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Education / Training IZH 53M air pistol: Part 1

IZH 53M air pistol: Part 1

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!

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

60 thoughts on “IZH 53M air pistol: Part 1”

  1. I never was a big fan of break barrel pistols but you might make me change my mind with this one…

    About yesterday blog and wether we liked firearms mixed with our airguns maybe we could have 4 days of airguns and one day per week devoted to powder burners?
    How about firearm fridays? Since it always brings up lots of comments…
    Would one day per week be acceptable or is too much?


    • RE: Firearm Fridays

      I don’t think that we need a given percentage of firearm blogs. When BB figures out some relationship of firearms to airguns then he should feel free to blog about that point.

      I also appreciate an occasional “pure” firearm article because it gives me a bit of insight to BB. For example he obviously as a weakness for 0.45 pistols based on his army experience with them.

      If some of the other guys want to go OT and talk firearms in the comments it doesn’t bother me. I have firearms too.

      PS – When I shoot patterns with my shotguns I don’t get upset about the group size. LOL


    • J-F,

      I realize that this is blog is rooted in air-gunning, and I think that your suggestion about having a designated air-gun day is good because it acknowledges the relevance of fire-arms in relation to air-guns. However, while probably all of us are absolutely in love with air-gunning, I think that a lot of us have strong roots in fire-arms. More importantly, had it not been for those roots, we might not have stumbled upon this hobby (a passion for so many of us). So many of the technical aspects of both the guns themselves, and shooting them, are shared between them. In fact, the details of shooting air-guns is, at a minimum, complimentary to shooting firearms. In short, there’s a real synergy between air-guns and fire-arms.

      For instance, I like the idea of having an air-gun that copies a fire-arm because it could provide training benefits. Also, as a former competitive marksman, I’ve probably learned more about some details of shooting execution with springer’s than I ever did using high-end, Olympic class, rifles like Anschutz or FWB. At the same time, I now appreciate my Anschutz’s and FWB’s even more for the magic that they allowed me to perform.

      It is wisely said that all things are great by comparison. Being a student of both air-guns and fire-arms, I’ve learned to appreciate both in ways never considered until I found this blog. This blog is rich in technology, insight, and history. I don’t think it could be as great if restricted in specific ways.


  2. Don’t listen to J-F! If he wants more powder burners, let him go to where they live! The occasional is fine because they can overlap some, but this is about air gunning! You are doing a great job here! I am thankful Pyramyd AIR sponsors this!

    • I don’t “want” more powder burners, but the occasionnal blog is fine with me and it’s also why I asked if once per week was too much. What frequency would be acceptable to you?

      The occasional blog on Tom’s various collections, how he obtained this or that deal, Mr. Ungier blogs on how PA got started or a few of his tractors, airgun shows etc…

      Speaking of blog articles we haven’t had a blog on mods or repairs in a while. I think we’re due aren’t we. How’s the pogo stick gun coming Vince? Does it look promising?


      • J-F,

        Vince tells me that he has made the Pogostick gun work once — manually. He says the gun was never finished.

        I will look around and see what I can do about bringing a repair article to the blog. Can’t do another 124, though. Got to be something else.


      • I believe spontaneity is the best practice, just like BB’s been doing it all along. Is there a lesson to be learned from a firearm today? By all means include it. Do you want to compare the M&P air pistol to the 9mm? By all means do it. Do you want to slip in some newly learned technique for a black powder burner? Go ahead, we know there are some of us on this blog who will benefit. Do we like stories about the M1 Garand? Yup! Does S&W want you to plug their 9mm M&P with a review? Fuhgedaboudit!

        • I think you’re right, I wasn’t asking for a firearm blog on every friday I just liked the way it sounded.
          Once in a while is perfect for me.
          I love the format and like everything about it.


    • RidgeRunner,

      Thanks for saying that. I need to know that some readers don’t appreciate firearms.

      Unfortunately, some of the biggest lessons we can learn about airguns have already been learned and forgotten again by those who make firearms. So there has to be occasional crossover.


