VZ 47 — after the war
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
The VZ47 is a large military trainer.
This report covers:
- The rifle
- Cost controls
- No bayonet lug
- Overall impression
We started the week with a report on the Hammerli Trainer. We’ll end it with a look at the VZ-47. This ball-firing spring piston air rifle is a later version of the VZ 35 that we looked at in December. That’s why I put the link to that report at the top of this one. You might say the 47 is an updated model 35, only the updates were mostly ways to reduce the cost to manufacture.
Like the VZ35, the VZ47 is a very large air rifle. Most people seeing one for the first time would think it is a firearm. It weighs 8.5 lbs. and has the same rugged look as a 98K Mauser that it’s meant to copy. All you see on the outside is wood and steel, as this is indeed an old-school military trainer.
If you look at a VZ47 by itself, it would look like a high-class throwback to earlier times. Of course it was manufactured in the 1940s, so that look is authentic. If you compare it to the earlier VZ35, however, the places where costs were cut begin to emerge.
While the materials are steel and wood, the steel is plate whereever it can be, rather than machined parts, and the metal is blued to just above matte. Many of the VZ35 parts are blued to a high luster, in comparison. The rear sight is blued on the 47, rather than being left in the white, as it is on the 35.
The VZ47 rear sight is blued. In this photo the loading port is open (right).
VZ35 rear sight is finished in Arsenal Bright (left in the white).
Like the 35, the 47 shoots 4.4mm lead balls through a rifled barrel. It is a repeater that operates on the Daisy BB gun principal (bolt starts the ball down the bore, then the air blast accelerates it). The rifle loads in the same placeas the 35, but the cover of the loading port or hopper has been simplified. Instead of a fancy spring-loaded cover, the 47 uses a folded sheet metal cover that just slides back to reveal the loading port. It holds about 20 balls in all.
The 47 loading port cover is slid back (to the left) to open the port for loading.
The VZ47 cocks exactly like the VZ35. Rotate the bolt handle straight up where it interfaces with another part of a longer lever, then pull back. The bolt is pivoted at its base and rocks inside the action, pulling the powerful mainspring into fill compression. The mechanism is simplified from that of the 35, but it does exactly the same thing, and is just as hard to cock.
Rotate the bolt handle straight up and it locks with the bottom half of the cocking lever. Then pull back to cock the rifle.
This rifle will propel a 7.7-grain lead ball to around 425 f.p.s., so it’s pretty potent. You expect that from the size and weight of the rifle, and especially after you cock it just one time!
Both the VZ 35 and the VZ 47 are equally accurate. At 5 meters you can expect all the balls to go into 1/2-inch. And it holds out to 10 meters where an inch or a little more can be expected. The sights are graduated to 25 meters, but that would be for hitting gallon milk jugs.
No bayonet lug
The first thing that caught my eye with the 47 was the lack of a bayonet lug. The 35 has one and it works! But putting a bayonet on an air rifle is silly, so I guess the makers left it off as another cost-saving step. I say it’s silly because you don’t want to use the bayonet in practice when it’s mounted on an airgun! Rifles that get used for bayonet practice get beaten up pretty bad. No army I know of uses service rifles for bayonet practice. They have a cache of older rifles that don’t get maintained, and these they reserve just for the bayonet course. The Brits even wrapped the wooden stocks with wire to keep them from shattering and injuring soldiers. And that is also why nobody uses an M16 on the bayonet course. The plastic stocks just can’t take it — any more than the wooden stocks of the past.
I owned a VZ35 when I bought the VZ47, which gave me a unique chance to compare them. If you never saw a VZ35, the VZ47 would impress you a lot, I think. But comparing them always leaves the 47 in second place. The 35 is just finished so much better and its parts are so much more solid than those of the 47.
I bought the VZ47 from Compasseco, who sold hundreds of them for $260 each. The owner contacted me before buying the guns and asked what I thought. I told her it was a slam-dunk. I said that she would sell out and want to buy more. Of course at the time we talked she thought the retail would be about $150.
The price went up, as these things sometimes do, and she had the rifles for a couple years in all. But sell they did and when it was over I’m sure she would have liked to get more.
I’ve read that about 60,000 VZ47s were made, and my serial number was over 20,000, so that did ring true. So there are plenty of them in the world. People just don’t sell them that often, I guess.
Performance-wise, it’s a draw between the 47 and 35. My 47 was fresh when I bought it and my 35 was a bit tired from years of use, so I refurbished the powerplant and brought it back. When I finished they both shot about the same.
I have seen a couple 47s at airgun shows, but the 35s outnumber them. Maybe some enterprising European airgunner will start selling them here. How about it, Carel?