Czech Firearms: A Tradition of Excellence
By James Martineau,
Born from the ashes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, firearms manufacturing in the Czech Republic has established a standard of excellence few other nations can match. While notably led by Česká Zbrojovka, other manufacturers such as Czech Small Arms, Laugo Arms and FK BRNO have made outstanding firearms in the last decade. Czech firearms have been used by dozens of nations in the world wars and through the Cold War. In modernity many of these firearms are popular in sport shooting as well as used by military and police units. Despite being overshadowed in American by domestic brands and West European small arms manufacturers, Czech produced firearms have a reputation of reliability, quality and innovation that set them apart from their competitors.
The Czech firearms industry had its beginnings producing arms for the Austro-Hungarian empire as the Czech provinces were under Hapsburg rule. CZ initially began producing artillery for the empire and soon expanded into repairing railway cars. Once the Czech Republic were granted independence CZ set up a factory in Strakonice 1921 and began producing firearms such as the Czech version of the 98k, the vz 24. In addition to firearms, the company also manufactured bicycles, automobiles and motorcycles.
In 1936 the looming threat of National Socialism obliged the Czech government to expand arms production. As they continued to expand, they moved production of their firearms to Uhersky Brod while continuing their vehicle projects at Strakonice. With the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, firearms production was forced to serve of the interests of the Third Reich. CZ produced many pistols for German military use such as the vz. 27 rebranded by the Germans as the Pistole Modell 27. The Vz.24s were designated as the G24(t) and the Brno factory was converted to produce the 98k for the Wehrmacht.
After the war, Czechoslovakia fell under the influence of the Soviet Union. Unlike most of its Warsaw Pact neighbors, Czechoslovakia was allowed some autonomy in firearms production provided the firearms produced were in the standard calibers used by the Warsaw Pact. During the Cold War CZ produced the Vz. 58 as its primary firearm. Somewhat similar to the AK, the Vz. 58 uses a different operating system and features arguably better ergonomics. For sidearms, CZ produced the vz. 52 and vz. 82 while the rest of the Warsaw Pact nations were using the TT-33 or the Makarov.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, CZ regained the right to develop firearms on their own terms. Having kept the CZ-75 relatively under wraps since its development, the 75 was released outside of the Czech Republic in the 90s. This decade saw the rise of CZ-75 as a popular sporting pistol. Known for its reliability and low recoil impulse, the CZ performed exception ably well in a competition shooting environment as well as being used in military and law enforcement units most notably Delta Force units for a short time, In addition to handguns, CZ has developed many models of rifles and shotguns for both civilian and military/law enforcement use.
Czech firearms manufacturing is not defined by CZ alone, the last couple decades has seen the establishment of other firearms manufacturers in the Czech Republic. Czech Small Arms based in Jablunka has established itself as producers of legacy firearms such as the vz.58 and the vz.61. In addition to producing old CZ firearms, they have developed the vz.15. This 9mm pistol could be dubbed the Czech Glock as it sports a similar look to its Austrian counterpart but features the Czech trademark low bore axis. In fact, when the firearm began production, it was claimed that the pistol had the lowest bore axis on a semi-automatic pistol. The vz.15 is fed by Springfield XD magazines that offer an overall capacity of 18 rounds. When the pistol debuted, it had an MSRP of $400 making it very competitive with Glock and Springfield from a value standpoint.
FK Brno and Laugo Arms designed new innovative operating system for handguns. FK Brno have developed the Field Pistol. The pistol fires a powerful 7.5mm cartridge developed by FK BRNO that is measurably more powerful than a .357 Magnum. The operating system in also claimed by FK BRNO. It is a single action, tilting barrel type mechanism with a proprietary recoil attenuating system. The firearm is able fire 10mm Auto, .40 SW and 9mm with the appropriate conversion parts. Owning innovation such as this comes with a price though as the steel version of their pistol has an MSRP of around $8,000. Fortunately for budget minded consumers they recently put a polymer pistol into production with a much lower MSRP of around $2,000.
Not to be outdone by FK BRNO, Laugo Arms has turned upside down the firearm industry with their Alien pistol. It is the first pistol to feature an inverted barrel and operating system. This ensures a pistol with the lowest bore axis in the world which provides virtually no muzzle flip and reduces recoil. This combined with the ability to mount an optic and a healthy magazine capacity help the Alien to be a top tier competition handgun. Not relegated the range only, the Alien features a rail system to attach lights or other accessories. Such innovation carries a price tag with an MSRP of $5,000.
While the early history of Czech firearms is dominated by CZ, other firearm makers have made their mark in the last decade. With continuing innovation and a reputation for reliability, Czech firearms makers are making their mark in both tactical and sporting worlds. This will ensure that firearms of Czech origin will remain relevant in the both the practical and collectible application for the foreseeable future. D4guns often have Czech made firearms, especially from CZ. Check out our inventory at D4guns.com to have a look.