Walther LP-53 Very Early Boxed Model.
Courtesy of Leonardj.
A very early specimen of a Walther LP53 air pistol, bearing serial number 001345, in exceptionally well preserved condition.
It is in its original box, with all the sight inserts, the cocking knob, the factory test target, and the owners pamphlet (printed in German). Sadly, the original cleaning rod was missing, and the original early grips were broken. The damaged grips were replaced with a set of later grip panels that I had as spares to make the gun look more presentable. The original grips have been retained due to unique features they possess, not seen on later style grips.
This is the earliest known variant of the LP53 box. This early Walther box is very different dimensionally from anything that I have seen to date. The box measures 349 mm wide by 180 mm deep by only 47 mm high. The accessory shelf for the sight inserts inside the box measures 38 mm wide by 115 mm deep by 34 mm high. Contrast these dimensions to the box most commonly seen for these pistols, at 345 mm wide by 170 mm deep by 58 mm high, with the accessory shelf measuring 52 mm wide by 117 mm deep by 46 mm high.
Walther LP-53 - A brief overview of the variants.
Courtesy of Leonardj.
I have been researching the Walther LP53 air pistol for a great many years, and have been attempting to sort out the known variants that have occurred over the course of production of this unique air pistol. I have divided the known variants into five groups, and will describe the different features used to define each of these variant groups.
This particular group has only come to light within the past 18 or so months, because prior to any pictures of the very early serial numbered guns turning up. nothing was really known of the difference between these very early guns, and those that fall into the Variant #2 group. First variant guns have a number of differences over the later guns, but the most obvious is the markings on the side of the receiver. The three earliest guns known have machined markings, whereas, by S/N 002xxx, these markings are stamped.
The second variant guns appear similar to the first variant guns, but a number of engineering changes have taken place. The smooth receiver, and high gloss finish on both the alloy parts and the blued steel parts remain. The Walther markings are now stamped into the side of the receiver. The box dimensions have been altered to the size most commonly seen for the LP53.
Variant #2, Sub Variant 1
This is an interesting sub variant, of which to date, only four examples are known. The subtle difference in these guns to the second variant seen above, is that the top of the receiver, as well as the curved rear portion of the receiver has a crackle black finish applied from the factory, as seen in the inset below. Speculation is that this was done to cover up an imperfection in the casting, much like Webley & Scott did by engraving, to cover imperfections in the frames of their guns.
The third variant guns maintain essentially all the same features as the second variant guns with the only difference being that the entire receiver sports a crackle black finish, with the exception of a small oval area, into which the markings are stamped. Within the third variant range, at around S/N 024xxx, the adjustable trigger feature is dropped.
The fourth variant guns retain the crinkle finish receivers, but now the barrel is no longer a shiny, deep blue finish - it is a satin grey/black finish, almost appearing as though Parkerized. The steel parts have also had a similar satin finish applied - no longer that deep, shiny blued finish seen on the earlier variants.
The fifth variant guns displayed a complete make-over of the receiver, with the most notable feature being the elimination of the curved detail at the rear of the receiver, with a straight angled treatment. The barrel and all the metal parts retain the satin finish as seen on the fourth variant guns. What is interesting to note here is that while Walther states that there were 125.000 LP53 pistols produced, there have been several LP53 specimens surface bearing serial numbers into the 127xxx and 128xxx ranges. Another interesting note with regard to the fifth variant guns is that there appeared to be an engineering change to the sear bar and the piston sear engagement notch, that took place at around S/N 127xxx.
My research on the Walther LP53 is an ongoing project, and my information files are growing daily. My LP53 serial number database, which I began several years ago on the AVA forum, now contains several hundred listings, which have been very helpful in trying to determine when some engineering changes took place. Many interesting revelations have also come from the many LP53 pistols that I have had come to me for repair, such as the sear bar and piston design change noted in the fifth variant description.
Walther LP-53 Video.
With thanks to Steve for this film:
Walther LP-53 - actual example in 007 advertisement
It managed to add £263,000 in value in just nine and a half years (see below). Not bad for a very common air pistol!
On the Airgunbbs.com, the author of The Encyclopedia of Spring Air Pistols, John Griffiths, wrote: "Lot Notes from Christies: "The original vendor, who was commissioned to shoot the images required for the publicity campaign for the second Bond film From Russia With Love, explains in his accompanying letter that "it was decided that for the main image in the poster and advertising campaign what was required was a strong portrait of Sean Connery as Bond 007, with his Walther pistol" He explains further that when Connery arrived at his studio for the shoot, it was discovered by publicist Tom Carlile that no one had brought the gun needed for the shoot, the synonymous small Walther automatic [Walther PPK]. By chance the photographer practised air pistol target shooting as a hobby and had the gun he used for this purpose, also a Walther, at the studio "it was decided that - without telling Sean or the other representatives of United Artists - we would use my pistol for the pictures and presumed that should anyone have doubts on their seeing the name Walther on the gun, they would be reassured."
The Christie's catalogue said:
[W]hen Connery arrived at his studio for the shoot, it was discovered by publicist Tom Carlile that no one had brought the gun needed for the shooter, a small Walther automatic (Walther PPK). By chance David Hurn practiced air pistol target shooting as a hobby and had the air pistol he used for this purpose, also a Walther, to hand. Hurn explained: ‘It was decided that, without telling Sean or the other representatives of United Artists, we would use my pistol for the pictures and [we] presumed that should anyone have doubts, [when they saw] the name Walther on the gun, they would be reassured. This was, in fact, the case.
According to the BBC:
In theory, the long barrel of the LP-53 air pistol was to be airbrushed out of publicity stills and a PPK was to be substituted when the movie posters were designed. In fact, in one USA-market “James Bond is Back” poster, you’ll see Connery holding an airbrushed, short-barrel Walther. However, Renato Fratini, the lead poster artist, preferred the look of the LP-53. Working from Hurn’s non-airbrushed original photographs, Fratini designed the posters for world-wide distribution with the long-barreled LP-53 in Bond’s hand. The iconic long-barreled Luftpistole was featured in posters for several more Bond movies, including Goldfinger (Japanese poster at right), and The Man With the Golden Gun.
Christie's (London) 25.11.2010
Walther LP-53 (part-crackle finish variant)
Described as a 'Variant #2, sub-variant 1' by LeonardJ in this thread:
With thanks to Tommi.
Walther LP-53 collection
Spotted on TradeMe New Zealand by Trev.
Walther LP-53 (early model, cased)
With thanks to Mike.
The case is similar to this one:
Although of course the one pictured here does not have a hole for a pellet box.
The frame colour is strange - perhaps suggesting Walther had not yet settled on a finish.
John Griffiths, author of The Encyclopedia of Spring Air Pistols, says:
I can only assume that it was either a factory finish that went wrong and faded over time after it had left the factory, or someone cleaned off the original finish and had a (largely unsuccessful) go at blacking it with cold blue. (The colour does look a bit coppery, and cold blue works by depositing copper before it is converted to copper selenide in situ). It obviously hasn’t been faded by light as it is too uniform. It would be interesting to have a look at the finish in the nooks and crannies under the grips, as it is unlikely that an amateur refinishing job would get into those areas.
The fact that the serial number is so low also makes me wonder if Walther were still experimenting with the alloy at the time, and could this be aluminium alloy, rather than the zinc alloy normally encountered?
Walther LP-53 serial no, 11569 (red-lined case, space for barrel weight)
Note: the pistol dates from 1955 and the case with barrel weight cutout was made from 1962> (with thanks to David and John G for the information).