by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Zenit
The German Zenit air pistol from before World War II is a fascinating collector’s item.

Part 1

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • What should I do?
  • RWS Hobby
  • Leakage at the breech
  • JSB Exact RS
  • Trigger pull
  • The grip
  • Cocking effort
  • Summary

I wanted to run 45Bravo’s guest blog about resealing the Crosman 38T today, but it’s long and has a lot of pictures, and today is busy for me, so instead I will test the EM GE Zenit that we started looking at on Monday.

What should I do?

Only one person responded to this request that I listed as a questioin at the end of the last report. Reader 1stblue said I should oil the piston seal. That’s what I was looking for. Now, how is it done? What I did is stand the piston on it’s grip with the muzzle pointed straight up and drop 5 drops of Crosman Pellgunoil down the muzzle. Then I let the pistol stand that way for a day. That gives the oil time to run down the bore and through the air transfer port to get onto and soak into the leather piston seal.

It did work, though I will have more to say about it in a bit. So now let’s look at the velocity. I shot two shots just to get the oil out of the barrel. Then I shot the following with Air Arms Falcon pellets.

Shot………Vel.
1…………..262
2…………..276
3…………..291
4…………..281
5…………..284
6…………..293
7…………..294
8…………..285
9…………..297
10…………299
11…………296
12…………297
13…………299
14…………293
15…………291

I show you this string because it shows that the pistol is still settling down after being oiled. Where to start counting for the record is arbitrary, but I decided to let the first five shots go and start counting at shot 6. If I do that, the average velocity for shots 6 through 15 is 294 f.p.s. I always round off to the closest whole number.

Taking my string, the low is 285 and the high is 299 f.p.s. — a spread of 14 f.p.s for 10 shots. And an average energy of 1.41 foot-pounds.

So, 294 f.p.s for Falcons. That’s a little faster than I expected from the Zenit. Let’s try a different pellet.

RWS Hobby

The next pellet I’ll try is the RWS Hobby wadcutter. I know that the Hobby, though lighter, is also larger at the skirt. And the Zenit isn’t very powerful, so I expected a velocity decrease.

Ten Hobby pellets averaged 237 f.p.s., which was a bit slower than I envisioned. The low was 224 and the high was 259, so the spread was 35 f.p.s. At the average velocity the Hobby produced 0.87 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Leakage at the breech

Some of you wondered how well this pistol seals at the breech. You didn’t see an over-center cocking link on the pistol and frankly there isn’t one. Because of the oiling, the pistol was dieseling and I saw smoke come out of the breech contact point under the top strap on every shot.

The breech seal is in fine shape. This is a design flaw, not a seal issue. Yes, I could spend the time to make a new leather breech seal that would seal better for a while, but before too long we would be right back where we started from. This seal relies on a butt joint fit and nothing else. It’s always going to leak a little.

Zenit breech detail
The leather breech seal sits flush with the air transfer port in a butt joint. The cocking link holds it down, against the air transfer port. 

JSB Exact RS

The last pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain JSB Exact RS dome. Ten averaged 287 f.p.s. with a 27 f.p.s. spread from 273 to 300 f.p.s. At the average velocity the RS pellet developed 1.34 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

Find a Hawke Scope

Trigger pull

The first stage takes 3 lbs. 2 oz. Stage two breaks at 5 lbs. 7.5 oz. Both stages feel two pounds lighter because of the trigger placement.

The grip

The pistol grip looks nice and rounded, but the heel of my shooting hand hits the bottom of the grip on the right side and it doesn’t feel as nice as it looks. It’s odd because a P08 Luger looks so similar and yet it feels so much better!

Cocking effort

A couple readers thought the top strap might be hard to lift up in the beginning, but it isn’t. Instead of an over-center cocking linkage geometry, all that holds the top strap down are two dimples in the metal on either side of the cocking lever, back by the breech.

Zenit breech detail
The breech is held closed by two dimples in the cocking lever — one on either side of the pistol. They fit into two depressions on an extension of the frame. They may push the barrel back ever-so-slightly but it’s hard to tell. It’s a simple arrangement and it works, but the breech will always leak a little.

The Zenit cocks with just 10 pounds of effort. And, since you use your thumb to press against the cocking lever while your hand pulls the lever up and forward, it feels like even less. This air pistol cocks easily.

Summary

Well, that’s it for today. The EM GE Zenit is a pleasant little air pistol. It’s easy to cock and has a nice trigger pull. I just hope that it’s also accurate.