P64 vs PF9

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lklawson
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P64 vs PF9

Post by lklawson » March 20th, 2011, 1:06 am

OK, so I admit it. I have a thing for both surplus firearms and 9x18 Makarov caliber pistols, and what red-blooded male doesn't have a secret part of him that wants Bond's famous PPK? So when I found out about the Polish P64, I added it to my "want list."

It took several years before I finally got around to getting one and, by that time, I'd missed the boat on the extra-super-stupendous cheap prices but I still got a good deal and 4 magazines to boot.
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Now, let's get this out of the way: Yes, I know it's not a "Makarov." Fine. It is chambered for "Makarov" caliber cartridges and it's not MY fault that Mr. Makarov lent his name to both a pistol AND a cartridge for which said pistol is chambered. I know it's not a Makarov caliber PPK. The P64 has a nearly identical profile and manual of arms as the PPK but, internally, there are some pretty important differences. It still LOOKS like a PPK and SHOOTS the 9x18 Makarov so I'm pleased all around.

While not a requirement for me to enjoy a surplus firearm, it sure is a major bonus for it to have some sort of practical application for me when I go pretend to justify my purchase to my wife and she pretends to require some sort of justification for it. With that in mind, I'm claiming that the P64 would make a fine Concealed Carry pistol. Yes, I do sometimes carry surplus firearms instead of a modern pistol and for much the same reason that some folks will drive their 1965 Ford Mustang to work instead of their 2 year old Ford sedan. First, it works, and, more importantly, a warm nostalgic fuzzy.

Now there are already a number of reviews of the P64 on-line and SurplusRifle.com did a fine job of comparing the P64 and the storied PPK a number of years ago. But let's be honest here, it's not 1964 any more and most serious CC fellas looking for firepower in a palm-sized package aren't carrying a PPK. Today they're carrying a slimline, single-stack, polymer framed, 9x19 Parabellum (or often .380ACP) pistol such as was innovated by Kel Tec with their PF9.

Because I often carry the PF9 and because the PF9 has similar physical dimensions to the P64 I decided that it would make sense to use this review to briefly compare the compare the two.
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First, dimensions. These are the published stats, not measurements I've taken with my micrometer.

P64:
Caliber: 9 mm Makarov
Capacity: 6+1
Length: 160 mm (6.3")
Height: 117 mm (4.6")
Width: 27 mm (1.06")
Barrel length: 84.6 mm (3.33")
Weight (empty): 620 g (21.9 oz)
Hammer Spring: 24 lbs [ref: Wolff Gunsprings]

PF9:
Caliber: 9 mm Luger
Weight unloaded: 12.7 oz.
Length: 5.85" (149 mm)
Height: 4.3" (109 mm)
Width: 0.88" (22 mm)
Barrel Length: 3.1" (79 mm)
Capacity: 7 + 1
Trigger Pull: 5 lbs

As you can see, just by the numbers, in nearly every measurement which is important to CC, the modern PF9 out-performs the classic P64. The P64 is longer, taller, wider, dramatically heavier, and sports one fewer rounds of a less powerful ammunition.

However, when you put them side by side, lay them on top of each other, and hold them in your hand, you find that the dramatic differences feel less dramatic. Except, of course, for the weight. There's no getting around that. The P64 is not quite TWICE as heavy as the PF9. In other words, for almost the same weight, you could carry TWO PF9s. But, truthfully, with the right gun-leather, the extra 10 ounces is negligible. Bear in mind that "riding in a pocket" is not "the right gun leather." You WILL feel the weight difference between the two if you pocket carry. No "ifs," "ands," or "buts."

One point where you can also "feel" a difference when holding them is where the trigger is in relation to the slide. You can see that the trigger appears to be higher up, closer to the slide on the P64.
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For that matter, the slide of the P64 is more rounded than they PF9 and may tend to break up printing slightly better. When viewed from the top, the PF9 appears wider than the P64.
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For my, admittedly brief, initial range test of the P64, I shot three types of ammunition. Wolf brand 109 grain, steel cased, FMJ, Sellier and Bellot brand 95 grain, brass cased, FMJ, and Master Cartridge brand 95 grain, brass cased JHP. It is worth noting the odd "truncated cone" profile of the Wolf brand. Most Wolf brand 9x18 Makarov ammunition uses the standard semi-spherical "ball" type FMJ, but, for whatever reason, the 109 grain is different. I don't know why.
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All three ammunitions fed without issue in the P64. I chose to shoot the Wolf in the P64 despite the fact that it is a heavier bullet, at 109 grains, than the 92-96 grain "standard." The 109 grain is recommended for all-steel pistols with slightly more mass than the P64 but I knew the P64 is a rugged firearm and could handle it. I did experience one failure to go into battery with the Wolf but I believe that this was my fault. I believe that I "limp wristed" the little monster. The P64 has a reputation of needing a firm, strong grip.

