By Frank Iannamico
When Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, I watched as the people of Germany smashed the Berlin wall with sledge hammers. I felt both relieved and happy that day because I felt a major threat to America had finally fallen, and without ever firing a single shot. Little did I know what this momentous occasion would eventually mean to me as a military gun collector.
Many interesting surplus military guns have since emerged from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Many of these guns had formerly been quite rare, and a few that were previously VERY expensive in the U.S. are now commonplace. Many SKS rifles, Makarov pistols, and even German weapons that were captured by the Russians during WWII and stored for over 50 years became available. Most of these guns were in very good condition!
The subject of this article is the Czechoslovakian CZ52 pistol. These Czech pistols were once extremely scarce in the United States, and were priced for advanced collectors. Many military enthusiasts had never even heard of the pistol. Today they are priced around one hundred dollars, and available from almost every surplus gun dealer.
The CZ52 was manufactured at the Ceska-Zbrojovka state factory in Czechoslovakia. Hence the CZ prefix commonly used, but it is not entirely correct. VZ is the Czech abbreviation for Vzor or model, so actually a more correct nomenclature would be VZ52. While most other Communist influenced nations adopted the TT33 Russian Tokarev, the Czech’s decided to devise and adopt a pistol of their own design. All CZ52 pistols are stamped RID. This is the code identifying the manufacturer. The year produced, and the crossed swords acceptance stamp of the Czech military are also present. These markings are located on the right side of the pistol’s frame. The CZ52 remained in Czech service until 1982 when it was replaced by the CZ82 pistol.
The CZ52 was produced from 1952 to 1954, an estimated 200,000 plus were manufactured in that brief period. The pistol is a semi automatic, single action, and features a unique roller locked design. The gun weights a somewhat hefty 35 ounces. Overall length is 8.25”. Magazine is the single stack design with a capacity of 8 rounds. The magazine release is located at the base of the grip, as is typical of European pistols. Recoil and muzzle flash is somewhat harsh especially when firing the hot 7.62×25 Czech ammo. The barrel length is 4.5” and unlike most other communist military weapons, the barrel is not chrome lined. The slide can be locked rearward by pushing up on the lever located on the left side of the frame, just under the slide. However, this lever is relatively thin and difficult to manipulate.
The CZ-52 utilizes the roller locking system used on the WWII German MG42 machine gun and more recently on the H&K assault rifles and submachine guns. The CZ fires the common Combloc 7.62×25 Tokarev round, however the Czech M48 version of this round is about 20% hotter than the normal load produced by other countries. Out of the CZ’s 4.5” barrel these rounds travel at over 1650 feet per second, compared to the 1386 feet per second velocity of the normal loadings. The design of the CZ52 is extremely robust and easily stands up to the hotter round. The Czech M48 ammo is not recommended in other 7.62×25 pistols like the TT33 Tokarev.
The CZ52 is well built and rugged. The frame and slide are made of heavy milled steel. The CZ has a very stiff recoil spring, and may not function with some Tokarev rounds. The safety is easily reached with the thumb and has three positions – fire, safe, and the third position is a decocking mode that drops the hammer. The hammer has a rebound notch that keeps the hammer from resting on the firing pin when the safety is applied and the hammer is down.
CAUTION; Due to metal fatigue or other circumstances, always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction when decocking with the CZ’s hammer drop safety.
Most of the CZ52 pistols available today have been rebuilt at Czech arsenals beginning in mid 1970 and continuing through the 1980’s. New barrels were installed and numbered to the frames and all other worn or unserviceable parts were replaced. The pistols were then refinished in a flat dark gray color. The rebuilt guns were stamped on the left side of the frame, VOP and the year it was rebuilt ie; VOP 81 for 1981. The facility that rebuilt the weapon is identified by a single digit number following the year it was rebuilt.
There are a few original condition CZ’s occasionally available that have not undergone the arsenal rebuild. These are easily identified by their distinctive gray/green color similar to the parkerizing on a lot of WWII U.S. weapons. There are even occasionally a few brand new CZ’s offered. Some surplus dealers offer 9mm models for those who want to stay with more common calibers. These are modified 7.62×25 models, as there were no original guns produced in the 9mm caliber. In addition to converted guns there are 9mm barrels being offered to those who would like to convert their existing 7.62 guns to 9mm. Changing the barrel is a very simple drop in procedure. The aftermarket 9mm barrels are complete with the rollers and block.
To fire the CZ pistol insert a loaded magazine with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, grasp the slide, pull it rearward, and release. It will move forward and lock. The pistol is now ready to fire. To place the pistol in the safe position, push the safety lever up one notch. The hammer will remain cocked, although the trigger should lock. To lower the hammer, move the safety lever up to the next position, the hammer will lower. To fire, pull the hammer rearward and place the safety in the fire position. After the magazine is empty, the slide will lock in the rearward position. To continue firing, insert another loaded magazine and pull the slide slightly rearward and release. The pistol is now loaded and ready to fire.
CAUTION; It is not recommended that the CZ52 pistol be carried with a loaded cartridge in the chamber. My personal position on single action firearms is never to carry one with a round in the chamber, only loading when you are ready to shoot.
The CZ52, although its appearance is definitely dated, is a well made firearm. For all its attributes, the CZ’s I have fired are not very accurate (5” groups at 25 yards) when compared to other military pistols. I don’t usually dwell a lot on the accuracy of military weapons. They were not produced to be able to shoot tight groups at measured distances. They were made to shoot at and hit man-size targets, under all types of conditions. But the fact remains that I have a difficult time shooting the CZ52 accurately, perhaps its me, but I am quite used to gritty, creepy military trigger pulls. It is not the ammunition because it is the same 7.62×25 I use in my other guns more successfully.
For all its ruggedness the CZ52 does have a few weak areas. Number one is the cast steel firing pin. Replacements are available, but at around $20.00 seem expensive considering the guns usually cost less than a hundred bucks. One way to extend the longevity of the firing pin is not to ever dry fire the pistol. Dry firing guns is one of my many bad habits.
There is one other area that may cause you some grief if you are unaware of it. I suggest that you do not remove the plastic grips. If you do, be VERY careful when removing the metal spring steel clip that retains the grips to the gun! These clips break very easily when you pry on them, worse there is nothing that you can substitute for that clip that will hold the grips in place. (Editor’s Note: So Frank, how do you know this?) Locating a replacement may prove somewhat challenging.
On the CZ52’s positive side, as previously mentioned they are inexpensive, especially considering their sturdy all milled steel construction. Also mentioned earlier was that most of the CZ’s were rebuilt in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Most were not reissued, but put in storage where they remained for many years. As a bonus the guns usually come equipped with two magazines, lanyard, leather holster and a cleaning rod- not a bad deal. Surplus 7.62×25 cartridges are readily available and inexpensive. In addition the CZ52 pistol is on the BATF’s Curio and Relics list. This makes purchasing convenient for collectors that have a C&R license.
1161 Holland Drive
Boca Raton, FL 33487
Czech 7.62×25 ammunition
Gibbs Rifle Co.
Box 214 Hoffman Road
Cannon Hill Industrial Park
Martinsburg, WV 25401
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N2 (November 1999)|