Walther LP53 – the James Bond airgun: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Walther LP53

Walther’s LP53 was their first attempt at a target air pistol.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Blue Book coming!
  • James Bond
  • Two versions
  • Two frame finishes
  • Total manufactured
  • Breakbarrel
  • Cocking aid
  • Weights
  • Grips
  • Adjustable trigger!
  • Performance
  • The good news
  • Summary

Blue Book coming!

The Blue Book of Airguns will ship soon. The 13th edition is 1008 pages — up from 840 pages in the 12 edition. A lot has been added and a lot has been corrected. Watch for it!

Blue Book
The Blue Book of Airguns, 13th Edition, will ship soon.

Today we start looking at the Walther LP53 target pistol. The LP53 (LP stands for luft pistole – German for air pistol) was Walther’s early (1953-1983) attempt at making a .177 target pistol. It copied the lines of their famous .22 LR model 1936 Olympia II target pistol, and it used a spring piston to compress the air. When you look at the pistol, you wonder where the spring and the piston could be, but they are tucked away inside the pistol grip.

Walther Olympia
This Walther Olympia II is a bare-bones pistol with a straight backstrap.

Walther Olympia
Walther’s model 1936 Olympia II target pistol won gold in the 1936 Olympic Games. Shown here with all the added weights.

James Bond

The LP53 is all metal with beautifully formed plastic grip panels. The early pistols had a beavertail extension that curved down over the web of the hand; later guns also had an extension, but it was straight. The trigger blade is thin and elegant – looking exactly like a firearm trigger. In fact, there’s nothing about the LP53 that doesn’t look right, which is why the movie posters for early James Bond films show him holding an air pistol instead of his service PPK. The story is that the photographer used the air pistol instead of Bond’s service (at the time) Walther PPK because they were in England where the laws concerning firearms are more restrictive. That could be true, though the LP53 is much larger than a PPK and makes a bolder statement.

Walther PL53 James Bond
Sean Connery posed as James Bond with a Walther LP53 air pistol for publicity photos. Of course nobody caught that his finger is on the trigger in violation of one of the most important gun safety rules!

Two versions

There were two distinct versions of the LP53. The earlier version is the more common one and is characterized by a curved backstrap that hangs over the hand and brown plastic grips. The later version has a straight backstrap and black grips. The grips fit either model, so of course they aren’t a positive clue, but the backstraps are. I have seen several first version guns with black grips, so perhaps it isn’t the best way to differentiate.

Two frame finishes

The earlier version of the pistol started out with a frame finished in a flat blue. After around serial number 23,200 the frame was finished with a black crackle paint. The gun I am testing for you here has the earlier blued frame and a serial number of 014388. So it’s definitely an earlier gun from the mid to late 1950s.

Total manufactured

The number of LP53s that were made has been stated in many places as around 125,000. I found a man who has seen three of them with serial numbers higher than that. Beyond that I have no other information.

Breakbarrel

The pistol is a breakbarrel that cocks in the traditional fashion. But instead of pushing a piston back to compress the mainspring, the cocking lever pushes the piston down towards the bottom of  the grip. When the gun fires the piston springs up and compresses the air in a tiny compression chamber in the grip. Some promotional literature claimed that this gave the pistol a realistic feel, like a .22 target pistol being fired, but that wasn’t true. The pistol jumps up in your hand and may also buzz if the powerplant is dry like mine is.

Cocking aid

The LP53 doesn’t cock easily, so Walther provided a cocking aid that fit over the muzzle of the gun to protect the hand from the sharp front sight. My pistol didn’t have the aid when I recently got it but John Groenewold sells a replacement. So I ordered one. It would be quite easy to make, but as I am not a competent wood butcher, I leave that to those who are!

The pistol also came with a cleaning rod and two sets of inserts for the front and rear sights. They are in addition to the inserts that come installed in the pistol. All these things came with the pistol in a brown cardboard Walther box. I used to own an LP53 in the box, but I got rid of it. My current pistol came from an estate sale and came in a commercial hard gun box with one front sight insert and a spare set of brown plastic grips.

