by B.B. Pelletier

The IZH 53M air pistol looks like it stepped right out of the 1950s. It’s a modern breakbarrel with a retro look and feel.

I finally got a “round tuit.” I said I would test the .177-caliber IZH 53M air pistol years ago, but something always came up. So, today, we’ll start a look at a gun that turns back the clock on airgun design.

This pistol is a throwback to Diana’s classic model 5 pistol, as well as several other less well-known air pistols of the past. I would say that it resembles the pre-war Diana 5, but some aspects are quite modern. However, from the standpoint of the spindly barrel and calm firing behavior, it’s closer to the pre-war gun than to the post-war pistol that ultimately morphed into a 700 f.p.s. powerhouse.

Is the the 53 calm and quiet? Most assuredly! It reminds me of a Diana 27 rifle that cocks with ease and discharges the same way. The noise level on the website says the pistol is a level 2, but that’s where a five-point numbering scale fails us. Because in my opinion, this is about a 1.2. This gun, combined with the AGE quiet pellet trap, is ideal for those who live in close quarters with thin walls separating them from their neighbors. Believe me, you’ll spend more time keeping the TV turned down than you will worrying about the discharge sound of this airgun.

The gun
The IZH 53M is a breakbarrel spring-piston air pistol. There are no unnecessary safety releases for the barrel — you simply cock it when you’re ready — just like back in 1952! There’s no superfluous automatic safety. The gun is ready to fire when the barrel is closed. All the safety there is has to reside in the hands of the person in control of the gun — as it should! There’s a good anti-beartrap device that prevents the curious from pulling the trigger when the barrel is broken open. If you want to see something flick up fast, buy a switchblade. Don’t play with a breakbarrel airgun that way!

This is what loading a breakbarrel air pistol looks like.

The grip is really a stock in which the entire action resides. In this respect, the gun is more like a BSF S20 pistol. The grip/frame is ambidextrous and made of a rough, black synthetic that grips your hand aggressively. The metal parts are not polished but appear to have been blacked just as they came from the tumbler, which gives them a rough satin finish.

Although the pistol has the look and feel of the 1950s, you can see the refinement that’s taken place over the years. For one thing, the grip has been changed to better fit all hands. And the sights! Well, what can I say except that they remind me of the good old days when the IZH 60 was made with a steel receiver! The rear sight is such a masterpiece of design ingenuity that I’m showing you a closeup picture. The windage adjustment has sharp, crisp detents to let you know exactly what’s been done. The elevation screw is quiet (has no clicks) and without detents, but it is positioned perfectly and works exactly the way you think it does. This sight, which is made of a combination of synthetic and metal parts, puts me in mind of the rear sight on a BSF S20 Target model that’s so finely crafted.

The rear sight isn’t just adjustable in both directions. It’s also designed to fit the gun and look nice. This is one you’ll be proud to own.

The front sight is a sharp post on a ramp; and because it’s so simple, it’s the perfect place to use synthetic material. It’s clever thinking like this that bespeaks the high level of engineering that must have gone into the gun.

That leads me to wonder if the Russians have continued their quality quest over to the barrel. We know from examples of the past that the Russians know how to rifle airgun barrels. And the several times I loaded a Crosman Premier lite pellet to shoot the gun, I noticed that it fit the breech just like it would fit an FWB 124 breech. So, I’m hoping that the barrel on this pistol is everything the Russians are capable of making. At just $65, I don’t see how it could be. How can they turn out a gun that retails for so little yet has all these quality features and is accurate to boot?

Here’s where the truth comes out. The gun cocks easily and is quite smooth when it fires. Therefore, it isn’t a magnum pistol. The advertised velocity is 360 f.p.s., but I’ll test it with real-world pellets so you know what to expect when you get it. But the point I am making is that, just like the Diana 27, that isn’t very powerful, neither is this pellet pistol. It’s just fun to shoot.

I’ve found over the years that the gentle airguns are the ones that live on in people’s memories and become classics. I’m talking about guns like the aforementioned Diana 27, the FWB 124, the Air Venturi Bronco — and perhaps this pellet pistol.

The trigger isn’t adjustable, but it’s very nice just the same. It has a single-stage pull that I’ll tell you more about in Part 2. It’s very crisp for what it is and worthy of being on a gun costing twice as much.

Cocking and firing behavior
And that brings me to the cocking and firing behavior. Again, I’ll say more about this in the next report, but for now you should know that the gun fires smoothly and has little vibration. When you cock it, the mainspring sounds just like a vintage gun from the 1950s. It’s all scrunchy and spring-sounding, and it’s during this endeavor that you learn of the extra safety that’s built into the gun. There’s a ratcheting device that grabs the spring incrementally as it’s compressed; so if you were to let go of the barrel, it would not snap back. That’s where the 1950s are left behind and the Third Millenium design takes over. This device is quiet and unassuming — and unless you test for it by letting off on the barrel while cocking, you’ll never even know it’s there.

There isn’t a lot of time left before Christmas. If this model is of any interest, you’ll have to take a chance that it fits your needs. All I can say at this point is that I’m impressed!