualifies as a “Saturday night special” the P-64 is right on the border of importation legality) This is what I carry, but it isn’t for everyone. I’ll tell you about the P-64; what’s good, what’s bad, and then I’ll give you my final word on it. Hopefully I can help you decide if the P-64 is for you.
This is a Polish military and police pistol. After World War Two the Soviets put considerable pressure on the Poles to adopt the Soviet Tokarev, which they did. In the 50’s the Soviets decided to switch from the Tokarev’s 7.62×25 to a new caliber 9×18, and a new smaller pistol, the Makarov. Once again the Poles had pressure put on them to adopt the new Soviet round, but instead of adopting the Makarov they decided to adopt a homegrown model that conformed to the Makarov specs of a smaller pistol in 9×18.
Two models were prototyped, one which was the size of the Walther PPK, and another the size of the Walther PP. The PPK sized pistol was adopted. As the name would imply it was adopted in 1964, and was the standard issue until 1983, when it was replaced by a new 9×18 chambered pistol. That said they were issued well past 1983, and supposedly some P-64s can still be found in police holsters in Poland today.
This is an SA/DA pistol with an exposed hammer. It has the Walther-style decocker that decocks when pushed down and fires when pushed up, a red dot is visible in fire. When decocked the trigger hangs free, it is under no pressure and can’t do anything. You can chamber a round with the P-64 decocked, as the slide is free.
There are two “styles” of P-64, the Poles modified the P-64 in 1972, the only external difference is that the old style has a round hammer, and the new style has a triangular hammer that sticks out to ease manually putting the gun into single action. Internally the trigger was supposed to be changed to improve double action pull, but truthfully I don’t notice a difference between the two, but that’s just me.
This is a very small, compact package. The length is just a little over 6 inches, and the height is about 4 ½ inches. But where the P-64 really shines is in the width – an inch with flat grips. They’re imported with “target grips” which have a swell that makes the P-64 just wide enough to not be blocked from importation as a “Saturday night special.”
Every example I’ve seen has had the flat grips put back on after importation, however, and if yours didn’t have that done the grips are available if you want to replace them. I can’t overemphasize how nice the width is for carry, it’s better than any common carry gun sold today. I carry IWB, jeans and a t-shirt (pretty much regardless of season) and I don’t even notice it, helped no doubt by its rounded edges. A coat would be redundant. In a good holster you could easily carry it in your shorts pocket.
The P-64 is a milled all steel pistol, not stamped. I won’t bore you with machining details, do a web search if you’re interested; suffice to say the end product is well put together. It’s a level of work that you just can’t buy for $200 elsewhere. Of course being steel can be for some a double edged sword, scroll down to the bad for the flipside of this.
For me this has been a very reliable pistol. Little guns have a general reputation for being finicky, but this seems to buck the trend. I have yet to try a commercial round, FMJ or HP that this won’t feed and fire, zero problems. As a general rule military pistols have a hard time feeding HP because they weren’t designed with HPs in mind, so maybe mine is the exception. That said, I would trust any commercial FMJ round, I think I’ve tried them all by this point, and as I said, my experience with HPs has been a good one with the P-64. Generally I’ll shoot 50-100 rounds through it at a time, past that I won’t speak to reliability, but as a CCW that gets taken care off, that’s good enough for me.
Have I already mentioned the price? For under $200 you get a lot of pistol. This is one of those guns where you get more than you paid for, which matters to me. Of course as a CCW, you don’t want to carry something you can’t count on just because it’s cheap. As I see it, you’re getting a pistol that ranges from carried often fired little to unissued that if made today would command a much higher price. It’s up to you if this delivers for less as I think, or if it just isn’t good enough for you no matter the price.
The fixed sights are tiny, so when I bought this I was expecting the kind of accuracy I can get out of the polymer carry guns, past ten feet for me it’s just forget it in terms of tight groups. I have been pleasantly surprised to get really nice groups well past that. The sights are tiny, but useable, this wasn’t meant to be a target pistol and really isn’t (although it’s imported as such thinks to the “Saturday night special laws”), but the P-64 will serve you well. I don’t claim to be a great shot but I get tight groups, much better than I would probably need in a ccw.
The single action pull is really nice, short and light and breaks cleanly. It makes shooting good groups in SA a breeze. It’s honestly one of the nicer SA pulls I used on a milsurp, and I think it’s as good or better than SA triggers you would pay much more for on a commercial SA/DA gun. Of course, this is an SA/DA gun, and the tale of two actions on this gun couldn’t be more different, we’ll talk about that DA later.
As I mentioned earlier I’ll get red rail lines or outright bloody lines from the Ruger or Keltec carry guns if I’m not careful. I can’t speak for you, but for me I don’t think I could do that on the P-64 unless I tried. The slide is beveled to avoid slide bite and the grip shape keeps your hand out of harm’s way. Somewhat related I also don’t suffer hammer bite on the P-64, that’s just me. I feel confident I could use this in a hurry and not have to worry about my grip.
