We recently discussed the brief service history of the 7.65mm Praga pistol here. The gun is, frankly, cleverly designed and, at least in our late-production example, better finished than the generally disparaging run of the literature suggests.
(OTR came by and tried it and even disagrees with our opinion that it feels awkward and points low. “I could work with this,” was his verdict, 7.65mm and all). As we ought to have mentioned in the last post, if we didn’t, the sights are unusually prominent for a 1919 design, even if the rear sight notch is a small V. They’re not 2016 quality, or even Tokarev TT-33 quality (arguably the best fixed sight picture of WWII), but he’s right: you can work with ’em.
After the jump we have more pictures, including some interesting design details and field-stripping photos.
The safety is almost a conventional Browning design, located on the left receiver tang; it can be operated with ease (especially moving from Safe to Fire) with the knuckle of the right thumb. It is marked O and Z.
One design imperfection in the Praga is that, if the safety is on safe (above), a small hole direct in the frame is exposed. This is a consequence of the safety’s design. The safety blocks the hammer and has no effect on the trigger or sear.
The pistol is on safe with the safety forward, covering the O and exposing the Z. It is on fire with the safety aimed down 45º, covering the Z and exposing the O.
On Safe, the safety also locks the slide so that it cannot be retracted, and the safety can be used as a catch to hold the slide in the right position to disassemble the pistol.
The two pictures above show an unusual set of finger grooves. As you can see, the last one is thinner and differently-shaped than the rest. Here’s another look at it (also showing the somewhat loose fit of the safety on the right side):
We’re accustomed to seeing auto pistols with ejection ports on the right or right-upper side or quadrant of the slide, but the Praga’s is centered, right on top. This could have been a nod in the direction of the 10% of shooters who are left-handed.
… as the magazine is numbered to the gun (apologies for the blurry shot, but the number is a matching “10024”):
The purpose of the notch is to allow the European standard butt-position magazine catch to lock the magazine in position, out of battery:
And that raises the question: why? It’s deep enough that the magazine is not in position to act as a support for single-loading rounds. It’s not there to defeat a magazine safety for dry fire — the Praga has no magazine safety. Is it there to let you do dry fire with a loaded magazine? That seems… insane. Unless we find the Praga patent(s), and they have something to do with this (unlikely; they’re more probably something to do with the breech block design), we don’t anticipate finding the answer. Any ideas?
And.. that breech block. Let’s disassemble the Praga. First, clear the pistol.
It starts off like many small Browning designs. Lock the slide back with the safety and rotate the barrel clockwise 90º (looking back towards front). There are flutes in the barrel to provide a gripping surface. With that done, hold the slide and release the safety. Let the slide go forward, under control, and remove it from the frame.
This (above) is the underside of the slide, with the barrel gripping flutes and the three locking lugs (as in a Browning design) clearly visible. The barrel’s serial number is on the bottom, directly in front of those lugs (which are oriented “down” when the pistol is assembled).
The bottom of the breech block is visible — it is the piece in the white to the right of the centered, top ejection port. The large open area to the right of (i.e., behind) the breech block is clearly different from what you see on striker-fired Brownings.
The breech block drops right out if you turn the slide over (or can be picked out with thumb and forefinger. It is a small, self-contained unit. It is serialized on the upper rear.
The extractor at top center will look familiar to anybody who has disassembled a Stoner system AR. The firing pin is captive and spring-loaded.
Speaking of spring-loaded, at this point, you can rotate the barrel and release it from the groove that holds it in the slide. It is under considerable spring tension, and it just might fly out, break your Dr. Pepper glass, spraying the fluid on your computer and firearm, and frighten your dog.
It just might.
A look in the barrel confirms what the books say — 4-groove, right-hand twist rifling.
A look at the top of the frame shows us the internal hammer, and the device that makes the center-top ejection port work — a pair of twin ejectors. The hammer shows the wear of hundreds or thousands of firings (probably, given the lack of wear overall, mostly dry fire).
Note that, while most of this firearm was highly polished before being rust blued, raw toolmarks show in the cut-out before the barrel retention lugs.
The pistol is reassembled in the reverse order, but there’s one quick trick to make replacing the barrel (if not the lost Dr Pepper) a lot easier. Put the barrel and spring in the slide, with the barrel in the vertical position (lugs down), but don’t just try to push it through and rotate the lugs into the disassembly notch. Instead, slip the slide and barrel onto the frame and pull it back. It won’t go back far enough to lock, but the lugs will catch on the front of the barrel bed in the frame, and you’ll be able to line the slide up and rotate the barrel into the disassembly notch without drama. Then you can remove the slide, replace the breech block assembly in it, and put it back on the Praga’s frame.
Next trick: if the barrel doesn’t quite slip over the barrel bed, tweak it a little. Sometimes it needs to be a hair beyond 90º in rotation to clear the barrel bed’s retaining lugs. Once you slip over, use the safety to lock the slide in place, and rotate the barrel back upright.
Perform a function check, and you’re good to go.
As a service or defensive pistol, the Praga M1919 / M1921 is long obsolete, but we hope you now see that this wasn’t some brain-damaged lapse on the part of the estimable Vaclav Holek, but a pretty well-thought-out little pistol with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. It was competitive for its day, and a close look at it brings to light touches of the genius that would animate Holek’s greatest work, the light machine gun he started at Zbrojovka Praga and continued at ZB, which would serve all sides of the World War as the ZB-26, Bren, ZB-30 light machine gun.