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Gun Digest Book of CZ Firearms

Gun Digest Book of CZ Firearms

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Gun Digest Book of CZ Firearms

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488 pagine
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Feb 17, 2017


Most comprehensive guide available for CZ fans!

The first book of its kind written in English, Gun Digest Book of CZ Firearms is your go-to resource for everything there is to know about CZ!

Triggered by the fall of communism and reorganization of the previously state-owned company, ZA (Ceska zbrojovka) firearms are becoming increasingly popular with American shooters. While "new" to this market, CZ has a reputation around the rest of the world as a high quality, dependable firearm.

If you are one of the exploding ranks of CZ enthusiasts and collectors, you'll enjoy:
  • More than 350 detailed, hi-res images
  • Comprehensive coverage of both historical and modern CZ firearms and accessories
  • Unprecedented access to historical images and information
Offering insights for the modern shooter, as well as anyone interested in historic firearms and manufacturers, Gun Digest Book of CZ Firearms is the must-have reference for anyone interested in these iconic firearms.
Feb 17, 2017

Informazioni sull'autore

Robb Manning has extensive weapons experience and training from nearly eleven years in the US Marines. His articles have appeared in Gun Digest The Magazine, AR Guns & Hunting Magazine and Wisconsin Outdoor News. He is the author of the Glock Reference Guide.

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Gun Digest Book of CZ Firearms - Robb Manning



TO UNDERSTAND CZECH FIREARMS manufacturing, I’m going to delve a bit into Czech and European history in this book. Though this book is about guns, not about history, to me one of the most interesting things about firearms is the historical aspect. I’ve found that, generally speaking, the vast majority of firearms enthusiasts that I’ve come across are also history buffs. Even so, I understand that not everyone — including gun enthusiast-history buff-types — is as nerdy as I when it comes to history. So I will try to limit my geeked-ness when I discuss historical aspects, with the exception of chapters that are specifically about the history of particular subjects. This means that in some instances I might try to put events into a nutshell so-to-speak, encompassing large topics into a brief sentence or two. My intent is not to gloss over important events, but to try to limit my enthusiasm for history so as not to bore the reader who is not as much of a history buff, but is here to read a book about firearms.

Another thing to keep in mind, this book is not an all-inclusive list of every firearm that CZ has made. I tried to include as many as I could, but frankly they just make too many. There are some firearms that are very obscure, some that were never imported into the U.S., and for some…I just ran out of space. CZ represents a unique challenge in trying to track down information from the past, mostly due to the secretive nature of the Iron Curtain, behind which it once sat. Some of that information will probably never be found. Plus, as I mention elsewhere in the book, the history of CZ and Czech gun factories is very convoluted. Some factories simply change names. There are separate factories that merged under communism and later separated, only to merge once again under the CZ banner. Some historical weapons are marked CZ but only as a generic marking for Czech Arms Factory, not as the actual company CZ.

Additionally, if you’re here to read about the wonderful line of CZ shotguns or Dan Wesson firearms, you are unfortunately out of luck, those are outside the scope of this book.

Just a note to the reader: CZ doesn’t pay me, this book has no obligation to CZ, and in fact I could have written this entire book as a critique of CZ. But I don’t feel that way. I do my best to look at things objectively. I am a fan of CZ, always have been since the first time I picked one up and fired it, but there are things that I feel CZ doesn’t get quite right, and those things will be included in this book.



The view of Prague from Prague Castle. Few places are more beautiful than the Czech Republic. The Czech people have been through a lot of bad times and oppression, most recently from Nazi Germany, then from the communist Soviet Union.

A medieval-era street (typical in most cities in Czechia) coming down from Prague Castle.

THE FIRST FIREARMS in Czech lands can be traced back to the 1370s, in Old Town Prague, and by 1400 there are records of several gunmakers. The biggest customers were the nobility, which were centered around Prague, so that’s where most of the gunmakers were located. The Hussite Wars of 1419 to 1434 were a boon for Czech arms makers, and in fact some of the gun language we use today can be traced to that era, like pistol (píštala, means a pipe), and howitzer (hákovnice, evolved from houfnice). (Note: There is much dispute where the word pistol comes from; some believe it comes from middle French pistolet, some say middle French pistole, some say German Pistole, some say Russian pischal, or Italian pistolese.)

