By Frank Iannamico
The Czechoslovakian CZ50 Pistol
The Czechs have been supplying the world with creative firearm designs for many years. The weapons they create are not only innovative, but are also very rugged and well built. Some famous Czech designed weapons are the ZK383 submachine gun and the ZB26/30 light machine gun. The Czech ZB30 design evolved into the famous Bren Gun of WWII.
Many different pistols, rifles, and machine guns were designed and built by the Czechs. Although Czechoslovakia fell under Communist influence a few years after WWII, the Czechs didn’t adopt the usual Soviet designed small arms like other Communist nations. The Czech people chose to arm their military with weapons of their own design. Most of the surplus Czech pistols that are readily available today, were quite a rarity in the U.S. until the collapse of Communism in Europe in the early 1990’s. Prior to that time Czechoslovakia was a Communist nation from which no formal trade with the United States was conducted.
For most of WWII, Czechoslovakia was under Nazi control, after the Germans overran that country in their Blitzkrieg campaign of Europe in 1939. During the German occupation, the Czech arms industry was forced into continuing production of their firearms to supply the insatiable German war machine. The Nazis took control over the Czech firm of Ceska Zbrojovka and changed the name to Bohmische Waffinfabrik (Bohemian Gun Works). Among the many weapons the Czechs built for the German Army were their Mauser action vz24 and vz24/30 rifles, that were almost identical to the German standard issue Kar.98k service rifle.
Close to half a million pistols were manufactured for the German war effort by Czechoslovakia, the most common were the VZ24 designated as the P24(t), the VZ38 or P38 (t) and the VZ27. Most of the VZ27’s produced during this time have prolific Nazi Waffenamts and other German proof marks. Some of the CZ27 pistols produced had special barrels installed for adaptation of a suppressor. The Czeska Zbrojovka factories also made parts for the German P38 pistol. The CZ factory was assigned the code “fhn” during the war. The Nazi Waffenamt code WaA76 are stamped on CZ27 pistols manufactured at the Czech factory.
A few years after the conclusion of WWII , the CZ50 pistol was designed and produced to provide some semblance to the medley of obsolete firearms in use by the military and various police agencies in Czechoslovakia following the war. The Czech CZ50, is sometimes referred to as the VZ50 pistol. The CZ50 was designed by the Kratochvil brothers and was produced after WWII in several factory locations by Ceska Zbrojovka, hence the CZ prefix in many of the Czech nomenclatures. VZ is the abbreviation for Vzor or model in Czechoslovakia so VZ is also a correct prefix designation for Czech firearms. Ceska Zbrojovka supplied the Czech military with firearms from 1924 until 1954.
Most of the CZ50 pistols manufactured were issued to the various police departments throughout Czechoslovakia, a few went to the Czech military. Many more of the CZ50 pistols were sold commercially to other countries. The CZ50 was produced from 1950 until 1952 at the Strakonice factory, when production was interrupted to concentrate on the manufacture of the newly designed CZ52 military pistol, slated to be manufactured for the Czech Army. Production of the CZ50 resumed in 1957 at the Uhersky Brod factory. The CZ50 design was eventually superseded by the updated CZ70 model that is remarkably similar to the CZ50. The CZ70 was produced until 1983. More recent pistols to be produced by Ceska Zbrojovka are the excellent CZ75 and CZ85 models. Both of these latter guns are modern, high capacity 9mm double action pistols.
The CZ50 is similar in appearance to the famous Walther PP pistol, though a few obvious differences do exist. The safety lever on the CZ50 is frame mounted, rather than slide mounted as on the Walther. Another major difference between the two designs is, the CZ50 uses a frame mounted take down button, for removal of the slide, instead of the hinged trigger guard style latch.