Walther LP53 box
This LP53 in the box is an older one with the blued frame. It has all but one of the extra front sight inserts and it shows the wooden cocking aid over the muzzle.

LP53s also came in deluxe padded cases. The oldest ones were lined with a blue-gray material, while newer ones have a maroon fabric. These are fitted cases with slots for every additional piece of the set. They easily double the value of the pistol today.

Weights

Looking at the photo of the Olympia .22 rimfire target pistol above you see that Walther furnished weights for its target pistols. The LP53 was no different, and I have seen beautiful cased sets that had the weights with everything else. Add another multiple of the pistol’s value, or more, for a setup like that! 

Walther LP53 weights
The air pistol came with weights, as well. They aren’t as fancy or heavy as the firearm weights, but they do exist!

Grips

The year 1952 wasn’t a high-water mark for ergonomics on this planet. The LP53 was created as a target pistol for the right hand so of course the thumbrest was on the left grip. As far as I can tell, Walther did not offer the pistol with left-hand grips.

Adjustable trigger!

Yes, some LP53s do have an adjustable two-stage trigger. Don’t get your hopes up, though. Walther did away with the adjustable trigger in this model around 1960. The one I’m testing was made earlier than that, so it has the adjustment.

Walther LP53 adjustable trigger
There’s the trigger adjustment.

Performance

I’m going to test both the velocity and the accuracy for you, but let me get you thinking in the right direction. The LP53 is not a powerful air pistol, despite a cocking effort that many will find difficult. And it also isn’t that accurate — or at least that hasn’t been my experience. Imagine pellets in the low to mid 300s and five-shot groups measuring 2-inches at 10 meters. I hope to do better, but that’s what I think it will be.

The mainspring is actually two coiled mainsprings — one inside the other. That sounds good, but in practice it doesn’t add that much.

There is a performance kit for this pistol. It has a single mainspring with thicker wire. I don’t know anything about it other than I would expect it to cock even harder, though in some reports I read that it’s lighter. The inner spring also functions as a spring guide and Walther has received a lot of criticism for that. It’s doesn’t add much power but it sure increases the cocking effort, as well as making the action buzzy. Oh, well — we shall see!

The good news

The good news is I have already stripped my pistol, so you are going to watch it come apart and go together again — I hope! I have ordered a new piston seal to replace the leather seal that’s in my gun now. It could be reused, but it’s looking tired and as long as I’m inside…

Summary

This series should be a lot of fun! Stay tuned!

55 thoughts on “Walther LP53 – the James Bond airgun: Part 1

  1. So I got a new hand pump, and it has a small filter on the end of the hose. How ofter should I look at that to check for moisture and etc? Anyone have experience to lend on this?


  2. B.B.,

    You nailed my new hand pump problem. There was no little o’ring. In fact the part the o’ring fits on is also missing. The spring is there, however.
    I will need to contact someone post hate.

    ~ken



  3. BB,

    Very cool! I like odd ball stuff. Looking forwards to seeing the insides. Please show how it looks cocked and also the piston in the grip.

    What is that on the bottom/butt of the grip in some of the pictures? Is that also a weight?

    It also looks like the trigger guard is part of the cocking linkage. Is it?

    Chris


    • Chris,

      The trigger guard is indeed the cocking linkage. As you bring the barrel down, the end pushes the piston down inside the pistol grip.

      That thing on the bottom is then end cap for the compression tube. You unscrew it and out comes the springs.


  4. BB,

    I am so looking forward to this! I am so glad you are going inside and taking us along! I am very curious to see how well the Poles copied the LP53 with the Predom Lucznik KL.170.

    I really like fooling with my Predom, but it has what is probably the worst trigger I have ever pulled and would be doing good to hit the side of a barn from the inside, although from what you are saying about the performance of the LP53, maybe this thing is not that bad.