The P-64 field strips just like the Walther PP/PPK, which is a good thing in my mind. To field strip just pull the trigger guard down and out, and then pull the slide back and up and the slide comes off. That’s really all there is to it. I like simple, this is simple.
The P-64 has a loaded chamber indicator above the hammer, a nice feature along with the great machine work which isn’t often seen on the utilitarian communist guns. It wouldn’t sway me one way or the other to buy the P-64, but it’s a nice touch and adds to the overall package.
The gun is about 22 ounces unloaded. For me, that isn’t a problem, but for you it might be. All of the polymer carry guns are going to be much lighter. It’s just the nature of using steel vs polymer, steel is heavier. I actually prefer the heft, not everyone does.
You may have noticed that I neglected mentioning the double action pull earlier, that’s because it can be horrible! They vary, but some of these will have I swear 20 pound plus trigger pull, a serious finger exercise machine. It’s the exact opposite of the Ruger; where the Ruger has a long light pull this has a short (often really) heavy pull. The closest thing I can compare the trigger pull to is the pull on some older DAO revolvers. It’s very similar. You can either live with it, or buy a wolf replacement spring kit ($5 or so) which will correct the problem. Personally I kept it as is because I was able to hand pick one I liked and for me the pull is like a safety, like carrying a revolver. I rejected some examples that I absolutely would have had to replace the springs on to use.
You can really feel the recoil. I wouldn’t describe it as stout as some will online, it’s really not bad, rather it’s just that the thin grip which makes carrying so nice means that all the recoil is concentrated in a small part of the web of the hand, and you feel every bit of it. After a box of 50 I’m usually done shooting it. I wouldn’t call it painful, but it isn’t pleasant to shoot like a 1911. I wouldn’t want to shoot this all day.
The P-64 does not have a drop safety. A hard hit to the hammer even when dropped can potentially light off a chambered round. This was a military carry gun; no military wants its soldiers to carry with a round chambered, so the pistol wasn’t designed to for that kind of carry in mind. For me that means that I need a good holster, for you that might make this a non-starter.
The capacity is 6 plus 1 of 9mm Makarov. It’s a single stack in a caliber between 380 ACP and 9mm in terms of power. I won’t weigh in on the caliber wars, for some of you that can be a deal breaker and if it is, the P-64 is as it is.
9mm Makarov is a foreign caliber so some may find availability a problem even in normal times. Price-wise steel cased will be about the same as brass 9mm Luger, brass Makarov is under $20, and seems to mirror the price of .40 S&W in my area. Usually 9mm brass is cheaper, although I will say that at least in my area for a time I could get the Makarov when the 9mm Luger was long gone because fewer people shoot Makarov. Eventually everything was gone, and now that 9mm Luger is reappearing the 9mm Makarov has yet to return.
As with the PP/PPK pistols, the P-64 does not have an external slide release. To reload you have to pull the slide back. It doesn’t bother me, but it may bother you.
The P-64 is I think pretty unique in not having the trigger reset between SA and DA. Normally the trigger will move back when switched from DA to SA, not so with this. Again it doesn’t bother me, but if you’re used to something different it may bother you.
The magazine release is in the heel, and doesn’t have a button on the slide to release a magazine. An advantage of that is that you’re never going to accidentally release a magazine, but this kind of magazine release is very European and isn’t seen often on US pistols. If that sounds too weird for you to get used to, it is as it is.
The P-64 is a small, easily concealable pistol. It can have a horrible DA pull and like most pistols of this size you feel it when you shoot this, although the steel frame lessens that to some extent. For those wanting a reliable steel frame pistol that is a concealable size, that can had for a comparably low price, and either don’t mind or prefer a military pistol, this makes an excellent choice.
Caliber: 9mm Makarov
Finish: Blued Grips: Plastic, after market wood available
Slide and Frame: Milled steel
Manufacturer: Random plant in Poland “circle 11” marked
Price: About $300, give or take $50.
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Style * * *
I have a hard time describing anything made in the communist era as having style. Maybe this has anti-style? It is a well-made pistol, and for me its lines are better than any polymer pistol. Your own mileage may vary based upon how many times you had to count on your desk protecting you from nuclear war.
Ergonomics * * * * *
A very slim small package. Comfortable to carry and hold in the hand and surprisingly nice for a communist bloc pistol. Borrows from the ergonomics of the PPK. Remove a star if you prefer lighter pistols.
Ergonomics Firing * * *
You’ll feel every round you shoot in the web of your hand. Nevertheless it’s very accurate for me, and likely for you.
Reliability * * * * *
I’ve never had a problem with feeding any round, an excellent choice for reliability.
Customize this *
You can change the grips?
Overall Rating * * * *
An excellent choice for those of us who prefer a steel frame without the steel frame price in a small pistol. Only held back by a fixable yet out of the cosmoline horrible DA trigger and uncomfortable shooting due to the thin grip.