IZH 53M air pistol: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

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.

Accuracy day for the IZH 53M air pistol, and it’s a day with some good surprises. I want to talk about how this pistol shoots, so I’m going to skip the drama of finding a good pellet, because of the three I tried, only one stood out. That was the one I played with the most.

The sights work fine!
No need to worry about the sights anymore. They shoot to the point of aim and have plenty of adjustment in all directions. They’re also very crisp in the right lighting, which is strong light on the target and the shooter in relative dark.

I did have some adjustment to do in both directions and can attest to the sights adjusting easily and accurately. The windage adjustment lacks any markings on the gun to tell you which way to turn the knob, but it’s clockwise to go to the right and counter-clockwise to adjust left. There are very crisp detents, and the increments of movement are quite small.

The elevation knob is marked but lacks the crisp detents of the windage, so it’s more of a guess. Since I wasn’t going for a score, I stopped when I had the pellets hitting inside the bull at 10 meters.

You notice a trigger a lot more when shooting targets than during any other testing; so now that I have more experience with it, I’ll say this one is okay but not great. It feels a little too heavy for the absolutely best work and, being a single-stage trigger, there’s no feeling of control or precision. You just squeeze until the gun fires.

The first pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby that went so fast in the velocity test. Alas, this time they weren’t that good, giving me lots of vertical stringing at 10 meters. That can be caused by a limp wrist or weak grip on the gun, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case this time.

Ten RWS Hobbys made this 3.028-inch vertical string at 10 meters. This is not a good pellet for this pistol.

Next, I tried the Crosman Competition pellets. They grouped better, plus the group was more round and less vertical. That tells me that my grip on the gun isn’t the primary problem. About the time I switched to this pellet, I also started using my real competition shooting glasses instead of my normal prescription glasses. That did two things. First, it sharpened the image of the front sight, because the competition glasses have an adjustable iris to control the amount of light that passes through the lens to the eye. Second, the blinder on the competition glasses meant I no longer had to close my non-sighting eye. That cleared up the image of the sights and target and from that point on sighting was much more precise.

Ten Crosman Competition pellets made this 1.947-inch group at 10 meters. As you can see, it’s rounder than the group of Hobbys shown previously.

Then I tried a group of Gamo Match pellets, but that was a mistake. They shot all over the target, and I was afraid of missing the trap at 10 meters! After shot 7, I stopped and considered what to do next.

Getting better and better
As I shoot, I find that normally I get progressively better as the shots pass. So, the first group will be bigger than the next and so on. But there’s a downside to this. If the gun I’m shooting requires a lot of concentration, I’ll soon become tired and the groups will start to open up. It’s a fine line between getting accustomed to the gun and tiring out.

With the IZH 53M, however, the gun is so easy to shoot and the sights are so easy to see that I don’t tire as quickly. Therefore, instead of selecting another pellet, I went back to the Crosman Competition wadcutters that had already proven good and shot another group with them.

This time, I was definitely in the groove. Each shot felt the same and, what’s more, each shot felt right. When that happens you know you’re shooting to the best of your ability.

This group of Crosman Competition pellets showed the pistol’s capability the best. It measures 1.341 inches for 10 shots.

Well, that’s it for this one. The more I shot the gun, the more familiar I became with its operation and the better it seemed to shoot — with the right pellets. By the end of the session, I was sorely tempted to bring out my BSF pistol and do a comparison test. But that would not have proven anything, since the BSF is no longer made and the IZH 53M is so inexpensive. Best to just let the results stand as they are.

If I’d continued shooting the pistol, I might have found an even more accurate pellet, for this feels like an air pistol that wants to shoot! It’s an all-day airgun that you’ll enjoy for both plinking and informal target shooting.

The last word
I think the IZH 53M is a great value for the price. You get a lot of performance in this low-cost package, and it’s capable of plinking tin cans all day long.

IZH 53M air pistol: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: If you missed out on Pyramyd Air’s first shipment of extra Dan Wesson speedloaders with 6 extra cartridges, they’re back in stock.

Part 1

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.