      • I’d go for firearms say, every 2nd Friday.
        I know this is airgunning, and it’s why I come here, but I also have an interest in powderburners and a lot of the science is applicable…just scaled down.
        And I respectfully pooh-pooh ridgerunners argument 😉
        He doesn’t have that much interest in powderburners (I’m assuming).
        I have next to no interest in PCP’s, pump guns or any of the magnums…but I read all the blogs faithfully because there’s always some nugget I can glean that is of use to me for what I do shoot.
        Either way…it’s the best blog in the web…keep up the good work.

      • It is not that I do not have an appreciation of firearms. Once upon a time I owned over one hundred of them. I drifted away from them, but recently discovered air gunning. I do enjoy hearing a bit about the Ballard or the .22 rifles B.B. pitted against the Talon, but I do not want this place to be filled with smoke, that’s all.

  3. B.B. a question please,

    This article brings up a question I have often wondered about but never asked. In the picture you show loading the gun with one hand wrapped around the grip and the other near the breech. If this were a rifle it would be considered bad form. A bear trap accident waiting to happen. I have shot break barrels my whole life including an LP-53. When I go to load the little Walther I often wonder if I should try to hold it in some way to prevent an accident but it is awkward to do so. Any thoughts?

    Mark N

    • Mark N,

      I said the exact same thing when I saw the picture, yet this is the image off Pyramyd Air’s site.

      Here’s the problem…it’s not a rifle. It’s a pistol. I think it would not only be clumsy to try to hold the barrel while loading, but it might even be more dangerous than doing it the way it’s shown.

      With a rifle, you can hold the gun steady easily enough. How would you do that with this pistol? I’ve worked it through my mind several times trying to imagine how you’d hold it, and it always seems to be more awkward and possibly more dangerous than NOT holding it.


      • Edith,

        With my Walther I can hold the barrel with the grip pressed against my body. I think it’s safer but it is awkward. I have never shot the Dianas or this IZH. The only other way I can think of is to break the action then load the pellet before cocking. The Walther does not open enough to load this way but maybe this IZH does?

        I realize that the consequences of an accident with these pistols is not as severe as with a rifle but it would still have to smart!

        Mark N

        • Getting bitten would probably be just as bad as with a rifle. Lower power, yes. But the barrel is lighter and could swing just as fast as a rifle barrel. Maybe faster. It’s not just going to hurt….it will turn your fingers into processed lunch meat if it gets you.
          Your only hope is that the motion generated will yank the breech down away from your fingers as the ends of the gun try to move up….


    • Sounds like this one has a ratchet to prevent that from happening, Mark. As long as I could still hear that ratchet working (it is very obvious in my Izh 513m), I would not hesitate to load it as shown. If I didn’t hear it, that’s another story. Also, as twotalon stated, if the ratchet failed, the action snapping shut would likely pull the breech away from your fingers, hopefully enough to just leave you with a nasty little blood blister, or entirely unscathed.


    • Mark N,

      Edith did bring that up. I;m sorry now that I used that photo, because I don’t advocate loading that way. Even though this pistol has a good anti-beartrap AND a ratcheting cocking mechanism, anything man makes can fail.


      • B.B.,

        That picture did hit me in the face, with one hand wrapped around the trigger guard and the other loading the breech. If the anti-beartrap mechanism failed, or did not engage, it looks to me like a good way to lose a finger. Even keeping one’s hand around the trigger guard can ingrain a bad habit that could carry over to other guns.

        How about gripping the handle below the trigger guard? There should be enough room there to safely hold the gun.

        Keeping away from the trigger guard until ready to shoot should be a habit.


  4. I worked on one of these guns a few weeks ago. Well made for the price. Looks like the one you have is different. Appears that IZH has stopped dovetailing the compression tube. The older guns have rear sights that mount to that dovetail rather than into a modified end cap. Then again, there were many reports of older guns that shot high and the rear sight wouldn’t adjust low enough. Perhaps this is to fix that. The trigger on mine is adjustable if the stock is first removed.