Many of the firearm innovations of the 15th and 16th centuries came from southern German lands, and a lot of this spilled over to the nearby Czech gunmakers. It became very competitive, with the wares becoming more in demand with every conflict in Europe. Many of the oldest examples of firearms found in museums around the world — many of which were innovations never seen before — bear the names and markings of Czech makers.

Czech gunmaking continued to thrive through the Napoleonic wars. I’m not an expert in this history, but it seems that while other gunmakers were forming into companies — like the Austrian Steyr — Czech gunmakers didn’t do this.

Prior to 1918 and WWI, Czech lands were part of Austria-Hungary. Weapon manufacturing was dominated by the Austro-Hungarian empire, and most individual Czech gun makers worked for these companies.

In 1918, Czechoslovakia became an independent country, and from the Hapsburg’s they inherited a large but aging weapon manufacturing infrastructure.

After World War I, the Czech arms industry was the first industry to see upgrading of its factories. New methods lead to large scale mass production and, nearly as important, the ability to produce standardized parts with compatibility within a firearm model. When a rifle was produced, any of the individual parts could be put in any of the individual weapons, and it would fit with no manual fitting or modifications required. Even the Austrians and Germans weren’t doing this at the time. It contributed greatly to the production effectiveness of the Czech arms industry, and at the time they were very competitive with their European peers on the international market.

The view down Charles Bridge in Prague. Built starting in 1357, it was the only way across the Vitava river in Prague until 1841.

During this interwar period many new arms factories were started, all for production of military small arms. The Czech arms industry had not seen anything of this scale before, but got the industry going in a relatively short timeframe. Some of this was due to the fact that Czech gunmaking goes back a long time, so they were steeped in the gunmaking tradition. In addition, up until World War I, a good portion of Czech lands fell under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austro-Hungarians had massive production capabilities, with a machine building industry that rivaled the U.S., Germany, and Great Britain at the time. After the war, these skilled workers and weapon designers returned home and filled the weapons factories with a lot of experience and gun making know-how.

Many of the brilliant Czech weapon designers came from this era, and while many brilliant designers have followed since, it was really these guys that made the Czech arms industry into what it was, and what it is even today. As one scrolls through books of Czech firearms and the creators, these are names that you hear over and over again. Some of them almost as prolific in designing as John M. Browning, but not quite. Names such as František Myška, Václav Holek, and Alois Tomiśka. Unless you’re familiar with Czech arms-making, you probably haven’t heard these names, which is a shame. To give you an example of the high caliber of designers that they were, Tomiśka designed a pistol called the Little Tom, patented 1910. The Little Tom wasn’t commercially successful; however, it had one feature that would dominate semi-automatic handgun design for decades, up until Glock hit the market in the 1980s. It was a double-action semi-automatic. Many people credit Walther with the first double-action semi-automatic; the PP series. That wasn’t patented until 1929, however.

Seen from Charles bridge, the little island on the left is called Shooter’s Island, but its name pre-dates firearms. First used in the 1300s, the medieval-era army used it as a bow and arrow shooting range.

View from Charles Bridge, the tallest structure (left) is part of Prague Castle.

In all of this talk about firearms innovation, quality design, and high quality production, one can point to any one of the handguns that were failures during this time period, and there were many. The overlying factor during the inter-war period is haste, which led to uncertainty, which led to many poor decisions in pistol design

and adoption.

Around 1933-34, talk around Europe was of Nazi conquest. Czechoslovakia felt the pressure to arm, which led to haste — haste to design and produce weapons. And a lot of this was focused on handguns, not rifles, which I don’t understand, because I don’t think any war has been one or lost by handguns. In that haste, no one was really sure of what they wanted. This all led down the path to the idea that something is better than nothing. So a decent (though underpowered) handgun like the Vz 24/27 was replaced by the Vz 38, which wasn’t that great of a handgun. I should say, intended on being replaced by the Vz 38, because it would never happen. Despite all of the concern about having a world-class handgun, all of it meant nothing, because in October of 1938, Hitler moved invaded, occupied, then annexed part of Czechoslovakia, and in March of 1939, he just decided he’d help himself to the rest of the country.

This concludes the brief history, as we move into the next chapter.




805 BREN

THE CZECH ARMY adopted the 805 Bren in 2010, and ever since I’ve been drooling over it. I was a big fan of its predecessor, the Vz 58, and as I read into the 805, I grew interested. Unfortunately, I had to concede that it was another military firearm I would never get to own, and most likely would never get to shoot. I knew it would never be seen on U.S. soil.