    A major difference I see immediately is your trigger adjustment is on the inside at the top of the trigger. The Predom has the more traditional and cheaper to make trigger adjustment screw going into the trigger from underneath. Yours probably works a lot better.


    • I remember looking at the Polish LP53 copy at one of the last Roanoke shows. BB, ever the great enabler, told me to buy it and I could be James Bondsky but I declined. After all, if I was going to spend the money to get that air pistol, I wanted it to be the actual make and model. I was successful in acquiring one some two years ago at the show in SC (?) with box and inserts. It is one of the prized additions to my meager collection of air guns.

      Looking forward to this series, BB!

      Fred formerly of the Demokratik Peeples Republik of NJ now happily in GA!



        • I remember now. Someone else was there from this blog and we figured that we passed each other in the parking lot not knowing who the other was. Hopefully next year the shows will resume.



          • Fred DPRoNJ

            It may have been me. Yeah I remember your comment and RR’s too. I left the show a happy fellow with a HyScore Diana 35 I bought from still another reader who had a table. Also a Crosman 160 I bought from someone whose name I don’t have.I had every intention of going this year until cancelled. Good Lord willing next year the show will resume.

            Deck


  5. Nice pistol, lots of good looks, fits the hand nicely and points well.
    You have to watch for a co2 conversion . It answers the low power enigma. The spring /piston were dropped and a bulk fill unit installed. I you still did the brake barrel thing to load the pellet, but there was no big main spring to cock.
    IIRC this was a collaboration between Ingvar Alm and TimJones.


  6. To follow up on BB’s plug for the Blue Book of Airguns,.. WELL worth the money! Every penny!

    I have the 11th Edition and it is 736 pages and 1 9/16″ thick. This new one has 1008 pages (+272 pages) and would be an additional 9/16″ thick,.. bringing the total thickness to 2 1/8″. A big 8 1/2″ x 11″ too!

    Chris

    Disclaimer: I am a non-paid, non-attorney, non-endorsed Blue Book spokesperson. Opinions expressed here may or may not reflect the views of this website or any of it’s affiliates. 🙂

    Then again,.. if they send me a free one, you can scratch the “non-paid” portion of the disclaimer statement. 😉


  7. I always wanted an LP 53 or even a Predom Lucznik. I wish I had bought a few Predom Lucznik when they were 3 for $100. I look forward to reading more of this series.

    Let us know when the Blue Book is out. I need to order one. Mine is really old.

    David Enoch


  8. Tom, looking forward to this one! The LP 53 is one of the true classics, regarded as the finest target air pistol available until the recoilless Diana model 6 appeared.

    Another version of the James Bond photo shoot story, is that somebody simply forgot to bring the PPK prop gun, and the photographer just happened to have the LP 53 in his desk drawer! I believe I’m correct in saying that the individual pistol used recently sold for some ridiculous sum of money, too, LOL…


  9. B.B.,

    Please pardon my addition to your blog, but the LP53 was chosen because of an oversight. The small group that produced the photos of Sean Connery involved a long drive, after which there was a “PPK? I thought you had it” moment. The photographer owned an LP53 for plinking in his garden, coincidentally not far away, and offered to get it, assuring the others that it looked like an actual firearm. That is the story I have always read, from the below and elsewhere:

    “The Walther LP53 is a classic James Bond gun although it never featured in a Bond movie. The gun, with its distinctive long barrel was the weapon of choice for James Bond in many movie posters and promotional photographs. The story is that during a photoshoot with Sean Connery for From Russia With Love, the photographer volunteered his own Walther LP53, after the PPK wasn’t available . . . .” (https://www.jamesbondlifestyle.com/product/walther-lp53)

    Additionally, “At a Christies auction on 25 November 2010, the Walther LP53 air pistol held by Sean Connery as James Bond in the photo-shoot used for the main image in the poster and advertising campaign for the 1963 United Artists/Eon film From Russia With Love has sold for a staggering £277,250 (around $430,000), more than 10 times the estimate.” (https://www.007museum.com/Walther_LP53_Connery_Bond.htm)

    Finally, the photo below is of the largest LP53 on earth. Note that the shooter is left-handed.