The CZ 50 is a conventional double action design, chambered for the .32 ACP round. As with all Czech pistols it is built to last a lifetime, constructed mostly of milled steel, except for the grips that are plastic. The finish is a dull blue, and the pistol is marked with some interesting Czech markings. On most CZ50s imported, the slide legend reads; Ceska Zbrojovka Strakonice Narodni Podnik. Ceska Zbrojovka translates to “Czech Arms Factory”. Strakonice is the city where the factory that manufactured the pistol is located. Narodni Podnik translates to “National Factory”. There are slight variations on the slide markings. The crossed sword military acceptance mark is stamped on the inside of the slide.
The BATF required importers stamp is unobtrusive, and located on the right side of the pistols frame. The year of manufacture is stamped on the front part of the grip. The pistol reviewed for this article is stamped NB 51 for 1951. An encircled letter T is stamped on the part of the frame that the barrel is pressed into. This mark is the barrel proof. The slide and frame are stamped with the serial number. The frame number is visible through the ejection port. At first glance it appears as though the barrel is numbered, but it is actually the part of the frame securing the barrel.
The CZ50 functioned and fed the .32 ACP cartridges with no problems. The magazine has an 8 round capacity and forms part of the front grip surface. The trigger pull in both the single action and double action modes was rather stiff, but seemed to smooth out with use. Trigger pull in the single action mode was 8 pounds. The CZ50 has a easy to reach magazine release button located on the upper left side of the frame near the grip. The CZ50 pistol also features a loaded chamber indicator on the left side of the slide. It is large enough to be easily seen, or can be felt with a finger tip in low visibility conditions.
The front sight is of the blade type, the rear sight is a simple U notch type, dovetailed into the slide and is driftable right or left. The sights are adequate for a small pistol of this type. Short range accuracy proved to be very good. The CZ50 weights 1.5 pounds when loaded. Barrel length is a compact 3.8”, overall length is 6.8”. The pistol is similar, though slightly smaller, in size to a Makarov.
Small pocket pistols in both the .32 ACP and .25 caliber cartridges were very popular in Europe during the 1900’s. The .32 ACP cartridge is one of the many creations of John Browning, and dates from 1899. The .32 ACP is also known as the 7.65 Browning cartridge in Europe. The .32 ACP round is topped with any one of several different bullet designs, from full metal jackets to hollow points. 32 ACP cartridge is available with projectile weight ranging from 60 to 100 grains, although the 71 grain slug is the most common. Projectile diameter ranges from .310” to .312”. Velocity from the CZ50’s barrel chronographed an average of 910 feet per second. Muzzle energy of the .32 ACP calculates to 131 foot pounds, with the common 71 grain bullet.
The CZ50 pistol is available in various grades ranging from good to excellent condition. The very best part of the CZ50 is its price tag. The CZ50 reviewed for this article was in excellent condition, and had matching frame and slide numbers. This particular gun was obtained from SOG International Inc., and cost about $129.00 with one magazine and a holster, a terrific bargain! If these pistols were being produced today the price would certainly be twice that amount. Another big advantage of the CZ50 pistol is that it’s listed on BATF’s Curio and Relics list. This is a big plus for collectors that have a C&R license. The ranks of C&R licensees are growing, while the number of regular Class 1 Federal Firearm License holders are declining, due to the many new federal restrictions placed on obtaining or retaining an FFL.
To me there are few things that compare to obtaining an old or relatively old firearm in very good or excellent condition. Such was the case when I received my CZ50. The gun looked like it was recently manufactured, but in fact it is over 46 years old! I have been a collector of various firearms for many years. One thing I have learned, gun bargains don’t last very long. Especially when they are in nice condition, and inexpensive. Gun prices seldom, if ever, go down. If you ever have the opportunity to look at some old gun magazines from 10 or so years ago, look at some of the prices of guns in the advertisements and you will see what I mean.
Field Stripping Procedures
SOG International Inc.
240 Harmon Ave.
PO Box 590
Lebanon, OH 45036-0590
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N11 (August 1998)|