    Anyway, if anyone needs to disassemble one, here’s a couple posts:

  5. B.B.,
    It looks like you have your repair article. Maybe a before and after velocity/accuracy post? The IZH-60 I picked up last year sounded crunchy and rough before a lube. I don’t know if it shot better after the work, but it sounded happier. If taking this gun down does not appeal to you, I vote de-tuning one of the overpowered Tech Force rifles. I seen to recall you threatening to publish a part four of the TF89 test. You have taught us a mellow 12 lbs will group better than an angry 17 does.

      • The IZH-53 tear down was pretty straight-forward. Most all of the “issues” I encounter when working on airguns are self-inflicted. I don’t even remember what lube I used on that power plant and that was just a few weeks ago. Probably a virgin olive oil from Modena?

  6. Looks very interesting. Go IZH. Just had a good session with my IZH61 that’s shooting as well as it ever has. I see the Russian indifference to safeties has carried over here. I’ve pretty much given up on the safety of the Mosin-Nagant. It would take a gorilla to operate.

    B.B., I’ve heard that the recoil spring for a semiauto pistol (firearm) should be changed out every 5000 rounds. Is that right?

    Loren, hadn’t though about deburring the case mouth. That makes sense.

    Victor, since the LCR is a semiauto, I’m guessing that the recoil will be milder than a revolver but the gun still sounds like a handful. That’s great advice from B.B. to start with the lighter bullet weights. I’ve tried that with my 1911 and it makes a great difference. And all the other advice about gradual adjustment is good too. So, how does your wife beat you in shooting contests as you mentioned? It doesn’t sound like she has a master level shooting background.

    KidAgain, I use IMR 4064 and the Lee Powder Scale to get 1/20th of a grain. I’d have to cut the grains to get any more precise and couldn’t read the difference on the powder scale anyway. Heh heh. Thanks for the tip on Bryce Towsley. I’ve read his stuff, and he’s good. I haven’t gotten into the fire-forming of brass, but the way you raised this leads to an instructive question. Upon discharge, the case expands to fit the chamber like a “brass snowflake” according to one person. Full-length resizing then crushes the case back to its original shape. So, how can you have both fire-forming and full-length resizing? (So, I was obviously kidding about having no way to improve my handloads. :-))

    Regarding corrosive ammo, my solution is to stay away from it. Otherwise, I’ll pass on an internet anecdote which I cannot verify. The guy said that he used a solution of 1:10 Ballistol to water for the initial cleaning and then straight Ballistol. And he also mentioned that water is really the key ingredient for removing corrosive salts. It doesn’t matter if it is mixed with soap or Ballistol or whether it is hot or cold. (I heard another military guy who said that he just took his firearm into the shower with him after shooting–but I wouldn’t recommend that with wood stock.)


    • Matt,

      That’s what the owner’s manual for my Desert Eagle says – every 5,000 rounds. And I have read that 1911 springs are about the same.

      I haven’t gotten that far with any of mine, but I have replaced recoil springs for other reasons — like making the gun function better with a different load. That works well.


    • I think that over time you will find that weighing your charges to 1/20th of a grain won’t make any difference in you loads. It just takes more time. Save some time and load more!


    • Matt61,
      The Ruger LCR is a revolver. See http://ruger.com/products/lcr/index.html?r=y. My wife is fully aware of what she has gotten herself into. She did her research, and has enough experience to justify her decision for herself. I was pretty much out of the loop on this one. My son recently bought himself a Glock Model 19 for concealed carry, which is very manageable, accurate, and reliable. He loves his Glock, and advised it for my wife, but she knows what she wanted for her own reasons. Like B.B.’s suggestion, she asked that I shoot it first to hopefully gain some insight that might help her. She’s a tough cookie, so I’m sure she’ll make the best of it.