    Michael


    • Michael,

      I agree with most of your take on the Bond LP53 Backstory…but as far as “Note that the shooter is left-handed.” It sure looks like he is Right Armed to me! LOL!

      shootski


      • Shootski
        Having served in NAF Mildenhall, England for two years I have come to understand the British way of thinking. I think?
        Even if you use your right hand to steer you are still driving on the left hand side of the road. So it stands to reason that even if you use your right hand to pull the trigger you are still shooting with your left. 😉 It’s a British thing …
        Bob M


  10. The UK BBS forum recently had a post on Dr. Alm’s CO2 LP 53 conversion that Breeze mentioned, very interesting and included some photos. The gun was chrome plated too!

    An English tuner has also done some very interesting O-ring-sealed LP 53 conversions, which reportedly have considerably improved power and smoothness.


  11. Interesting history about the LP53, looking forward to the tear-down.

    Someone paid $430,000.00 for a pellet pistol that shoots 2 inch groups at 10 meters????!!!!! You could buy a nice house, completely furnished – including a car, for that kind of money! I’m not envious of people with that kind of (extra) money (all the more power to them) but I am a bit bewildered at that kind of purchase. Makes $2,100.00 for a FWB P8X look like a give-away 🙂

    Cheers,
    Hank


  12. BB, They sure put allot of weights on the Olympia II. Kind of wrecks the nice lines but, whatever works.
    The Colt woodsman and the SW pistols have similar lines too. By trying to fit the internals into the grip,was that the genesis of the co2 format then?
    If I throw out the fliers, usually 3 or so out of ten. I’m getting 3/8 groups with P1 at 18 yds. 525 fps w JSB RS,other
    wise that’s allot of money for an old gun;)
    Rob


  13. I grew up with one of these and still have it. My father bought it in Germany when he was in the service around 1960. He always told me that these were used as police trainers in Germany and that the recoil helped the training. I’ve never heard that anywhere else though. I’ve never been able to hit anything with it. But I’ve always appreciated the quality. Looking forward to this one!


  14. The James Bond tangent.

    The Walther LP53 is rarely mentioned without reference to its’ James Bond heritage. It’s interesting how quickly the conversation turned to how much people are willing to pay for James Bond movie props around the world.

    James Bond is iconic and anything connected with this legendary spy fetches big dollars. Especially movie props. Did you hear about the well-orchestrated heist of James Bond guns just a few months ago?

    https://filmdaily.co/news/james-bond-props/

    I grew up being a fan of James Bond. Ian Flemings books allowed great distraction and fantasy. I enjoyed Sean Connery’s (RIP) portrayal but couldn’t stand Roger Moore’s silliness and Pierce Brosnan’s prissiness. Daniel Craig has done well with the James Bond character. I digress, back to James Bond movie props. Here’s my only first hand James Bond movie prop story….

    Back in the early 1980’s I took off two years from working to travel. Among other things this Colorado boy wanted to learn how to sail a large boat/yacht. Thinking that someday I could travel the world in a floating RV. I ended up on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands since this was a major cruise ship port and had a very large marina. I traded work for sailing lessons. Was given a place to sleep on a dilapidated motor vessel that didn’t run owned by a barefoot cruise captain. Still remember the stench in the lower deck where I slept.

    About two weeks into this experience the Nabila arrives at the marina and docks at the largest berth. This 280 foot yacht was custom built at a cost of over $300 million in today’s dollars. It had a helicopter parked on the back deck and 2 huge speed boats parked on the lower deck. When you walked down the dock next to this yacht the security cameras on board would follow you. Quite a site for this kid that grew up on a ranch in Colorado that was in the middle of nowhere.

