Everything You Need To Know About CZ Pistols
Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod, often referred to simply as CZ, is the best-known gun maker that you may keep hearing about but have never really gotten to know. That’s sort of a pity, as they’re known for making some of the finest handguns available.
What is it about CZ, though?
Part CZ’s appeal is the breadth of products, since they have something for pretty much everyone. Design is another aspect, because CZ’s guns are very distinctive including ergonomics second to none. The shooting dynamics are widely considered some of the best in the business, which is why police forces, militaries and competitive shooters have been ranting and raving about them for years.
Here’s what you need to know about CZ…
Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod – From Humble Beginning To Soviet Satellite
After the first world war, a number of veteran officers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which was disintegrating at the time) got together and decided to take over a firearms manufacturing company. They acquired a controlling interest in a gunmaking shop in Brno, now in the Czech Republic, which was renamed Českáslovenská zbrojovka, or Czechoslovak Armaments in 1919.
A few years later, handgun manufacture was given to Česká zbrojovka, a firearms manufacturing company located in Strakonice. That company absorbed the the shop in Brno, which was mostly concentrating on rifles.
They then moved headquarters to their satellite shop in Uhersky Brod and consolidated the entire concern into Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod, or Czech Armament Company of Uhersky Brod.
From that period until the post-World War II period, most of their manufacturing was devoted to making rifles and handguns based on Mauser designs.
Czechoslovakia was eventually absorbed by Nazi Germany, and joining the Warsaw Pact nation as a Soviet satellite state. Since firearms were illegal for all but the military, CZ was in the business of making arms for the Czech armed forces, which of course acted on orders from Moscow.
CZ established itself as a maker of duty weapons par excellence, with better designs than their Russian counterparts. However, what REALLY set CZ apart was a rogue project brought to fruition in the 1970s.
The CZ-75: Arguably The Best Of The Wonder Nines
What made CZ’s bones is the CZ-75. The ’75 was the brainchild of Josef and Frantisek Koucky, two of CZUB’s senior engineers.
The idea was to produce a high-capacity 9mm for the export market. Unhampered by Soviet design directives, Frantisek and Josef were free to concentrate on making the pistol as good as it could be.
Many aspects of the gun were borrowed from the Browning Hi Power, including the short recoil locked breech firing mechanism.
However, there are some key differences.
The CZ-75 places the slide totally inside the frame rails, meaning lock-up is as tight as a drum. The bore axis is lower, so recoil is absorbed more easily by the shooter and bullet impact is nearly at point-of-aim. Since the gun is made entirely from steel, the weight also soaks up recoil.
The end result? A pistol that fits the hand better than most pistols, even to this day, shoots more accurately and more comfortably than many other designs. In short, they feel better and shoot better than a LOT of other pistols.
The CZ-75 also features a frame-mounted manual safety that can only be engaged when the hammer is cocked, enabling users to carry in Condition One. However, since the ’75 uses a double-action trigger, the pistol can be manually decocked and carried in double action mode.
The CZ-75, released in 1975 (CZ’s pistol nomenclature uses the year of release) and quickly gained a reputation as being one of the best shooting pistols a person could acquire.
CZ Pistols Of Today
Since the advent of the CZ-75, more CZ pistols have followed, especially since the privatizing of the company after the fall of the Soviet Union. (Official imports didn’t start until 1993, but there were plenty that went out via the gray market and military surplus.) Many are derivatives of or based on the CZ-75, of course…but many are also not. In fact, CZ has been able to evolve and change with the times while honoring the successes of the past.
In the early 1980s, the CZ-82 and CZ-83 were created as a complementary design to the Makarov pistol, and served as the sidearm of Czech military and police. The CZ-82 was the military issue version chambered in 9mm Makarov, and the CZ-83 was the export version chambered in .380 Auto. The 82/83, like the Makarov, was based heavily on the Walther PPK, and today is actually a very popular military surplus pistol for concealed carry.
The CZ-75 itself has gone through a number of revisions, with a number of variants being available.
An ambidextrous model was introduced in 1985, the CZ-85, and shortly afterward a firing pin block drop safety was added, adding the “B” designation to almost all model of 75-pattern CZ pistols.
Decocking models have also become available, enabling double-action carry without the need to manually lower the safety, which can be had on several models.
CZ has also produced a number of handguns for police issue and the concealed carry market, such as the CZ-75 Compact and CZ-75 PCR Compact, or Police Czech Republic – which has a decocker and a slightly different frame design.
