Fabryka Broni

FB Radom Handguns

The first handgun made in Radom was the Ng wz.30 Nagant revolver, manufactured between 1931 and 1937 for the State Police, Banking Guards, Mail Guards and other state law and order forces. The license for the revolver was purchased in 1930 from Belgian Nagant Bros arms company, which designed this revolver in mid-1890s for Russian Tsar and manufactured the initial batches of the M1895 gas-seal revolver until the manufacturing was taken over by the Russian state. The revolver was obsolescent, but popular – and the license bought from the broke Belgian company along with a fully set-up manufacturing line was dirt-cheap. Until 1937 there were at least 17000 Ng wz.30s made in Radom, and although 1937 have seen a decision to cease manufacture, the last 810 of these were delivered during 1938 (110) and even 1939 (700).

In late 1932 a decision was made to move from Warsaw to Radom the manufacturing of the new 9 mm ‘P.A. WiS wz.1931’ semiautomatic pistol designed by the Fabryka Karabinów. The Fabryka Broni in Radom started preparation for the series production and during summer of 1933 a test batch of under 150 Vis wz.32s was made for troop testing. The troop testing was conducted during fall and winter 1933/34, then in May and June, 1934 the qualification testing followed. Then the development of the pistol was blocked by the Department of Cavalry’s veto – the cavalry demanded means to securely de-cock the pistol single-handedly, while keeping the reins of a horse in the other hand. Complying to this demand meant a thorough redesign of the whole pistol, and have delayed manufacture by more than two years. The redesigned handgun was accepted into the inventory of the Polish Army o­n September 5, 1935 as the ‘9 mm Vis wz.35 semiautomatic pistol’ by order of the Chief of Ordnance Department, Ministry of Military Affairs. The name ‘Vis’ meant ‘force’ in Latin, but in fact was a derivative of the original name ‘W&S’ used in 1931 – ‘W’ standing for Piotr Wilniewczyc and ‘S’ for Jan Skrzypiński, both members of the senior management staff of the PWU and PWU-FK in Warsaw, who initiated and supervised the design. The design itself was done by regretfully forgotten young engineer, Feliks Modzelewski, more known for his part in designing PWU-FK’s Browning-based aerial machineguns. Their pistol combined design features of the Colt 1911 (trigger mechanism) with slide locking inspired by the Saive-Browning FN HP. Modzelewski’s barrel shares the general idea with the BHP, but the unlocking lug is simpler, sturdier and easier to manufacture. The cavalry-enforced de-cocking lever installed in the slide, was a pioneer achievement and first such device ever to be used in a military sidearm. Vis differed from 1911 by lacking external safety – automatic grip safety was the o­nly safety device incorporated other than the de-cocker. What looks like 1911-style safety o­n the frame is in fact mere a disassembly catch to arrest the slide in disassembly position. The 1935 production plans, calling for 11800 pistols by end of FY 1936 and reaching full production target of 15000 pistols a year as of 1937, proved unrealistic. The o­ngoing rifle production surge period called for machines re-arrangement and to meet the production quotas drastic measures had to be taken in other non-priority products. The Ng wz.30 revolver was scrapped altogether, and Vis pistol production was suspended as of end of FY1936 in March 1937. The manufacture of the pistol was restarted in 1938, and stepped up to make up for the losses. The year production quota was reached for the first time in 1938, and even slightly exceeded, with 17900 pistols taken over by the Polish Army in that year. The real mass-production was started o­nly in 1939, though, when 6800 wz.35 pistols were made in Q1, and before the Germans took over Radom o­n September 8, 1939, the number of completed pistols, as proved by the serial numbers, exceeded 49000 – meaning that over 30000, twice the target year capability, were manufactured within just 8 months!