    All this aside, what fascinated me most about the Nabila is that for any James Bond fan you could immediately recognize that this was the yacht used in filming the movie Never Say Never Again (extra points for Bond fans that can name the James Bond movie that this was a re-make of also starring Sean Connery).

    Adnan Khashoggi commissioned the build of the Nabila and owned it until he lost it to a financier in foreclosure. Donald Trump (who doesn’t care for boats/yachts) bought it for pennies on the dollar and renamed it the Trump Princess.

    The ultimate James Bond movie prop?


    • Kevin
      Lucky you to take off 2 years of work. Really.

      I guess when that happens you want to learn all you can.

      How the heck did you manage to do that? I wish I knew how to do that. Back then or throughout time.


      • GF1,

        Leased my house and budgeted $10 per day for travel. Backpack and campgrounds. Years later I used to stay the winter in the Mayan Yucatan for $5.00 per day and that was not in a tent but in a palapa with a light, a table for 7 and mosquito netting that cost $20 usd per month. Speared lobster, grouper, etc. and ate like a king. Hitched rides to and toured almost every site with pyramids in the area.

        Google, “How to travel the world on $10 per day”


        • Kevin,

          Very cool! Being young I am sure helped things along. That would be a dream for many, but take a certain mindset going in.

          I am not so sure I would want to travel like that today with gangs, cartels and so on.

          Chris


          • Chris
            I met an elderly lady in the Campo hardware store who rode a donkey all the way down the Baja Peninsula and back in her youth. I think her mind set was naivety, but the good Lord was obviously with her. Or you were able to carry a gun there back then?
            Bob M


  15. Kevin
    There is no way I thought of that back then.

    Now is another story. But I don’t know if the old body could do it nowdays.

    Like my life story. Never the right timing. But I have lived a good life. All I can say is thank the lord. I can only say that.


  16. The continuing saga of my Diana 54 in .177. The two shots wide to the left are operator error. The two to the right were with 4 clicks of windage to the right. The two high and low shots make the group 11/16” and the inner group is about 3/8”. Shot at 35 yards with AA 10.34 4.52mm with an Athlon 6x24x50 side focusing scope o on a somewhat shaky bipod. The scope I got for about $200 on the PA Black Friday sale. Seems well made—everything is pretty tight— it was recommended for medium recoiling springers on another site I looked at.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that the AA and JSB 4.52’s fit a bit loosely in the breech. Not so with the Barracuda Match 4.52’s and R10 Match in 4.51 that I shoot inside. The lighter I set the sear engagement with the second screw, the longer the first stage travel. When I shorten first stage travel with the first screw, the trigger pull gets heavier again. If you want a light TO6 trigger, do you have to settle for a long first stage?


    • Brent
      Good shooting.

      What I have found is the JSB and AirArms 10.34’s do fit looser in the bore in all the different guns I shot them in compared to other pellets I have shot in the 10 grain weight.

      And what is funny but good is they shoot faster and flatter than other 10 grain pellets and are just as accurate if not more accurate.

      And here is a picture of my 54 trigger. The front screw in the trigger blade itself is the first stage length of travel. The second screw is when the sear breaks and the shot goes off.

      I have the front screw almost touching the blade and the top of the back screw is about a 1/16th of a inch above the top of the head of the first screw.

      My trigger is a distinct stop when I get to the 2nd stage of the trigger and a slight amount of pressure and the shot goes off.

      How do you have your trigger screws set right now?



    • BB
      That doesn’t look like a Polish pistol. The grip is on the wrong end of the barrel. I know because I’m part Polish. I believe there was one that killed its shooter in a 007 movie. 🙂 But it could have been a Charlie Chang movie?



  17. B.B.,

    It is interesting how the trigger guard seems to have evolved from a shapely well formed execution to dumpy look similar to the Polish knockoff over time/versions?

    Shootski


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