In the 1990s, CZ made a number of models available in .40 S&W, and a few more have followed. The CZ-97 followed in .45 ACP, the first big-bore.
CZ USA opened their doors in 1998 as the official importer/distributor of CZ firearms, though some products are made in the CZ USA custom shop.
In the early 2000s, new variants of the CZ-75 and CZ-75 Compact were released, the SP-01 and P-01. These models feature a full length railed dust cover, both copied somewhat from the PO-1 that CZ submitted to NATO as a potential service pistol, which at least garnered a “seal of approval” from them. Shortly after followed the P-06, a P-01 in .40 S&W. A subcompact, the 2075 RAMI, was released as well in 2007 in standard and decocker configuration.
CZ has also jumped on the polymer bandwagon with the CZ P-09 and P-07 models. While internally similar to the 75 (it’s the exact same manual of arms) the slide is revised, as is the hammer, and the frame is polymer. Tactical models with threaded barrels have been made available as well.
CZ also threw their hat in the ring for the US Army’s pistol trials, submitting the P-10C for consideration. The P-10C is something of a “Goldilocks” gun, being just big enough to use as a duty gun but just compact enough to conceal, but – unlike every other gun in CZ’s lineup – is a polymer-framed striker pistol.
CZ also purchased Dan Wesson Firearms, who also produce a line of high-quality 1911 pistols ranging from CCW-friendly Commander frames all the way to race guns for competition and the 715 revolver in .357 Magnum.
CZ Guns And The Shooting Sports
Though CZ has a long history of making military arms, starting with K98-pattern rifles at the outset, it’s the shooting sports where it enjoys much of it’s reputation. National and world shooting championships have been scored with CZ pistols. Much of the CZ lineup today reflects that.
Both CZ guns and Dan Wesson guns are made with competition variants, tuned within an inch of their life by CZ and Wesson’s custom shops. That quality will cost, but you will get what you pay for.
For the waterfowler, upland bird and turkey hunter and big game hunter, there are a number of CZ guns that can serve their needs.
CZ shotguns are mostly made at their facilities in Turkey (there are some custom shop models available too) and enjoy a quiet reputation for being some of the best shotguns you can get at a competitive price. Basically, you can get anything you want in a shotgun, and for a comparative steal.
Pump-action, semi-auto, side-by-side and over-unders are all available, including – and good luck finding many of these anymore – hammer-fired side-by-sides. You can get black synthetic, steel and Turkish walnut, or synthetic with camo dip on most models.
As to CZ rifles – many of which are made in the US – there is a wealth of options available too. There are tactical models, long-range models and semi-autos, and a good selection of rimfire models to be had too…but the bulk of the lineup are the hunting rifles, including safari magnums that real people can afford.
CZ Concealed Carry
While perhaps best-known for full-size pistols, there are some very viable CZ concealed carry guns among their product offerings.
The only true subcompact CZ makes currently is the 2075 RAMI.
Other CZ guns well suited for concealed carry are more of the compact class, being large enough for use as a duty gun but small enough to concealed carry without issue. The latter class includes the CZ-75 Compact, PCR Compact and P-01, the P-07, and the P-10C. All of these pistols would be roughly equivalent to the Glock 19 in size or at least close to it.
Dan Wesson makes a decent number of 1911s optimized for concealed carry, including at least one Officer frame in the ECO, a number of traditional Commander frames and several examples of the “CCO” 1911, wherein an Officer frame is adapted for use with a Commander-length barrel and slide.
Of course, there are also a good number of CZ clones. You see, when the CZ-75 was designed, the most that could be hoped for was a “secret patent.” The way this worked is that the pistol couldn’t officially exist since it was the Soviet Union, but no one else could try to patent it in Czechoslovakia. Since they were a Soviet state, they couldn’t hold international patents either.
Since there was no barrier to reverse engineering or just straight up ripping off the design, manufacturers in other countries were able to go to town creating clones of CZ pistols.
Tanfoglio, Magnum Research/IWI, Canik and Sphinx…just to name a few…are all examples of companies that make CZ clones, though the degree of the “cloning” is relative.
However, many of said clones have acquired a reputation for serious quality at affordable prices. The Canik clones, which are imported and sold by TriStar Sporting Arms, are particularly renowned for the “bang for buck” factor, and fit in CZ holsters to boot.
That said, the CZ family of guns including both CZ, Dan Wesson and the clones have a lot to offer a lot of people. CZ also happens to make quality firearms that virtually any shooter can appreciate and at competitive prices to boot. If you haven’t heard of them, you should check them out. You might find the next addition to your safe…