I shot both pistols at common "self defense" range of 7 yards. At 21 feet it was nearly impossible to miss the target and both handguns performed with all needed accuracy. The P64 did live up to its reputation in three areas. First, the trigger pull was awful. Before I ever bought the P64 I purchased the Wolff spring kit to reduce the hammer spring from the factory standard 24+ pounds to 18 pounds. When I first acquired the P64, prior to installing the Wolff springs, I dry fired it several times to get the feel (I know, I know). Well, make that TRIED to dry fire. The original spring was beyond bad and deeply into the "is it broke?" category. I suppose that "Sturdy Polish Peasant Stock" might be able to pull the Double Action on this thing but not my computer Jockey girlie-man fingers. I required both index fingers to run the DA on this little monster. The only other handgun I've ever felt with a trigger pull as bad is the storied Nagant revolver. Just horrendous. The Wolff spring kit brought the trigger down from "mere mortals need not apply" to "usable by actual humans." The PF9, on the other hand, has a well known long DAO trigger with a noticeable "staging" near the end.

The second area where the P64 lived up to its reputation was accuracy. I found that even with the very little range time I gave it, the handgun was accurate. This target is fairly standard for what I was able to produce with the P64. A decent group after very little practice. Notice the one flier at 2:30? That's the first shot in DA. It hit the target but nowhere close to the others.
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The final point where the P64 lived up to its reputation was recoil. I already admitted that I changed the recoil spring before I ever fired the beast. All I can say is, wow, am I glad that I did. I'm scared to think of what the factory spring recoils like! One would think that the PF9 because of its lower weight and more powerful chambering would recoil more painfully. But, no. The recoil from the PF9 is positively pleasant compared to the P64. The PF9 is rightfully called "snappy" by many but, in comparison, it "pushes" into the meat of the hand far more than the P64 which, by comparison again, has a much harsher snapping "flip." I never got bit by the slide but the web of my hand was red and sore for the next two days. Youch!

I believe that part of the reason for this is the difference in mechanisms. The P64 is a "simple blowback" mechanism which are known for having a snappier recoil impulse.

However another reason for the difference in felt recoil must be the design of the grip. Notice how on this side-by-side rear view the arch of the backstrap begins far closer to the butt of the grip than the PF9. This means that there is simply less handle to hold on to even though the height of the P64 is greater in the raw, clinical measurements. It also means that the slide is going to be moving higher up above the grip of the fist which allows it to apply more leverage at the web of the hand. Thus more felt recoil.
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Much has been made of the P64's "European style" butt magazine release. I find these complaints to be far over-stated. Practice and familiarity with the manual of arms is all that is really required. No, you won't be using this as a Race Gun at your ISPC matches so you don't have to worry about how many thousandths of a second you'll be losing by using a thumb-heel release instead of the "frame button release, as God intended it." This is a deep concealment self defense gun or, alternately, a curio safe queen so get over it.

I'll be keeping my P64. I like it and I find it fun to shoot, just not a whole lot at once. :)

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
The Cheapskate's Guide to Gun Cleaning and Maintenance - "You shouldn't have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive gun cleaning an maintenance products. Find out how to save money with inexpensive alternatives that work just as well."

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by vorakam » March 20th, 2011, 8:30 am

Nice review! Currently I am awaiting my Wolf springs to arrive, and I concur on the "I think its broke" DA trigger assessment. That's probably the best way to describe it. Regarding the felt recoil, I think the seam in the back of the grip doesn't help matters and adds to the discomfort. It would be nice if someone would sell a 1 piece, hard rubber grip.

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by mychoads » March 20th, 2011, 8:36 am

Thanks for the side by side comparison, it was well written and informative. I carry the P-64 as my primary CCW and have been trying to get my hands on a PF-9 for many of the reasons you stated in your post, but those things are really hard to come by. I have NEVER seen one in any gun shops here in Delaware and have even put one on order and waited 3-4 months until the shop said they couldn't get one and told me to come in and get my refund. I do see them on Gunbroker sometimes, but I want one direct from the factory and refuse to pay the premium that most are charging on auction sites for these. On the other hand Kelt-Tec 380's are everywhere. I don't get it.