Let’s look at the velocity of the IZH 53M air pistol. I wrote about what a nice, calm pistol this is in Part 1, and several readers responded to that. Many of you seem to like airguns that are well-behaved. I also made a comparison between this pistol and the BSF S20 that looks so much like a rifle cut down to fit a pistol grip. If you ever shoot that one, you’ll discover that it’s really a pussycat in lion’s clothing. Though it looks big and mean, it really shoots just as calm as you could hope for — like our test pistol.

Customer issues
Customers give the 53M four stars, and the chief complaints are that it shoots high and there’s no safety. Apparently, the sights have been changed, and we’ll find that out when I test the gun for accuracy. As for the lack of a safety being a problem, I respectfully disagree. I don’t think the pistol needs one. The shooter is the safety for any gun, and no mechanical device adds anything to improve safety.

If you want a safety so you can do things you wouldn’t do with the gun that are not on safe — DON’T DO THOSE THINGS! Don’t even do them with guns that have safeties and are on safe! I’ve had safeties fail so many times that I no longer trust them. If I have a gun that does have a safety, I’ll use it; but in no way will I behave any differently with that gun than I would if it didn’t have a safety. I guess I’ll go down swinging on this issue, but I advise all of you to never trust a safety for anything. Instead, control the gun so it doesn’t need one.

I looked at the advertised velocity and saw that it’s 360 f.p.s. But when I tested my sample pistol, it was much hotter. Someone complained that this pistol has BB-gun velocities, Well, they aren’t Red Ryder velocities! Let’s see what this gun can do.

RWS Hobbys
The first pellet tested was the 7-grain RWS Hobby. This is a wadcutter pellet (a sharp shoulder on the pellet head cuts clean round holes in target paper for ease of scoring) that’s one of the lightest lead pellets available. I would use only lead pellets in this pistol because of the power level. When a gun shoots less than 500 f.p.s., I don’t like to use synthetics or lead-free metal pellets since they don’t perform as well as they do in guns that are more powerful.

Hobbys averaged 409 f.p.s. and went from 391 f.p.s to 420 f.p.s. That’s a spread of 19 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they’re generating 2.6 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Gamo Match
The next pellet I tested was the 7.7-grain Gamo Match. This is another wadcutter that, though it’s heavier than the Hobby, still went pretty fast. The average was 391 f.p.s. and the velocity range went from 384 to 399 f.p.s. The muzzle energy is an average of 2.61 foot-pounds. The total velocity spread was 15 f.p.s.

Crosman Competition
The final pellet I tried was the 7.4-grain Crosman Competition — yet another wadcutter design. These loaded easier than the first two pellets and gave an average of 389 f.p.s. That works out to a muzzle energy of 2.49 foot-pounds. The velocity in the string ranged from a low of 376 f.p.s. to as high of 394 f.p.s., for an 18 f.p.s. spread.

I tested these pellets because they’re the ones I intend shooting in the accuracy test. I wasn’t looking to show the pistol as a hot-rod, but the results speak for themselves. Also, because this is a springer, there’s always the chance that it will becomes a little faster after a good break-in.

The trigger is not adjustable. The Russian-made schematic refers to a “trigger adjustment screw,” but in my gun the screw is only for securing the stock to the action.

Blog readerDerrick gave us a link to a blog he wrote on tuning the gun, and his photos clearly show a trigger travel adjustment screw that’s no longer in the current model. The sheet metal anchor is still there, but no hole has been drilled and tapped for the adjustment screw

The sheet metal anchor for the adjustment screw is still in place, ahead of the trigger blade, but the hole for the adjustment screw is not drilled.

I believe the trigger has been updated, but the schematic still shows the older design. So, I repeat what I said in Part 1 — the trigger is not adjustable. The trigger is single-stage and breaks cleanly at between 1 lb., 15 oz. and 2 lbs., 8 oz. That’s light enough for good informal target shooting.

Thus far
So far, I really like this air pistol. It seems to offer a lot of value for the money. If it proves to be accurate, it’ll be quite a buy!

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!