Walther’s LP III: A single-stroke from the past
by B.B. Pelletier
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Many of you are fascinated by single-stroke airguns, judging from your comments whenever we post a report about one. Today, we’re looking at one of the early single-strokes, though by no means the first. Walther’s LP III was made between 1973 and 1985. Though it was intended as a target pistol, the rules for air pistols hadn’t been codified when it came out, so it can look different that the traditional target pistols we know today.
Walther’s LP III resembles their famous Olympia .22 target pistol of the 1950s. This model has the less expensive sporting grip.
Because this is the LP III (for luftpistole, model three), you might assume there was also a II and a I. The II existed, alright, but there was never an LP I from Walther. I would guess it had to be changed significantly and was never released for production. The LP II looks very much like the III, but it had a significantly different valve that proved troublesome in the field. In fact, a decade ago you could buy an LP II for about two-thirds of what an LP III brought, simply because nobody trusted the valve! The LP II was made from 1967 through 1972.
We get a lot of questions about single-stroke valves, so maybe this is a good time to clear things up. A single-stroke pneumatic is an airgun that accepts just one pump of air to fire. I get very upset when people mistakenly call a spring gun a “one pump gun.” I know they mean one stroke of the barrel or cocking lever, but a spring gun is nothing like a pneumatic, and this sloppy terminology just confuses the new person.
Another big question is, “Why can’t I put in a second pump? It would make the gun even more powerful, wouldn’t it?” No, in fact, it wouldn’t. The pump head on a single-stroke pneumatic is also one end of the air reservoir. If you try to pump a second time, the air from the first pump will escape through the air inlet hole. I hope the drawing makes that clear.
This drawing shows why you can only put one pump of air into the single-stroke reservoir.
How it worked
The LP III was pumped with a lever that fit around the triggerguard. It popped down and drew the piston all the way back (it was concealed in the grip), then returned to the closed position to pressurize the gun. This lever was the LP III’s biggest fault, because it was too short to do the job efficiently. It took about 35 pounds of force to close the lever, and that seemed like even more because everything was so closely spaced. Many grown men could not pump the gun even once! As hard as it was to pump, it tired most competitors in a match. Repeated pumping left them with sore hands. The alternative target pistols weren’t much better, but the FWB 65 was both a little easier and much more accurate, and that spelled the end for this Walther.
The pump lever is completely withdrawn in preparation for pumping the pistol. The barrel is shown broken open for loading, but it doesn’t have to be to pump the gun.
Besides the pump lever, the LP III was also a breakbarrel for loading. A latch under the barrel pivot unlocked the barrel, which was tipped down to expose the breech. There was no spring resistance to this tipping; it was only for loading the pellet.
Although I don’t have an LP II with target grips to show you, the only difference was the adjustable wooden grips, themselves. Compared to a 10-meter pistol of today, these grips seem crude and awkward, but in their day they were considered very nice.
As nice as it was, the LP III held only a 5-shot group of about 0.16″ at 10 meters. That’s aspirin-busting accuracy, but it’s also about three times larger than the groups that today’s target pistols can shoot. It has a trigger so nice it’s only been surpassed in the last 10 years, and the sights sit very low in the hand. Power is in the 350 to 400 f.p.s. region with light target pellets.
As a collectible
There is a lot to collect with an LP III. First, there are two models, one with target grips, the other with plastic (shown). There’s an early model with a raised rib formed into the barrel and a later model with a round barrel. Finally, there’s a hard presentation case that also holds all tools, sight inserts and literature. The LP III is making a comeback after a couple of decades of being ignored. So, if you want one, better get going!