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by lklawson » March 20th, 2011, 10:06 am

vorakam wrote:Nice review! Currently I am awaiting my Wolf springs to arrive, and I concur on the "I think its broke" DA trigger assessment. That's probably the best way to describe it. Regarding the felt recoil, I think the seam in the back of the grip doesn't help matters and adds to the discomfort. It would be nice if someone would sell a 1 piece, hard rubber grip.
I've been told that the Marschal grips make a difference in grip comfort, but I've not tried them.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
The Cheapskate's Guide to Gun Cleaning and Maintenance - "You shouldn't have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive gun cleaning an maintenance products. Find out how to save money with inexpensive alternatives that work just as well."

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by lklawson » March 20th, 2011, 10:08 am

mychoads wrote:Thanks for the side by side comparison, it was well written and informative. I carry the P-64 as my primary CCW and have been trying to get my hands on a PF-9 for many of the reasons you stated in your post, but those things are really hard to come by. I have NEVER seen one in any gun shops here in Delaware and have even put one on order and waited 3-4 months until the shop said they couldn't get one and told me to come in and get my refund. I do see them on Gunbroker sometimes, but I want one direct from the factory and refuse to pay the premium that most are charging on auction sites for these. On the other hand Kelt-Tec 380's are everywhere. I don't get it.
It seems to be an area-dependent thing. Around here the PF9s are available but the P3ATs are more rare and the P11s are non-existent.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
The Cheapskate's Guide to Gun Cleaning and Maintenance - "You shouldn't have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive gun cleaning an maintenance products. Find out how to save money with inexpensive alternatives that work just as well."

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by wyo-man » March 20th, 2011, 7:30 pm

Very nice review. I have not fired a PF9 ot PF11, but have fired a P3AT and LCP.

Steel just feels better in the hand than plastic, but the lighter weight makes some easier to carry.

wyo-man

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by DoubleTap » March 20th, 2011, 8:13 pm

Nice review! I haven't fired a PF9, but I routinely carry a P3AT. As lklawson says, PF9's are readily available around these parts.

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by frankmako » March 21st, 2011, 10:43 pm

i got both guns and i find myself shooting the pf9 more. but both guns will get the job done.

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by lklawson » March 22nd, 2011, 9:08 am

DoubleTap wrote:Nice review! I haven't fired a PF9, but I routinely carry a P3AT. As lklawson says, PF9's are readily available around these parts.
You're semi-local to the area. Perhaps some time we can go to a range and I'll loan you my PF9.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
The Cheapskate's Guide to Gun Cleaning and Maintenance - "You shouldn't have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive gun cleaning an maintenance products. Find out how to save money with inexpensive alternatives that work just as well."

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by lklawson » March 22nd, 2011, 9:10 am

frankmako wrote:but both guns will get the job done.
No doubt about that. I'm a fan of the caliber and am excited to see new SD loads coming out such as Hornady's "Critical Defense" line in the 9x18 Mak.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
The Cheapskate's Guide to Gun Cleaning and Maintenance - "You shouldn't have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive gun cleaning an maintenance products. Find out how to save money with inexpensive alternatives that work just as well."

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by DoubleTap » March 24th, 2011, 12:25 pm

lklawson wrote:
DoubleTap wrote:Nice review! I haven't fired a PF9, but I routinely carry a P3AT. As lklawson says, PF9's are readily available around these parts.
You're semi-local to the area. Perhaps some time we can go to a range and I'll loan you my PF9.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
That would be cool! Where do you shoot at anyway?

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by lklawson » March 24th, 2011, 2:17 pm

DoubleTap wrote:That would be cool! Where do you shoot at anyway?
Usually at Vandalia Range and Armory.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by teej » April 9th, 2011, 5:54 pm

OP, where is your PF9 target picture??

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by lklawson » April 9th, 2011, 7:57 pm

teej wrote:OP, where is your PF9 target picture??
I didn't save it. It was adequately accurate. I didn't group as well with it, probably because of the long trigger pull, but I stayed on the target.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
The Cheapskate's Guide to Gun Cleaning and Maintenance - "You shouldn't have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive gun cleaning an maintenance products. Find out how to save money with inexpensive alternatives that work just as well."

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Re: P64 vs PF9

Post by marmy7451 » April 9th, 2011, 11:53 pm

I have a couple of each that I use extensively in CCW classes for student use. They are used a lot, probably 1 to 3 thousand rounds each per year. Both have been excellent with minimal problems, usually from not being gripped firmly enough, but this is more common with the PF9. All are a problem for those without good hand and arms strength as they have stronger Wolff springs.

I regard both weapons highly and think they are under appreciated.

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