Then CZ went and proved me wrong. In 2015 they announced a semi-automatic version in pistol format, for export to the U.S. I was ecstatic. You just never know with European firearms makers, some are more than willing to make a semi-automatic version of their wares for the U.S. market, while others refrain. Then there are the companies that fall into a third category by exporting to the U.S. but charging three times the reasonable value because of their name. Up until the time, I had no idea which camp CZ would fall into, but it looks like they have chosen the more than willing camp.

The first thing to get out of the way is the fact that, despite the name, the 805 Bren has nothing to do with the original World War II era BREN made in collaboration between Brno of Czechoslovakia and Enfield of England (hence the Br En) and based on CZ’s ZB LK Vz 26 series of light machine guns. That’s a lot of letters, so to break it down, ZB is Zbrojovka Brno, which means arms factory in Brno. LK is Lehky Kulomet, or light machine gun. Vz is short for Vzor, which means model and is the Czech military designation, like the M in U.S. M9).

The 805 Bren was a long time coming, and can be traced all the way back to 1977, which is when the Czech Army first had rumblings of replacing the Vz 58. As I said, the Vz 58 is a great, reliable weapon, but the Czech army felt it was out-dated, and it was also very difficult to modify. Plus, by this time the Soviet Union was transitioning to the AK-74, chambered in the 5.45x39mm cartridge. In 1984 designers began development of a rifle designated the Lada S, which fired the new 5.45 Soviet cartridge and would be more easily modified. Production began in 1985, and testing began the next year. In 1989 it passed testing and got the green light for production of 300,000 units beginning in 1990. Before production could start however, the Soviet Union collapsed in on itself, and without support, the Czech communists stepped down from power. The Army was broke and Czechoslovakia was about to split into two countries — the result was the death of the Lada S program.

The 805 Bren SBR with a YHM Phantom suppressor, Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro, and Meopta ZD 1-4x22 RD scope.

However, as the state-controlled arms factories were consolidated and privatized under CZUB, they had control of the design and the Lada program was revived. The basic design was changed so that it would conform with NATO standards, as the newly formed Czech Republic looked to enter the NATO alliance as a member. The new Lada fired the 5.56x45mm NATO, but unfortunately could only accept AK-pattern magazines. The army still didn’t have the funds to invest in a new rifle, so instead of killing the Lada program again, CZ renamed it the CZ-2000, and looked to export it.

The Lada/CZ 2000 came in three different configurations, filling three different roles, which thus would replace three different weapon systems — the Vz 61, the Vz 58, and the Vz 59. It came in a standard configuration, like the Vz 58; a short-barreled configuration, to replace the Vz 61 Scorpion; and a light-machine gun configuration to replace the Vz 59.

By 2005 the Czech army was again suggesting it would be looking for a replacement rifle for the military. The Lada program was renamed the 805 project, and for the project CZ developed an almost entirely new design under new specifications. So, in essence, the Lada was put to bed. The new rifle design had almost nothing in common with the Lada. To separate it from the Lada/805 project, CZ first named it the CZ XX project, which became the CZ S805 project, with the S to differentiate between the former Lada/805 project. One of the parameters was for different caliber options, so it was developed for 5.56 NATO, 7.62x39 Soviet, and interestingly enough, 6.8 SPC. (I am a big fan of 6.8 SPC.)

It wasn’t until 2009 that the Czech army finally released a solicitation for a new infantry rifle. In response they received submission of more than 25 weapons. Other than the CZ 805 Bren, the other notable submission was the FN SCAR-L, and the field was quickly vetted and narrowed to just the 805 Bren and the SCAR-L. The two came to a virtual tie, but CZ was given the contract due to the fact that it was a domestic design. The SCAR-L is an outstanding weapon system, so it speaks volumes that the 805 Bren fared so well against it.

