This "Grade II" Polish Radom VIS 35 pistol was manufactured some time between 1939 and 1941. It is a self-loading, recoil operated, semi-automatic pistol that is chambered for the .9mm Parabellum cartridge. The pistol has been designed to operate as a single action firearm that utilizes an external hammer and a locked breech. The pistol has a blade front sight and a V notch rear sight that is drift adjustable for windage only. The pistol is fed by an 8 round single stack detachable box magazine. The pistol employs a push button magazine release that is located at the bottom rear corner of the left side of the trigger guard. An empty magazine will easily eject from the pistol under its own weight. The pistol features a decocking lever located at the rear of the slide and above the left grip. The pistol has a 4.53 inch barrel with 6 grooves using a right hand twist. The pistol has an overall length of 8.31 inches and an unloaded weight of 37 ounces. This firearm does employ a slide hold open mechanism to inform the operator that the last round has been fired. This pistol has a blackish finish and black checkered grip panels that sport the FB monogram molded into the left grip and the VIS monogram molded into the right grip panel. The blackish finish seen on this pistol is identical to the finish found on Russian captured weapons. Please see the text at the bottom of this page for more information.
The pistol has its beginnings at the Fabryka Broni(weapons factory) located at Radom, Poland. The pistol was designed in 1930 by Piotr Wilniewczyc and Jan Skrzypiński under the supervision of Kazimierz Rawicz Oldakowski. It did not take the Polish military long to realize the potential of this sidearm and in 1935 it was adopted as the standard handgun for the entire Polish Army. The VIS 35 is based on the design of Brownings M1911 pistol. The VIS 35 differs in that the barrel is not cammed by a link as seen on the M1911, but rather by a ledge which contacts part of the barrel and forces it down as it is moved rearward with the slide by the force of the recoil. This is very similar to the operation of the Hi-Power pistol which a number of collectors feel was an improved version of the M1911. Many collectors consider this pistol design to be one of the top handguns produced during the second world war and as such it is highly sought after by collectors.
The Polish designation for this pistol was pistolet wz. 35 Vis, and the Germans designation for it was 9 mm Pistole 35(p), the suffix p stands for polnisch(Polish). Originally it was named WIS which is an acronym of the two Polish designers names, Piotr Wilniewczyc and Jan Skrzypinski. It was decided soon afterward though to change the name to Vis, which meant "force" in Latin, with the wz. prefix designation standing for wzor(pattern or model).
When the Germans occupied Poland in 1939, they continued the manufacturer of the VIS 35 and between 312,000 and 380,000 were produced and then used by the German paratroopers and police. During this time, the Germans feared that the Polish technicians whom were being forced to manufacturer this pistol might supply the resistance with weapons. So the Germans moved production of barrels and the final assembly of the VIS 35 to the Steyr plant in Austria. Still, the underground supply of VIS 35 parts as well as completed weapons found their way to the Polish resistance and was used in conflicts such as the Warsaw Uprising.
German produced VIS pistols were issued in four different series or grades due to the attempts to simplify and speed up production. As the war progressed and started going badly for the Germans, they moved the complete production of the VIS 35 to the Steyr plant in Austria in late 1944. At this plant, the last simplified model of the fourth series was produced which had no inscriptions at all besides the bnz stamping. The Pistole 35(p) actually remained in production until a month before the European war ended in May of 1945. Generally and as we have seen with other arms produced by all sides during conflicts, the wartime pistols were of much lower quality than the prewar specimens.
The four different grades of the Polish Radom can generally be classified as seen below. I say generally due to the fact that some collectors do not consider grade 1 pistols starting with the first manufactured Radoms but rather with those pistols first produced by the Germans. While other collectors consider grades 3 and 4 as being the same. So there is a lot of interpretation written into the grading system and nothing is set in stone. I also did not include in this grading system the "Resistance Radoms" that were assembled by the Polish resistance from parts that were stolen from the Radom factory. Nor did I include the custom built Radoms that were offered by Z.M. Lucznik. The letters "Z.M." indicate Zakłady Metalowe or Metal Works. Some collectors classify these pistols as the "Reissue Radoms". So generally, the four different grades of the Radom pistol is as follows....
Grade 1 = These pistols were produced before WWII between 1935 and 1939 and will not usually have any German markings. All parts will have a high quality of bluing except for the barrel, recoil spring and the recoil spring guide which are polished white. The grip panels are checkered hard rubber. The shoulder stock slot, lanyard ring, decocker and disassembly lever are present. On the left side of the slide it is stamped "F.B. RADOM" and then the year of production underneath(1935-39), then the Polish national eagle stamp, and on the right of that it will be stamped "VIS wz.35" and "pat. Nr.15567".
Grade 2 = These pistols were produced by the Germans between 1939 and 1941. The pistols were manufactured mostly from original pre-war parts and might retain some Polish markings on them. All parts will have a lessor quality of bluing then the Grade 1 examples but the finish and quality of the pistol is still very good. The barrel, recoil spring and the recoil spring guide are polished white. The grip panels can be a checkered black plastic, checkered brown plastic, fine or coarse checkered hardwood. The Lanyard ring, decocker and disassembly lever are present but the shoulder stock slot has been omitted on all but the very early examples. The slide markings have been changed to "F.B. RADOM VIS Mod. 35 Pat. Nr.15567" and then underneath that is "P.35(p)" The "P.35(p)" stamp on the left side of the slide has been eliminated from the slide legend on late grade II pistols.
Grade 3 = These pistols were produced by the Germans between 1941 and 1943. The bluing on the parts of grade 3 pistols was done over a rough or a poorly polished surface. Early examples will have a blued finish while on others, the blued parts will be the rear sight, slide stop, magazine release catch, hammer, hammer release, and grip screws. The pistol frame, slide, and magazine will be parkerized. The barrel, recoil spring, and recoil spring guide are polished white. The lanyard ring is still present but the decocker, disassembly lever and shoulder stock slot has been omitted. The grip panels can be a checkered brown or red plastic, fine or coarse checkered hardwood, or a grooved hardwood on late production. The slide markings are "F.B. RADOM VIS Mod. 35 Pat. Nr.15567".
Grade 4 = These pistols were produced by the Germans between 1943 and 1945. By this time, the Russians were knocking on the door and production was moved to the Steyr plant in Austria. These pistols exhibit the worst quality of finish. The grips panels are usually a brown plastic or wood and be absent of the "FB" and "VIS" monograms. The lanyard ring is still present but the disassembly lever, decocker and shoulder stock slot has been omitted. These pistols are found with a crude one piece recoil spring guide instead of the telescopic one that was normally used, and the magazine follower is from the P-38 pistol. The slide markings on early examples will be "F.B. RADOM VIS Mod. 35 Pat. Nr.15567" while late versions just have "bnz".
After the war and now being under Soviet control, the People's Republic of Poland took the Soviet TT 33 pistol as the official sidearm. The TT 33 was considered much inferior to the VIS 35, especially from a point of ergonomics and reliability. The reason for the switch as you may have guessed, was political and the Soviet influence was a very decisive factor in this decision.