TOZ-35 Range Report
Finally, there are "free pistols".......The free pistol is a handgun built for extreme accuracy. A free pistol is easily identified by its grip, which may completely envelope and stabilises the shooter's hand, although it cannot reinforce the wrist. Regulations require only that a free pistol fires .22 calibre long rifle cartridges and has open sights. These pistols posses a longer barrel, and sight radius. Most are single shot pistols, or they use a modified magazine that can only contain one round.
Free pistol, a precision shooting event, has been part of the Olympics since 1896. Competitors shoot .22 caliber pistols from 50 meters at precision targets with a 5cm 10 ring. Competitors fire 60 shots in two hours. 600 is a perfect score, and 565 is considered world class. The top eight competitors advance to a 10-shot final round, with 75 seconds allotted for each shot. The final is scored in tenths of a point and added to the match score to determine winners. A perfect final score is 109. A perfect aggregate (Match + Final) score is 709 points. The free pistol is a no excuse precision hole puncher. The shooter of these handguns only has himself to blame is a shot flies wide of the bullseye.
I purchased my TOZ-35 from CDNN for $499 with the wooden case. With overnight shipping, the price came to $512. The outside of the case was pretty badly scuffed up and the top of the case was loose, but nothing a bit of wood glue can not repair. The felt lining was intact throughout. the wooden case had persevered and protected the treasure inside. Included with the TOZ-35 was an English version of the manual, and an odd bottle for lubricant. The rest of the package.......Tools and assorted sight leaves were missing. The absent items didn't really bother me that much, it was still a deal in my opinion. I immediately went online to research the pistol.
Designed in 1959, the Vostok TOZ-35 is still a worthy competitor against such names as Hammerli and Pardini. At the 2000 Milan World Cup, Bill Demarest won and set a new world record in Free Pistol of 676.2 points with a TOZ-35. The TOZ-35 won Gold, Silver, Bronze, and 4th place at the 1996 Olympic Games. Yes, it's still a competitive pistol without all the lightweight unobtainium high speed space age gyroscopic whiz bangs. Heck, I kind of like it's antique-ish flavor. I guess I'm just a walnut and blue kind of guy.
The grips of the TOZ-35 are adjustable walnut. The left grip fully encircles the thumb. The upper wing supports the firearm on the hand, while the adjustable lower wing supports it underneath. The lower wing would not adjust far enough down for my big ham of a hand, so I removed it for this range report. In the future, I will fabricate a bracket so the lower wing can be attached when I shoot the pistol.
The action of the Toz-35 is not unlike that of the old Martini-Henry rifle. The breech is locked by means of a bolt rocking on its pin, which is actuated by a release lever extending beneath the grip. A single round is fed in, and the breech is locked. The firing mechanism housed in the bolt is simultaneously actuated by an accelerator mounted on a separate base plate. The accelerator is armed by deppressing the trigger cock lever on the left side of the pistol. Until the trigger is cocked, the trigger is unable to fire the pistol. The sight radius of the TOZ-35 is 375mm. The sights are about as far apart as possible. The crown is recessed into the muzzle.
The fittment of the pistol is quite nice. Although manufactured in the Soviet Union, the Russkies placed some craftsmanship into this firearm. The trigger mechanism itself is quite amazing. It appears complex with an array of very finely threaded screws to adjust it. The trigger is fully adjustable, for pull length, pull angle, angle of alignment, degrees of rotation towards the finger, and of course, pressure and creep. I do not know what this trigger is set at. The directions say it will adjust up to one pound. It is light........So light a butterfly fart could trip it. I'll be careful of butterflies, and not cock the trigger until I am prepared to fire. So, after a careful inspection and lube job, I packed up the TOZ and headed for the range. I took along a 550 round bulk pack of Federal .22 ammo. I also took my Ruger MKII to compare the TOZ with.
It was a cold, clear day when I arrived. Cold at least for Louisiana. It was about 55 degrees. I removed my jacket to go to work. The sky was crisp and blue, a Bluebird kind of day. I read over the instructions again to familiarize myself with my new hole punch, and I removed the lower wing from the grip. I placed some targets out, my usual index cards with a spot in the center. I loaded a round into the TOZ chamber and raised the pistol, being mindful to keep my trigger finger extended. I reached up and cocked the trigger. I moved my trigger finger to the trigger. POP! SaZaaaam! WOW! I moved the release lever forward, extracting and ejecting the spent shell casing. Damnnnnnn, that was a light trigger!
I set the TOZ down to think about this a bit. I picked up the Ruger. The Ruger I had brought for comparison is a modified Target Government MKII. It wears a Nill grip, and cranks out .22 bullets using Volquartsen internals and compensator. It seemed heavy compared to the TOZ. It was heavy by comparison. I loaded up a magazine and warmed up with the Ruger. I blew through several magazines, controlling my breathing and trying to reach that tranquil and calculating place of zen shooting. Once I had reached that transcendental plane I returned to the Russkie gun.
I picked up the TOZ-35 and slipped it on my hand. That's right, I slipped it on. Like a glove. It immediately became apparent that you don't hold this pistol as I had the Ruger. You wear it. Like a well fitted prosthesis, it becomes a part of yourself. I loaded it again, raised it, cocked the trigger and aimed it. I touched the trigger and it placed a hole an inch low. I ran a few more rounds though it to make certain. The TOZ grouped them tightly. I removed the pistol from my hand and tried to turn the rear sight knobs to adjust. They were stiff with dried grease.
With a little dexterous persuasion and a squirt of Break-Free, I was moving the hits where I wanted them. I had the windage adjustment knob all the way to the left, so I compensated for that by loosening the sight leaf and moving it to the left. Then I returned the windage knob back to place the rear sight centerline again.
I transitioned between the two pistols every fifty rounds or so, shooting offhand, and the difference was startling. I had thought the Ruger was the cat's knees before I shot the TOZ-35. The Ruger was a good, accurate pistol, but the TOZ out-classed it handily. In fact the TOZ plucked and fried that Ruger eagle and fed it to the MKII on Bolshevik china.
The TOZ-35 was a dream to shoot. I didn't have to think about shooting the pistol. I only had to aim it. It was as though I willed the hole to appear where ever I aimed. The TOZ-35 is a perfectly balanced pistol. It aims as though it were the finger at the end of your arm. The hole appears where you aim. What more could a target shooter want?
To prevent damage to the action, the TOZ-35 must be stored properly. If dry firing is desired, steps must be taken to prevent damage as well.
Placing the TOZ-35 into storage:
1. Check that the chamber is empty, then carry out the following procedure.
2. Cock the trigger set.
3. Using the action lever protruding beneath the grip, slightly open the action.
4. Fire the set trigger. This will release mainspring pressure.
If the action lever moves to the rear, it shows that the main spring is released. Check by slightly opening the action. Residual spring tension indicates that the mainspring has been released. The pistol may now be stored.
If the action lever is moveable without tension, the mainspring is still compressed. Repeat the procedure to release the tension on the main spring.
To Dry Fire the TOZ-35:
1. Open the action enough to check that the chamber is empty.
2. Make certain the mainspring is not under tension.
3. With the mainspring pressure released and the action lever locked in the rear position, the set trigger may now be cocked and dry fired without damaging the mechanism.
Parts are available at Larry's Guns in Maine.