      Yes, she has better natural abilities (all mental, I’m sure) than me when it comes to learning to shoot a new gun. I need more practice than her in order to beat her. I’ve said many times before that I never considered myself a natural, but also that I know of no “naturals”, regardless of level of achievement. My greatest secret is lots of practice. Sure, I’ve learned a great deal from others, but there is no substitute for trying things out for yourself.

      If my wife were as dedicated, patient, and competitive as I am (i.e., as interested), I doubt that I could beat her. But ultimately, the bottom line is that I can eventually beat her. The value in all of this is that any kid starting out in competitive marksmanship can take themselves to almost any level that they choose. It’s sometimes surprising to me to hear top shooters say that they made a conscious decision to be the best, or to make an Olympic team. Isn’t that interesting? People actually decide that they want to accomplish something big. People who teach, or coach, others to be successful always say that you have to first set goals. I remember first wanting to win my first state championship “Shadow Box”, meaning that you are the overall state champion (as opposed to winning sub-aggregate medals). Initial goals, and doing what it takes to achieve them set a trajectory. Natural ability isn’t enough to establish a trajectory.


  7. B.B.

    Well, Izh-53M is really one of the best-engineered springers made by IzhMech. I don’t have one, I prefer CO2 lookalikes for handguns, but the times I used this model it always felt nice.
    People upgrade it with gas springs, get a little extra power, fit it with stock and use it for indoor safe plinking or give it to kids or girls – it’s light, easy to cock and very accurate in good hands. Well, cometimes there’s some Frankenstein stuff about “carbinized” 53, as they are a bit short to fit the optics. That is why people buy 13mm barrel clamp type mount and fit it right onto the barrel. “Never cock a gun by its sights” sticker comes with this mount as a gift from the makers 🙂


      • Yeah, Edith, mine too! And I ride a fast bike! Reminds me of the old pilot’s adage… “there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots….” (I had to watch it twice… 😉 )


        • The guy’s handlebars have got to be made out of rubber. I’ve got nearly 100,000 miles logged on Harleys and that vid gives me chills. I agree with Herb. The man’s going to be an organ doner some day. I could not watch it a second time.

      • That’s the exact reason I never owned motorcycles, I don’t think I could stop myself from doing stuff like that and didn’t want to become an organ donor.

        I street raced, passed people on the shoulder and other crazy stuff. I bought my first truck to slow myself down and when I use my wife car (a turbo Passat with a manual tranny) I have a very hard time staying under 90mph on the highway.
        I love speed and love driving fast and I’m a pretty good driver and I’ve been in only one accident in close to 20 years of driving, I wasn’t speeding, wasn’t even doing the speed limit, a-hole ran a red light and a building on the street corner blocked my view so there was no way I could have seen him (or he could see me) coming, it was a pretty bad wreck.

        I like fast cars and slow airguns LOL


    • Dave,

      The guy’s gonna loose his head – but that won’t be too much of a loss to him, he seems not to use it at all. An organ donor in a positive final and a murderer in negative. After all, he drives like an amateur.

      BTW, the clip starts some 500 m past a well known range 🙂 It’s to the right behind this weirdo’s back


  8. Thanks for mentioning the BSF s20 resemblance…….first thing I thought when the post loaded.I have to admit you have the uncanny ability to get me to give models a second look.Us humans are hard-wired to judge with our eyes first.This blog helps me get past that sometimes…….only to be rewarded by real quality right under my nose!The S20 is a great example……it just looks like a handheld rifle action! But then you hold it,load it,and fire it……presto! All is forgiven! Then the looks become “charming” or “iconic” for lack of a better term.

      • I think it might just sidle up alongside of good company…….in the well below $100 category.The Crosman 2240,the P17,the 1377,and now a springer! Things are looking up when it comes to decent AFFORDABLE airguns. You and I both know it is hard to get PB guys interested in airguns that cost
        several hundred just for a “good”one.(by that I mean capable of impressing a newbie) I really like the idea of hammer forged rifling.

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