Of course, no new weapon system is perfect, and there have been some growing pains. The 805 Bren was sent right away to Afghanistan with combat troops and, as we know, what works perfectly in field trials doesn’t always work well in real-world combat theaters. Fortunately, none of the issues were about reliability, durability or accuracy, it was mostly ergonomics and minor function issues. When I read the list of complaints, they all seem minor, especially when compared to the launch of other weapon systems. For example, the M16, which could probably be worthy of consideration for top five worst combat introduction of a new small arm in the history of small arms and combat. Compared to that, the 805 Bren was a smashing success. And now the M16 is considered an extremely reliable firearm and ranks pretty high in best military rifle designs ever. Not that I’m minimizing the complaints made about the 805 Bren, I am sure they are valid. Without a doubt those that took it to combat are far more experienced with it than I, with my relatively little time spent shooting it.

Some of the complaints: too heavy and bulky, poor ergonomics, unhappy with charging handle shape (and that it reciprocates) and selector lever, lack of bolt hold-open, fouling spread past gas system (the SCAR keeps gas almost completely in piston area), butt stock not comfortable.

In late 2016, CZ announced the 806 Bren 2, an improved variant to address those complaints. First, it is 1.1 pounds lighter. Along with this, the receiver has been trimmed down so it’s not so bulky. According to Janes (, the Bren 2 has a new, simplified three-position gas system, a bolt catch, and a non-reciprocating charging handle. It also has a redesigned folding stock, larger selector switch that now has only full-auto and semi-auto (two round burst is gone), enlarged mag release lever, and more ambidextrous controls.

A comment I’ve heard on more than one occasion is that the 805 Bren is a copy or clone of the FN SCAR. In looks and general design concept, yes they are similar. But a clone it is not. For one, the lower receivers are very different, as are the controls. The SCAR lower receiver and controls are meant to be almost exactly like that of an AR15, while the Bren is not, and it’s very different. The bolt catch/release on the SCAR is the same as an AR, but the Bren is different, in design and in the fact that it is only a catch, but does not release the bolt. That must be done by pulling the bolt handle. Internally, the bolt carrier and piston system are also very different.

The two-position gas regulator — little dot is normal (right), big dot is adverse (left).

The 805 Bren is a gas-operated piston system that uses a rotating bolt — like an AR15 — and a manual gas regulator. The gas regulator has two positions, one for standard and one for adverse. The standard position allows for less gas to cycle the piston rod and should always be used unless the firearm isn’t functioning properly due to ammunition or environmental conditions. The adverse setting allows for more gas to cycle the piston rod, which is what you want under adverse conditions. If used under conditions that are not adverse, the extra gas batters the piston/bolt assemblies, creating extra wear and shortening the lifespan of the firearm.

It is modular and multi-caliber with an aluminum alloy monolithic upper receiver and a polymer lower receiver. The lower receiver separates into two parts, the fire control unit and magazine housing. The magazine housing is attached to the fire control unit, but can be easily detached for caliber changes that require different magazine types. For example, when swapping it out to fire the 7.62x39 Soviet caliber, that requires a different magazine. It has a quick change barrel, and only requires loosening six screws to change barrels. Then the bolt face needs to be changed and the magazine well, if applicable. It’s a pretty simple process.

The lower receiver is one of the few polymer parts on the firearm, most of the parts inside are metal alloy.

At this point, CZ has three calibers, the original caliber plans that were drawn up when the rifle was designed: 5.56 NATO, 7.62 Soviet, and 6.8 SPC. However, at this time only the 5.56 NATO is available. A marketing representative has told me that the other caliber options will only become available when there is enough demand to warrant making them. That seems like a catch-22, however, because they’re not taking orders for them, nor are they tracking who wants them, so I’m not sure how they are deciding whether or not there is demand. What it will boil down to is a large order placed for them — i.e. a country wants to arm its military or police with one of the other calibers. Then they will make them available to the civilian market. Until then, it looks like another manufacturer making empty promises about a multi-caliber weapon system. But CZ’s not alone in that.

The original 805 Bren came in four barrel lengths/styles: carbine, standard, marksman (long) and squad automatic (heavy). Each of those barrels is hypothetically available in every caliber offered. Depending on demand, these four barrel lengths could potentially be offered in the U.S.

The 805 Bren S1 Carbine, new in 2016, is the civilian-legal semi-automatic version of the 805 Bren A1. (Photo by CZ-USA)

In 2015, when the 805 Bren was first released into the U.S. market, it came in the S1 Pistol model. This uses the 11-inch barrel, the same barrel used in the Czech A2 model that uses the carbine length barrel. The A1 model uses the standard length 14-inch barrel. The A1 and A2 models are the military-only models that come in select fire and aren’t available in the U.S.

In 2016,

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