John Milewski delves into the history and performance of the Polish Lucznik air rifle
John Milewski explores the Polish Lucznik rifle – a sturdy springer from days gone by
Most collectors will be familiar with the Predom Wz1970 air pistol, which was a copy of the Walther LP53 in looks, if not in performance. Less well known are the Lucznik series of break-barrel air rifles designated the Model 87, 187, 88, 188 and the smaller 141. Lucznik is the Polish word for ‘archer’, hence the presence of the company’s logo of a bowman loosing an arrow, stamped on the trigger block of these air rifles.
Lucznik air rifles were developed by Ernest Durasiewicza at Poland’s Radom factory and were produced between 1956 and 1980. Initially stamped Lucznik, Model 87 rifles were later marked Predom Lucznik after a change in name. The Model 187 took over from the 87 and remained in production until 1980. The Radom factory had been established in 1925 and was renamed Zaklady Mechaniczne Lucznik Radom (Radom Archer Mechanical Works) after it became state owned following WW2. The original factory became insolvent in 2000, but out of the ashes rose the Radom Archer Weapons Factory, which continues making firearms today. Prior to despatch, each rifle was tested by a factory employee firing five shots at 10 metres from a seated position. The rifle passed if all shots landed within a circle 30 mm in diameter.
Employees were encouraged to recommend improvements to the air rifles and further suggestions were acted upon when submitted by overseas importers. Plenty of variations will be evident because apparently, almost 100 changes were made to the rifle throughout its production run. For example, early rifles had no scope rails, but during the 1960s scope rails 10 or 12 mm wide were added. In March 1962, a special export order included smoothbore versions of the model 187, and in 1970, the German importer requested the ‘archer’ trademark be replaced with the word MARS on their rifles.
Barrels were rifled with a right-hand twist and 12 grooves, A barrel release catch on the right side of the breech had to be pulled rearwards to release the barrel for cocking and loading. The overall construction of these rifles was of a sturdy nature. Lucznik air rifles were used on fairground gallery ranges and amusement parks due to their solid construction, as well as schools and paramilitary organisations. The latter were probably LOK (Country Defence League), which taught civilians skills that would come in handy in the event of war or national disaster. I am indebted to Polish collector, Michal Sowinski, who recalls participating in a High School subject called ‘Przysposobienie Obronne’ which roughly translates to ‘Defence Education’. The subject involved shooting practice with air rifles and the Lucznik would have been an ideal tool due to its robust nature. I used to attend a Polish school on Saturdays when I was a youngster, and do not recall such an interesting subject, but then I was too busy chasing Polish girls at the time!
Early Model 87 rifles had no scope rails and relied entirely upon the ramped elevation adjustable rearsight, together with a driftadjustable hooded foresight for sighting. The latter fitted into narrow dovetails, which allowed limited lateral adjustment. A hood protected the sight and if the sight is ever lost, Lee Enfield No 1 or 4 foresights will fit with a little file work. The Enfield sights can be found in varying heights and I used this to my advantage on the rifle on test when I selected
“Lucznik rifles were used on fairground gallery ranges and amusement parks”
a tall sight to rectify the rifle shooting too high on its lowest rearsight setting.
The Models 87 and 187 were fitted with a conventional beech stock of sporting profile. It had a grasping recess in the fore end and had no chequering. The Models 88 and 188 were apparently developed for export and came with a squarer profiled beech stock with a series of lateral grooves along the fore end. They also had a pronounced cheek piece on the butt. The 87 had a step along the barrel just in front of the breech block, whereas on the 187, 88 and 188 this was plain as the barrel was heavier. Sling swivels, little more than bent pieces of wire were fitted directly on to the barrel and butt. Internally, the piston on the 87 had a larger contact area just behind the washer than the 187.
The trigger pull was a little creepy, but positive on the model tested, and in any case, adjustable through a screw protruding from the front of the guard in pre-war BSA style. The rifle’s robustness initially attracted me to it at an arms fair because it looked like it would take lots of punishment before wearing out. At 1200 mm (43¾in) long and weighing 3.1kg (6lb 14oz) the full-sized .177 rifle developed a healthy 620 fps with Lanes Bulldog pellets. I found it a little muzzle light and had to pay extra attention during the firing cycle to ensure that the shot was released accurately.
These rifles do turn up at arms fairs and gun shops from time to time, but are not common by any means. Due to their sturdy construction, the Lucznik series are well worth picking up if the opportunity arises.
The 87 and 187 rifles had a more streamlined profile than the 88 and 188.
The Archer logo identifies Lucznik and Predom Lucznik air rifles.
Pull back on the catch to release the barrel. The robust ramped rearsight is adjustable for elevation only. The frontal trigger adjustment was a pre-WW1 feature, but it works!
No scope grooves were machined into this pre-1967 Model 87, making it an ‘open sight only’ rifle.
There was no long cocking slot under the fore End, making for a stronger and better-looking design.