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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.  

The photographs on the left are of the front and back of the Radom VIS 35 pistol, while the pictures on the right show the top and bottom of the sidearm. The pistol is shown with the magazine installed in each of these photographs.

The full serial number on this pistol is located on the right side of the frame above the trigger and on the underside of the slide alongside the breech block. The serial number minus the letter prefix is found on the right side of the slide directly in front of the angled slide serrations and on the barrel being visible through the ejection port. The last three digits of the serial number is found on the left side of the barrel lug. The barrel lug has also been stamped with the Waffenamt 623 or Weapons Office inspectors stamp 623. The Waffenamt 623 or WaA 623 stamp was issued to the weapons inspector at the weapons factory located in Radom, Poland and to the Steyr plant located in Austria, which is where this barrel was probably manufactured.

The magazine has been etched(not stamped) with the serial number minus the letter prefix. The number is located on the back of the magazine and near the bottom. This etched number is another reason why I believe that this VIS 35 is a Russian captured piece. Please see the text at the bottom of this page for more information.

  

  

The photograph on the left is a close up the markings that are found on the left side of this sidearm. The inscription on the slide reads as follows, "F.B. RADOM VIS Mod. 35 Pat. Nr.15567" and then underneath that is "P.35(p)". This marking indicates Fabryka Broni(weapons factory) located at  Radom, Poland. The letters VIS are Latin meaning force. The next part of this inscription identifies the pistol as the Model 35 which has the patent number 15567. The bottom line of this slide marking is the German designation for the firearm which indicates Pistole 35(p), the suffix p stands for polnisch which translates to Polish.

The slide has also been stamped with two different Waffenamts or Weapon Office stamps and with the German military test proof mark which is a Nazi eagle holding a swastika in a circle. The Waffenamt 623 or WaA 623 stamp was issued to the weapons inspector at the weapons factory located in Radom, Poland and to the Steyr plant located in Austria. The Waffenamt 77 stamp was issued to lyo which is a German code for Kromolowski & Sohne which was located in Radom, Poland and to the Steyr plant located in Austria.

The purpose of the Waffenamt stamps was to prove that each firearm and its components met the quality standards set forth by the Heereswaffenamt or Army Weapons Office. In order to carry this out, inspectors were assigned to individual firms for large corporations or to a specific area if there were several smaller manufacturers. These inspectors and their Waffenamt or WaA for short were responsible to the Heereswaffenamt rather than the manufacturer to which they were assigned. Each weapons office can be correctly identified by the individual acceptance stamp they used.

Mystery marking. At the top of the slide in the picture at the left there is a square with the number 20 inside and another square next to it with the number 18 inside. As of this writing, I do not know what these two marks indicate.

The picture on the right is one of them things that collectors have come to know very well. This is an import stamp that is required to be on all firearms that are imported into the U.S. At times, the importer does a wonderful job of hiding this required stamp, but as can be seen here the importer placed the stamp right on the trigger guard. I have seen cases where this stamping was placed in an out of the way area such as under the grips or in very tiny fine print on the bottom of the pistol where an inserted magazine would conceal it.  

With this importers mark, we now know that this Radom came in to the U.S. some time after the late 1980's. The first line of this import stamp reads as follows, C.I.A. ST. ALB. VI. and the line below it reads, Poland 9mm. This two line import marking is nearly exactly what the law calls for except it would have been nice if the importer would have hid this stamp under the grips rather then stamping it on the trigger guard. The first line identifies the importer as Century Arms Incorporated, and tells us that they are located in Saint Albans, Vermont which is in the United States. The second line of this stamp identifies the caliber of the firearm and where it was made. This second line tells us that the caliber is 9mm Parabellum and that the pistol was manufactured in Poland.

The importer, Century Arms Inc. is still in business today and offers collectors a wide variety of firearms from around the world to choose from. The import law that is mentioned above can be referenced by viewing the gun control Act of 1968, Public Law 90-618 and under Subpart F-Conduct of Business sub-section 178.92 (a)(1) Firearms.

  

  

  

The photograph on the left is a picture of the underside of the grips found on this Radom VIS 35 pistol, while the picture on the right is of the front of the grips.

While this pistol does not have the famous Russian "X" mark found on most of the Russian captured weapons, the finish on this Radom appears very similar to the other Russian captured and refinished weapons I have examined. The Russian "X" mark can be seen on this  AC44 P 38 pistol that is in the collection.

Sadly, when the Russians captured these weapons, and most likely some time after the war, they dis-assembled and refinished them. On the bright side, I have noticed that when it came to pistols, the Russians would keep all of the numbered parts to a particular pistol together. The practice of keeping the firearm with its original parts did not always follow suit with other firearms that were captured, such is the case with the German K98k rifle. 

The Russians dis-assembled thousands of captured K98k rifles, and it seems to many collectors that they tossed all of these rifle parts in a large bluing tank together. Then when it came time to put the rifles back together again, they grabbed the needed part and gave no concern as to which weapon it was on originally. As long as the part fit and would function they were happy. On most of the Russian captured and rebuilt K98k rifles, the Russians would either grind away completely the original serial number on the smaller parts or they would make a lite etching across the serial number. This lite etching was usually in the form of a strait line across the middle of the serial number leaving the original serial number easily readable in most cases. The Russians would then etch the serial number of the receiver onto these smaller parts, in a way making them matching again. The magazine on this pistol has an etched serial number on it.

A Russian capture of a weapon does add a unique history to the firearm, but at the same time it does hurt its monetary value to collectors. Still, any Radom VIS 35 pistol collection would not be complete without one of these Russian captured pieces in it.

  

  

  

Resource:                 

German Handguns by Ian Hogg                

German small arms markings by Joachim Gortz & Don Bryans                                

The standard directory of proof marks by Gerhard Wirnsberger               

Official guide to gunmarks by Robert Balderson                  

Mauser military rifle markings by Terence Lapin               

Handbook of military rifle marks 1866-1950 by Richard Hoffman & Noel Schott

History Writ in Steel by Donald Maus  

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