Monday, April 28, 2008


Gun of the Quarter

This is the ČZ vz. 52, a Czech gun invented by two brothers, Jan and Jaroslav Kratochvíl, in the early '50s back when the Czech Republic was married to Slovakia and known as Czechoslovakia. It still has a very modern look to it, not quite art deco but hearkening back to it. It is quite powerful for a hand gun, firing an improved version of the 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge known as the Czech load (85 grain (5.5 g) full metal jacket bullet fired at 1,640 ft/s (500 m/s), 18% faster than the stated velocity of the common Soviet load). The round it uses, pictured with the gun, is 'necked down,' that is, the diameter of the cartridge actually in contact with the bullet is noticeably smaller than most of the round. Like putting your thumb over the garden hose, necking down improves the speed and power of the bullet it fires. Flat shooting and hard hitting is the Czech load.

And it has a sturdy and famous system of locking the action, also of Czech design. This is the short recoil/roller block system used in the great German machine gun, the MG 42. The idea of all self loading guns is to harness the recoil but keep the top part of the gun (the slide and barrel) locked and closed for the brief time it takes the bullet to travel down the barrel, then, still using the recoil from the cartridge's explosion (and Newton's 3rd law), to open it and have the metal slide, surrounding the barrel, slide back over the barrel, extracting the empty, just fired cartridge, flinging it away and then, hitting the end of the cycle, to return by spring power, scooping up a new unfired round from the removable box cartridge in the handle and putting it in the chamber at the interior end of the barrel. The sliding also re-cocks the hammer which is then released at the will of the shooter (by pulling the trigger) to re-fire the gun. Very clever. The brief delay here is accomplished with the rollers and cam block, visible in the middle of the top assembly. The whole, locked assembly travels back about 4mm when the gun is fired (while the lower section remains relatively still in the shooter's hand) then the cam block (inside the two rollers) hits a stop in the gun, moves forward and releases two rollers into the scooped out sections of the cam block. With the rollers released, the slide moves independently of the barrel and opens up as described above. The use of rollers and cam block creates a very powerful lock and allows the higher pressures of the Czech load. We also know that it cycles quickly, as the MG 42 had a rate of fire of at least 1200 per minute, 20 rounds per second. But that quickness of the mechanism is no big deal with the ČZ vz. 52 because its magazine (aka clip) only carries 8 rounds. As with most European hand guns, you have to release a catch at the bottom of the gun to release the magazine and nearly wrestle it out of the gun with both hands. (Most American hand guns drop the magazine cleanly with the mere depression of a button on the side of the handle).

I bought my gun for just over $100 and replaced the somewhat ugly and beat up original Bakelite grips with some hardwood after market ones which are quite stylish, if I say so myself.

The Czechs made about 200,000 of these and it was carried by the serious warriors of their armed forces for 30 years, until it was replaced in 1982 by the ČZ-75, another good gun.

The handle is slim but deep back to front and doesn't sit right in the normal sized hand. The gun is loud and has an impressive muzzle flash, but is very reliable with good ammunition (I like Sellier & Bellot, a Czech firm). It is a fine gun.


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